The full story of yesterday's heroics,...
Up at 00:00, out by 00:30, rendezvous with Team Gwent at 01:00 and chug-chugging out of St. Ives by 05:00. Christmassy morning feeling inside, slapping black oily-slickness below, murk to the west, glimmering anti-gloam to the east and, overhead, the grinding procession of Orion and Jupiter intermittently shot through by the unseemly spin of a satellite.
As we disturbed the first few Gannets from their surface slumbers, the girl's face opposite drained to a sea-haunted pallor. The semi-attendant birding boyfriend did his best but soon it was, "Excuse me, is there a bucket?", and then began the knock-kneed, nose-down, blind eyeing of the void between this life of pain and the bottom of the clanking-handled pail. The natty, Tibetan refugee knitted, soft woollen, ear-flapped, plait-tasselled hat did not seem to help. Neither did the lack of eyes-to-the-horizon, acupressure wrist-banded, stem ginger nibblery. No, distasteful hiccoughs became heroically fought gags became plunging fluid-filled, phosgenic, full-belly retches. To leeward, an ecstasy of scattering, rapidly vacated benches, discarded glove and rucksack; the invisible lung-corrupting vaporised pall of bile and chyme leaving a floundering wake of writhing sclerotic faces. Finally, convulsions of bitter cud subsided and gradually gave way to the tragicomic bleary-eyed, shaky ceremony of the acidic spittle spitting, nose-blowing, water sipping aftermath.
I remained largely immune to the effects of the first bout but, on her second hag-coughing limp trudge through the valley of gargle, I found my gaze trapped on the confluence of chin and rim, mesmerized by the choking image of gag and spew I was nigh instantly felled by a lung of acrid, cheesy Quaver infused, malevolence. Slumping to the engine block, my gaze raced the three miles to the distant division of sea and sky and I narrowly averted an involuntary 'sympathy emesis'.
Luckily, as the puking was by far the most dynamic part of the trip, I missed nothing from my seated (sometimes prone) viewpoint. Over the course of the five hours pottering out, chumming, pottering in, chumming again and pootling back to port we only managed: 1 Arctic Skua, 5 Great Skua, 5+ Storm Petrel, 1 Manx Shearwater, 2-3 Kittiwake, 25 Common Tern, 1 Guillemot and 2 Common Dolphin. We added Sandwich Tern and Mediterranean Gull back at St. Ives but the 'stand-out' sighting was probably an offshore Collared Dove heading west with a purposeful look in its eye.
After waterproof removal, snack and coffee, we headed to Nanquidno for the Citrine Wagtail. Parking at the top end, we wandered southwards with Tree Pipit, White Wagtail, Yellow Wagtail, Whinchat, Stonechat and Wheatear dotting the scrub, fences and path. Just before Tregiffian Farm is a large, recently ploughed field, ripe for the scanning. Wagtails and Wheatears were present in decent numbers and, within minutes, Nathan found an Ortolan, then Tom chipped in with a couple and, whilst I peered at the pair, another appeared in my field of view before we finally arrived at a total of five,… kerr-hortulana-ching! Dragging ourselves from the field we sauntered round to the puddle behind the farm and, after a short wait, the Citrine appeared and showed well before being flushed by a couple of oblivious ramblers. Then it was back to scan the opposite end of the field. More wagtails and Wheatears, a brief Redstart and then a Wryneck flew up as I scanned the edge, which was nice. Back at the Ortolan zone we quickly refound four of the five birds before news of an Icterine Warbler in Nanquidno proper drew us away. As ever, Nanquidno felt as birdy as Matthew Modine circa 1984 and, despite the Icky avoiding us, produced the goods when Craig, not wanting to be left out, turned up our sixth Ortolan of the day. However, by now we were flagging and didn't really do the valley justice; by mid-afternoon we were headed homewards, if some eastern mega is found over the next couple of days I'll be slightly gutted.
But wait dear reader, the discovery of the day was yet to come. The standard strategy for bettering fatigue on turning for home is, of course, a quick nap followed by Coke and a Cadbury's Boost but, care of the Okehampton Waitrose, I can now offer an alternative. The aforementioned quick nap is, once again, followed by a Coke but, wait for it,... accompanied by Divine Fair Trade 70% cocoa dark chocolate and Waitrose soft dates! Now that's a simple carbohydrate, caffeine infused, power snack if ever there was one.