Thursday, 17 April 2008
On this day - 17/04/1999
VC55 - Leicestershire and Rutland, slap bang in the middle of England. No coastline, precious little woodland, even less decent open heathland/moorland. Plenty of reservoirs and gravel pits though. And 100s square miles of dull farmland. Unsurprisingly, we are not exactly on a major migratory flight path and whilst we do get the odd rarity and have some very good birds on the county list, we get very few genuine 'mass-twitch' megas. 17/04/1999 was one of those days though when every keen lister in Britain was trying desperately to get here quickly - to Swithland Reservoir in fact. And the reason for this was that Steve Lister had found a superb and highly sought after Crag Martin. Prior to this bird, there was literally a handful of people in Britain that had seen one on our shores - but now one was within reach and performing amongst its commoner congeners. As it happened, I was sitting at my desk at work on this Saturday morning when the news broke. The mobile rang. A usually calm John Hague is ranting on about have I looked at my pager and can I pick him up on the way. My pager was in the car (I wasn't expecting a door-step mega during the couple of hours I expected to be at work). "What? Crag Martin? Swithland Res!? FUCK!!!" The journey from South Wigston to Swithland Res, via Narborough Road, was swift to say the least. As we arrived, there was already 20 or so local birders and visitors from the closest neighbouring counties were also just arriving. We almost immediately got good views and watched it for while as the ever-growing crowd got bigger and bigger. It wasn't always in view though and disappeared for long periods between sightings. We eventually left by the back road as Kinchley Lane was quickly becoming a car park and it was going to get messy! An estimated 1500 arrived and left during the day. Most of those who got there before early afternoon would have seen it, but after a brief showing at c13:45 it was not seen again although there were a couple of late evening reports which may have been more hopeful than reliable. The next morning the gathered crowd must have been even more pissed when the bird was relocated in West Yorks before disappearing for good. A superb County and British tick, and by far the biggest twitch the county has ever seen.