May 29th 1989 - A phone call from Mark Bailey around 1pm came completely out of the blue (pardon the pun). The shock news was that a roller had been discovered on East Budleigh Common and Mark was going for it. Would I like a lift? I didn't have to think too long before agreeing to meet him at Penn Inn roundabout! On arrival we could see no roller and in fact there were no other birders to point us in the right direction so we struck out, full of nervous anticipation, across the Common. Within a mercifully short time we had located the bird perched high, shrike-like, on a tall dead tree. We watched in stunned silence for about three minutes before it flew, a burst of brilliant turquoise blue, back towards where Mark had parked. We soon relocated it and watched it for a long time from the road. Other birders started to arrive and the bird flew directly over us before perching on gorse bushes and affording more scintillating views.
After about an hour we headed up to Dartmoor for a male red-backed shrike that had the decency to start singing whilst we watched it - a really special and memorable afternoon with Mark great company as always.
Three days later, being a pushy, bird-obsessed youth I convinced Mum and Dad that they had to see the exotic Mediterranean vagrant so I got to see it again, this time sheltering from rain on the lower branches of a conifer. The colours took on different hues compared to when seen in the brilliant sunshine on the 29th.
The bird was present from the 28th May to 17th June 1989 (I'm pretty sure it waited for Bob to get back from France ) and was the twelfth record for Devon ( The Birds of Devon - M Tyler). Despite its long stay there must be many younger birders that haven't seen one in Devon. The record from Teignmouth on May 1st 2012 must have been very tantalising for a few but I reckon roller will occur again before too long - there has been a good recent run of birds nationally and Devon is blessed with loads of suitable habitiat for holding another - ever the optimist!
Good memories Matt! I remember twitching it with mates on the train from Hertfordshire and spending the night at Exeter St Davids until the Exmouth train in the morning - Then got a cab to what was the wrong Common! Finally connected though and little did I know as I watched the Turquoise Gem that I would be living just a couple of miles away 20 years later!ReplyDelete
Hi Chris - that's proper twitching. Sleeping at a train station shows total dedication. I'm not sure too much of that happens in twitching these days. I remember Kev and I kipped in the carpark at Titchwell once and I've had a couple rough nights in cars but by and large I twitched in relative comfort - pretty poor really. Did you go for much other Devon stuff back then?ReplyDelete
Great write up Matt- that was such a great afternoon( one of the best) and such a long time ago! I remember we couldn't believe no one else was there when we got there, but It was only because we were so quick off the mark!ReplyDelete
Hi Mark - Many thanks. You've always been fantastically quick off the mark - never ceases to amaze me! You couldn't have been driving for too long back then either - a couple years after you ruined your car en route for the black and white warbler!Delete
Gripped by this flashback, but I twitched the Cuckoo from Episode one - little did I know it was my first visit to my future patch.
Rest assured a few of us old twitchers still kip in car parks, Titchwell is one of the few with ensuite facilities though!
Hi Kev - it's one of very few species I've seen in the county that you haven't - we won't mention the species you've got on me! I'm impressed you're still prepared to go to such lengths - puts me to shame. Next 'flashback' another Warren bird - wader - 1988- better not mention it!ReplyDelete
Cannot thing of many other Devon grippers, I tend to remember the more painful ones, like missing Chestnut-sided Warbler, literally by a matter of seconds. If I hadn't driven round Plymouth to try and find a birding mate to give a lift to, I'd probably have seen it! I.m not bitter though!!
Can't believe this was nearly 25 years ago Matt. Had a look in my old birding diaries. It was Bank Holiday Monday, beautiful day for a change and Sarah had dropped me out at Bolt Head in the morning, I walked to Hope Cove ( only migrants a Wheatear and Blackcap - not much change there then ) and I can now remember ringing one of the birdlines and hearing of the Roller. Sarah kindly came right out and of we went to East Budleigh Common. When we arrived a bunch of unfortunate squaddies were getting bawled at by a superior who once he'd got them in the truck was quite interested in the Roller ( don't remember if he actually saw it or not ). The next evening I shot of to the Otter for a Great Reed Warbler ( sorry Mr. Townsend ) and called in unsuccessfully for another look at the Roller on the way back, nice churring Nightjar though. I had previously seen a Roller in the New Forest in 1987, the only time Sarah ever went twitching with me so she has seen 2 Rollers in the UK, not bad for a non-birding lady.ReplyDelete
Hi Perry - roller is a great bird for non-birders though - I defy anybody not to be impressed. I dipped the great reed warbler. Was there a purple heron around at the time or am I getting mixed up?Delete
Hi Perry, funny old thing that, but my wife hasn't got the least bit interest in our avian friends, but she has also seen two Rollers in the UK (and also Yellow-throated Vireo!), but neither of us saw the Devon Roller though - one that will surely reappear on day!Delete