I am lying, exhausted, on a hotel bed in Glasgow. I have spent the past 36 hours relentlessly driving round the Scotland adding American things to my list, and it has been a great success. I didn't actually come for birds at all, I came for work, but decided that rather than fly up on Monday I would arrive on Saturday instead. No reason really, just felt like it.
So, American Coot then. The one I said that if I twitched it, to shoot me. Yes, that one. In my defence it was on the way from the airport to the Black Duck. Well, if you took a wrong turn it was. I spent a good three minutes contemplating its inner beauty, and then went south and amused myself on Speyside for the afternoon. I finished up on Cairngorm trying and failing for Ptarmigan in increasingly poor weather.
Then the long trek south-west to the Ardnarmuchan peninsula for the long-staying Black Duck at Strontian. I missed the last ferry of the day and had to go the long way around, but finally got there in foul weather for around 9pm. My hotel for the night was the luxuriously appointed "Picasso C4", which on reflection was probably a saving too far. The buffeting of the wind was incredible, and I had to turn the car on every hour simply in order to stay alive. Somehow I made it through the night, and awoke to continuing horizontal rain and stupidly strong wind. Drove the mile or so into the village to start the hunt but every time I opened the window even a fraction the car filled with water. I found three Mallard, and then another two, but it wasn't until there was a short let-up that the Black Duck appeared in the company of another Mallard, crossing the mouth of the river and then hauling itself up onto the shore where it was quite difficult to scope.
Next stop the Mull of Kintyre! When I had been planning this trip, all I had had in mind were the Coot and the Duck - a fabulous duo. Not long before I left an American Herring Gull had been found near Campbeltown, and I figured that eve though I only had a very short time, if I got the Duck either last knockings on Saturday or first thing Sunday, I had a chance at it. A long and slow drive (I did 520 miles this weekend, which took about 15 hours, much of it in the dark and in atrocious weather). I had a quick stop in Oban, and another at Tayinloan where the Snow Geese in with White-fronts were a doddle, and arrived in Campbeltown just after lunch, which in my case was a Double Decker - I would need every ounce of its magic.
It seemed to be working, as the sun came out and then I quite quickly found a field near the airport with a load of large gulls in it, including a 2w Iceland type. Nothing standing out though, so I went and tried the harbour, again without success. Back in the fields, it seemed that the Gulls could be in a depression I couldn't see into, so I abandoned the car and headed up to the Macrihanish Beacon which is a good vantage point. From here I located another/the same Iceland Gull, but more interestingly located a couple of cars on a track looking intently at a flooded field. Find the birders, find the bird... Too far away to get anything meaningful on thr birds, but managed to work out how there got where they were by trial and error, but when scanning couldn't pick it out. I went through them again and again, eliminating darker juveniles that looked the same. And suddenly there it was, the asleep one. The strong wind had been blowing the breast feathers to one side, so it looked lighter than it in fact was. Had to wait a while for it to stand up, but when it did, kerching! The Treble! Record shots only, ditto with the duck which I had to phone scope, but I think shows what it is.
So, another two tick day, and a three tick weekend filled with birds. I love it when a plan comes together! OK, so all the birds are pretty bland - essentially a Coot, a Mallard and a Herring Gull - but if you're going to see them far better to do it in one hit rather than make several lengthy journeys.