Tuesday, 26 October 2010
I Turned into a Twitcher and Bagged a Juvenile Lesser Yellowlegs!
When I started this blog I made a point of saying I was not a birder and that I just love Nature and beauty in all its forms. Somehow though, somewhere along the line, it gradually happened! I think that someone who breathes, sleeps and (sometimes, quite literally) dreams birds has to eventually admit that they are indeed a birder and after all, I have watched birds since I was a child, even writing a book on birds for a school project at the age of twelve. However, I have never considered myself to be a twitcher. A twitcher, as we know is someone who will travel long distances, sometimes from one end of the country to the other in pursuit of a rare bird which has been sighted and whose location has been transmitted on the bush telegraph to fellow enthusiasts who then proceed to converge on said bird to add another tick to their list.
I would find no pleasure in dashing all around the country just to add a bird to my list and in fact I think there is no greater pleasure than spotting a bird in one's own garden which has never been seen there previously. However, when I hear there has been an unusual bird seen within twenty five or so miles of my home, I have to admit to being tempted to go and take a look, purely because it is a bird I have not seen before and hopefully to get a photo of it.
So when I heard there had been a juvenile Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes) at Port Meadow Oxford for the last week or so, I thought it was worth turning into a twitcher for the day and giving it a try. Of course regular blog visitors who remember my failed attempts, this year and last, to see the Lesser Scaup at Draycote Water (a slight case of twitching there too I suppose!), will not be surprised to read I had no confidence at all in my ability to actually find the bird, even if it was still there!
Imagine my surprise then, when after leaving the car in the free car park, we walked into the meadow and towards the flooded area and within moments spotted it! The only snag was that the sun was in the wrong place for decent photos but I had a try (how could I not?) and below are the best I could manage.
Not being overly familiar with waders and completely unfamiliar with this particular one, I was a little worried as to whether I had found the 'right' bird, however...
When we first arrived there was just one other person taking photos and as we approached he packed up his gear and left. I had also noticed a small group of people on the opposite side of the flooded area and when I finished taking my photos I turned round and found the group had walked round to the side we were on and had their binoculars, scopes and cameras all focused on 'my' bird. So, in slight fear and trepidation of showing my ignorance, I asked if I had the right bird and was told it was indeed and one of the party said he had even seen one before, up in Scotland!
It was a shame I was always shooting into the sun as the photos don't adequately show the beautiful deep yellow which gives this lovely wader its name. I think the one at the top of the post gets closest.
Outside the breeding season Lesser Yellowlegs forage in shallow water, picking at prey on or just below the water's surface. They scythe their bills back and forth in the water stirring up prey like an Avocet.
This visitor from North America bobs the front half of its body up and down and the most common sound which may be heard is a two-note flight call. During the breeding season, insects make up the majority of the Lesser Yellowlegs diet. The rest of the year, they also eat small fish and crustaceans.
Well that is it for now, I hope I haven't bored you too much by focusing on just one bird and thank you for indulging my excitement. I rather enjoyed 'turning twitcher ' for a day but now I will go back to being a birder...until the next time I hear of an unusual sighting not too far from me :) Enjoy the beauty of Nature, wherever you are.