We’ve come north to visit my brother in Scotland and hopefully, by finding a few of the Caledonian specialities, give a lift to my ailing year list. It’s always an uphill struggle to boost the list once the clocks go back – the birds seem to dry up with the arrival of the shorter days and the energy begins to drain out of even the most committed year lister. We took it easy on the drive up stopping over night at the excellent Bailiffgate B&B in Alnwick – great room, nice hosts and a breakfast cooked to perfection! There was nothing much around in the North East, just a Snow Bunting, Northern Wheatear and Shore Lark all near the Old Cemetery in Hartlepool, so our efforts focused on attempting to relocate the long-staying, though elusive, Sardinian Warbler at Mire Loch near St Abb’s Head.
It’s quite a walk from the car park to the loch and it took us sometime to find the boardwalk, where the bird has been occasionally but consistently reported, 60 – 100m beyond it. We spent the first three quarters of an hour scouring the gorse covered hillside until Jane, attending to a call of nature, cried out that she’d seen the bird! By the time I’d found her the thing had slipped away, a frantic search of the immediate area revealed nothing and a black cloud began to descend. I tried to banish the ‘dark damon of dipping’, which had commenced a silent vigil in my head, and regain my optimistic composure. The bird’s been here a long time ‘right’, Jane’s just seen it ( aargh!) ‘right’, it can’t have gone far… ‘right’? I calm down a little and commence a systematic search of the immediate area. Ignoring the dense gorse – the sort of place a Sardinian could hide for weeks, I enter a small clump of near leaf-less Sycamores, bent over by the prevailing winds. A movement down the slope catches my eye and there in front of me, fly-catching in the lower branches, is a beautiful adult male Sardinian Warbler! These birds are difficult to see even in the southern Mediterranean, where they are the default passerine species, so to be able to watch it flitting around in the open was a real unexpected pleasure. It even paused occasionally to allow a quick snap or two:
This bird was caught and ringed in the spring then promptly went missing. Several months later it was rediscovered amazingly – and it’s still here… in November!
A very nice late addition to the year list.