Sunday, 19 October 2014

Torness Booted warbler- fieldcraft lessons for 'twitchy twitchers'

A few days ago I twitched the Booted warbler and Siberian stonechat at Torness point power station. Having picked up Bob Swann in Dingwall we drove down the A9 to Aviemore, where we swapped cars allowing Peter Stronach to drive the rest of the journey. We arrived about 08:50- birds were moving, the light was ok and as we drove down the approach road to the visitor centre a number of birders could be seen wandering about- not good as no one appeared to be actually on either bird. However, having parked up and exited the car, a quick sweep of the nearest sycamore revealed a few birds flitting about- a robin, a dunnock and the Bootted warbler! Although views were brief and against the light they could be classed as 'tickable' if things did not improve. Slight removal of 'twitch pressure'! After an hour of searching for it again without success, we moved off to get crippling views of the Siberian stonechat. The wee bird was incredibly tame and often approached us as if it thought we were a herd of animals flushing up insects. We returned for excellent, albeit brief views of the Booted warbler. The bird was incredibly cryptic and slow- moving amongst sycamore leaves and often proved to be very elusive- but all that was needed to get on the bird were half decent fieldcraft skills- i.e. get the sun at your back, work the habitat slowly and methodically and check everything that moves whilst keeping the noise down and not getting too close to the favoured habitat - it's not rocket science!! Anyway, as obvious as good fieldcraft skills are, they were  proving increasingly difficult for a growing number of frantic birders who started to try and chase the bird down- not a good plan as it only made the bird more difficult to pin down in an orderly and 'bird friendly' way. It also flushed every other bird on site so then all the sycamores had to be checked through again to rule out the agitated robins, dunnocks, gold crests, brambling etc. If it wasn't so irritating for the rest of the 'informed' birders on site it would be laughable! As if to prove a point Bob, Peter and I relocated the bird several times by using said fieldcraft skills, whilst the 'adrenalised twitchers' failed miserably. We did of course put them onto the bird on each occasion. It was also pertinent to note that some very well respected 'known' birders, all drifted away when the nonsense began- they all recognised that the bird was in danger of being flushed off and that 'good views' would not be attained again.  Enough said. Record shots duly taken and happy faces all round! 

Booted warbler

Siberian stonechat

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