Andy got the news about a rare bird in Chesterfield on Sunday afternoon. Too late to do anything about it. Well, it was still there this morning so we set off.
There's never any question of not finding the right location on a rare bird twitch. You just follow the crowd. This was a small crowd in comparison to some I have seen ... but the bird has been here three days ... this was a Tuesday morning ... doesn't anyone go to work any more? Obviously not. But most of them were my age. You wouldn't believe how many people can turn up to a weekend twitch: there is a full age range too, from young kids (with their own binoculars so not just dragged along by a parent), through to pensioners. Some of them travel miles. A man today had driven down from Newcastle to see this bird. Last month there was a rare bird on the Isle of Lewis and people were chartering planes to see it.
Birders can be very obsessive. A friend left his own wedding reception on getting news a rarity had turned up: his father chased after him to bring him back! Another guy lost an eye in a car crash trying to get to a bird before it flew off and Andy was at a twitch where a guy died from a heart attack and his mate got in a panic because he had to stay with him when the bird was just down the road!
Today's bird was a Crag Martin. There have only been 9 previous sightings of this species in the UK. It should be in the South of France but it has ended up in Chesterfield flying round the famous crooked spire. As I parked up Andy was busy finding the bird. He got a good view of it as it flew away!! Luckily it returned about five minutes later. That isn't always the case ... one time Andy drove to Yorkshire (two hours away) to see a rare water bird. He missed it by ten minutes.
"Which way did it go?" he asked.
"That way," replied a helpful Yorkshireman.
"Well, what's over there?" He wondered if there was a large body of water close by it might have headed towards.
"Eh," came the reply, "there's naught over there ... that's Lancashire!"
We spent an hour watching this swallow like bird zooming about ... it was incredibly fast. I could find it with my binoculars but there was no chance with my camera. It was a nice outing and I got to see the spire close up. Locals have an amusing explanation for the crocked spire: apparently a virgin was married there and the church was so surprised it turned round to look at the bride!
The spire was added in the 14th century, just after the Black Death had killed off many craftsmen so lack of skill could account for the poor building work. I was always told it twisted because unseasoned wood was used but apparently they always used unseasoned wood because it was easier to work with ... they just adjusted it as it seasoned. No, it was the lead covering that caused it. The sun shining on the south side all day made that side expand more quickly than the north side. The fault was compounded by the weight of the metal (33 tons) because the structure was not designed to hold that kind of weight. It twists by 45 degrees and leans 9 feet 6 inches away from its true centre.