Saturday 26 May 2012

Has it got the legs?

Yellowlegs, that is. My uber-dip of 2011 was undoubtedly the Greater Yellowlegs in Northumberland which ruined a perfectly good twitch by not showing for me. A few days off and a hire car last weekend provided an opportunity to catch up with it again as it had been present every day for about 3 months at the Loch of Strathbeg in Aberdeenshire. I wouldn't twitch that far in a weekend let alone a day, but a mini-break with a day on the Isle of May and a return journey via the grouse moors of County Durham provided the padding for what would otherwise have been a ridiculously long way to go for a single bird. My brother put me up in Stirling for a few nights, which gave me a chance to see my nephew on his 5th birthday, adding the veneer of a respectable family visit to the enterprise.

Greater Yellowlegs. Honest. I was wearing hat and gloves as it was so cold, but there was still a wicked haze over the Tower Pool making even digiscoping difficult. 
 Arriving on Friday and with family civilities dispensed with, I set off north from Stirling early on Saturday morning. Perth, Dundee, Aberdeen and Peterhead came and went, and just when I thought I was going to fall off the map I reached Strathbeg. With no one around I set up the scope full of hope but careful scanning produced nothing. Just as I was contemplating a nervous breakdown another birder turned up who had seen the Yellowlegs the previous day and was able to point me roughly in the right direction.

A terrible flight shot - but even in this the square white rump can be seen
I had been looking too close, but on scanning the more distant Tower Pool we saw the bird almost immediately, it's legs aglow despite the great distance. A 700m walk to the Tower Pool hide produced a slightly less appalling view, but from here I was able to compare it with a Greenshank with which it was associating - apart from the obvious difference in leg colour it looked a shade bigger, paler and more speckled. I even heard it call and was treated to a fly-around which revealed the square white rump.

Adult Little Gull
A sense of relief was accompanied by a burst of adrenalin which kept me going as I watched a stunning adult Little Gull, its 1st summer companion and a healthy flock of Tree Sparrows near the visitor centre.

Adult Little Gull
A couple of hours later, as I wandered up the Ythan Estuary searching for the semi-resident King Eider (unsuccessfully as it turned out), my body and brain slumped in unison and one crumpled, exhausted twitcher retired to the car for a lie down. Unfortunately the car was one of those tiny Peugeots which could not be laid down in, so I had to settle for a power nap before heading back to Stirling.

Tree Sparrow

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