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.


  1. ooooh you little twitcher you!!

    Worth it for the day out though :-) Its a bird I havn't seen, and the photo's are pretty good too :-) . Look out for those Waxwings that seem to be about at the moment.

  2. What an excellent bird to see Jan.
    Nice one. And finding it like that yourself; even more rewarding. Even if the sun was in the wrong place, you still managed some good shots of it too.

    So, with all these reports of Waxwings coming into the country, I guess they'll be the next twitch?

  3. Nothing wrong with a little twitch Jan, I have one every time I run out of red wine!
    I too indulge the more local rarities, especially if I can combine them with some general birding.
    Super pics, shame you couldn't get out of the sun's influence but you did a great job anyway. Be careful though I think it's addictive!

  4. It good to have a twitch now and then Jan, so congrats on getting such a fine bird. I would love to get it on my year list this year, Have had a couple down here in the past. this is one that is quite unmistakable and really can only be confused with the Greater Yellowlegs which is quite a bit larger. The quality of the images are just fine with full detail throughout. So now you will be chasing everything you twitcher you.

  5. How exciting to spot it and get some piccies too!

  6. Well done you - I bet you're so pleased & there's nothing wrong with the photos!
    I'm hopeless when it comes to Waders I'm afraid. Nothing wrong with being a twitcher for the day - I'm sure I would too if something extraordinary landed not too far away :)

  7. Good post for a twitcher, it is a beautiful bird.

  8. well done jan,
    you must be pretty pleased with yourself,

  9. LOL! Thank goodness you explained what a twitcher was, Jan. I had no idea what one was, and thought your post was going to be a spooky Halloween story about turning into some strange twitching thing. I am amazed that you didn't consider yourself a birder! I enjoyed your post very much and didn't find it boring in the least! I always feel I learn something new from your posts.


  10. Oh yes Jan, we are delighted to be sharing in your excitement for the day :-D

    I guess different lighting would have changed your photos and made them more accurate to what you saw but I think they are pretty good indeed! :-D

    I'll also guess I'm a stage behind you in the birding side of things. When we visit our fav SWT Reserve my camera stays in my bag until I see birds I don't see in my own garden.

    However, I agree with you completely that having a new bird species visit our gardens is pretty special. I know what excitement I get from that :-D

  11. How exciting so glad you had that wonderful experience--and your photos are awesome!! I was a member of the Carolina Bird Club for many yrs and we traveled many times to see birds that we really wanted to see! I went in search of the snowy owl once,... but unfortunately didnt see it, but thats ok, I always have fun when Im out looking!!
    Im always bird watching everywhere I go. I just saw and photographed the Greater Yellowlegs! It was not a new bird for me, but I sure enjoyed seeing him anyways!

  12. I didn't know that even though I've been watching birds my whole life too. That's an great shot for being into the sun

  13. Excellent Post ..and not bored one bit.
    thanks for sharing your sighting.
    Happy Birding!

  14. Congratulations! Now that you have had success at your first twitching, there will be no stopping you ~ within reasonable distance of course ;) Very clear photos, as well.

  15. ShySongbird ,
    So you succumbed to the twitch .
    Remember there is always help at TA , but it should be interesting the reaction you get , when you stand up and utter ' My name is ShySongbird , and I am a Twitcher '
    The bird was well worth it though , well done .

  16. Warren Baker

    Thanks Warren :) It was definitely worth it and it certainly makes a change for me to see a bird which you never have! Waxwings would be great too :)


    Thank you Keith :) I was amazed that I actually managed to find it with no trouble at all! It was a shame about the sun but it could have been worse and rained, I suppose :) Waxwings? Yes please!


    Thank you Phil, I'll raise a glass of red to your first comment :)
    I agree with you about combining rare sightings with general birding, we were restricted for time on Monday but will definitely return to Port Meadow to see what else it has to offer.


    Thank you Monty :) I had a feeling you might have encountered it at some point down your way. I had heard about it for about a week before being able to get there so feel very privileged that it hadn't moved on.


    Thank you Dan, it was exciting :)


    Thank you Sharon :) Yes I was thrilled! it really was irresistible :)

    Bob Bushell

    Thank you Bob :) It certainly is!


    Thank you Denis, I am indeed!

  17. Isn't it interesting how blogging can pique our interest in something? I was never very interested in watching the birds until I started seeing so many lovely bird photos on different posts. Now I enjoy watching the birds in my garden and even bought a book to be able to identify more of them.

    This may be a North American native, but it's another new bird to me. But then, I don't live near water, so the birds that frequent wetlands or lakes are not often seen here. Such a pretty bird! I'm glad you got to see it, Jan. And there's nothing wrong with being a twitcher:)

  18. Great pics of a great bird Jan. I wish digital cameras had been out when i last saw this species. Real showy birds they are.

  19. Well done Jan. I'm really happy it turned out well for you. I suppose you was like a Cheshire Cat on the return trip.

  20. I think you did a splendid job of capturing this elegant bird. I saw my first one when I was a youngster visiting Cape Cod, Mass. I was thrilled too, but didn't know that I was a "twitcher."

    Thanks for your words, photos, and joy. It is contagious.

    Sharon Lovejoy Writes from Sunflower House and a Little Green Island

    P.S. I am currently writing and illustrating a bird book for 5 to 8 year olds and is due out in spring 1012. Sounds like you have a bird book in you too!

  21. Brilliant Jan. Well twitched. A lovely set of photos, even with the Sun on the 'wrong' side. It is obvious you really enjoyed the experience.

  22. Morning Glories in Round Rock

    Dear Jenny, thank you for your comment, it did make me laugh :) I had a feeling some visitors from abroad might not have heard the term 'twitcher' before, I think it is probably only used here. I suppose I was reluctant to call myself a birder as it might imply I was more knowledgeable than I am, mind you confidence never has been my strong suit! Sending you hugs and wishing you a Happy Autumn :)


    Thank you Shirl, I'm so glad I managed to convey my excitement to you :)
    It was a shame about the sun being in the 'wrong' place but at least it wasn't raining!
    I admit I will try to photograph any bird I come across although maybe not the 33rd Wood Pigeon I see in one day :)
    I keep hoping for a 'new' bird in the garden, I did think I might have caught a glimpse of a Goldcrest a few days ago but it was far too quick for me to be sure :( Have a great weekend Shirl :)


    Thank you Dixee :) What a coincidence that you just photographed the Greater Yellowlegs although, of course, I realise they are not uncommon over there. I shall be over soon to see if you have posted it :)

    Country Mouse Studio

    Thank you, I don't expect I will ever see one again so will remember that encounter fondly.


    Thank you very much Dawn, so glad you enjoyed it :)


    Thank you Glo, I have a feeling it could become addictive :)


    Thank you Greenie :) Yes indeed, I succumbed and enjoyed it thoroughly! I think it may be a while before I need help from TA but if I should it will be interesting to see how many of my blogland friends attend too :)

  23. Sarah Knight

    Thank you Sarah :)


    Thank you Rose :) I remember I had my first bird book given to me when when I was about eight or nine, I still have it to this day with all the birds I had spotted carefully underlined in the index :) I now have shelves full of them! I think owning a digital camera made it so much more interesting to me though and of course sharing my interest with so many like minded people via blogland is wonderful too.
    After I mentioned to you on your blog that the Lesser Yellowlegs would probably be very familiar to you I remembered you saying you don't live near water so am not surprised to read it is new to you, I don't expect I shall ever see one again either.


    Thank you Dean, it was great to see it and get photos too :)

    The Watcher

    Thank you Trevor, I certainly was, the Cheshire Cat that got the cream in fact :)

    Sharon Lovejoy

    Welcome! Thank you for visiting and commenting :) I think twitcher must be a term which is only used in this country and I believe it originated in the 1950s.
    How exciting to be writing and illustrating a bird book for children! I hope you have great success with it and I do hope you visit again you will be most welcome :)

    Midmarsh John

    Thank you John :) Yes, I did enjoy it and I'm glad I managed to convey that to you!

  24. Hello twitcher! You must have been so pleased to spot it and get some beautiful pictures as well.

    Well done Jan, keep up the good work!

    Have a lovely weekend….love Lou and Poppy. Xxx

  25. Dear Jan,
    How very exciting! I understand how it is difficult to call ones self a birder...I love birds, bugs, critters and trees, herbs, flowers.... Nature in general.
    My husband and I will go on birding trips and in the winter I sometimes miss the butterflies so very much my husband will take me to where I can spend time with them.
    I have seen Lesser Yellowlegs. This past year I have been studying wetlands so I have seen all sorts of new to me birds.
    I understand the frustration of light!
    I think you did a wonderful job...shooting into the sun is tough. I have a few filters that help.
    I am so happy you jumped into the car to see this rare stray. Being in love with nature means I too would drop everything to see a rare to me bird or bug!

  26. Haha...you are such a little twitcher! Loved the story and the photos.

  27. Jan, this is just so wonderful. I am so pleased that you took the trip and photographed this beautiful wader.
    Life is a journey, never say never. With each decade we change, and that is what makes life so interesting.
    I have spent my life loving all forms of wildlife. I never tire of seeing common creatures, as well as the unusual.

    Thank you for sharing your journey and images. I for one, think they are amazing, regardless of the light issue.

    Have a peaceful and happy weekend. I hope hubby is doing well......

  28. Poppy

    Hi Lou :) Thank you, I must admit I did feel quite pleased with myself!
    Hope you have a lovely weekend too. Lots of love to you and Poppy XXXX :)


    Thank you OC :)


    Dear Sherry, thank you :) I too miss the butterflies so much during the Winter. We seem to have such a short time with them here and I am looking forward already to their return next year.
    I thought you might have seen Yellowlegs, it is a delightful bird!
    I must look into buying some filters for my camera, I don't have any at all, see what an amateur photographer I am... :)

  29. Hi Jan.
    Well done on twitching the Lesser Yellowlegs. I had one a few years ago at North Norfolk, what a nice bird they are.
    As for being a Twitcher, a twitcher isn't someone who travels long distances to see a bird. You can twitch a bird that is just down the road, or whether it is 500 yards away, or 500 miles away. To twitch is to go and see a bird that someone else has found, albeit near or far.

  30. Well done Jan. You are definitely my kind of bird watcher :-) This is a great post. Sorry I've not been by for a while. All the best.

  31. Kelly

    Thank you Kelly, I'm glad you enjoyed it :)


    Thank you Cheryl and welcome back from your holiday :) Your words are very true, I think we all evolve and our interests broaden over time. As you know I have always had a passionate love of Nature but owning the digital camera and joining blogland has strengthened it.
    Thank you, yes he is doing well and will be glad to get the operation over and done with now :)


    Hi Ken, thank you for your comment :) I did wonder if you might have seen one. Yes, they are nice and I was very pleased to see it.
    I think we are in full agreement on the definition of a twitcher, I just assumed readers would take it for granted that a twitcher would go to see a bird close to home as well as far away.

  32. Angie

    Thank you Angie, It is nice to see you here anytime you can manage it :) Hope you are keeping well.

    Iowa Gardening Woman

    Thank you, you are most welcome to visit anytime :)

  33. Brilliant - worth twitching just this once :-) Some great photos!

  34. Birder or not, these are great photos.

    Darryl and Ruth : )

  35. Hey Jan,

    Welcome to the World of Birding. Well done on getting to see the Lesser Yellowlegs and getting some excellent shots as well. Super bird. Maybe a trip to the Scillies next October for you ;)


  36. Pam

    Thank you Pam, yes I thought it was definitely worth it :)

    Living In Williamsburg Virginia

    Thank you Darryl and Ruth :)


    Thank you John, A trip to the Scillies sounds great, probably not very likely but who knows :)


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