Little bird, big deal!!!

We’ve all had it, going through the records and finding species we could have if we started off a year or so before we got in the game. For me growing up in the north west, that ranged from the likes of Caspian Tern, Blue-winged Teal, Lesser Yellowlegs, Western Sandpiper, Ross’s Gull, White-tailed Lapwing and the list is endless…what it does include something called a Little Swift. The latter has the reputation of not being the most twitchable of species, so when news came through that the 30th record for Britain & Ireland popped at Hartlepool Headland, which isn’t a million miles away from where I am for uni, I had to hatch a plan.

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1cy Little Swift (Apus affinis)

Thanks to Andrew Kinghorn, the birds roost was located which left me with two choices A). Get the first train down in the morning which would get me to Hartlepool for 0930, then followed up by an hours walk to the site, or B). Catch a nap then get the last train to Hartlepool, hope to see the bird roosting then stay up till the morning to gain better views. Well, those who know me will know that I’m not the most ordinary of folk, so I took the latter option. After all, have to be in it to win it.

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1cy Little Swift (Apus affinis)

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1cy Little Swift (Apus affinis)

Following the grand total of a three and a half hour journey, all at a total of £19, the sight I was greeted with was remarkable to say the least. Under the eves of a house on the headland of Hartlepool, Redwings calling overhead with the north sea eroding the shore line just meters away. Here I was, in the dark, alone watching a Little Swift asleep with the birds white rump being lit up by a nearby street light. What an experience, one of the most memorable twitches I’ve been on to date.

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1cy Little Swift (Apus affinis)

Patrolling the area for the night recording for Noc Mig, it got till 0500 when the crowds started coming in: Austin Morely, Liam Andrew, Jacob Spinks, Tom Tams, Erik Ansell, Frank Goulding, Beth Clyne and Lucy McRoberts to name a few of the faces on site. It wasn’t till around 0730 that the bird departed from roost and spent several hours bombing it up and down the prom, slicing its way through the air at come moments no more than a few inches from observers.

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1cy Little Swift (Apus affinis)

Sadly, no sign of the Pallid despite hearing a second hand report of it still being present. But when you’ve got a Little Swift, a flipping Little Swift that’s so close that you don’t even need optics to see the pale fringing to the upper and lower coverts that age it as a 1cy. That’s when you know you’re having a good day. At this point I should say hats off to Sam Viles the finder who when watching the Pallid Swift fly up one end of the prom, to only return back down with a Little Swift, he had the self find to last him a lifetime.

Thanks for reading,


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