Whilst slaving away at work last Thursday, MEGA news came bursting through of a SHORT-TOED TREECREEPER that had been trapped and ringed in Suffolk. My already shite day suddenly got a great deal worse. There was no way I could make the trip until the weekend but I consoled myself with the fact that no bird lingers for too long at the dreaded Landguard Bird Obs.... like ISABELLINE WHEATEARS for instance... Grrrrrrrr!
So imagine my surprise when on Friday morning news filtered through that the bark-probing, little critter was still present. Would it hang around for just another day? After carrying out a bit of research on the web, it appeared from weights and measurements taken that the bird's fat score was pretty, damn low. This bird was going nowhere for another few days. I contacted Steve Dunn to tell him the exciting news but he was far from convinced. I finally managed to bribe him into chauffeuring me down the A14 by vowing to pay off his mortgage if the bird was not present the following day. With the lure of substantial financial compensation he quickly assembled a crew and a plan was in place.
It's the early hours of Saturday morning and everything is running like clockwork. That is until we arrive on Clumber Street to collect Mike 'Mikipedia Feely. Mansfield Borough Council should rename that place Slumber Street based on the fact that old 'Miki' is always tucked up in bed when he's due to be picked up. Well sometimes he's tucked up in bed, very occasionally he can be found butt naked, semi-conscious, downstairs on his chaise lounge during the early hours after knocking back one too many bottles of Blue Nun. When Steve once peered through his living room window one chilling, pre-twitch morning he was confronted with what he thought was a 100 lb prize winnning, plucked turkey. Upon closer inspection it turned out to be a drunken 'Miki' sprawled out starkers with his hairy, little legs akimbo. A sight that is enough to bring the weariest of birders around quicker then injecting Red Bull directly into your blood stream.
Mikipedia (grey top) enjoys nothing more than entertaining the Landguard crowds with his harmonica playing skills.
Anyway I digress somewhat. After being blessed by the 'porn fairy' in a quiet layby on the A14 in Cambridgeshire (see here) I received a call from Mark Payne who was already on site. The bird had been trapped yet again and was going to be paraded in front of it's admirers any minute. There would be no 'dip dividend' payout for Steve Dunn today. We eventually arrived on site at around 8.30am and amazingly there was hardly anyone about. We sauntered up to the small gang of twitchers and after a brief wait of just a few minutes a scruffy looking SHORT-TOED TREECREEPER appeared to feed on the textured trunk of a stunted elder. With a biting breeze coming in off the sea, the bird continued to prove quite elusive during our time around the Fort compound. Occasionally though it showed well out in the open for just enough time to note the main identification features.
The elusive SHORT-TOED TREECREEPER in Suffolk photographed by Richard 'Big Vern' Vernon before we arrived. Notice the neat 'elbow effect' primary panel. Eurasian Treecreeper will always show a 'broken forearm' to the 'elbow effect'. Also notice the rather substantial bill.
Other species of note included a handsome Black Redstart adjacent to the Fort and up to 3 Northern Wheatear at The Point. After a quick stop off at Levington Marina to twitch a first winter male Long-tailed Duck we headed back north in order that the losers amongst us could watch the Wales v England football match. Oh and before I forget, we also spied at least 6 Red Kite along the Northamptonshire section of the A14.
A special mention must go to my birding brother Stevie Dunn who reached the ultimate birding milestone of seeing 400 species of bird in Great Britain today. Unfortunately he forgot to bring his celebratory, yellowey orange, Lycra T-shirt along on the trip so he marked the occasion with this photograph of him clutching a copy of the Felixstowe Evening Tribune whilst demonstrating that not all Derbyshire based birders have webbed hands.
Congratulations Stevie... next stop 450!