BIRDWATCH: Tracking the Crag Martin in Chesterfield

Courtesy Pete Garrity
Courtesy Pete Garrity

As Chesterfield's rare bird settles for another day, our attention turns to the flock of twitchers who continue to trace its movements.

The birdwatchers are becoming tense.

The gracious Crag Martin. Courtesy Pete Garrity.

The gracious Crag Martin. Courtesy Pete Garrity.

It's almost a fortnight since they first arrive and a flock remains, both around Chesterfield’s Spire and at the Proact, where the Crag Martin has been roosting in the evenings

The cagoule clad, laden with camera equipment and telescopic binoculars are known for their tenacity but for many the cherished sighting of their prey, the southern European Crag Martin, is too scarce.

One tells us he's been to town three times in the past 12 days and is yet to get a glimpse of the bird.

But what makes a twitcher tick?

Birdwatcher Pete Garrity gives us a glimpse inside the mind of the birdwatcher, not seen in such numbers locally since the 1950s, when they were following an Albatross.

The photographer from Sheffield said: “I have been a birder since childhood. For me it’s about being outdoors, in the countryside (normally), and enjoying the flora and fauna around us.”

Also a committee member for the Sheffield Bird Study Group, there’s a duty to monitor rare species and hope that they might secure a better chance of survival.

Pete added: “The birding community is huge and the excitement of finding or seeing a rare species of bird is what drives many people to travel the country, and in fact the world, in order to increase their species count.”

The Eurasian Crag Martin, normally found in Southern Europe, northwest Africa and Southern Asia, is extremely rare in the UK.

“This is the first bird for Derbyshire, first for the Sheffield recording area and I believe only the tenth bird seen in the UK. Hence it is labelled “MEGA” by the birding fraternity,” added Pete.

“In terms of photography it’s been a challenge, due to the high speed of the bird and its banking/twisting flight path. It’s also very difficult to track a moving object as it flies in front of buildings due to the camera’s tendency to re-focus on the building and not the bird.”

Joint county bird recorder for Derbyshire, Roy Frost, first saw the Crag Martin 10 days ago. He said: “You would normally see this bird in France, Spain, Italy and other places in Southern Europe.

“For it to be in Chesterfield is really exciting. It’s never been seen in Derbyshire before so a lot of people are going up to the Crooked Spire to see it for themselves.

“Scores of birdwatchers from many parts of England have been to see it.”