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Getting Your Eye In- Rediscovering Rusty Skills (1 Viewer)

The title will make sense at the end.....

I've mentioned once or twice (!) how strange this year has been. A year of fluctuating fortunes, a strange mixture of appreciating what I have and strangely wanting more. Basically, even by Green Sand's slightly fey, slightly eccentric standards, its been a wee bit odd.

So, after a very sporadic, bitty few weeks I made a concerted effort to have a 'proper' day out birding. Taking photographs of bees and suchlike could only scratch my outdoor itch to an extent. I gave myself a shake, put a bit of planning into it (borrowing my father in law's car and making sure my bag was packed counts as planning) and headed out for a medium day out in Lothian.

Memories of last year and the beach at Torness power station have never really left in the past 12 months. I headed off for furthest East Lothian a few Sundays ago. Few real expectations, but more excited about being out birding. A brief stop- off at the dungheap for yellow wagtail was unsuccessful, but strangely enjoyable. I did get Linnet, though, so can't complain. There's something about the dungheap area that I really like. I genuinely don't know why.

Onto the power station proper, my usual car park was closed, so followed the diversion down toward the boundary edge. Almost immediately, got yellowhammer singing, and I used my finally honed fieldcraft skills to track it down. (It was sitting on top of a gorse bush, so 'tracking' is a bit of an exaggeration) The sea was fairly quiet, a few gannets quite far out, the usual gulls, and more than a few common tern making themselves known. Always good to see terns, though I definitely heard them first. Being me, I decided it was time for a sit down and some quiet contemplation. I found the patch of machair where I had based msyelf last year. Wonderful view, the water was very tranquil, and I sat relaxing, just soaking up what was going on around me. No sanderlings on the strandline this year, but did get goldfinch feeding around the seaweed. A new experience for me.

No ticks, nothing really spectacular (though any day with a yellowhammer is now a success) but still enjoyable. It was, though, very much a 'home' style visit rather than my normal Lothian birding.

My half- hearted plan to drive into the East Lothian farmland looking for red- legged partridge was cancelled by a serious accident on the A1 blocking the way. I took this as an omen to head to my other reliable site on a medium day out in Lothian- Musselburgh. Now, I've been avoiding the Birding Lothian pages on social media whilst I've been 'inactive' so didn't really know what to expect. Usual multitude of eider at the seawall, I'd be disappointed if they weren't there. Terns and gulls galore, but no gannets. The trip to the scrapes was uneventful, but fortunately, local birding guru and all- round good guy Dave Allan was on site. I've mentioned before that despite me being a visitor from the West, and not always a regular visitor, he always recognises me. Very generous with his time as well, and this visit was no different. He pointed out the wood sandpiper that I was unaware of (with my social media blackout) and I got great views of it with a green sand and pair of common sands. 3 sandpipers in one trip, basically, within 15 feet of each other.

It got better with both black- tailed and bar- tailed godwits, making it 3 year ticks. Dave head off, and left me to y own devices at the scrape. Massive grin on my face, understandably so. The grin got better when, after heading off myself, I popped into the last hide and got greenshank in really bad light. 4 ticks, a good day for August 2021.

A week later, and I found myself back again. Little had happened during the week, working long hours, doing dad duties, the usual stuff. The journey along the M8 either flies by in no time, or is interminably long. Sadly, this day was one of the latter. The only plus point was a sparrowhawk flying over the motorway while the traffic was crawling near roadworks. A year tick, and a wry chuckle that after ticking a collared dove in a supermarket I'm now ticking birds in traffic jams.

Anyway, made it to East Lothian, and tried again for yellow wag. And wandered away again having failed. My birding mate Bill had been midweek and got them, so I knew they were there, somewhere. But not for me. PArked the car, and a flock of a half dozen wee brown jobbies flew off toward the gorse. Following them, and the second mini- flock, the chestnut head of a tree sparrow showed brilliantly in the binos. Year tick 2 for the day, and one I wasn't expecting before Caerlaverock later in the autumn. A different Yammer started singing, and got into a song- war with a second one about 30 yards away at the other side of the car park. Down to the shore, I planted myself in my favourite spot on the machair. An older couple were relaxing on the rocks, binos in hand, so its good that I'm not the only one who enjoys this space. Still no sanderling, but did get 20 or so ringed plover feeding among the seaweed. Lots of sea anglers wandering about, but the plover seemed fairly unperturbed.

Patience is a virtue I don't always have, but being in my comfortable space, I was happy sittign there, waiting to see what happened. And luckily I did as a flock of dunlin made an appearance, scampering about. Year tick 3.

A trip into the farmland for red- legged partridge achieved nothing, bar my tradition of getting lost. A brief stop at Musselburgh was out of habit rather than anything else.

The journey home was, fortunately, of the 'flying by' variety.

So, 2 trips out to my reliable, comfortable places. Connecting with a birding good guy and other friendly folk (Musselburgh birders are reliably friendly, whether first time visitors or local lynchpins) 2 trips that got me multiple ticks. Enjoyable trips.


There was an awkwardness, beyond struggling to 'get my eye in.' It was like I was out of practice at the whole birding thing, and had to get MYSELF back in. I felt very, very rusty. I've had birding gaps before (family holidays, etc) but I think its the strangeness, the stop- start nature of this year that has magnified it. But, you know, practice makes perfect, so the only answer is to get back out.

I wonder where I'll go this weekend??

We're not out of the woods yet, so stay healthy, stay safe.


Dave Derrick

Well-known member
John, Very readable as ever; thank you. Wife and I have just started going to what were regular birding sites a couple of years ago .... it certainly feels very strange indeed. And "rusty" is a very apt description of feelings. All the best, stay safe. Dave.

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