Happy Birthday To Me

Harlequin Ducks, used under Creative Commons License. Picture by Andy Reago and Chrissy McClaren

I am away for my birthday so I’ve scheduled this, which means it probably won’t work but we’ll see.

In terms of birding on my birthday the only thing I can ever remember finding was a Snow Bunting on the shore at Askam-in-Furness when I was a teenager. I didn’t even have my binoculars with me, but as is often the way with ‘snobs’ it was confiding and I saw it well.

For a while I tried to see new birds for my life list on my birthday. December 29 isn’t renowned for quality arrivals or many long-staying options. The ones I can remember are the Black Scoter off Llanfairfechan, a Hume’s Warbler on Anglesey and a King Eider in Loch Ryan near Stranraer. Given how scoter ID has moved on I would like to see another Black Scoter as it was miles away. Hume’s Warbler is a bird I hope to find on Shetland given I often go late in the autumn, but I haven’t so far and this remains the only one I’ve had. I saw the King Eider for barely seconds and never relocated it, I have seen one in Shetland subsequently though.

Ironically I am most hazy about events around my birthday more recently than these memories. On Christmas Eve 2014 we had a house fire and the smoke damage meant we had to stay in a hotel for a few weeks. Chris Batty kindly took me birding for a day in Yorkshire on the 28th where the high powered combination of Blyth’s Pipit and Thayer’s Gull were on offer and we connected with both. I’ve not seen either of these subsequently.

A few days later Jane gave me shore leave to go for a Harlequin Duck in Aberdeen. I set off in the dark and at some point on the journey remember basically only being able to continue because I was following a snow plough down the motorway and thinking it was utter madness. But it was a male Harlequin, there hasn’t been one since and nobody died so happy days…

(Footnote – anyone who tells you the Aberdeen Harlequin wasn’t a visual delight because it was a first year drake rather than an adult is mistaken)

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