Monday, 21 November 2011

Greater Yellowlegs, Hauxley Nature Reserve - Saturday 19th November 2011

Greater Yellowlegs, Hauxley Nature Reserve - 19th November 2011

I had a drive up the A1 through the foggy darkness this Saturday morning, to see a lovely American rarity: a Greater Yellowlegs.

This was one I really didn’t want to miss; not only is it a beautiful bird (think a more graceful Greenshank), but they don’t get over this side of the pond very often. In fact, this year has already had one, for three day in Cornwall in September, but I was never in a position to get to see it. Another had been reported earlier, but this had turned out to be a Greenshank. I think a lot of birders learnt a lot about “Greaterlegs” (and Greenshanks) during that episode, even the ones like me that didn’t go and see it.

This one was the real deal, a juvenile that had been watched and photographed by many people since first being identified a week earlier. It then spent the week commuting between three reserves at the northern end of Druridge Bay: Hauxley Nature Reserve, Druridge Bay Country Park, and East Chevington NWT Reserve.

I arrived at Druridge Bay CP at first light, where it had been last seen the evening before, only to get a message that it was being watched from Eric’s Hide at Hauxley. Two minutes’ drive and two minutes’ jog later I was at Eric’s. As I entered, the bird then flew up calling, going north to the hide I’d just passed. After some comedy running by ungainly blokes in wellies carrying unwieldy tripods, scopes and cameras, we all raced into the spacious Wader Hide.

Before long bird ambled nonchalantly around the corner. A slightly slender Greenshank with a finer bill; perhaps with a jerkier gait, and lots of head bobbing and tail flicking, And its legs were so yellow in the early morning sun! Cue lots of good-natured pushing to get a good view (everyone got one), and lots of mummers of appreciation between the camera clicks. The bird flew a couple of time while I was on site, giving good views of its reduced white rump (cf. the massive white triangle on a Greenshank).

No missing those legs.

The bird was finding plenty to eat.

The Greaterlegs seemed oblivious to other birds and birders.

The bird was seen in the area again today at Cresswell Pond NWT, but flew south early afternoon. Maybe the fog, which I guessed was keeping it around longer than most had predicted, had cleared enough. Hopefully it’ll be found further south in the country, so more people can get a look at this beauty.

Here's some video I took of the bird. It's not the best video of this bird (not by a long shot), as it was filmed with a Canon Ixus compact camera. Hopefully it shows how good the views were for the birders present, and gives a flavour of the atmosphere in the hide (lots of cameras going off). It was a beautiful morning. In the last few seconds the bird flies off, calling as it sets off.

I had an hour or more in the hide, during which there was quite a turnover of viewers. I remain surprised by the brief views many people seemed happy with; then they were off to Holy Island to see the Eastern Black Redstart I guess.

I drove south for a mile and parked up at on the coast at Hadston Links, from where I spent a lovely 90 minutes of lazy seawatching: two Red-throated Divers, a small flock of 15 Common Scoter, lots of Common Eider, another diver heading north, Shag going south, plenty of gulls, the odd Guillemot (that could have been Razorbills) going in all directions, the odd Oystercatcher flying south, plus Redshank and Sanderling on the beach.

A brilliant morning of birding in fantastic part of the country; rounded off with a journey down a sunny A1, listening to the excellent Wire Tapper 27 thinking how lucky I am.

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