Big twitch. (And then some…)
With no less than three North American rarities up north it just had to be done, especially as it gave me a chance to visit my favourite country.
Early on the 10th a Durham village was the place to be for a myrtle warbler (yellow-rumped warbler). Amazingly this stray was discovered during the rspb big garden birdwatch. A villager put up additional feeders and arranged the access. This one wasn’t easy, being obscured by twigs and branches most of the time. I made my observations with bins and scope, rather than trying for photos.
As luck would have it, there were three waxwings in the village too, a nice bonus.
I hit the road again and reached Loch Flemington, just north of Inverness, about an hour before dark. All the twitchers I’d spoken to who had seen it told me the American coot would be the easiest bird to see ever, with no need to get out the car and crippling views etc. Umm, sounds familiar. Well guess what, yep I couldn’t find it! I scanned and searched and looked round the loch and then as the light was going, there it was in front of me feeding in the dead reed stems.
Everything was going according to plan and I booked into a b+b for the night. Next morning I motored on down towards Strontian, somewhere beyond Fort William. This route is one of the most scenic in Britain, running down the side of Loch Ness and other lochs. It didn’t look that far on the map but there was snow everywhere, lots of it in places, and it took me three and a half hours to get there. More than worth it though, with stonkingly breathtaking views all the way. I kept having to make stops, but things just got better and better and better. Alongside Loch Linnhe a couple of great northern divers were spotted and then an otter! Wow. I thought it couldn’t get much better, but upon arrival, opening my car door the first bird seen was an eagle disappearing over the ridge being mobbed by a gull. The gull was totally dwarfed, appearing less than half the eagle’s size. It was always going away from me and I assumed it to be a golden eagle, but later on in the village café, the owner informed me that there had been a sea eagle hanging around the bay for a couple of weeks so maybe it was that.
There were no birders whatsoever here so I began looking for my next target bird,the black duck.
I found it after a while, keeping company with mallards but never allowing close approach. Although not the world’s most exiting bird I strangely enjoyed this one more than the others.
I reluctantly left this beautiful place and started for home, but my luck finally ran out in England, when both the A66 and the A1 were closed. I got the sleeping bag out and waited a few hours before eventually arriving home for breakfast the following morning.
Loved (almost) every moment.