Tuesday 30 December 2014

2014 Twitch of the Year

As previously mentioned, fewer candidates this year, but were any simply spectacular? Well, not really. Generally I was a little more gung-ho about things, for instance waiting six weeks to go and see the Ross's Gull in Devon...... But seriously, this is supposed to celebrate all things twitch, and do any stand out for being skin-of-my-teeth, brave and daring, cheating fate, that sort of thing? Er no, this is twitching we're talking about. The ability to own or have access to a car, and be able to read a map and follow simple instructions. So whilst there have been some great birds, most of them long stayers that allowed my absurd travel schedule to proceed unhindered, which was the most satisfying? Not missing out on the Eagle by being abroad was good, ditto for the Speccy. Both had the good grace to hang around for ages and ages, a feature of most birds during the year with the exception perhaps of the Great Knot (but I got that too!). 

However for sheer "I love it when a plan comes together"-ness, the most satisfying were that incredibly uninspiring trio of Yanks that graced Scotland right at the start of the year. I combined a visit up there with a trip to my office in Glasgow, and had exactly one and a half days to bag the lot before needing to be at work on Monday morning. I planned it out like a campaign, with times I needed to be at certain places, and times I needed to leave others. And it worked like a dream, with the weather mostly playing ball as well. I left Inverness airport at lunchtime of Saturday, and was "enjoying" the American Coot very shortly afterwards. I then diverted to Capercaillieland for a spot of pant-wetting, and after realising that the bird was quicker and fiercer than I was, went birding in the nearby forests, followed by going up Cairngorn to dip Ptarmigan. As the weather closed in I crossed the country to Strontian, passing a terrible night in a storm-lashed car sleeping for perhaps fifteen minutes at a time before needing to switch the engine on to stay alive. Sunday morning the glorious American Black Duck was all mine in dreadful weather before it was time for the long drive south to Campbeltown where an American Herring Gull had been seen. This bird, even for a a Gull-lover like me, was the worst of the lot, taking hours and an emergency Double Decker to connect with, and when I did the feeling of joy was indescribable. Sheer and utter joy. Not really, it was crap. I mean it was nice to get it, and it capped a sensational weekend of tickery, but let's face it, it's a manky gull like all the rest of them and is only marginally different from a Herring Gull. Whereas the Coot and Duck were complete polar opposites of their European counterparts. Ahem.

So, three crap birds and four hundred slow miles. But eminently worth it for reasons that continue to defy rational explanation. Boom boom boom, tick and run. The best thing about it is that it took less than a full weekend and I need never suffer from twitcher's angst about any of them ever again. They're done and forgotten about, forever inked in.

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