Friday, 7 July 2017

Good News and Bad News

First the bad news.

Last night I did an audit of the bird species I have seen this year.   In my last post I stated that the total for the year was 195.  It is in fact 194.  The list of birds seen on the right hand side is correct it is just my adding up that has gone wrong.  I don't know when the mistake happened and I am not going to trawl through over seventy blog posts to try to find out.  I suppose the plus side is that I have done the counting now and not after I thought I had reached 200, celebrated and then found I was one short.

Now the good news.  The total is up to 195 again.

This evening just as I was about to sit down to some well earned tea I got a message to say that a Red-necked Phalarope was to be seen at the Loch of Strathbeg visitors centre.  Tea was put on hold.  Jill said she would wait till I got back.  (Luckily it was not a cooked meal that would spoil.).  I went as fast as I could, keeping to speed and safe driving limits to Strathbeg.  It is only ten minutes drive away, if that so there was every chance that I would see the bird.

Rushing into the visitors centre, that the RSPB staff had kept open for people to come and see this rarity I was greeted by 'Do you want the bad news?'  The Red-necked Phalarope had only just flown away.  zigzagging apparently towards the main Loch and gaining height.  Birds like this that are 'gaining height' as they fly away tend not to come back.  It seemed that this bird had only stopped at Strathbeg foe a 10 to 15 minute breather before continuing its journey.

After breeding these birds winter in the Pacific Ocean of the coast of Peru some 8,000 miles away.  I wasn't likely to follow it there.  Lesser mortals would have been despondent and gone home for tea.  I didn't.  I decided to stay for a little while to see if it did come back and to see what else was about.

The island in front of the VC was full of Common Terns and their chicks.  There was a constant too-ing and fro-ing of adult birds bringing in sand eels.  There were some good looking Ruff, Shelducks with their young and so on. Nothing to get too excited about. And all the time the RSPB staff and I were scanning around to try to relocate the Phalarope. 

Tufted Duck and Ducklings
Suddenly a shout went up. James had found the bird   No one had seen it return to the same stretch of water it was last seen in.  But sure enough there it was, the first Red-necked Phalarope I had ever seen.

Red-necked Phalarope
No one else seemed to have reacted to the rare bird message that had gone out.  Apart from the RSPB staff I was the only one there.  We watched it for some time.  Occasionally it did the sort of thing that Phalaropes do - pecking at the surface of the water - twirling round in a tight circle like a ballerina doing a pirouette.

Then Brian arrived just as the bird took to the air once more.  This time it did not go very far and Brian got to see it as well.

We stayed and watched it for some time.  It never left the water at one point it skirted along the edge

The one thing that struck was how small it was, bigger than a Chaffinch but smaller than a Blackbird.  On TV the bits I remember are close ups where you don't get an impression of size.  Above you can see it is dwarfed by the common tern.

Here are a couple of flight shots again showing how small the bird is.

So there you have it.  Number 195 a bird that breeds in the high arctic (a few do breed in Shetland and the Outer Hebridies) and winters in the Pacific Ocean.  I didn't think I would ever seen one.  To me it was one of those mystical birds you only see in nature programs on TV.  But there it was just three miles from where I live.

Total on list 195

1 comment:

  1. I had me tea . Was joined by Mike towards the end. Happy days.