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Biggest Twitch
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Western Palearctic list challenge

A rather different type of guiding today, we were contacted by two German keen listers to see if we could help them boost their life list, of course we could! Marko and Eva had one day to look for three new birds - Red Grouse, Surf Scoter and Buff-bellied Pipit. The first two we thought we had a chance at but the pipit had not been seen for a week.

Red Grouse Broomhead 1

An early start had us on the moors at first light, in sleet, yuck! Luckily the sleet was patchy and we enjoyed great looks at displaying Black Grouse but no Red Grouse. But we kept looking. Suddenly movement and a Red Grouse flew low over the heather! Luckily the bird landed in view and we all enjoyed great views and Marko took some great pics. Another look at Black Grouse and a welcome hot drink and snacks rounded of part one of operation three ticks.

Next up we tried for the Buff-bellied Pipit on the Dee Estuary, this vagrant from North America had been reported for a week so we were nervous. No sign of any pipits at first and we had that sinking feeling. A Black Swan flew in, very odd sight, Stonechats showed off in the sunshine and plenty of waders and wildfowl including a huge flock of Pink-footed Geese out on the marsh. We walked north following the tideline and found a flock of Meadow Pipits and we thought we might have a chance. Just a that moment a large, and very loud, walking group marcged past us and flushed all the birds off the tideline in front of us. Luckily the birds soon returned to feed and Alan picked out a plain looking pipit in the distance. We moved forward, taking care not to flush the flock, and there was the Buff-bellied Pipit! Amazing! The vagrant showed off in the sun, feeding alongside Meadow Pipits allowing us to saok up the views and compare the plumages and structures, perfect. The nearby Nets Cafe made a perfect place to celebrate part two of operation three ticks.

Buff bellied Pipit 4

But we were soon off again, heading for the North Wales coast and the chance of a third new bird for Marko and Eva. With the sun still shinning we thought we had a good chance. The sea was pretty choppy but the huge flocks of Common Scoter were not to far out. Three scopes were lined up and focussed on the black line of ducks riding the waves. Alan soon spotted a fine drake Surf Scoter and Marko and Eva were soon on it! A second drake Surf Scoter popped up near the first male and both shone out in the afternoon sun, brilliant! The third of three new birds for operation three ticks, one hundred per cent success!

A wonderful day of great company and great birds, and some sunshine! We hope Marko and Eva will return to the UK for more great birds. A huge thank you to them both for their company and the lovely gift of a lavishly illustrated book on the "Birds of Helgoland", Germanys answer to the Isles of Scilly. We will love reading about the rare birds recorded on this tiny island.

We are now packing for our five day tour - Eagles and otters - on the Isle of Mull in Western Scotland, sure to be wonderful.


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