LITTLE YORKSHIRE BUSTARD

Little Bustard, Auburn Farm, Fraisthorpe, East Yorkshire

A NEW YEAR'S DAY LITTLE BUSTARD was a great way to start 2015! A couple of hours driving across the Pennines and then the Yorkshire Wolds in the dark ensured that owls were my first birds of the year though, with a Tawny followed by four Barn Owls before I set eyes on the bustard. Predictably there was a big dawn turn out with lots of southern accents, who couldn't make it to Fraisthorpe on New Year's Eve. There were somewhere around 700 twitchers at any one time with a constant trickle of new arrivals throughout the morning and this event put the tiny hamlet of Fraisthorpe firmly on the birding map, I had not even heard of it before yesterday! Back to the bustard itself, which was rather inactive and didn't fly once during the 6.5 hours I was there, only spreading its wings on one occasion spending most of the time either standing around in its chosen kale field or tucking into the crop and not moving more than about 20m in the whole time I watched it. For anyone wondering, digiscoping was obviously the way to go today, it was a little out of range for most DSLRs.

I also thought of Stuart Warren today, who missed the 1988 New Year's Day Little Bustard in Dorset after his bino eyecups filled with rain water just before it flew off as Dave Russell told me something similar happened to him too, both of them driving home as the only ones in their respective cars who had not ticked it off. There are other stories of guys who were still too drunk to see it as well. Even though I've seen lots of Little Bustards and taken thousands of photos of them, I still find the thought that one made its way to Yorkshire thrilling. Bird migration is a wonderful thing! It is also interesting that 75% of all English records up to 1996 have been between November and February, no doubt birds retreating from hard weather on the continent. It is pretty cold there right now, minus 17 Celsius in Eastern Hungary last night for instance! These twitching events are also great for catching up with old friends, we are all a bit fatter, with more lines on our faces and more grey hairs (as well as less hair) these days. A Lapland Bunting flew over the bustard calling as did a few skylarks on a windy, grey and bitterly cold morning on the Holderness coast. A sparrowhawk and a kestrel also passed overhead but there was not much else happening here today.

New Year's Day Little Bustard watchers, Fraisthorpe