Wednesday, 8 June 2011

It had to happen one day...

White-throated Robin twitch by Ashley Fisher

Through pure luck, I happened to be visiting my mother in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, when my RBA pager mega alerted: Cleveland WHITE-THROATED ROBIN Hartlepool Headland... I could scarcely believe my eyes. I had longed to see this species in the UK for such a long time that I'd almost given up hope! Now there was one within an easy two hour drive... How fortuitous to be away from Scilly!

I needed to get there, and get there quick. There was one major problem, however - my car was stuck in Penzance, Cornwall, with 'technical' problems! Mmmm, what to do? I wasted much time trying to scrounge a lift; so much so that it became obvious I wouldn't make it until the morrow. Oh, the agony!

In the end I managed to persuaded mother that a long run in her car (a lovely little VW Polo TDI) would do it good. A quick pow-wow with the insurance company and the twitch was most definitely on!

I pointed the car in the direction of Cleveland and in a little over two hours, I was driving along Marine Drive, Hartlepool, not knowing exactly where to go. Suddenly, I came across Brett Richards and got the good news - access had been granted to the Doctor's Garden and the bird was showing well. All I needed to do was park-up and walk around the corner!

Some of the birders in the Doctors Garden (Photo: John Dempsey)

As soon as I entered the garden, it was obvious that the bird was in view. I peered between the heads of the assembled throng and there it was... one of the best birds I've seen for quite sometime! It was rather like an oversized female Red-flanked Bluetail, but with noticeably longer 'cocked' tail, longer legs and longer heavier bill. The upperparts were largely brownish-grey, as was the the head and the breast; the chin and throat were off-white, forming a fairly narrow, but distinct, throat patch. The flanks were an orangey colour. The tail, apart from being noticeably long, was contrastingly blackish. Through the telescope, the primaries and primary coverts looked quite heavily worn - suggesting a first-summer female (the remiges belonging to juvenile plumage).

White-throated Robin, first-summer female, Hartlepool (Photo: John Dempsey)

I'm sure all the birders who saw the bird today (07/06/11) will extend their thanks to Dr. Michael Reece for generously allowing access to the garden. The bird showed extremely well on the lawn and surrounding walls; favouring an area beneath a large tree in the far corner and an adjacent flower bed.

Check out this in-hand video by Paul Hindess

With this being the first ever twitchable White-throated Robin, viewing conditions yesterday were rather chaotic! A passing 'white-van-man' needed little persuasion to put up several sets of ladders enabling the assembled masses to peer over the wall - for a small fee! See video below.