Greater Yellowlegs

At Last!

It only took about 30 years. To see what I mean you will have to scroll down.

Yesterday (20th Nov 2011). As well as wonderful company, a very special island, Brent Geese, Eiders, 3 Short-eared Owls and that awesome Eastern Black Redstart, there was one more bird… Just down the coast a young Greater Yellowlegs was lost. A species hitherto unseen by me in the Britain and down as one of my all time biggest dips. This one was commuting between Hauxley and Cresswell Pond via Druridge Bay.

The sun shone, the bird paused, long enough at Cresswell Pond, and I was healed. I didn’t see it quiet as close as Andy and the Sheffield leads had managed the day before, but the views were more than sufficient. What a cool day! And for the big dip, read on…

juvenile-1st winter Greater Yellowlegs, Hauxley, Northumberland, 19.11.2011 © Andy Deighton. It doesn’t hurt anymore!

Dipping with Dipper. Yellowlegs, Kerry, April 1982

(pretty much as it appeared in Stuart Winter’s book).

Young free single and slightly loopy. It was 1983 and I was a full-on 19 year old twitcher. Keeping company with the likes of Tim Andrews, then likely to become the youngest British birder at 21 to reach 400 species on the British list meant that we were game for anything. So the bird: A Greater Yellowlegs. The location: Blennerville, Kerry. The date: April 1982. The plan: To drive from Hertfordshire, into London, pick up Keith Lyons (infamously known as ‘Dipper’… I should have known!) followed by a 5 hour drive to Fishguard, Pembroke. Take the Ferry across to Rosslare (3 1/2 hours), hire a car and drive another 5 + hours to Blennerville. I don’t remember much about the journey, taken as it was overnight except a noticeable slowing down in southern Ireland as we traversed the country, punctuated by the occasional standstill as ‘tractor driver natters to local farmer on country lane’. We finally arrived around 15 hours later. We now had a grand total of 3 hours to locate and observe our quarry. That was our lot. Make or break time. Surveying the tidal, marshy inlets we opted to divides duties with me heading west and Dipper and Tim east. 2 hours later there was no sign of the bird. Then in the last ten minutes of our time Keith and Tim had views of a yellowlegs in flight, going away. The bird! They were elated but I was gutted, our time window had maxed out, and we had to leave. The long journey home was uneventful only interrupted by the occasional delighted cooing of 2 happy birders and disinterested grumbles of one not so! The Surf Scoter also failed to show at Rosslare (no surprise to me, now in my own melodramatic soap.) The next day back in the UK, Tim rang to let me that a Lesser Yellowlegs had also been seen at Blennerville over the weekend, so no tick for them either, as they could not be sure what species of yellowlegs they had seen.

Foula, October 2007

Fast forward to 12th October 2007. I arrived on Foula to be greeted by ever exuberant Ken Shaw and compatriots, to be told they were looking for a yellowlegs sp. They had sent the previous day in a howling north-westerly. The photos later proved it was a Greater and of course, I never saw it. Given the identification challenge that some Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs have proven to be, even in very recent years, what species really was/ were present in winter 1982 at Blennerville? And by the way I still haven’t seen Great Yellowlegs in Britain or Ireland. Maybe one day my healing will come!


About Martin Garner

I am a Free Spirit
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One Response to Greater Yellowlegs

  1. Chatterbirds says:

    Congrats on finally catching up with that one!

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