01 October, 2011

Patience, Persistence, and Lots of Sunblock

It's a shocking statistic, so I hope you're sitting down, but I haven't been on a proper twitch since July! Horrifying, I know. I've been being good, bashing my Patch, and so on, but really this needed to change. Fortunately, at last one of those gorgeous baby Pallid Harriers, such as have been teasing me by flapping around Shetland and suchlike far and distant places, finally decided to pop up somewhere I'll allow myself to get to. It still had to have some fun - arriving midweek so I'd have to wait to see if it would stay or not and indeed had more than that besides. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I figured the best tactic would be to head up to Beacon Batch [I went there once, many years ago, on a whistle-stop Geography field trip. They've put a lot of rocks in since then...] and be prepared to stay put the whole day. The Harrier would eventually fly past. It had been doing so all week.

It did indeed do this, though for me to get eyes on it took more than 8 hours. Oh yes indeed.

Many and intrepid were the birders assembled to see the russki visitor [or Ukrainian, or...], braving blazing sunshine, intransigent geography [Those hills are very poorly shaped for observing low-flying birds, really they are. Someone ought to complain.], and mis-identified Buzzards, Kestrels, Ravens, and Sparrowhawks. Plus having to explain to passing civilians what a Pallid Harrier was approximately 7 times an hour....

I'm not going to go into it in great detail [[Stop cheering]], suffice to say I covered a lot of ground, missed it by margins narrow and frustrating, but eventually got some very nice views, culminating in the slightly surreal and very amusing sight of said Harrier being mobbed by 3 Pied Wagtails! Also seen were yet another Hobby, 6 Crossbills [N] and 3 Snipe [S], plus the best view I have ever had of a Kestrel - a hunting female hovering very close and staying put long enough for me to get the Big Scope on her for Simon King level views... Wow. Hirundines were moving in a constant stream, 90% Swallows and there must have been thousands going south over the course of the day. On the butterfly front [yes, there's a butterfly front, slightly noisier than the Western one, perhaps?] I saw a Hummingbird Hawkmoth east of the radio masts and another chap saw one near the trig point, also Red Admirals were passing south in low but steady numbers. Back to birds; icing on the way out in a juvie Marsh Harrier and on the way back with a Barn Owl. :)

Oh, and if anyone is thinking of going up for it - don't do as you are advised elsewhere online and park 'between the sharp bends near Tynings Farm' as the farmer has large bits of machinery to move and ploughs and bodywork don't mix... To translate his request; "Please park only in laybys where you are entirely off the road and not next to or opposite any farm or field entrances, thankyou". Alternatively, park at the masts [limited space etc.] or the Ellick car park on the B3134. Go on, take a picnic and enjoy the 360° panorama, its worth the climb by itself.

I apologise if this post was a bit disjointed or generally odd [odder?] - its been a long day and I opened the Uigeadail in celebration. I really thought I was going to end up staying 'til dark and dip....

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