Mike Wee­don, as­sis­tant ed­i­tor,

Re­cently, Mike has been drawn away from his lo­cal area, lured by some great birds, but will temp­ta­tion get the bet­ter of him again?

Bird Watching (UK) - - Welcome - Mike is an ob­ses­sive patch lis­ter and keen wildlife pho­tog­ra­pher in his home city of Peter­bor­ough, where he lives with his wife, Jo, and chil­dren, Jas­mine and Ed­die. You can see his pho­tos at weed­world.blogspot.com

Once again, Mike has been tempted away from his home area in search of a scarce vis­i­tor. Or has he?

REG­U­LAR READ­ERS MAY re­mem­ber that re­cently I have strayed. I have fallen vic­tim to temp­ta­tion. I have been dis­loyal and have been a-wan­der­ing. The trou­ble is the birds of nearby Nor­folk and even nearer Framp­ton Marsh in south Lin­colnshire, have sim­ply been so much more de­sir­able than those around Peter­bor­ough. There, I’ve said what needed to be said. Framp­ton, in par­tic­u­lar, has been silly, re­cently. On one day in late Au­gust, the site had 258 Curlew Sand­pipers. Just a few days ago, there were more than 40 Lit­tle Stints there! But it was the ap­pear­ance of a Wry­neck just out­side its 360 Hide that had me drool­ing and think­ing of once more head­ing north for a taste of some­thing naughty and spe­cial. But late Au­gust is not a time of weak­ness. It is a time to gird one’s loins (what­ever that means) and go out and find ‘stuff’. As luck would have it, the week­end of the Bird­fair saw the ar­rival of a cou­ple of Cat­tle Egrets on the Nene Washes (just east of Peter­bor­ough), which I was able to con­nect with. And on the Sun­day, af­ter see­ing the Cat­tle Egrets for a third and fi­nal time, en route to the Bird­fair, a friend and I man­aged to find a cou­ple of Lit­tle Stints to keep my al­most mori­bund lo­cal year list just tick­ing along. The last week in Au­gust is Red­start sea­son around here and Peter­bor­ough’s prime Red­start habi­tat, Ferry Mead­ows CP, duly turned up one or per­haps two fe­males and a Whin­chat a few days ago. These were not year ticks, but they are al­ways good. On the late Au­gust Bank Hol­i­day, I was watch­ing more Red­starts at Elder­nell on the Nene Washes. I met lo­cal top bird-finder Andrew Gar­dener near the car park there and, while we were look­ing for a fe­male Red­start he had found ear­lier, as if by magic, out popped a lovely male, al­most look­ing as good as a spring bird (au­tumn Red­starts are usually ‘fresh’, so with buff-tipped feath­ers mask­ing the bright colours). We walked the hedge to­gether and found a third Red­start. But, great though these birds are, we agreed, the bushy, rough grass­land there looked amaz­ing for some­thing re­ally good, such as a Wry­neck. Ah, Wry­neck (sigh). What a lovely bird. I still re­mem­ber my first, in a lit­tle gar­den on the Italian main­land, wait­ing to cross to is­land Venice. I’ve seen Wry­necks aplenty in Europe, find­ing a few nests in Spain. I have even found nests with chicks call­ing in Hokkaido, Ja­pan (though that was 20 years ago). But I have seen only a few in the UK, and they are al­ways ex­cit­ing. Like Night­jars and Wood­cocks, there is some­thing spe­cial about cryp­ti­cally pat­terned birds. But these cryp­tic wood­peck­ers out-weird even those strange, strange birds. In Oc­to­ber 2004, a Wry­neck was flushed by a birder’s dog called Sparky (the Pick­les of the lo­cal bird­ing scene), in a field in the vil­lage of Langtoft, south Lin­colnshire (and part of the Peter­bor­ough area). I saw a tiny glimpse of it fly­ing at dusk to roost and I re­turned at first light the next day to re­dis­cover the bird feed­ing at close range. Since then, Peter­bor­ough area Wry­necks have been elu­sive and un­twitch­able. They are reported al­most an­nu­ally, usually af­ter they have de­parted and from pri­vate gar­dens or ob­scure waste­lands, or even, an­noy­ingly, sup­pressed. Ah, Wry­necks (longer sigh). The lure of that Framp­ton in­di­vid­ual was growing stronger. I could hear its dis­tant siren call draw­ing me to my doom. Or per­haps that was just a Green Wood­pecker I could hear. But yes­ter­day, I got a text from Andrew Gar­dener. He had been back to that amaz­ing stretch of habi­tat at Elder­nell and, as he ar­rived, a Wry­neck had flown from the ground into one of the Red­start El­ders. Then it dis­ap­peared! Re­dis­cov­er­ing the sec­ond twitch­able lo­cal Wry­neck in the 16 years I have been liv­ing in Peter­bor­ough was a joy. The cryp­tic beauty dropped from a bush and fed on the ground for what must have been a full 20 sec­onds, 10 of which I spent try­ing to pho­to­graph it, be­fore hop­ping un­der a Bramble. There is temp­ta­tion and temp­ta­tion. Some may say I am a dirty twitcher. But twitch­ing a bird in my lo­cal area just feels so much less shame­ful than ven­tur­ing onto some­one else’s patch. And, boy, did I en­joy that Wry­neck (sigh).

Like Night­jars and Wood­cocks, there is some­thing spe­cial about cryp­ti­cally pat­terned birds

WRY­NECK It didn’t pose for long, but long enough!

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