Some things you just can’t let lie.
I admit I was questioning my sanity (again) as I stood in the deserted car park at 2am yesterday morning waiting for Eugene McCann and Ralph Jones.
The longest part of the journey is always the bit before you start up the car.
There were doubts lingering about heading north to try for the Aberdeen Harlequin for the second time of asking….could I handle a second ultra-mileage dip of the same bird?
Will they sell sausages in Aberdeen?
And why are megas always so far away?
I needn’t have worried, as soon as we’d barrelled north forever and pulled up in the Granite City’s Seaton Park, Ralph’s pager bleeped “Harlequin Duck, 500 metres downstream of the old toilet block in Seaton Park”.
And it was.
At first this tiny little duck spent its time snorkelling through the shallow, fast flowing water on the other side of the Don, occasionally hopping onto a rock, or paddling its feet on the riverbed as if to disturb prey before getting all Jacques Cousteau again.
A marvellous beast, that looked surprisingly pale (even allowing for all the white warpaint) in the early morning sun.
But then it leapt into the current and with consummate skill sailed across the river, using the flow of water with the ease of an Otter, to waddle out and rest on the river bank a few feet away from us – incredible.
Gotcha! I was as happy as a Harlequin.
We walked back to the car beaming at Dippers, joggers, Goosanders, dog walkers and Grey Wagtails in the sunshine and quickly agreed to bash on further north to Portsoy for a crack at the White Billed Divers there.
There was a bit of a chop on and the cold wind was in the west when we pulled up at the harbour wall in the small fishing village and got the scopes out.
Plenty of birds – flotillas of Long Tailed Ducks, Gannets, Kittiwakes and Fulmar gliding past and auks battering about everywhere.
I managed to get reasonable views of at least one huge banana-billed White Billed Diver as it cut through the swell like a battleship – there may have been another further out.
A few hours of seawatching here was hugely enjoyable (even the bit balancing above the waves on top of the harbour wall – so that’s what the “no access” sign is for).
We left with the following haul:
Portsoy 23.3.15, 1050-1435:
Long Tailed Duck 70+
Red Throated Diver 9
Black Throated Diver 1
Great Northern Diver 1
White Billed Diver 1-2
Velvet Scoter 2
Imagine that at Formby Point.
Post seawatch there was nothing for it but to launch ourselves into the mammoth drive home.
Pausing at traffic lights amid the granite wendy houses of Aberdeen two gulls flew past the windscreen, the first an adult Herring Gull, the second a fine adult Iceland Gull!
A real bonus that boosted the spirits for the seven hour rocket ride south through motorway unconsciousness and receding headlights.
Great day – thanks Eugene and Ralph.