Hi folks, This was lost as I was when bird forum crashed, so here it is again!!
Need to get my posts back up! You can all read it again and give it starry things! Makes me feel wanted!!
The Linwood Pool Lesser Scaup.
The drive home from work was like any other, incredibly slow and painful. In fact on this occasion, it had been made worse by the pointless verbal and hand signal exchange I had had with a fellow commuter. I passed the airport, planes taking to the air, swan like with a long run before take off. The flight of the giant tin cans inspired me to look for true avian pioneers and take 20 minutes and stop at Linwood Pool. You never know I thought, I may turn up a rarity. My brother who worked at RSPB Vane Farm had phoned earlier in the day to gloat about seeing various rarities at Vane, one of which was lesser scaup. I had made a throw away comment about finding one, but of course did not really believe it.
Linwood Pool is sandwiched between a retail park and the A737 dual carriageway, not the most inspiring setting and a long way from Vane Farm. None the less, I had seen glaucous gull, black tern and garganey at the site before and there had been the odd wader observed in the past. I got out of the car and was greeted by various fast food boxes and cartons. The long grass was wet from earlier rain, but the sun had returned and warmed the early evening air. Once I had climbed the steep bank that thankfully collects most of the litter and stops it blowing across into the pool, I stopped for a scan with binoculars.
The pool is flanked down one side by a row of hawthorn bushes. As well as the odd polythene bag, a song thrush sat proudly announcing its territory with repeated triumphant notes. The pool, which is about half the size of a football pitch seemed quiet. The water was rippling slightly in the westerly breeze whilst the reedy fringe swayed gently like fans at an Elton John concert. I set up the scope and began to have a more serious inspection.
I immediately picked out two teal, both male and both stunning in the brilliant sunshine. The maroon head with green eye flash reminding me why I love birding so much, few things are more beautiful than a male duck in full breeding plumage. A moorhen scuttled between two patches of reed as if knowing I was watching and trying to avoid detection. I scanned the open water more thoroughly and counted 8 tufted ducks. Thatís nice, I had never seen them here before in my dozen or so visits. I scanned the rest of the pool and was unsurprised to see a heron standing motionless and a couple of coots milling around like two shady characters in a back street alley.
I returned to the tufted ducks, after all I hadnít checked through them properly and there may well be a ring necked or something with them. Yeah, because that always happens to me, every time I check a group of tufted, hey presto, there is a ring necked! I wish. Another glance through the group but nothing seemed amiss, nothing new there I thought. Ah well, one day I will find a rare bird. I checked again, then again and as I passed through the group for a fourth time, my scope moved over a bird, then back again, cartoon style. A scaup, not really rare, but welcome. How had I missed such an obvious bird?
That scaup doesnít look right I thought. It is sitting quite low in the water and is creating a break like a boat on a mission. I picked up the scope and had put to the back of my mind the idea that it was smaller than a greater scaup. I moved forward in that classic careful not to scare the bird run that birders do. I splayed the legs of the tripod. Is it still there? I checked the group again, no, no, no, there it is. Thank god for that.
It has a purple sheen to the head! Oh boy, the head, check the back of the head, there is a characteristic bump of lesser scaup! I now had a quickening of Highlander proportions but could really do with a few other people here. The markings on the back, are they right? What about the nail on the bill that everyone talks about? The wing bar. Calm down, it is a long way from a lesser yet.
I used my phone like the one call of a condemned man. I spoke at 200mph but kept saying, It may not be, you know, Iím fairly sure but. After I put the phone down, I was consumed with self doubt. What if someone left their dinner to come here and it is just an unusual scaup or worse, a hybrid! Well, I did say, I was only fairly sure.
A few cars arrived and people got out. I nervously introduced myself. ďAye, itís a lesser scaup.Ē The voice was so certain, part of me breathed a sigh of relief but another questioned the quick diagnosis. I waited a few seconds and then piped up, ďWhat about the bill, is it okay?Ē I was continuing to watch the bird, its yellow eye, now more obvious then it had been previously. ďAye, tiny black nail, its fine.Ē The reply was what I needed to hear. With that both parties upped and left. I hadnít seen the wing bar yet. Surely that is the real clincher? As the cars departed as quickly as they came, I was alone once more. My eye was now sore from looking through the scope, I took it away and focused on other things, rubbing it, I returned to the telescope. The ducks took flight, there it is, a wing bar that didnít stretch beyond the secondary! It is a lesser scaup!
I watched it for another 15 minutes and returned to my car. Adrenalin flowed through me and I felt like an 8 year old at Christmas. The bird taught me a lot. Not so much at the time but what followed. I have never been the most organised person, in fact I make Mr Bean look organised at times, so it was no surprise when a certain gentleman chased me for the description a few months later, thank god I took notes. Now, bird watching etiquette was also something I knew and still know little about. For example, I didnít give a description to the county recorder. I didnít phone round and let people know. I of course alerted birdline but probably should have done more.
To be honest, I didnít realise the significance of the bird either. It was, at the time, a 1st for the county of Renfrewshire. I believe there had at that point been less than 10 recorded on mainland Scotland. It is ironic that earlier in the day, I had had the unusual conversation about finding the very bird with my brother. I have to date never found a rarer bird but perhaps 2005 will be my year.