12 Jun 2008

Can you text me cos I'm having a humongous cr*p.

Incredulous disbelief perhaps is the best way to describe feelings last week when news came from Fair Isle that a male Citril Finch (potentially a first for Britain) had been found. A few lucky Shetland inhabitants made the trip over and the next day a couple of charters from the mainland made it. Then the weather closed in. Meanwhile debate raged on Internet forums over the possible misidentification of a Canary or if the bird was an escape. Now why would an escaped captive Citril Finch decide to fly all the way to Fair Isle? A lot of pseudo science was spouted whilst missing the main point – if Wallcreeper & Alpine Accentor can make it to the UK, both essentially sedentary birds, why couldn’t a Citril Finch? News that the bird had been caught and rung and showed no sign of ever being in captivity shut up some of the doubters and cracks began to appear in the resolve of some to try and ignore this bird.

It was whilst in the dentist that ‘Statto’ texted me with the immortal lines that he was organising a charter flight. Was I in or out? Could I let him know by text cos he was currently having a humungous crap. I was in! The weather looked bad and we waited until our pilot, Denis (what a super star) rang us to say he reckoned we were OK to fly! Unbelievably we were on.

Next morning saw Jono, Fred Fearn & myself meet up at 05.45 before heading towards Hull and our flight to Fair Isle. News came through from Jason Atkinson that the bird was still present at the same time as Jono got the news from the Observatory. We were off!

Strapped in and raring to go we bounced along the grass runway and were soon airborne. 3 hours later we bumped onto Fair Isle in a 20-knot crosswind but beautiful blue skies. Met by warden Derek Shaw we bundled into his people carrier and he took us to where the bird had last been seen that morning. No sign. Derek walked off to check another area whilst Fred & I left Jono checking one of its haunts whilst we checked the ploughed field nearby. Within seconds we both picked it up on call and swung round to see it perched on a gate. Whistling Jono we all experienced a feeling of massive relief - CITRIL FINCH OML/UTB. Even pilot Denis, intrigued by our obvious enthusiasm, seemed as happy as we were. He admired our passion. Everyone, he said, has to have a passion. His was flying. Ours was birds. Top man. All to quickly it flew off. We let Derek know and he came back rattling his tin – everyone getting a new bird on Fair Isle is expected to contribute. We happily obliged. Another forty minutes passed with Jono & Fred exploring different areas whilst I wandered around the same area.we'd previosuly seen it in. Suddenly as I was talking to one of the locals and Denis I heard the finch again and picked it up in flight before it landed close to drink from a ditch before preening on a fence and then dropping into the ploughed field to feed.

Ringing the others I fired off a load of shots whilst struggling to hand hold the camera in the still quite high winds. This time we were treated to a full forty minutes viewing until a squall forced the finch to fly off. Denis proved a useful guy to have around as he negotiated an invite for us all into a local croft for coffee and biscuits until the rain passed.
With news from Derek that there was an Iccterine Warbler nears the Obs we set off slowly stopping to admire point blank Arctic Skua and the ever present Bonxies. The Iccterine was hard to see and we contented ourselves with flight views and the briefest of views as it occasionally perched up as our deadline for leaving was fast approaching.
With Fred & I snoozing in the back it was left to 1st officer Jono to assist with the navigating and we briefly landed at Wick to refuel before arriving back in Yorkshire after a much quicker return flight as we had a tail wind all the way. An epic twitch and made all the more enjoyable through our pilots expertise.

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