Sunday 22 December 2019

Tantalisingly close

I was wondering earlier today whether I had waffled sufficiently about eBird recently. I decided that I had, but unfortunately this isn't going to stop me. The functionality is quite amazing, and if you are a bird nerd, simply wonderful. Allegedly. For instance a couple of days ago I had just completed a bit of a garden bird watch, and realised in doing so that the five Bullfinch in my parent's garden were my 498th species for 2019. I am sure that all fellow bird nerds will realise that to finish a year on 498 species is simply unacceptable.

I had a quick look at what I'd seen, what I hadn't seen, and what was likely to be seen around Fife. Plenty as it happened. I persuaded my Mum to drive me to Leven to see if there were any Goldeneye - there were. It was like being 16 again. So, 499. 

499 is of course even more unacceptable than 498, however fear not, for family gatherings in late December are bracing pre-lunch walk territory, and I could likely swing this to my advantage. Our family is extremely democratic, so my father immediately vetoed a trip to Loch Leven. He wanted to go the beach he said, so naturally we all fell in line as he had the car keys. In my mid forties I am still not responsible enough to be insured to drive his car.

So off to Largo Bay we went. In truth I was not disappointed, it is one of my favourite places to go birding anywhere, species count be damned. Half the family, me included, were dropped off at Shell Bay. The others returned to Lower Largo where we would meet them in a couple of hours.

South-east to Ruddon's Point

Our route took us out to Ruddon's Point, across the Cocklemill Burn, and then along the wide sweep of Largo Bay to the village of Lower Largo. The weather was kind, the light fantastic, and I enjoyed the kind of birding that mostly I only dream of. Flocks of sea duck on a mirror-like surface, clockwork Sanderlings running up and down the beach accompanied by Bar-tailed Godwit and Grey Plover, Rock Pipits and Turnstone in the tidal wrack. Knot, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover and Dunlin scavenging along the rockier shoreline. Armed only with bins, the identification of many of the birds in the bay was beyond me, but two Slavonian Grebe were clear cut, as were a pair of Guillemot, several Red-breasted Merganser, and a handful of Long-tailed Duck. All Scoters I assigned to Common, I could detect no white, but the Eiders were easy enough, far bulkier. In short it was fabulous, and I was surprised to discover when I arrived at the village that my year list stood at 504. Mission accomplished, and with proper birding rather than any kind of targeted tick and run.

Looking west towards Lower Largo and Methil
I recorded 47 species during what was a very pleasant walk indeed. I was in the moment, it was almost valedictory. No bird escaped - the single call of a Reed Bunting, the chattering of a Wren, the clicking of Stonechats. I love birding, it does not matter where I am, there are always birds.