Back in 2013, I had been reading the latest issue of Birdwatching magazine which had a Red Flanked Bluetail on the cover with a tagline of something like "Find one of these anywhere" and I remember thinking "yeah, if you're on Shetland or in Norfolk". Fast forward a few weeks to the 13th of October and I'm on a local bird club outing to nearby Fife and I got a bit bored hanging around near the start of a small wood in Crail with the rest of the group so I wandered on past everyone else and saw a small bird perched in front of me. From the angle I had I thought it might be a warbler. I lifted the binoculars and immediately noticed the bird had a white eye ring. Having seen Red Breasted Flycatcher previously that was what my brain defaulted to, until I realised the bird had orange-y flanks! "Check that tail! Check the tail!" yelled my subconscious at me. I did, it was blue!! And at that the bird flew off. My camera hadn't had a chance to get a photo with the encounter being less than 10 seconds long. By this time my heart was racing, in a way it never had before, or since, while birding. I raced back down the track to tell the others. Thankfully, with a bit of effort the bird was relocated, photos were taken and it stayed all day and all day the following day allowing others to catch up with what was the 4th record for mainland Fife at the time. Incredibly, one of the previous 3 records had been found in exactly the same wood in 2003 (I think) by Birdforum's very own Edenwatcher.
However, as unlikely as finding a Red Flanked Bluetail was for me that isn't quite the unlikely experience tale. 3 years later I was birding with a friend in the very same small wood, in early October, while hoping to find a migrant or two around the Crail area. She was checking the bushes along the west side of the wood and I was on the eastern side of the very small burn that runs through the middle. A small bird popped up in front of me, perched atop a small section of tree trunk from a fallen tree that had been left where it lay. I raised the binoculars and said to myself "You're kidding me!" as I realised I was looking at another Red Flanked Bluetail. Naturally, it vanished as quickly as it had arrived and I called to my friend. I said "You'll never guess what I've just found...". Having joked in the car about maybe finding another Red Flanked Bluetail in the wood though knowing the chances of doing so were very, very minute, she immediately guessed "Red Flanked Bluetail" but wouldn't believe me that I had actually just seen one.
Unlike the 2013 bird this one proved very hard to see. I knew what I'd seen was a Red Flanked Bluetail but in the brevity of the sighting I hadn't actually had time to actually register the blue tail so for the sake of my rarity description I needed to get that view. We put out word of a 'probable' RFB on the local grapevine which took quite a while to do as I couldn't get mobile phone reception (I always struggle around Crail) and eventually a few others managed to see the bird, though no-one really had views of more than a second or so. I did manage to get a few fleeting views which confirmed the colour of the tail and my pal, Wendy, managed to get what was to my knowledge the only photo of the bird taken during it's short stay (which although blurry and out of focus showed enough of the features to aid the acceptance of the find) as it stood on the path momentarily.
(In another unlikely side-note on the same date the following year after the initial find in 2013, I headed back to the Crail area to see if the proverbial lightning might strike twice. However there wasn't another Red Flanked Bluetail to be found but a visit to a very cold and windy Fife Ness did result in me managing to photograph a large diver, which thanks to efforts on here, did prove to be a White Billed Diver (which hadn't been on my radar either). At the time it was still a very rare bird in Fife but I've since seen and photographed another 2 from Fife Ness, and Ken Shaw and others have also had an increasing number of sightings in Fife (including one yesterday)).