Saturday, October 09, 2004

What a creamy cracker!

With Mr Creamy Courser the Cream-coloured Cracker still lingering on the magical Isles of Scilly, the Katie 'Bogbumper' Fuller, Mark 'Wardy' Ward and myself had already secured earlier in the week the last three places on the 07.30h chopper this morning.

The Courser though decided to change its routine yesterday. No longer content living in the sheep fields of St Martin's it moved to the airport on St Mary's. Ouch! Saturday's chopper and plane traffic will be the busiest in weeks, so if it decides to stay around the airport it might get disturbed and shoot off which might take some relocating. Mind you, if it did stay around the airport, it would save us the time and hassle of legging it over to St Martin's.

So, we set off at 22.00h last night and arrived in Penzance at 04.00h this morning and managed a rather unsettled couple of hours sleep before transferring to the airport for our 07.30h chopper flight.

We got in the air five minutes early and arrived on St Mary's 20 minutes later. It was still quite dull and with no other birders likely to be out this early, it was up to us to find Mr Creamy Cracker for ourselves. Half an hours search around the terminal building drew a blank, so we decided to leave others searching this area and headed for the windsock to check the end of the main runway. The choppers and planes were using the other auxiliary runway due to the easterly winds, so it meant that the Giant's Castle end of the airfield was relatively undisturbed. In the howling 40+mph winds we could barely stand up in this exposed area with absolutely nothing to shelter us. We gave the place a grilling and were just about to head for Peninnis when Wardy's pager alerted us that the Courser was viewable from the terminal building! Result!

We legged it back round (very sweaty indeed!) and approaching the terminal building along the Old Town footpath we spotted the gathered birders looking down our side of the airfield. 'There it is!' I yelled 'on the ridge!'. We quickly set up our scopes. Even though the wind was howling and it was still very dull, I decided to get at least a record shot of Mr Creamy Cracker just in case I didn't get the opporuntity later in what was not worsening weather.

After about five minutes the Courser walked over the ridge so we moved up to the terminal building. Wardy mused about wanting to see it in flight, and after five mins, an incoming chopper duly helped as the Courser rose with all the other birds and flew, like an out of control Little Bittern in the strengthening wind, and headed off towards Old Town before pitching down in a grassy field - out of sight!

It had now started to pee down, so we decided to make our way across to Peninnis and look for the Short-toed Lark. Despite passing birders who told us it hadn't been seen this morning, we arrived at its favoured field as it was found - result! And what a star bird - the brightest autumn bird I'd ever seen.

The bird looked as fed up and wet as we were, so we continued around Peninnis picking up a single Chiffie and good views of a rather bedraggled Short-eared Owl looking for some cover, before arriving in Hugh Town and pitching ourselves down in Cafe En Route for a crackin cuppa. We were dripping! Wardy and I stripped off and little puddles formed under our hanging coats, scopes, bags etc. Katie sat there all togged up slowly dripping into her own puddle under her seat!

Refreshed, warmed and a little drier, we telephoned for a taxi to take us back to the airport for another view of the Courser. We watched it for a while in the pouring rain. It looked well and truly fecked off as it huddled down behind a pittasporum bush in a bulb field. It got up a couple of times, ran around on its leggy legs before returning to shelter. Poor sod.

A very wet and miserable Mr Creamy Courser

Two very wet, but happy, dirty twitchers

Well bugger the Courser - poor us! We were pee wet through again, so we made for the airport building and straight to the check-in desk. Although not due to fly off for another three hours, I enquired about an earlier flight back to Penzance and was handed three boarding cards for the next flight - 20 minutes later. Result!

Back in Penzance we made for Tesco for a hot lunch (and free in Wardy's case - another result!) before heading home, arriving back on the fen at 21.30h. Scilly and back in 22 hours. Result!

Photos © Steve Dudley
Nikon Coolpix 995 | Leica APO Televid 77 with 20xWA eyepiece

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