Stejnegers Scoter (Saturday 12th March 2011)
Photographed superbly by Chris Batty on Friday 11th March 2011
News broke on the White-winged Scoter on Wednesday 9th March at 10:39 whilst I was on my last day of a 3 day visit to
One of my regular twitching buddies (Kris Curd) was quick on the drawer and texting me to find out my travel plans, other regulars (Leigh Heavens) was currently guiding a group of birders around Morocco and Western Sahara and he was due back later that day.
On Thursday the inevitable happens, the Scoter was seen again and I was soon getting calls from Kris, Cleese and Lees all wanting to fly on Saturday.
Many people will know that booking Ryan Air flights can seriously injure your wealth. I booked 4 seats Stansted-Kerry-Stansted during Thursday and got return flights for £136 each. Fares can be as little as 13 euros return if you book at least 5 weeks in advance.
Saturday eventually soon comes round. The plan is now very simple (Johnnyboy) Cleese needs to get to my house for 3:30am, next stop is Chaffinch House for 4:30am and then to get parked in Stansted’s long term car park by 5:30am. Bus should get us to Terminal for 6:00am. This would give us a whole hour before the gate closes for us all to chill out in the Terminal.
Nothing can go wrong, can it?...Wrong Johnny boy get lost. He’s only been to my house 100 times before…..maybe he need’s another 100 visits before he knows it, off by heart.
John’s got a sat Nav but I don’t think his partner Liz has showed him where the on/off button is yet. Anyway John rings me just before 04:00am to say he’s got lost and decided to take signs to Centreville and park at the very well known Asda superstore.
I drove to ASDA and John follows be back to my house, with only half an hour lost, we should still make the flight.
Nothing else can go wrong before we fly can it? At approx 06:30am all four of us are queuing by the x-ray machine. Obviously we all know what you can’t take through liquids, sharp objects, machine guns etc. But one of our crew had an item of cargo that made the security guards push the panic button and before you can say “STEJNEGERS”one of our crew members was surrounded by Armed Police.
What!..Who?.Why? I hear you shout.
Sadly Leigh who hasn’t got a Shotgun license, was caught with a live Shot gun cartridge in his jacket pocket. He found it whilst out and about studying rare pheasants. And before anyone asks , NO he wasn’t in the process of buying a couple more Lady A’s to supplement the declining Beds/Bucks population.
After being detained for about half an hour, a message from the Sergeant at the nearby nick was radio’d through. “Let the idiot go”. Well Leigh was relieved and was soon repatriated with his fellow twitchers.
Whilst entering the plane queue we spotted many groups of fellow twitchers. The queue also contained a few singletons. Leigh managed to get Justin and his dad to take Kevin McCoy (Sussex) and a guy resembling Fat Boy Slim (Essex) (sorry your name escapes me) to join forces.
The plane landed on time at Kerry (1.5hours in duration) and as I disembarked the plane, County recorder Ed Carty recognised me and shouted out “Garry, the Scoter is still there and showing well”
I hired a car with Hertz and it cost 62 euros (with enhanced insurance) per day. The airport to Rossbeigh is only 33 kilometres (20 miles) apart, and it took us about 30 minutes.
We were the last group to arrive from the Airport, and sadly we missed the Scoter by 10 minutes. Kevin McCoy who was going to come with us, but because of the car swapping he connected with the early morning sighting.
Our crew felt low, the bay is gigantic and was I feeling very uneasy about the Scoter being seen again today.
Leigh suggested we took a look further up the coastal cul-de-sac road. Other crews did the same thing. Alan Lewis did remarkable well, to re-find the Scoter in the bay an hour after it flew off from the beach. He allowed me to look through his scope, but my rapidly deteoriating eyesight (I blame daily PC use over a 25 year period) could only see black dots, just couldn’t decipher anything different with this brief view. Leigh and Kris, with their eagle eye ability, both could see the Scoter well enough to tick. John & I didn’t and we both hoped it would come in closer. It didn’t on this occasion and eventually everybody lost it.
During this time John Murphy was instrumental in getting me onto the location that Alan found the Scoter. But due to the many small groups of Scoters constantly changing in shape and size due to constant diving and re-surfacing all in different directions could hinder getting firm future landmarks. If your scope has not got at least 60x power it’s not really worth going for this bird. Anybody who's got Patrick Moore as a facebook friend could have a distinct advantage, If if he lets you borrow one of his telescopic toys.
It started raining and crews started retreating back to their cars. We decided to seek out a garage and re-fuel our tired bodies.
Within half an hour, the rain had stopped and we went back to the beach for more searching. Whilst chatting to some of the visiting Brits an Irish birder offered us all free Coffee from the boot of his car. The Coffee was supplied by a local hotel. Absolutely brilliant gesture and it enhances the already very high sentiments I have for this nation.
Just as I took my last sip of Coffee, Lee Gregory received a call from Stuart Elsom that Scoter had been re-located much further up the cul-de-sac road.
Within 5 minutes we was on site and I had a quick look through Richard Bayldon telescope (same as mine, kowa 823 with 60x zoom). Bingo Dingo…I could see the Scoter clearly, I could easily make out the diagonal white eye stripe almost reaching the top of its head.
Even better Johnny Boy saw it through someone elses scope aswell.
What ever we saw now was a bonus. Birds seen in the bay included 400 Common Scoter, Eider, Red-throated Diver, Great Northern Diver, Shag, Razorbill, Guillemot, Black Guillemot, Chough, Raven, Rock Pipit, Sparrowhawk (near the dipper stream, but no dipper) etc etc. What a brilliant day it was turning out to be, a celebratory drink on the plane later is a must.
During the next couple of hours, I was capable of finding the Scoter myself. The features noted on the Scoter were the white secondary panel, on open and closed wings. Reddish edge to lower mandible, black knob on bill, heavy bill and majestic eye stripe. Josh Jones has done very well with this re-identification.
On the way back to the Airport we popped into Cromane and noted a Spoonbill and a nice flock of pale bellied Brents.
Leigh and Kris fell off to sleep. As Johnnyboy was embarassed about his early morning gaf of being late, I thought I would give him a chance to redeem himself by doing a bit of map reading. All I wanted him to do was direct us back to the Airport. John took the map and I followed his instructions. True to form Johnny directed me in completely the wrong direction, whilst in the Castlemain area. Leigh woke up and was furious at Johnnie for getting us lost Leigh snatched the map off of Johnny and directed me back to the airport. I had to drive a breakneck speeds to make the plane, at one stage I even drove into someones front garden just to ask the homeowners if we now heading in the right direction. I didn't even get a chance to get out of the car, Leigh shouted out "we haven't got f**king time, just keep f**king driving."
I drove as fast as I could safely. I even managed to overtake a tractor with trailer and a bicycle on the way back.
The gate for the flight was due to close at 17:30. We screeched into the terminal building at 17:35. No time to return car to the hire company. We dropped it off in the short term carpark opposite the terminal (I left the car keys with lost property) and we legged it towards the x-ray machines. The gate was now officailly closed, but they still let us board. I don’t think this kindness would have been replicated at a
During this period of madness, I left my mobile on the x-ray conveyor belt. Johnny boy spotted it and returned it to me, I then used it to apologise to Hertz for not filling the car up with unleaded and dumping it inside the carpark. Yet again the Irish employee of Hertz, said “no problem”.
Before we boarded the plane Ed Carty rounded up the twitchers for a group photograph of us all standing next to the plane.
From left to right - Bagger's, LGRE, Derek & Justin Taylor, John Lees, David Ellis, Craig Holden, Will Soar, Matt Deans, Lee Gregory and Kevin McCoy. Taken by County Recorder Ed Carty .
On the flight home it was nice to chat to Adele who runs a successful hairdressing business in Kerry, she started off the conversation, so Leigh and I quizzed her about mysteries of hairdressing. I celebrated with a packet peanuts and a bloody Mary. It cost me over 9 euros, but the cost of missing the plane would have been a fortune.
After disembarking the aircraft we waited in the nothing to declare zone for Johnny boy to come through. We were all puzzled has he was only one person behind us in the queue. After waiting 10 minutes he finally appeared. But he was being escorted by a security guard. Maybe he was caught pinching the bottom of the extremely attractive Adele as she was reaching out to extract her hand luggage from the overhead locker...no can't be.... John's married. Apparently the reason Johnnie was detained was because he lost his f??king boarding pass on the plane and security had to escort him through a different security gate.
Great trip with a great crew who never cease to amaze me. My cost element was £165.26