Monday, 31 March 2014

The case of the phantom white- billed diver.

It is great to be home and I had a great half day birding on one of my 'local' patches today- Achnahaird beach/salt marsh/dunes- a 25 mile drive north of Ullapool. I had planned a trip to the hebrides and although the rooms were booked the ferry was full. Plan B- check out the recently reported 'white-billed diver' - one of two reported, with another further up the coast at Lochinver. As is so often the case with WBD reports in the north and west, this one turned out to be a waste of time- either the birds in this part of the world are incredibly mobile and have moved on by the time I arrive or visiting birders are often duped by pale-billed great northerns- unfortunately an annual occurrence . Of course, with a number of experienced birders visiting this part of the world too, some birds turn out to be genuine white-bills, but unfortunately nowhere near as many as the various reports on the bird news services suggest. On arrival I saw a nice Iceland gull sitting on the loch alongside the approach road. From the car park I scoped 5 great northern divers- four with black bills and a lone pale-billed individual. A single black-throated diver was a nice bonus. The bay also held cormorants, black guillemots and a couple of razorbills. On the beach with the common, herring and great black-backed gulls was a magnificent glaucous gull- this bird allowed for some of the best views I have ever had of this species in Britain. Other notable birds included a splendid snow bunting- my first record at this site since November 2010 and a pair of shelduck- another unusual record for the north-west coast. Two sand martins were my first true spring migrants of this year. Singing skylarks and calling lapwings and snipe coupled with displaying ringed plovers made for a very enjoyable birding session- and it was so refreshing to have to wear a beanie and gloves! ;)

glaucous gull
glaucous gull
Iceland gull
common gull
snow bunting

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