Sunday, 16 June 2013

Pacific Swift

Back in  May 1993 we made a couple of visits to Cley and Blakeney, firstly for an Oriental Pratincole, and then for the nest building Desert Warbler. Resting in one of the hides after the latter scanning Pat's Pool for a reported Blue Headed Wagtail and Temminck's Stints we were struck by the huge number of hirundines and swifts feeding low over the water. At one point, I remember something catching my eye as it flew through the scope field, distracting enough to take my eye off the waders I was looking at for a moment. The next day I was having a pub lunch with my family and a few friends and Colin's pager which for some reason I had went off with a mega alert-Pacific Swift at Cley. No chance for me to get there after a few drinks of course, but the twitch is one of the most famous in birding history.
Afterwards I did consider the unlikely idea that the distraction might have been the Swift but with Cley being so well watched by some of Britain's best birders every day the thought was quickly dismissed as wishful thinking.
Since then there have been a few birds reported, mainly at Spurn with migrating Swifts-none twitchable and one or two have also been reported in Europe in recent years. One was at Spurn last week (surprise) and later in Lincolnshire so there was hope that it might still be around, and as we found out yesterday it turned up at Trimley near Felixstowe. Limited parking and a long walk (Colin measured it at 3.6 miles each way) was off putting and I did not feel up to the trip.
Got up this morning, feeling a bit better and it was back on the pager at 0730, so I called Colin and went for it. Luckily we got a space at the end of the road right outside the gate and started the long trudge. Met up with Ricky and the Tyttenhanger boys and eventually got down to the estuary banks around 1030. Joined one group who appeared to be following the bird. Unfortunately directions were a bit vague to say the least-in the white and grey clouds is not all that specific particularly when the swift flock is about half a mile away. When the supposed bird came down below the tree line I did get a 'swift' with what appeared to be white on it but it was not exactly tickable.
Along with Ricky we  decided to head further up river to the main crowd overlooking the lagoons. We found out we had missed it by a couple of minutes as Tony Hukin filled us in on the details as he left. We stuck it out for several hours, scanning the swifts continuously but failing to see any with a white rump. Birds were often very distant but now and again a few would come down over the lagoons affording good views-and some were feeding over the river behind us. Around 1230 there was a commotion from another group of birders a hundred yards further up river so we went up to join them to be told that it had been seen low over the brambles behind the main lagoons. Suddenly Ricky picked it up and although distant it was satisfying to see it, but just as quickly we lost it. A couple of minutes later I found it coming straight towards us-the white rump was visible to the naked eye and through bins I could even see hints of the scaley feather pattern. By the time the camera was up it was off again, flying along the brambles again to the easternmost part of the reserve. Even then the white rump really stood out despite the distance. It then flew up above the dock cranes with another swift, came towards us and then headed off across the river.
I got a couple of record shots-nothing exciting.

Not much else was seen on the reserve-a drake Pintail being the most unusual and we got singing Bullfinch and Lesser Whitethroat on the way back.
There were a few dragonflies when the sun shon-one probable Broad Bodied, an Emperor and a male Hairy on the way back, plus a few blue damsels. Few butterflies apart from whites.

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