Cretzschmar's Bunting Twitch (Friday 19th to Monday 22nd September)
Lee Evans, Trevor Ellery, Gordon Beck & I were travelling back on the Stena fast ferry from Rosslare to Fishguard when the Bunting Mega’d Friday 19th September 2008 at 16:20.
I just had my first dip of the year, a one-day American Redstart at Mizen Head. The last one was 23 years ago. If it takes 23 years for another, I will then be 65 years of age and drawing a state pension.( I hope they still hand out money then!). If you are under 30, you will probably get another crack at one in your lifetime. But at my age you need to travel for 20 year plus birds. If you don’t get them, at least you can IMPRESS your mates with your BIG DIP LIST.
On seeing the CRETZSCHMAR’S MEGA ALERT on the pager, I go over to Lee, wake him up, show him the pager message. Lee is then on the phone for 5 continuous hours.
The ferry docked at Fishguard at around 17:00. We walk to the car, notice a "No parking ticket warning" attached to the windsreen wiper. Throw it in the bin (ie back of the car) then drive back to where we left the cars on the M4.
At 6pm Lee gets a call returned from a pilot named "Charlie" (who has a plane based at Kirkwall),Lee soon agrees a flight time and price.
Charlie is due to fly the plane to Wick and pick up Angus Murray, John Sweeney & Douggie Barr at 08:30, then fly to North Ronaldsway and drop then off. Fly back to Wick empty, then take the 2nd group of twitchers to North Ronaldsway. Incidentally the 2nd group is for the Steve Webb partly and leaving at 10:30. That is due to return back with Angus’s party and then take our party of Lee, Chris Heard & me is at 12:30 and then bring back the Steve Webb party. This was all the booking’s Charlie had at this time.
An hour later Lee gets a call that Steve Webb has also booked a plane from Inverness.
Lee immediately rings back Charlie to see if he can get the second plane load as Steve Webb appears to be double booked. Charlie then mentions a fourth plane load for Dan Pointon, John Pegden & Mick Frosdick at 14:30 and a fifth plane for the Broadbent family.
At 21:00, we get to junction 13. Trevor kindly drives Gordon back to my house, and I follow Lee back to his house in Little Chalfont.
We leave Lee’s house at just after 23:00, with the addition of Chris Heard. The journey to Wick is shared between all 3 of us.
We get to Wick at 11:00 Saturday morning and on arrival we are very surprised to see 9 other birders sitting in the airport lounge. One group consisted of Bob Watts, Julian Thomas and Adam Wilson. The second group consisted of Johnathan Williams, John Gregory and Simon Slade and the third group consisting of Dan Pointon, John Pegden and Mick Frosdick.
We cannot believe our eyes, the Pointon party is not due to be at the Airport for another 3 ½ hours. Why is the John Gregory party there? Why is Bob Watts there??
It turns out that Bob Watts party was given the 10:30 slot.(ie the Steve Webb booking). They all arrive at Wick 15 minutes early for there flight, only to find out that the Broadbent party had got to the Airport early and took their flight.
Then John Gregory announces that he has agreed with Charlie that his crew goes next, and that Charlie is operated on a first come, first served basis.
Lee disagrees and explains first come, first served idea cannot work. When people book a flight they leave their house at a time which will coincide with them arriving at the agreed time booked to catch the plane.
Eventually Lee agrees the order with all birder teaims. Order being Julian Thomas group first, Lee Evans group 2nd, John Pegden group 3rd and lastly John Gregory's group.
Then Julian Thomas hears that the CAA are inspecting all charter flights onto North Ronaldsway, to make sure they have all the paperwork in order to carry fee paying passengers. Julian states that Charlie is not doing anymore North Ron flights today.
So two (Lee & Julian) of the four groups opt for taking the car ferry to Orkney. I tried to persuade John Pegden and his party to take the ferry accross to Orkney, but he stated he has to be back at work on Monday, and he just cannot risk being stuck on Orkney.
Whilst waiting for the ferry to Orkney we notice Charlie's plane landing back at Wick. We drive quickly back to Wick to see if it's possible for Charlie to fly all teams to Kirkwall instead of North Ronaldsway. At Kirkwall we could all get ferried accross on the Highland Airways plane that Steve Webb had chartered for the day.
When we got back to Wick, Charlie was then taking the John Gregory party direct to North Ronaldsway!! This conflicts with what Julian tells us. I immediatley ring John Pegden to tell him the unbelievable news.
We then race back to Gills Bay to catch the ferry to St. Margarets Hope, I asked John Pegden to see if he can hold the ferry for us. Unfortunately Pentland Ferries run to a strict timetable and we have 20 minutes to get to Gills Bay from Wick Airport. We just make the ferry by the skin of our teeth. It departs on time at 13:15.
During the crossing it turns out that Bob Watts has been able to get a scheduled flight from Kirkwall to North Ron at 5pm, and returning to Kirkwall the following day. Lee, Chris & I then manage to book a scheduled flight on Sunday morning at 9am. Lee manages to book a return flight the same day, where Chris & I all booked to come off North Ron on Monday.
The Pentland Ferry docks at 15:00 in St. Margaret's Hope and then we have a 20 minute drive to Kirkwall with a showy White-billed Diver on route. When we arrive at Kirkwall we investigate to see if there is a standby list for the scheduled plane. Unfortunately they don't. So we have nothing better to do than wait and see if all the passengers turn up for the North Ron flight. They do. But I get a huge slice of luck. The 17:00 plane that Bob has booked onto has two very small children on it. Due to weight allowances, the plane is capable of talking an extra adult on the plane. Normally Chris (Biggest lister in car) would have the space, but as I had such a bad week(ie driving 1200 miles to see a Pied Fly, and starting this journey by dipping the American Redstart in Ireland), Chris & Lee didn't object for me to having the space.
Bob & I land at North Ron at about 17:15, we are driven by Bob Simpson to the Cretzschmar's Bunting site.
On arrival it is showing well to a small assembled crowd including Alex Lees, Franko, Ian Wilson, Pete Donnerly, Johnny Allan, John Pedgen, Mick Frosdick & Dan Pointon. I was very surprised to see the last three as they told me earlier they were all heading home. Bob & I enjoy the Bunting for just under 2 hours, where it stayed feeding in the same area the whole time. Around 19:00 the Bunting flies up and perches on a fence, then hops the other side. Alex & Franko walk around the long way to re-locate it and fail. Then Adam Wilson and Julian Thomas manage to charter a plane from Kirkwall to North Ron. But are unfortuately too late to see the Bunting.
We all stay at the obs, and have very enjoyable meal served up by Kevin & Alison Woodbridge and their staff.
The above photo clearly shows Adam Wilson, Bob Watts, Julian Thomas (Right hand Side from nearest first) Then Dan Pointon, top of someone's head, Johnny Allan & Ian Wilson (Left hand side from nearest first)
I sit back & hope the Cretzschmar's Bunting sticks for another day, so all my car passengers connect.
The Bunting stays the night. Hooorrray. Julian and Adam both connect. The scheduled flight bringing Lee & Chris to North Ron at 9:24, taikes Franko, Johnny Allan, Bob Watts, me and now Julian Thomas & Adam Wilson off.
On arriving at Kirkwall, I take Johnny Allan back to St. Margaret's Hope ferry. 20 minute stop enroute to enjoy the moulting summer plumaged White-billed Diver.
I arrive back at Gill's Bay at 13:15 and I hope that Lee & Chris manage to catch the 17:00 crossing, so we can all drive back to London together.
They hire a taxi from Kirkwall Airport to St. Margarets Hope and the fery has got its footbridge in the upright positon. Luckily they manage to get the ferry staff to lower it for them to walk across. The ferry docks at 18:30.
I started the journey home, Chris and Lee took over for last 100 miles back to Little Chalfont. I got home at 8:30am Monday morning. Trip cost £170 plus food each.
The trip would have been a lot more enjoyable if the followng things did happen:-
1. Agreed Charter times were stuck to.
2. People did not jump ques.
3. CAA scare didn't happen.
4. Certain birding colleagues were more honest when re-booking flights etc, so we could all benefit.
Fortunately the bird stayed for three days and everybody connected.
Twitching is only a hobby, I am not in competition with anybody apart from myself in seeing birds. I started too late in life to be a prize winning twitcher.
I get my enjoyment from seeing the birds, taking people to see birds (100 different people have been in my cars over the last 10 years), seeing different parts of Britain and the adrenaline rush.
Cretzschmar's Bunting @ North Ronaldsway