Wednesday, 22 October 2014

A Twitchers Tale.

I'm not known as a twitcher, but have on ocassions been known to contradict my claim that I'm not one, and a search through my records came up with the date Friday 2 February 2007, a sunny and mild day when with John Bateman and Brian Townson we drove to Bingley in the White Rose County of Yorkshire where we had excellent views of a first winter American Robin which had been in the area for several days. 

American Robin. Martin Lofgren.

The American Robin is the most widespread N American thrush, and is a colourful bird which goes some way to make me understand what gives lots of birders the urge to twitch - and in some cases drive hundreds of miles - to see a bird you've never seen in your life before.

The American Robin has some interesting history connected to it in Britain and Ireland. The first record in Britain was of a bird on Lundy, Devon in 1952, and was found following a period of strong westerly winds responsible for a massive wreck of Leach's Storm-petrels. It was eventually driven into a Heligoland trap, ringed and noted to have lost almost 40% of it's body weight. But this record in Britain was predated when an old Irish record of a bird at Shankill, Co Dublin in 1891 was reviewed, accepted, and subsequently preceded the British record on Lundy in 1952. But the actual first mention of American Robin in Britain was from Dover, Kent in 1876, but it was considered to have escaped from a passing ship.

A failed attempt by one Lord Northcliffe, to introduce American Robin to Britain in Guildford, Surrey, was probably responsible for a bird that built a nest in Richmond Park in May 1912.

Pacific Diver Farnham GP 2007. Pete Woodruff.

But Friday 2 February 2007 was a double bonus day, and after we'd had our fill of the American Robin we were off across country to see another 'MEGA' bird which by amazing coincidence was in the same County of Yorkshire at Farnham Gravel Pits near knaresborough. This was a juvenile Pacific Diver and a first for Britain which gave excellent views and had been present here about a month since early January, the news of which had initially been suppressed the site being a private one. 

The Pacific Diver is a largely Nearctic species that breeds from Alaska across N Canada and also occurs in NE Siberia. Hard to understand why a bird which leaves the frozen waters of N America to winter along the Pacific coasts as far south as China and California, to end up on an inland gravel pit in Yorkshire. Even more amazing is that a total of three of this species were found in GB in 2007, with the bird in Yorkshire Jan/Feb, the second at Llys-y-Fran in Pembrokeshire, and the third at Mounts Bay in Cornwall, both these birds present Feb/March....truly amazing.

Thanks to Martin Lofgren at Wild Bird Gallery for allowing me to use his excellent image of the American Robin, and to PW for his photographic efforts with the 'Yorkshire' juvenile Pacific Diver.

I'd sooner be birding!....but can't/aren't....maybe tomorrow.


Noushka said...

Hi Pete,
Thanks for your kind comment on my blog while I was away!
No need to translate into french, english is my mothertong even if I did most of my studies in french!!! ;-)
I've just come back from 4 days on the atlantic coast, I had a ball even if few birds were present due to low tides but the species present allowed for great shots!!
I hope you are well!

Pete Woodruff said...

Noushka....The French was a little tongue in cheek thing, but I appreciate your comment about it.

Looking forward to some Atlantic Coast images.

I hope you are well too.

Bob Bushell said...

Brilliant American Robin, even though you were not a twitcher, lol.