I’ve always been overwhelmed by the dedication and passion demonstrated by birders across the UK, often travelling the breadth and length of this isle to get a glimpse of a rare sighting, to tick off their lifetime list. And this week the twitcher buzz came close to home in Derbyshire, when a Crag martin took up residence in Chesterfield, settling into an ideal location accessible to many who came from far and wide to revel in this rarity. On the local radio station, reports of the length of journeys made by avid bird watchers to come here had me amazed, and similarly on the internet Google auto-complete had added ‘Chesterfield’ as the first suggestion following the search for this bird’s name. This humble passerine was finding its place in the limelight!
The Crag martin, a small passerine bird not easily distinguishable from other members of the swallow family to the amateur eye, appeared in Chesterfield at the weekend and captured the attention of hundreds of enthusiasts as it flew around the Crooked Spire (a famous local landmark) on Remembrance Sunday. The sighting excited so many as this species has never been recorded in Derbyshire, and furthermore rarely appears north of its breeding territories in Southern Europe. As the news spread, the crowds gathering in the market town grew, undiscouraged by the wind and rain as they patiently awaited another flash of the bird in the sky. The Crag martin didn’t disappoint, and the bird has lingered since to delight many more onlookers with its presence and aerial displays over this unlikely Northern urban setting.
The bird has been recorded in England a handful of times but the reason why a bird could stray so far from home, especially with usual migratory patterns taking them further south for the winter months, is little understood. But the question of ‘why?’ hasn’t come to mind of many of the fans who are simply enjoying the bird being here, and I’m sure it’s a question that can be left for the aftermath. In the mean time, I find comfort in knowing there are those who hold such a fervor for natural encounters like these, giving hope that an appreciation for wildlife both novel and mundane, to aid awareness and protection, can be shared with so many more.
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