I made the trip to Aberdeen for the long staying 1st winter drake HARLEQUIN DUCK up on the River Don, a round trip of 1039.5 miles.
Leaving my house at 9am the plan was to take it easy on the way up, get to the hotel and sleep ready for #OperationHarlequin first thing on the Monday morning. I was lucky to have a kind journey up, with very little traffic, making it in good time.
By 5pm I was on the outskirts of Aberdeen and decided I should go straight to Papermill Drive as I would have about an hour of daylight left. I wasn't sure that I would see the duck that evening as a friend had told me it usually roosts down river in Seaton Park. After taking a few wrong turns around the one way streets of Aberdeen and going round in circles sightseeing, I finally arrived at around 5:20pm.
A little obstacle course of a steep bank and rough ground and I was on the Don. There was no sign in the first 15mins of frantically scanning the rapids that have become its home from home. I was then joined by another well known birder Steve Gantlett. We soon picked up the duck on the rapids, it had just been hiding, slightly obscured by the reed growing in the river. I watched it till it was dark, bobbing around in the fast flowing water and preening. I managed the digiscoped images here in the fading light. Steve and I were going to return the following morning to hopefully get better images.
I went off to my hotel just 2.6 miles up the road, Buxburn Travel Lodge, while Steve had his mobile camper van on site. I have to say I love the thought of having a camper like that. The beauty and freedom of just driving wherever you like, when you like, for as long as you like really appeals to me. The Travel Lodge I stayed in was close by, clean and it had a nice carvery on the same site. That's where I headed for food and few celebratory pints.
On the River Don by 7:30 am on the Monday, I was greeted by several Goosander of which I took a few digiscoped images. These are stunning birds and always a pleasure to see. In Herts I don't see that many and they are very uncommon on my local patch Amwell Nature Reserve.
Steve Gantlett soon joined me and we searched the river, there was no sign in the first hour or so. Steve and I exchanged numbers and he went off to Seaton Park to look for the bird, we could call each other if either one of us did locate the bird. I stayed put at Papermill Drive sitting on the bank digi kit ready. I could hear Dippers calling but hadn't see one yet. Then whizz..... One flew straight past and down river. Not too long to wait and one returned, landing on one of the rocks in front allowing me to rattle off a few photos. Absolutely love Dippers, what a great little bird.
The hours were passing and I had had no call nor any reason to call Steve As the duck was nowhere to be seen. I had to leave at lunch time to make the journey home. Steve arrived back at Papermill drive around 10:45am after extensively searching the Park and further down stream. There were also other birders looking for the duck. I left at 11 to start the drive home leaving Steve to continue his quest to get better images of the Harlequin.
The drive home was again kind, it was only the last 500 miles that I found hard ;). There was no sign of the bird on the Monday but it has since returned being reported on the bird news services on the Tuesday afternoon. Just glad I took the option to go straight to site and not to the hotel! Happy Days.
Very very enjoyable twitch and loved sitting by the river with the sounds of the rushing water and Dippers calling. You just can't beat connecting with nature, it's truly good for the soul. Below are a few more digiscoped images.