Sunday 13 November 2011


It was Saturday morning.  I was just preparing for a trip to the local patch when news came through of a probable Greater Yellowlegs up in Northumberland.  I began to feel a little twinge of excitement. In this game a 'probable' is a good 80% better than a 'possible' and a whopping 325% better than an 'wholly unconfirmed'.  Then around twenty minutes later, the heart-stopping wail of the pager could be heard resonating around the cottage. There was indeed a GREATER YELLOWLEGS fresh in at the Wildlife Trust reserve at East Chevington.  It was now 11.00am and in the mid afternoon traffic we would probably not arrive on site until around 3.00pm.  Taking into account the bird's skittish nature we made the calculated decision to head north the following day.

As I approached Dunnster Towers in Derbyshire at around 7.20am I received a call from the Aled Jones of birding, Andrew Kinghorn.  From what I could discern from the Cheryl Cole type drawl the bird was still present and even better it was showing down to just a few yards from one of the hides at  Hauxley Nature Reserve.  The trouble was, we were nearly three hours away from our destination.  It would be a nervous few hours as Mikipedia Feely sped up the A1 like a cross between Mr Magoo and Maureen from 'Driving School'. If you do not know what I am blathering on about then click here.

With Snapper entertaining us with his excellent impressions of various birding personalities en route we finally arrived at a muddy Hauxley Nature Reserve during mid-morning.  We burst into the Wader Hide to find the usual glum-faced, scowling numpties hogging the best seats. We could either barge our way to the front like a bunch of hooligans or locate an alternative view point.  With no sign of the bird anyway we opted for the latter and continued along the track to the next hide.  At this point our luck changed as I noticed an old dear and her husband beckoning me into the Eric's Hide. Within a few seconds we were all set up watching our first ever GREATER YELLOWLEGS in Britain, feeding along the shoreline in tandem with a first winter Grey Phalarope.  To make it even better there was not another soul there..... heaven..... but not for long! 

GREATER YELLOWLEGS (first winter) & Grey Phalarope
Photo by Rob Capewell

Amazingly both birds then decided to fly even closer and landed right in front of our hide.  Excellent views were enjoyed before they continued to feed along the edge of the lagoon and out of sight.  Before long both birds reappeared but kept their distance due to a gang of twitchers taking up temporary residence on top of the bank.  It did not matter though as prolonged scope views were soaked up to the maximum.  After the much publicised Daventry debacle and the brief appearance of this species in Cornwall earlier this year, we were all as pleased as punch to finally nail this species.

GREATER YELLOWLEGS (first winter) - Hauxley, Northumberland.
Photo by Tristan Reid

After a quick bite to eat on the outskirts of Newcastle we then decided to head down to Cleveland and try our luck at Seal Sands.  Upon arrival at Greatham Creek we soon picked out a smaller wader amongst a scattering of Dunlin.  Upon closer inspection it was a smart, juvenile SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER, a new British bird for the East Midlanders in the crew and our second American rarity of the day.  Also on site were good numbers of Curlew and Redshank, a pair of Turnstone and a single Grey Plover.  Another highlight was a pair of Short-eared Owls sparring with the odd Carrion Crow over the rough pasture in the distance.  As always the Common Seals also put in a pretty good performance.

With the light fading quickly we headed around to the other side of the River Tees to Redcar.  After a brief search we eventually found a pair of Tundra Bean Geese feeding in a winter wheat field at Kirkleatham.  We headed back home to the Midlands extremely happy with our brief time in the hospitable north east.

The ASBO crew for the day.... or is it 'The Dingles' from Emmerdale?
Mikipedia Feely, Archie (me), Snapper Richards & Stevie Dunn

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