Thursday, 12 November 2015

Scrag Martin

When news of a Crag Martin in Chesterfield broke on Sunday afternoon I was strangely relaxed, having quickly worked out that I would struggle to get there before dusk. I was also wholly unsurprised as I was 'on call' and thus unable to leave Dorset in any case. This is a duty which I have performed just three times but on each occasion it has predictably coincided with a quality rarity: Little Bustard, Citril Finch and now Crag Martin. I'll let you know when I'm next on, you can book some leave and guarantee yourself a mega somewhere outside Dorset.
The Church of St Mary and All Saints, Chesterfield
With only a couple of movable meetings in Monday's diary, I travelled to work that morning by car with my gear packed just in case the opportunity arose to go on news. When the pager bleeped that the Crag Martin was still present, thanks to a saintly colleague who agreed to cover on my behalf, and a wise and generous boss who consented to a day off at short notice, I was able to leave for Derbyshire with a clear conscience.
We waited...
Hooking up with Steve Smith in Wimborne, we made good time and arrived at lunch time to find a sizeable crowd looking up at the famous crooked spire of the Church of St Mary and All Saints which the bird had frequented all morning. No sooner had we joined the throng than a shout went up and the Crag Martin hurtled across the sky with a couple of pigeons before vanishing behind a tall building. I turned to slap Steve on the back but he was already legging it around the corner hoping for a better view - unsuccessfully, as it turned out. At least we had a tickable view, but it was not a good one, and photos had been out of the question.
...and waited...
No problem, we thought, it had gone before, we got the low down on its habits from James Lowen, and were confident it was only a matter of time before it came back. And indeed it was, just not in the time we had available to us unfortunately as it took until the next morning to reappear. We watched the clock tick 1400, 1430, 1500, we put more money in the meter, and crossed our fingers that it would come in to roost at dusk. But it wasn't to be. A frustrating day, and we both agreed the worst view of a British tick either of us had enjoyed, if enjoyed is the right word for it.
...we prayed...
So, as I often ask at the end of such excursions, was the 500 mile round trip, broken up by standing around in the rain for 4 hours in the centre of Chesterfield's Air Quality Management Area with nothing but oxides of nitrogen for sustenance, for a scrag end view of the bird worth it? Honestly, on this occasion I have to say no! And to rub it in, the next day the Crag Martin was perched on the clock face in these photos....
...but it didn't reappear by dusk. 'There's only one thing for it, Steve. Junk food.'


  1. You forgot to add the Pizza also failed to show. 100 hungry birders around & the pizza place was closed

  2. Peter I don't know if you have heard but NYC is all atwitter with the rare sighting of a MALE Painted Bunting in Prospect park. Apparently this is only 3 ever recorded sighting. It my back yard but I unfortunately have not seen it personally but I am sure pictures are out there.