Monday, 4 January 2016

Oh brilliant! (But very nearly a b******s!)

The day started off well enough, toodled down to Loch of Skaill and twitched the Black-necked Grebe (Orkney tick) and the Smew.

Left to right - Slav Grebe, Smew, Black-necked Grebe, Slav Grebe

Nice views of Slavonian too.

Slavonian Grebe

Then counted the loch, at least 6 Slavs, 75 Goldeneye, 11 Whoopers, 22 Barnacle Geese etc, all nice stuff. It started to rain more and I needed to take the dog for a walk. Headed over to Palace and tramped around a bit, lots of Wigeon, two Skylark, but really not trying very hard, the weather was horrible. Looked at the burn mouth briefly.

Dog walked headed for home. Shop. The Shunan, where there were Wigeon and Teal and Mallard all sheltering and not much else. I was just in the process of letting the dog out so she could run up the track when of all things an auk flew over my head. I couldn't get the size at all, it had a white underside to the body  and a short bill, grabbed the bins and it veered over to the road, lost it for a moment as it flew up the road but then it briefly bobbed up. At this point I had it in my head it had to be a Little Auk, but I could see the wing beat clearly as it flew into the wind and it had a grey unmarked head, no breast band though. It veered again over towards Loch of Bosquoy and flew by some Common Gulls, it looked tiny. It had to be a Little Auk. I texted it in and got the reply "Starling".  Replied, "Ha-ha!" But actually that worried me again as I thought on it, it had seemed too long in the body. Got home for soup in a grump, I thought I'd made a complete bollocks of it. But a phone call, a chat, I'd never seen one over land before but PH had, and the wing beat thing which was worrying me seemed ok. The length of the body also worried me but if I think back to the oiled one I kept for a bit they are longer in the body than you think. I thought it should show white on the face but not necessarily so.

What's this all about? That you never know what will happen next in birding. That you get a few seconds sometimes to ID something, and then it's gone. (Quite unlike the hoverflies I was peering down the microscope at yesterday, they'd been in the fridge for months: Eristalis abusivus confirmed, yes!) That birds don't always look how they "ought to look" when they're in the wrong place. That all those hours looking at seabirds over the sea don't always count for that much when they're flying over fields (I'm usually pretty spot on with auks, honest). That it's good to be self-critical and analytical, but don't take it to extremes.


Nick Carter said...

Excellent write up and conclusions - birding at its best.

Alastair said...

Thanks Nick