24 April 2009

Willington hits the big time...

For the second time this week I took the shortest route home from work that I could, on the bike, so that I could be at home as quickly as possible, and once again it was all down to a bird. Well, in this case, 11 birds! All afternoon my mobile phone had been going off with updates on a rather special event at Willington Gravel Pits. At one point the texts were coming in so often that I had to switch the phone off - work was very busy and I was getting too distracted! I was also getting just a little bit worried that the birds would move on before I could get to “the ponds”.

At 6:45PM I pulled into the lane at Willington to be met with a mass of parked cars. They were all over the parking area, the grass verges, the pavement along the road and part way down the lane. A couple of cars were trying to find a space as I drove straight past them and down the lane - my contacts had told me to avoid the roadside panic and to drive down the lane as the parking was easier down there. They were right and this saved me an extra few minutes.

So, why the rush? Why the sudden influx of cars? Well, if you’re a keen birder you’ll have worked it out by now or even been to Willington yourself. I was there for the Whiskered Terns! Whiskered Tern has only been recorded on one previous occasion in Derbyshire and that, apparently, was back in 1883 when one was shot on the River Trent near Barrow. I wasn’t responsible for that horror as I wasn’t around on that day! I’ll certainly remember this day for a while though!

The terns showed very well from the end of the lane with all 11 being seen together on a number of occasions. Just one of these gorgeous birds would have made my day, if not my year, but to see them in such numbers and on my local patch was pure magic. Not only are the birds a great county record they are also believed to be the largest group of Whiskered Terns ever seen in Britain. Birding history was being made and it was happening within my “10-Mile Zone”!

As well as the terns I also managed two other new species for the year, Common Tern and Cuckoo. My sighting of the Cuckoo managed to raise a bit of a laugh amongst a few of the visiting birders too. I’d heard it calling for a while but could not locate it, when I did it was through my ‘scope and it was some distance away. I let out a quiet “yes, got ya!” under my breath, or so I thought. I was heard by one of the other birders who enquired just what I’d found - they all found it somewhat amusing that 11 Whiskered Terns were flying around and I was watching a Cuckoo! Each to their own I guess!

So, three more birds for the “10-Mile List” which now stands at 125 species.

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