Cretching: the terrible feeling resulting in having missed a major bird, from the ‘churning’ and ‘wretching’ feeling felt in the pit of the stomach
Well, where to start? The day began well, with a calm, sunny day and Ciaran finding a Short-toed Lark in the Havens before breakfast. More migrants were around and the next highlight was found by Richard just before lunch – a Red-breasted Flycatcher at Burkle.
|The Red-breasted Flycatcher that started everything off today...|
Then things started to get a bit crazy. Deryk phoned to say he had a Cretzschmar’s Bunting at Burkle! Amazing stuff and the FIBO team were soon on hand, but sadly a few moments too late – the bird had flown. It turned out that Deryk had been photographing the Red-breasted Fly (an addition to his Burkle list no less), when the bunting crawled out the grass in front of him. Lucky? Well yes, but birding generally involves a fair chunk of being in the right place at the right time and if anyone has earned their birding luck on Fair Isle it’s Deryk.
|Wow. A nice surprise to find in your garden (well, lambing paddock next to the house). Photo: Deryk Shaw|
|Although Fair Isle has recorded half of the previous British records of Cretzschmar's Bunting, this is the first since 1979. Photo: Deryk Shaw|
However, with all the attention being paid to the south of the island coinciding with more birds clearly arriving, it was no surprise that more was found. There were several sightings of Wrynecks, a Short-toed Lark at Midway was proved to be a second bird when the original was found back on Buness, then a third was discovered on Meoness, and there were generally migrants scattered across the island. With hope (and light) fading, a very pale Stonechat hopped up onto a fence at the Meadow Burn, before turning and showing a pure white rump and, most importantly, a ‘wheatear’ tail pattern. A Caspian Stonechat, the sixth for Britain, and not a bad consolation prize for a whole day in the field.
|The intial view showing the distinctive tail pattern.|
|The huge white collar and white rump were obvious.|
|A really smart bird and a better way to end the day after the despondancy of missing a huge rare.|
|The overall pale appearance and orange restricted to the upper chest made for a distinctive bird even before the diagnostic tail pattern was seen.|
The final totals for the day made for an outstanding read, especially for April, with: CRETZSCHMAR’S BUNTING, CASPIAN STONECHAT, Eastern Subalpine Warbler, 3 Short-toed Lark, Red-breasted Flycatcher, 7 Wryneck, Great Grey Shrike, Blue-headed Wagtail, 33 Willow Warbler, 32 Chiffchaff, 25 Blackcap, 3 Sedge Warbler, 3 Lesser Whitethroat, 2 Whitethroat, 10 Redstart, 3 Black Redstart, Whinchat, 5 Pied Flycatcher, 27 Tree Pipit, 13 Ring Ouzel, 167 Fieldfare, 9 Redwing, 33 Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, 28 Robin, 6 Dunnock, 22 White Wagtail, Tree Sparrow, 51 Brambling, 8 Common Redpoll, Crossbill, Chaffinch, 12 Reed Bunting, 13 Snow Bunting, 41 Swallow, 6 House Martin, 2 Sand Martin, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, 3 Green Sandpiper, 2 Jack Snipe, 7 Whimbrel, Kumlien’s Gull, Iceland Gull, 174 Wheatear, 204 Meadow Pipit, 2 Linnet, 2 Collared Dove, 7 Woodpigeon and 2 Tufted Duck.
|The second Short-toed Lark of the day, near Midway. After two years of single records, three in a day is a good haul.|
|Wrynecks are also enjoying a very good spring, this one at South Harbour was joined by another later in the day.|
More easterlies tomorrow could deliver more birds, but I’d settle for the Cretzschmar’s being refound – I’d swap the four Sunderland goals today for another chance at it (well, three of them maybe). Clutching at straws, there’s never been a one-day Cretzschmar’s Bunting on Fair Isle (or elsewhere in Britain) so, if there’s still hope that Sunderland won’t get relegated, there’s still hope for us refinding this outstanding mega.