Pacific Swift Twitch (Saturday 15th June 2013)
Pacific Swift @ Trimley Marshes 15th June 2013 (All photo's by Jason Ward)
Today was the day my good friends Usain & Fatima and their beautiful daughter Lambchop were due to visit for dinner. They travel from Hampshire to visit us in Sussex, and this visit was planned a couple of months ago and at a supposedly quiet time in the birding calendar. They were due to arrive at midday.
So when Jonny Rankin found a Pacific Swift at 10:45am at Trimley Marshes the first thing I did was announce it‘s presence to my good wife Kim. She replied “Don’t even think about going for it!” At 11:00am the Swift was still present and I decided to ring Usain and Fatima. Their mobile phones didn’t get answered, so I left a garbled message on their answer phones.
Anyway to cut a long story short, after dodging a few flying saucepans and allowing my ears hear the loving words of ” Go on and f**k off then”, I didn’t hang around for a peck on the cheek, I thought it was best to get in my car and put Trimley into the Sat nav. I left home at 11:15am.
15 minutes later, Kim rang me via my hands free car kit and said “You better get back as soon as you’ve seen the bird”. At midday, Kim was due to drop off Georgie with her Maths teacher, but she decided to cancel the lesson and stay at home til Usain and Fatima arrived.
At midday, I got a phone call from a very pi**ed off Usain. He was thinking about going back home when Kim told him that I’ve buggered off Bird Watching.
Usain or Fatima neither understands the hobby of running around looking at birds. Maybe I shouldn’t have gone. But what sort of company would I have been, stuck at home with a bleeping pager saying “Pacific Swift showing well” every 5 minutes. I do feel sorry for the non-birding friends I’ve got. A rare bird always seems to turn up when I arrange something.
My logic is warped, but I would never put Birds before the family or close friends if it involved an important occasion like a wedding, funeral, illness or holiday. I wouldn’t put a bird before an important work deadline either. But let’s be honest, how often is it convenient to go when a rare bird turns up? Hardly ever in my opinion. There always seems to be a pressing household chore that you are in the middle of when a lifer turns up in Britain & Ireland.
Anyway I don’t want to get anyone depressed but there’s a FORK-TAILED SWIFT consuming lots of airborne inspects as I drive the car towards its Suffolk pit stop. Will I see it? Who knows? Who cares?
During the 2 hour journey, I received a call from LGRE who wanted to meet up with me on the A12. "No problem", I said. As soon as I reached the A12, I rang him and he was only 30 miles from of Trimley. I made a phone call to Lee Woods who informed me that the Swift is still showing well and you may be lucky enough to get a lift from the gate. The walk from the gate to the third hide is a 2.5 miles long (e.g.40 minutes on foot or 60 minutes if you say "Hello" to every smiling birder returning to their car). I parked the car at 13:15 at Station Road and quickly extracted the scope and bins from the car and avoid taking off my leather work shoes and replacing them with my leather walking boots. Vital seconds have cost me birds in the past.
The walk to the hides was tiring… I wanted to run….I wanted to skate….I wanted to cycle…I wanted to get a lift from Paul Holmes but he wouldn’t stop…Ever since I heard the story about a birder who died on route to the Staffordshire Belted Kingfisher, I always try to calm myself down...take deep breaths...try to keep my heart beat less than 237 b.p.m.... and try to stay calm and focused. Ooops.... it didn’t work this time. I was covered in sweat and extremely worried that I was going to be the first person to dip the Swift.
The only person who overtook me during the walk was Lincolnshire low listing Johnny Pegleg. I say low listing as he’s got a couple of birds less than me at the moment. But my lead is very surprising has he hasn’t got a proper job like me. He's been living the high life for years and with the bundles of cash, time and motivation. All he needs now are few more mega's to turn up and and he will be above me on the list of lists. Good luck to him.
I arrived at about 1:50am and watched the Pacific Swift (217th) performing well, flying low over the pool between the third and fourth hide. The fourth hide was full and the seawall had many familiar faces admiring this Asiatic beauty.
Amongst the crowd was LGRE, John Archer, Stuart Elsom and many others turning up all the time. I only watched the Swift for a good 5 minutes of the total 10 minutes I sat on the sea wall. The Swift was always flying down low and its circuit of flight didn’t change whilst I was there. The rump, white throat patch could be seen easily. However I couldn’t get onto the pale scaling on the breast. Maybe I need to buy a £2,500 new Kowa scope to enjoy such detail? My Kowa TSN 823 lets in lots of light into the scope and gives a sharp image but the contrasting detail you can get on the new Kowa at 60x is simply breath-taking.
This bird was also seen by my good friend Chris Heard, it puts him onto 586 species in Britain and Ireland. Which put him in joint top sport on the list of lists with Steve Gantlett and Mel Billington. This is the first time he’s ever been on top and knowing him as well as I do, he totally deserves it. I’ve helped him get many birds over the last 10 years. So I’m really pleased for him.
Certain British & Irish listers are very privileged individuals. They could be out of the country / middle of a non-birding function etc and soon as a rare bird turns up they have guaranteed plane/boat or car seats at any day or night waiting for them. Chris and I don’t have such luxury. Lets say a Brown-headed Cowbird is found on a remote Scottish island, all charter planes that regular take twitchers will immediately be booked before the pager mega's. If the bird stays two days the privileged few will get and if it stays for 3 days then people like Chris or me may get a nibble. If less than 3 days it’s usually good night Vienna.
For me, the situation doesn’t bother me. I’m just happy to get whatever birds I can afford in terms of time and money. I’m currently in position 148 (with 522 species).
Top 10 (571 species)
Top 50 (546 species)
Top 100 (533 species)
Top 200 (511 species)
Top 279 (500 species) According to trend line I should get 4 lifers a year from 2014 to 1lifer in 2021.So let’s say 4 in 2014, 4 in 2015, 3 in 2016, 3 in 2017, 2 in 2018, 2 in 2019, 2 in 2020 then down to 1 every year. So by my 70th Birthday I could be on 559. To be honest, I would happy if I can break the 550 barrier. I can’t really see me ever getting in the Top 50. I starting twitching far too late, but any new comers have a real possibility to break the 600 barrier. On the way back to the car, I saw some very excited birders arriving including:- Neil Howes, The Chidwicks, Matt Eades, Adam Archer, Pete Hutchins, The Kings, Geoff Clewes etc etc I guess they all got the Swift as it showed up to 9:30pm that night and finally departed the next day at 4:05pm.(Sunday 16th June 2013). There has only been 6 accepted records of Pacific Swift in Britain and Ireland. This is only the 2nd twitchable one. The other twitchable Pacific Swift was at Cley in 1993. It was available for one day only seen up to 4:15pm. Bonne nuit.
I got home at 5pm. The locks hadn't been changed. Kim, Georgie, Usain, Fatima and Lambchop were still present and all the adults got merry on many bottles of wine and beer.
According to trend line I should get 4 lifers a year from 2014 to 1lifer in 2021.So let’s say 4 in 2014, 4 in 2015, 3 in 2016, 3 in 2017, 2 in 2018, 2 in 2019, 2 in 2020 then down to 1 every year. So by my 70th Birthday I could be on 559. To be honest, I would happy if I can break the 550 barrier. I can’t really see me ever getting in the Top 50. I starting twitching far too late, but any new comers have a real possibility to break the 600 barrier.
On the way back to the car, I saw some very excited birders arriving including:- Neil Howes, The Chidwicks, Matt Eades, Adam Archer, Pete Hutchins, The Kings, Geoff Clewes etc etc I guess they all got the Swift as it showed up to 9:30pm that night and finally departed the next day at 4:05pm.(Sunday 16th June 2013).
There has only been 6 accepted records of Pacific Swift in Britain and Ireland. This is only the 2nd twitchable one. The other twitchable Pacific Swift was at Cley in 1993. It was available for one day only seen up to 4:15pm.