Monday, 7 January 2013

Desert campaign

I finally managed a long overdue twitch to Rattray head, Aberdeenshire with Richard Rafe in order to see the Desert wheatear. Leaving the village at 04:00 got us on site to witness a lovely dawn after seeing a very welcome barn owl enroute. On arrival it was a little too dark for active birding, so we had 30 minutes enjoying the sunrise and listening to the calls of pink-footed geese as they flew overhead. With improving light we headed for the dune slack to look for our target bird.

dawn over Rattray head
the 'light in the sea'
After my initial panic at not finding the bird around the dune pool, I decided to walk a couple of hundred metres along the tide line towards Peterhead, whilst Richard checked the dune system. A robin flew from the seaweed into the dunes and in the half light I initially thought it was the wheatear. Retracing my steps, I re-checked the flooded area- again without success, so I continued along the high- tide line past the lighthouse. A few minutes later the wheatear flew from a patch of flotsam- the black tail and white rump patch very distinctive in the morning light. It was good to see the bird actively catching sand flies and looking very at home in its' pseudo desert environment! We enjoyed good views of this very nice bird and it proved to be well worth the travel. 

Later we caught up with a drake King eider on the sea off St. Combs and I also got another dozen or so common species to push the year list up to 74. Another great day in the field.

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