Last week as we were walking around Branston, we received news that a GREATER YELLOWLEGS had been found in Northumberland. We were actually looking for the Derbyshire GLOSSY IBIS at the time. We considered racing up for it, but then it started getting more active and flighty and we reconsidered; the problem being that if we headed up and then the bird disappeared, we would actually have ruined our planned day out and just spent the day driving up and down the motorway.
Of course, the GREATER YELLOWLEGS performed all day on Sunday but it just wasn't convenient to head up there (I didn't even dare to ask permission to be honest) and so began one of the fun parts of twitching - the week long build up. Sometimes when a rare turns up late on a Friday, there is no build up to the event, you just head off on the Saturday and jobs done - it can be a little bit flat on occasions. So with a week to wait, you have the excitement of waiting every day to see if its still present, dreading every time when it flies off high to the south (as the GREATERLEGS did on the Tuesday, only to return at 10-00!) but eventually, by Friday, you start to think it may just stay until Saturday (as we thought with the bloody Sandhill Crane - "as good as on our list" said Mr Jones). And with the finding of another EASTERN BLACK REDSTART on Holy Island, we not only had two decent birds to go and see, it also saved us a possible trip down to Kent where the other EASTERN BLACK REDSTART was.
And so with all the birds still in place on Friday afternoon, the finishing touches were put in place. PJ opted out of the trip, and so it was just myself, GAS and "Lucky Chris" who headed up north, setting off at 03-30hrs.
The GREATERLEGS had last been seen at Druridge Bay CP and so that's where we headed for first, arriving at 07-30hrs. There were a few birders arriving on site at the same time as us, and we all headed down to the lakeside. We started seeing birds almost immediately, with at least three Scaup (one a male) on the lake and four Red-breasted Mergansers. One birder started walking and checked to the right of the centre, and then he started checking the shore to the left. We just stood still, but we were well placed when another birder shouted to us that the GREATERLEGS had been found - at Hauxley. We headed back to the car and hurtled up the coast to Hauxley. We parked up, walked down the path to Eric's Hide, opened the door and there was ...........just one birder sat on the bench. He informed us that the GREATERLEGS had flown, and was probably showing from the other hide - the one we had just walked past.
We laughed at the thought that it could be one of those days, wandering up and down the coast chasing the GREATERLEGS from reserve to reserve. We entered the other hide, and everyone was crowded up the corner. The Greater Yellowlegs was literally feet away from the hide, but it was tucked right up the corner. I lent over and managed to glimpse it, but eventually it started to walk along the shore. I gambled and took a seat at the front of the hide, and soon enough, the GREATER YELLOWLEGS walk straight past me, only a few feet away. Incredible views were had in the early morning sun.
The juv Greater Yellowlegs
Video of the Greater Yellowlegs at Hauxley NR
We then headed up to Holy Island.
The safe crossing time was at 10-56hrs, but we arrived just after 10-00hrs. Several cars were already heading over, but the road was still quite wet. We sat in the lay by and had a quick scan around, finding a flock of c150 Pale-bellied Brent Geese. After only about ten minutes wait, the road was dry and we drove across, seeing a Merlin flying across, only to be chased by a Peregrine. We were soon walking into the town and down onto the beach. Two birders were walking from our right, and so we started walking in the same direction. I climbed down onto the beach, but by the time I was down, "Lucky" Chris had found the Eastern Black Redstart working its way along the seaweed. It really was an awesome bird - with its red belly it looked like a weird Redstart. We eventually had good views of it as it fed quite unconcerned in front of an ever growing audience.
The Eastern Black Redstart
As we stood there, we had flocks of dark-bellied Brent Geese flying past, plus in the channel there was a good sized Merganser flock, six Long-tailed Ducks (five were splendid males) and a few Eider. We also had a flock of 17 probable Tundra Bean Geese over as well. We walked round to the harbour where there were mixed dark & pale-bellied Brents plus a flock of 80 White-fronted Geese flew over.
Brent Geese in the harbour
We weren't finish yet though. We headed south to see the LESSER SCAUP at Marsden Quarry. On the way, however, we had news that the two ROSS'S GEESE were still present. We headed towards Dunston Hill, and eventually we found the flock of geese. The two Ross's Geese were easily spotted, but we also had good numbers of Barnacle Geese, several White-fronts and 5+ Tundra Bean Geese in with the Pink-foots. A fine way to end a most enjoyable days birding.