Saturday, 14 November 2015

Crag Martin at the Crooked Spire

At the second attempt, today we managed to connect with the now long staying crag martin in Chesterfield. It's only the 9th ever in the UK  and it's now been present for six days (though it did go missing for all of Wednesday), and this makes it the longest staying crag martin ever. We arrived at 9:15am well ahead of the predicted heavy rain, and waited and hoped. For a while it seemed like we might be unlucky, with no sign of the bird and even rumours about a peregrine seen eating some unidentified prey high on the ramparts of the church at first light, but we stuck it out. It wasn't an unpleasant place too be in the grounds of the church, quite picturesque in fact, and at least the weather was calm and relatively bright, if a little nippier than of late.

The twisted spire of the Church of St. Marys and All Saints was very photogenic and has earned it the nickname of the Crooked Spire.

Suddenly at about 10:45 somebody calmly announced that he had just seen a "hirundine" fly behind the church. Given that we're now in the middle of November there seemed little doubt that this would prove to be the arrival of the crag martin, and sure enough a second later a cheer went up from the assembled crowd and there it was right over our heads, before immediately disappearing again behind the church. Pandemonium ensued! Where seconds earlier there had been a crowd of 150 birders chatting quietly about this and that, resigned to their fate of going home empty handed without the tick, there were now people running to all corners of the church trying to get the best view. Where was it, where did it go?

Fortunately the bird reappeared within seconds and we were able to watch it at close range for about 10 minutes before it flew away from the church and was lost to sight. It repeated this performance twice more up until 12 noon exactly, when, just as the 12th chime struck in the belfry it disappeared and was not seen at the church again all day, reinforcing its reputation for being elusive in the afternoon. However it was apparently relocated mid afternoon at Chesterfield football stadium, though we had long gone by then, with the rain now lashing down and daylight almost spent.

It was quite poor light for photography and it was a small fast flying bird high in the sky, so photography was very difficult, but I did managed a couple of record shots, one of which is the obligatory "bird flying in front of the clock" shot!

Year: 262 (Crag martin). It was only a year tick, this was actually my second crag martin in the UK, the first was at Flamborough Head last year. We even managed to tick the bird whilst sitting in the car, which amazingly is a feat we also achieved with the Flamborough bird!

Not brilliant but give me a break. People with far better cameras than mine have tried and failed with this bird. What more do you want? You can see most of the id features in the photo, the contrasting dark underwing coverts, the dark vent and (almost) the white mirrors in the tail. You can at least see that it's a crag martin! I only took 400 photos to get this! Thank goodness for digital.....

The Crooked Spire with pink-footed geese flying over (the highlight of my first attempt with this bird!).

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