Monday, 23 March 2015

20th March 2015 - Harlequin in Aberdeen

CJW and I were fortunate to have a few days off and we fancied a short break in Scotland. We made plans, came up with a few ideas, then we changed them and decided to day trip Aberdeen again. The HARLEQUIN had started to show again on a fairly regular basis and following our unsuccessful trip to Aberdeen at the end of February, we set off an hour earlier than before.

I picked CJW up at 01:00hrs and getting up at this time of day really does hurt. The journey up this time was so different to last time. On our first trip, we couldn't get on to the M6 at J16 or J17, and so we had a tour of Crewe and Sandbach at 03:00hrs in the morning. Then, once we got going, the M6 was shut around Preston. These slight detours added about 40 mins to our journey. Today, the M6 was completely incident free. I drove up to Perth and after four hours driving, CJW took over and completed the journey. We arrived in Aberdeen at 07:10hrs.

Oddly enough, we were the only car parked in the car park in Seaton Park, and we were the only birders on site. There was no sign of the HARLEQUIN on the river around the toilet block, and so we made our way downstream. This was where most of the sightings had come from at the start of the day. Around every bend we scanned expectantly, but there was still no sign. We came to the last bend before the path climbed up and away and I climbed down on to the beach so that I could look round the final bend. Two Mallard swam out of some vegetation and on my next scan I saw a bluish duck with white spots on his face. He was just sitting there and had seen me. CJW was some way back and so I walked back up on to the path, hoping the Harlequin would settle and not fly off. Unaware that I'd seen it, I waved to CJW and tried to ask him to bring my scope down to me. Charades aren't my strong point but he eventually twigged on. As he walked towards me I punched the air with delight. We'd finally caught up with the Harlequin.

We were surprised at how wary the bird was, and within a few minutes it took off and flew upstream. We were worried that it would totally disappear again like last time, and as we walked back up to the toilet block, there was no further sign.

CJW went back to the car and drove to Papermill Drive, and I walked upstream towards the rapids. Again, my first scan drew a blank. I decided to climb around the security fence put there to stop you climbing round and I was able to look further up stream. And there was the 1w drake Harlequin feeding away, swimming against the flow and diving frequently. Again, he was very wary, and so I backed off and waited for CJW to arrive. It fed for a short while longer then swam up the rapids and sat with only its head showing.

And so it remained. From 08:30hrs until 10:00hrs it never moved from that spot. During this time, we had the amazing double spectacle of watching the solar eclipse downstream or a roosting Harlequin upstream. The eclipse was quite spectacular. Unfortunately it was a little bit cloudy, but that made it possible to view the sun when the clouds were thin. As we were so far north, the eclipse was 98% complete.



 It sat here for at least an hour and a half.

   The River Don

 The solar eclipse at Aberdeen.

Now I took the following photo and I was going to label it as the big twitch, showing the crowd on site while we were there......

....and it suddenly dawned on me. When I saw my first Harlequin, I took the following photo showing the crowd that was present on that day too....

...and there you have it. Both Harlequins I've seen were in a crowd of just two people.

and the Lewis female Harlequin seen in March 2004. 

And by special request, a song for everyone to enjoy.