Leave at your own risk.. 12th-13th October 1987

I can't remember much about the following day, we probably spent it catching up with a few padders on St Mary's; Rose-coloured Starling and Little Bunting spring to mind the latter in a field at Telegraph that responded very well to pishing - the Bunting not the field.  I remember Rob and I walking up to the field boundary wall, Rob did a loud pish and up it popped, I found a Little Bunting on Shetland in much the same manner a couple of years back.

The main news of the day was that a Swainson's Thrush had been found in Cot Valley, Cornwall. This was indeed a rare bird and the first since the last one*, For the old school twitchers this however was a tarts tick, but for kid listers like us it was a mega.  Several from the house (that by now had started to take on the appearance of a squat) decided that they would twitch it the following day. We unfortunately were too poor to contemplate this and pretended not to be bothered (though we really were).

*Before you think thick twat, I put that sentence in for comedy value and still maintain that it was Rob who said, when referring to the occurrence of a Laughing Gull, "there's not been many since the last one" He will deny this I'm sure! 

Sure enough the Cheshire guys left for Cornwall the following morning, whilst we moped apound a bit miffed that there was nothing tickable on offer. The next bit's a bit hazy, but I distinctly remember some bloke running past screaming " ...... Thrush." Obviously something good had turned up, either that or he was suffering from an uncomfortable rash  and in a hurry to get some medicinal relief! Immediately we began running in the same direction, then we stopped! Why were we running? Then some more birders, with a CB, started running and screaming "Eye-browed Thrush Longstones." We re-commenced running. The thrush had been seen in the area between the airfield and the sunken garden and was fairly mobile.  We spent a couple of hours chasing around desperately trying to get a glimpse.  Rob raised a cheer and applause from an assembled crowd whilst taking a hurried diversion across the sunken gardens compost heap, temporarily losing footwear and denting his pride in the process. Eventually it did give itself up and sat in full view for a minute or so revealing its buff peachy loveliness. Seeing this bird gave me so much pleasure that when I visited in '93 I never bothered looking at the one present near Porthloo - for fear of sullying that memory of '87. 
Our housemates who were on their way back from Cornwall failed to see the Eye-browed that day and I don't remember if they connected the following day. *How we laughed! 

Thanks to Jim Clift for letting me use his photo

*I'm sure Fred and the boys will forgive us for that spot of Schadenfreude.

That afternoon, whilst walking casually back towards Hugh Town, we became aware that there seemed to be an awful lot of birders heading in the same direction as us. As that sense of *Scillies paranoia set in a birder from a flat over looking the road raised the sash window and like a scene from a Dickens novel shouted out "where's everyone going cor blimey guvnor"  to which he got the reply "we set sail dor Tresco where Sir Richard of Filby has found a Blackpoll Warbler" of course the question was much shorter and the answer equally succinct, but I wanted to add some literary bollocks.  Once again we found ourselves running. 

*the feeling you get when you don't have a CB or are out of range. Doesn't really happen nowadays due to modern technology. Next time you visit leave your phone, pager and CB in the flat and head to Watermill - you'll soon know what Scillies Paranoia feels like. 

It was late afternoon by the time we docked and we were pushing our luck, fortunately the bird was on show as soon as we arrived,  in the pines next to the Borough Farm chalets.  
I couldn't find an image of the Blackpoll , the Google image search (for Blackpoll Warbler Scilly 1987) came up with some Blackpolls a picture of the lovely *Carmel Pentecost and a tin of Spaghetti Hoops. 
The Cheshire boys had made it back from Cornwall and to the Blackpoll, but their day was about to get worse when a nearby CB crackled "Swainson's Thrush Longstones"  How we laughed (again) though not too loud, remembering we were staying in their house!

It was nearly dark when we arrived at Longstones and not surprisingly there was no sign of the Swainson's. Fortunately the next morning it performed out in the open for all to see - even the Cheshire lads.
Photo by Dr Pete Wheeler

*Carmel is the girlfriend of Lee Evans and would deservedly have been classed as MILF in the 1980's (had that rather charming acronym existed back then).


Phil Woollen. said...

Would that have been Fred Fearn and Pod Antrobus amongst the Cheshire crew?

Been on many a more recent twitch with those two.

Steve Young and Pete Wheeler respectable?

Marcus Lawson said...

I do believe it was young master Richard Fray who uttered the immortal line "it's the first one since the last one". Happy memories all round.

Rob said...

Don't think Pete Antrobus was there - bizarrely, the first time I met him was a couple of weeks ago at Tarbert on the west coast of Scotland. Pretty sure the Lawson in the house was Andy rather than Marcus. Also fairly certain Julian Hough was in the melee, along with 'Simmo' and Laurence (Pitcher). And Mark, you haven't mentioned that Fred smashed his tripod to bits after getting back from Cot Valley to find that we'd all seen Eye-browed Thrush whilst he was twitching in Cornwall!

Mark said...

You might be right about the other occupants, but Fred's tantrum was the following year. He had returned from Agnes after getting drenched, his CB packed up and when he slammed his tripod down on the table the leg feel off! It was very difficult not to burst out laughing, but the anger on his face suggested that it would not be wise! This was also the year of the Fairy Liquid, kitchen knife incident.

Phil Woollen. said...

Fred us now a respectable business man with his own company - Avian Ecology. Pete works for him as a field ornithologist.