Monday, 5 April 2010

History 2

Jon Uren has got back to me with an email containing all submitted records of birds from the Cuddesdon area over the last 15 years. I open the email feeling a strange combination of anticipation and fear, knowing that if there is anything really good, then I'll feel gutted I haven't seen it... but at the same time it shows the area has some potential... which is something else I have obviously missed!
    Nervously I begin scrolling down through the data. The first two species reported are Little Egret and Honey Buzzard. Bugger! Both entirely predictable, especially the former which is becoming regular in the county, although the Cuddesdon record was back in 2005. The Honey Buzzard was part of the September 2000 record influx, so again, forgiveable (although I notice it was submitted by one of Farmoor's most regular victims, I wonder what he was doing out this way, checking out the pub and got lucky or actively seeking migrating HBs?).
   Then there are then a few Hobby and Peregrine records (mainly from me), before I come across a record so incredible I can barely believe the words in front of me: Long-tailed Skua. Let me say that again: LONG-TAILED SKUA! In Cuddesdon, Oxfordshire?! There are even a few details included: a non-birding friend of a well-known local birder reporting an "unusual bird flying around Cuddesdon all day" that resembled "a cross between a gull and a bird of prey". The friend's Dad thought it was a Skua and confirmed it had "a really long tail". And it was reported on my birthday, in early September 1995. I am still in shock.. although this species does have previous in the Chilterns, I recall a juvenile being photographed flying overhead by someone out to photogragh the Kites one autumn (4th September 1998, Christmas Common - just dipped into Birds of Oxfordshire). So, thats the plans sorted for the first week of September in Cuddesdon: I'll be seawatching from the village, scanning through the flocks of Kites for Skuas.
   Fortunately for my blood pressure there is nothing else of significance in the records, although Corn Buntings were present back in 1995 and Spotted Flycatcher was reported in 1999, it would be nice to find one of those increasingly rare local birds one day around the village. But really... Long-tailed Skua... you couldn't make it up. Here's one I photographed at Varangerfjord, Norway. I'm just trying to imagine it on a local fencepost:

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