Monday, 2 April 2012

A tale of shame and woe!

I have recently being experiencing a deep-rooted sense of shame! I mentioned in my previous post that I'd missed out on a lot of good birds of late. Some of these are birds I have gone for and missed and some are birds I've missed out on because I couldn't or wouldn't go for. But it's not just down to plain old bad luck. I started to think about it late last night having dipped on the Bunmahon Purple Heron yesterday. I ran a check in my head and realised that the list of birds I have missed in the last year is really quite shameful. But they fall into several different categories, allow me to explain by way of examples.

Example 1 - 'couldn't get out of work'

Baillon's Crake - Great Saltee Island, Co. Wexford

Stuck in work when news broke that Saturday. I wasn't too worried as its not a bird that's been on my horizon or wish list but still the first Irish record since 1858.....and it showed really well!

Red-flanked Bluetail - Shite Lane, Galley Head, Cork
This one really hurts, couldn't get out of work on the day news broke and the next day it was gone!

This category happens to many of us, not too shameful really but painful especially in the case of the RFB.

Example 2 - 'dipped'

Least Sandpiper and Semi-palmated Plover - Blackrock and Ventry, Co. Kerry

In this case I actually took time off work to see the birds. A trip to Kerry was timed too late for the Least Sandpiper, seen the day before but gone when I got there. But the Semi-palmated Plover was down to poor judgement. Another birder present on the beach said he thought he had it in his scope, I ignored 'gen' given to me by those who'd seen it and spent 2 hours studying what turned out to be a Ringed Plover (no palmations). I should have trusted my own instinct that time.

Purple Heron - Bunmahon, Co. Waterford.

Spent an hour looking but gave up. Lack of preparation meant I hadn't realised that Bunmahon is quite far from Cork. By the time I reached the site I was tired and p#*ssed off. With no sign after an hour and getting cranky I headed home!

Surf Scoter - Garretstown, Co. Cork

Again down to poor prep and bad planning. A dash from Macroom to Garretstown (further than it sounds) left me with very little time and a hungry wife in the car (it was past dinner-time!!). I had to scope the area as quick as possible and for that reason probably overlooked the bird. I've seen several of these in the past but I was frustrated with myself for making a balls of the whole thing!!

Ring-necked Duck, The Lough, Cork

Bad luck here, a nice drake showing well on The Lough. I went twice but never saw it.

'Eastern' Olivaceous Warbler - Mizen Head, Cork

Bad luck again, got the 'gen', went on time but it was gone. Couple of lads had driven from Leeds overnight to see it also but dipped, so not as bad as that for me. But one I'd love to see and photograph well all the same!

Example 3 'Too lazy to go when the news broke'

Pallid Harrier - Ballyvergan, Co. Cork and Tacumshin, Co. Wexford.

I was busy enjoying my Saturday when news broke of a Pallid Harrier at Ballyvergan Marsh. A 1st for Ireland (well done Owen) and not too far away either. Plenty of time I thought (what was I thinking....seriously!!) and said I'd go when I had a minute. Of course it was long gone when I finally got around to going there. In the case of the Wexford bird, if I gone early in the morning and with specific 'gen' it might have been possible. I didn't really deserve to see 2 together during last Autumn ('A tail of two Pallids')

Montague's Harrier - Old Head of Kinsale, Co. Cork

Showing well at the Old Head, again a Saturday bird. If I'd put down my coffee, gotten up off the couch and out I'd have seen and maybe even photographed this one. Its an Irish tick for goodness sake!

Rough-legged Buzzard - Kilcoole, Co. Wicklow

A pattern emerging here, anyone would think I don't like BoPs! P and I were staying up in Rathnew and checked the farm at Glenroe briefly but it was long gone and I knew it was.....dumb-ass! Up to then I wasn't bothered going.

Example 4 'Too hungover to go'

Booted Warbler, The Cunnigar, Co. Waterford

Self-inflicted so there should be no sympathy for this one. At least I've learned that even if you do feel rotten you should go anyway. You won't remember how crappy you felt when you look back (see Knockadoon 'sore' Head).

Example 5 'Not arsed going'

Bearded Reedling, Tacumshin, Co. Wexford

I'm not sure what category these fall into. I could file them under the heading 'dipped' as we missed them also the same day we missed the Pallid Harrier at Tac. I may go back....maybe.

Northern Harrier - Tacumshin, Co. Wexford.

OK, I admit it. I may not be such a big fan of BoPs as other birders are and as I used to be one time. Maybe because it's not hugely different from Hen Harrier and because I find flight shots tricky, I didn't bother to drive to Wexford (or Wicklow) for that one.

Great Reed Warbler - Great Saltee Island, Co. Wexford

Too much effort for a skulker and I'd seen loads in Latvia and Mallorca. Should have gone really though!

Great Grey Shrike - Slievenacloy, Co. Antrim

Too far to go but having seen one in Latvia last summer I'm sorry I didn't. Stunning birds!!

I could go on!! I'm not really that big into twitching or listing. I enjoy seeing certain birds; Warblers, Flycatchers, Thrushes, Chats, Nightjars, Swifts, Hirundines, Terns (especially marsh terns), Owls, Waders, Gulls and Shrikes etc. I should probably move to Spain!! But the list of what I've missed is really, shamefully very long!! All joking aside there are other priorities in my life apart from wife (of course), work and sometimes I just don't feel like making a 6 hour round trip to see a bird (or longer). I remember deciding to stay on cape clear when news broke of a Siberian Stonechat, Yellow-breasted Bunting and Paddyfield Warbler. There were good birds on cape too that time (though not as rare) and I was enjoying myself, those few days off were about relaxing and enjoying some birding not dashing around adding ticks to my list.
Anyway, I think the lesson is for me, be selective about what you want to see. If you decide to go for something, get as much 'gen' as you can up front, be patient and try to enjoy it, be philosophical if you don't see the bird.
And I have still had the odd successful trip.....Desert Wheatear, Canada Warbler, Pied-Billed Grebe, White-throated Sparrow, Scarlet Tanager, Myrtle Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Yellow Warbler/Northern Waterthrush not all bad really.


  1. Hi Graham,
    Great Blog! I know the feeling...I am a reluctant twitcher myself and managed to dipped the Purple Heron but managed to get the Black winged Stilt the same day. When I arrived home I had driven 9 1/2 hours during the day. I dont think its worth it........... I wont expect to see you on Tory this year if I find something good...

    Ps I dont blame you!

    pps I might bump into you again on Cape this autumn..


    Peter Phillips

    1. Hi Peter

      Glad to know I'm not the only one so. 9 hours in the car is a lot, at least you had one bird to show for it! See you on Cape this autumn so!


  2. Made me laugh Graham, thank you. I am very familiar with numbers 3 & 5 (CBA - Can't Be Arsed!) and vaguely familiar with number 4. Number 1 goes in 3 week stints for me so that is my commonest. Keep the posts coming, gives me something good to read while I'm out here.

    1. Thanks for the feedback Floss, hopefully there will be nice arrival of migrants by the time you're back on terra firma.

  3. Having spent a fair chunk of the 80's/90's twitching from Thurso to Land's End along with a clutch of October trips to Scilly, I gave up. When I moved to Sherkin in 2004, I was reluctant to leave the island, though happened to be passing through Clonakilty when a B-w Stilt & Cattle Egret were ita in 2005. Then the Eastern Olivacous on Cape was too much to resist. Followed by a Hermit Thrush. So I made a deal with myself to only twitch Cape, which went very well - Yellow Warbler, Waterthrush, Solitary Sand, White-t Sparrow, Arctic Warbler, Myrtle Warbler and then REV & S-t Lark last year. I'd also happened to be in Cork at the same time as a Laughing Gull and 'not far from Pilmore' (ahem) for a B-b Pipit. Oh, and a Galway pelagic which happened to encounter a couple of Wilson's. Then last November, a Sunday morning CBN alert left me breakfastless but with AmHGull under the belt, and anyway that was only Baltimore - I think I needed sugar & bread anyway... Then came 25th March 2012, when I dropped everything, re-arranged promised dog-sitting duties, begged lifts and persuaded the driver that the road towards Galley was so spectacular, it was too good to miss. Is this the re-dawning of a slippery slope? I hope not. I think I'll be far happier sticking to Sherkin/Baltimore and taking the odd trip out to Cape as necessary. Until the Willet turns up that is...

    1. Hi Julian, yea difficult to ever say 'never' twitching again. I'll still go for the ones that I can and that do interest me. Ivory Gull remains one of my favourite twitches ever, great views of a spectacular bird. Apart from late march this spring is a little bit of a damp squib so far!