My team just won a crucial darts match at work, and shortly after returning to the office the MEGA alert informed me of a bird, which has been absent in the British Isles for 18 years. The decision to go tonight seemed liked the sensible option.
South Ronaldsway is a very easy place to get to if you are prepared to drive 13 hours and then get on one of the 4 ferry companies that take you from the Mainland of Scotland to Orkney. Ferries can be taken from Aberdeen, Scrabster, Gillís Bay and John of Groats. The last one is only for pedestrians and takes you closest to where the Crane has settled.
My Boss gave me the thumbs up for 2 days leave at 4pm. So next step was to find a crew! Some of my regular passengers couldnít make it for many reasons including:-Wedding Anniversaries, too busy at work, personality clashes with potential car passengers etc etc..
Never mind. Steve Nuttall is definitely coming. Itís always a difficult decision for him to come as he loves watching "Babestation". The daily ritual of waiting to his wife has gone to bed, locating the Kleenex tissues for easy reach & turning the TV volume down real low. Distant footsteps and Steve can pack away his toys, change the TV channels before he hears the immortal words "Caught ya, you crafty b*stard!.
I left work at 5pm, got home in 10mins (as I now live in Crawley) and then tried to find a British Road Map, rucksack (couldnít find one-so a Tesco Cool bag will suffice), American Field guide (just in case we find a Yellow-billed Cuckoo or something up there), Orkney ferry timetable, mobile phone, credit card etc.
I left home Tuesday 5:40pm and picked up a non-birding friend at Luton Airport at around 7:30pm and finally picked up Steve Nuttall at 9:30pm in Staffordshire.
Crossed the Scottish Border at 12:10am and arrived at John of Groats at 6:45pm (750 mile one way).
The ferry departed at 9:00am with 60 twitchers aboard (Ferry capacity is about 250 people). I sat beside Julian Thomas on the very cramped upper deck of the Ferry. The ferry also had the very funny Tim Cleeves on board with 3 fellow twitchers(Tim and his wife were responsible for the í98 Slender-billed Curlew at Druridge Bay),Alan Amery, Bert Reynolds or was it Bert Mitchell, Paul Chapman, Alistair Orton, Malc Curtin, Mark Payne, Dan Pointon, Andrew Holden, Chris Batty, Stu Piner, Geoff Clewes (without his son?), Justin Taylor, Paul Wreh, Simon Slade, Alan Lewis, John Archer, Douggie Barr, Pete Hutchins, Pete Davis, Jumbo, Richard Baatsen, Matt Mulvey, Josh Jones, Will Soar, John Bell and several other faces that I just donít know their names or can't mention due to being AWOL (if you want to be added to the list, let me know please!).
Docked at Burwick at 9:40 and walked 10mins downhill to the Cranes favoured site. Just before we got there the Crane had flown out of view, and it didnít take long to re-locate it. Once re-located the 60 twitchers filled up a narrow lane and all managed to scope the Crane. Some people decided to go in front of the queue and kneel down at the front to get more stable scope views. I decided to join the kneeling crowd, and then the inevitable happens, I fall down a ditch and land on my tripod and break it instantly for the 2nd Autumn in a row.
We stayed on the Island til 5:30pm, so we could catch the foot ferry back to John of Groats. Whilst on the island Dougal Gysi, Tony Sheppard, Neil Howes, Jim Lawrence, Stuart Elsom, Mike & Jane Malpass arrive.
We get back to John of Groats at 6:10pm and I drive to Golspie (approx 1.5 hours south) and stay in a very nice Hotel called "Ben Bhraggie Hotel" 01408 633 242.
The hotelís owner is a very funny Scottish Lady named "Desiree", who asked me to "chill out" at least 25 times whilst eating in her restaurant. (Steve was I stressed?, I really donít think so!) By the way I had a very nice Tomato & Basil Soup, followed by Sirloin Steak and Banoffee pie and cream for Desert. All washed down with a pint of Stella. Yummy yummy.
Steve & I shared a room, and yes I can confirm that Steve does really smelly farts and talks in his sleep about "BabeStation". But heís a top man and I have always enjoyed his company.
Next morning we got up at 8am, have breakfast and leave Hotel at 8:50am.I got back to Crawley at around 8:15pm. Another great twitch that I will talk about time & time again.