Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Twitching Circus at Hartlepool Headland!

6th June

For the benefit of Mr. Kite
There will be a show tonight on trampoline
The Hendersons will all be there
Late of Pablo Fanques Fair-what a scene
Over men and horses hoops and garters
Lastly through a hogshead of real fire!
In this way Mr. K. will challenge the world!
The celebrated Mr. K.
Performs his feat on Monday at Hartlepool
The Hendersons will dance and sing
As Mr. Kite flys through the ring don't be late
Messrs. K and H. assure the public
Their production will be second to none
And of course Henry The Horse dances the waltz!

(Lyrics (with minor alteration) from Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band)

As you know I’m not into twitching in a big way, but I do make the occasional exception, as my header shows. Today (Mon) was such a case and I joined the twitching circus at Hartlepool Headland along with Tom, Cain and Phil and I guess several hundred other circus members. Top of the bill was the White-throated Robin. The first one to appear on mainland Britain and only the third in total in the British Isles (last seen in 1990), as I’m sure people may have heard on more than one occasion!

I don’t care much for standing around in big crowds of scope and camera carrying hordes. This is not bird watching as I know it. However I did feel I ought not to miss out on this one. After standing for sometime near the bowling green with little more than a very nice Dunnock to show for it, I began to feel that our luck was not to be in. It was interesting watching how the circus was apparently being conducted and directed by one or two individuals. I noted though that few were taking much notice of their endeavours. When frustration set into the expectant participants, we were all advised to move back. Some began to do so until someone made the error of suggesting that the photographers stay put. That was definitely the wrong thing to say it seemed, and brought a few comments of ‘all or none’ or words to that effect. None’ won the day. Others were getting agitated because fellow watchers were watching from what they thought the wrong spot and began to telephone friends to say so!

When Lee Evans left followed by friends, I thought well that must mean there is going to be a no show. However they had simply gone around the corner. Everyone else eventually made for the new viewing point. The view unfortunately was blocked a twelve foot wall and this is when the real fun of the circus really began. Whilst circa fifteen twitchers stood upon the roof a small white van, I found Tom and Cain in negotiation with a builder over his ladders. I thought they were negotiating very well until interrupted by someone else who thought he could negotiate even better and apparently saw it as his job to intervene.

By now individuals were attempting to get up onto the top of the wall by any means possible. The wall became a gallery of various body parts. I think a few of a certain age ought to have known better! I watched Tom pull himself up the wall attached to the legs of another twitcher, and thought, I ain’t going to try that. I did ponder on the idea of asking Phil if I could stand on his shoulders. I thought better of that too as he may have wanted me to return the favour. I thought it best to try for the ladders. By now ladders were appearing from all angles as builders merchants were being hijacked at every opportunity. Just as I arrived for my turn at the ladder the damn bird disappeared, and in any event the owner of the ladders wanted them back as he had been working all day and wanted to get home for his tea. I think he underestimated just how hard the circus participants had sweated whilst looking out for this bird!

Now that ain't working, that's the way you do it
Let me tell you them guys ain't dumb
Maybe get a blister on your little finger
Maybe get a blister on your thumb
We got to install microwave ovens
Custom kitchen deliveries
We got to move these refrigerators
We got to move these colour T.V.'s

Dire Straits lyrics

I did eventually get to the top of a ladder, and without a safety net I’ll have you know. I believe there is a photo in existence which may appear at some point.:-) Still didn’t get my bird. Having found that Tom, Cain and Phil had had good sightings there was no way I was going home with them not having seen this White-throated Robin. On my third attempt up the ladders I did finally get a very good sighting. White-throated Robin joins my life list. Ouite a nice bird I must admit.

I seem to remember much action up and down ladders still taking place when we moved on. I wasn’t aware of any injuries occurring. A minor miracle in itself I reckon. Despite what seemed mayhem I have to say most people were behaving very well and lining up at the ladders in an orderly fashion. We were soon off to Seaton Carew and yes we did have a fine sighting of the very much more obliging adult male Red Backed Shrike. Only my second seen in Britain. I’ve seen many on my travels but can’t really remember seeing one any better than I did today. It was a relaxing end to a surreal day, with Kittiwake, Guillemot and Great Crested Grebe showing on the sea.

I have to admit I tend to enjoy my little forays into the world of the twitch.:-) Although I guess I enjoyed the Red Backed Shrike as much as anything and I prefer to bird in peaceful surroundings.

No photos here I’m afraid but I’m hoping to see some good ones from Cain (Holywell Birder).

Thanks for the good company and laughs guys.


  1. A brilliant night, and a twitch I enjoyed !

  2. Humpty dumpty sat on a wall,
    Humpty dumpty had a great fall.............

  3. What a post! I'm liking the pandemonium of the whole thing. The papers-'estimates of 5,000 twitchers' and 'The RSPB’s nearby Saltholme Nature Reserve, in Tees Road, emptied when the news broke.'...Ace.

    Steve w

  4. Yes that was a somewhat different day, lol.

    I liked the picture of you up the ladder, it shows real dedication, lol.

    The Robin didn't exactly make it easy for you and others but it was worth it all the same. (The Red backed Shrike would in itself have been worth a drive out for).

    So I'm guessing you've had worse birding experiences? Lol.

  5. Thanks for the comments guys.

    Anon...seen the photo then? :-)

    Steve...bet staff at RSPB Saltholme wish the W-t Robin had landed on the reserve. That would have given them some good coverage in the media.:-)