Monday, 25 February 2013

I need a Horse

And I'm not talking a Shergar burger. The other day I managed to break even my own enviable record for vehicle breakdowns, hence the consideration of an equine substitute.

Last week I had taken the car to the garage for a new exhaust as there were more temporary welds than pipe left and picked it up on Thursday. Forty minutes later (!), while off on a shopping trip the bloody thing refused to change gear and I was stuck in 4th on the A499. There then followed another garage visit, 24 hours of gearbox behaving, another failure, a lift home form the AA and now major surgery for the beast. Fingers crossed.

So I've been walking and bussing it and seen a few things on the way. Saturday last took me around Aberdaron and Rhoshirwaun then back home. A moulting adult Mediterranean Gull was between the two villages with a vocal Golden Plover and five Common Snipe overhead then a Short-eared Owl again on Mynydd Rhiw during a brief flurry of snow. Today the Pwllheli heronry at Pont Solomon was busy with several birds on nests and some building work occurring. A Lesser Redpoll was over the Cob Pool with a Reed Bunting calling away.

At troubling transport-less times like these I'm glad I'm not a serious UK lister as there are some very nice birds around, from a Pied-billed Grebe in Somerset to a Harlequin Duck in the Outer Hebrides. Although I've tried it, duck twitching is not really my thing. Years ago I met a very keen premiership twitcher who was studying at Bangor University and he mentioned the possibility of sharing a lift (and fuel costs) to a few birds if I required. A breathless phone call from him about a Redhead on a lake in the Midlands followed or was it about a Bufflehead? I forget. Both these web-footed prizes were available over a matter of a few months. Words like 'underwhelmed' came to mind. The general idea was to drop everything and stare at tarmac for hours before hopefully connecting with a couple of dodgy possible escapee wildfowl. Having seen Redhead, Canvasback et al at a private backyard collection in Sheffield years ago I refused the offer of a lift.

Sometime later the next call was regarding a possible car-share to view not one - but two - Harlequins that had turned up somewhere in Scotland. Now he really had my attention and the adrenaline was pumping. I then asked if these real wildfowl were males or females and remember the shock in his voice when I again declined a tick on finding out they were a couple of girls. Give me a stunning drake Harlequin on a winter seawatch past Porth Ysgaden one day! Funnily enough the phone calls ended after this last refusal.

I've kept my listing gearbox in selective mode ever since... essentially it's got to be very special or of great local interest to get me racing around like a headless chicken. The Abersoch Royal Tern from a few years ago springs to mind and ticks both boxes. Roll on the next one...


  1. I share your car frustrations. Came to leave for work a week ago and found that the nearside front spring had collapsed overnight - apparently a common fault on Fiestas. Luckily my AA membership included free car-hire for three days so had an Insignia - twice the size of anything I've driven for a long while!

    I work on the principle that everything will turn up eventually - still waiting! Mind you had a lovely redhead Smew on the monthly duck count last week and 15 Waxwings in the garden.

    There is a male Hooded Merganser not that far away but they are too prone to escape to be reliable!

    1. Whoever invented the internal combustion engine has a lot to answer for - and a pat on the back.

      Sounds like you've struck gold on the patch. Smews are great (never seen one down this end) and Waxwings continue to elude me this winter. Tempted to twitch one soon! At least these birds have good credentials unlike that Merganser!

  2. Wildfowl collections have a lot to answer for! We have almost eradicated Ruddys in Staffordshire which is amazing when you think we had flocks of 900 on one lake. I quite liked them. Couple of years ago I had a Falcated Duck on the duck count - gave me a few palpitations but was not accepted as genuine of course!


    1. Ha, the chequered history of the Ruddy Duck in the UK. Fabulous birds and an unjustified cull in my humble opinion.

      Always interesting how various Rarity Committees are so inconsistent in their appraisal of wildfowl records. Falcated Duck has a thought-provoking section by Keith Vinnicombe in Martin Garner's excellent 'Frontiers in Birding' book. Sounds like a few genuine vagrants occur.