Bean there, done that

In which Bitter Bonxie emerges blearily from his winter hibernation, shakes the taste of stale Kittiwake from his beak, and resumes normal service…

 Welcome back. It’s been ages since I last bothered to write anything on here. That’s probably for the best, as there’s only so much comic potential to be wrought from tales of unsuccessful King Eider and White-billed  Diver hunting. And only so many photos of Iceland and Glaucous Gulls a readership (that’s both of you) can take. Or for that matter a birder can take while remaining sane in the short winter days. Suffice to say I’ve seen a few Iceland and Glaucous Gulls this winter.  There’s no way I can pretend I’m a great gull fan. They’re… well, they’re just birds. One man’s Yellow-browed Warbler is another man’s Iceland Gull – you just get them here at the right time of year.

I certainly can’t pretend to understand the current vogue for “getting into gulls”. (Now there’s somewhere you don’t want to go, on so many levels). Any specialist field that feels the need to describe themselves with an “ophile” on the end of the prefix is usually a little bit… well… odd. Apart from the glaringly obvious example, we have bibliophiles, audiophiles, galanthophiles… and now the already somewhat anorakish pursuit of birding (be honest now, it’s hardly parkour or snowboarding) has specialised still further and gives us laridophiles. Oh yes. You’re not a Serious Birder unless you hang out in da tip with the big larids of a winter afternoon.

It’s that sort of casual, easy contempt that means I won’t be finding any rare gulls in the near future. Instead of actively looking for high Arctic gulls, I’ve been taking a leaf out of BT’s book, baiting the beach below the house with dead stuff and freezer rejects, and hoping one would come to me. Got a tidy head start with one of the neighbour’s sheep handily turning up it’s hooves there, and topped that up with assorted other goodies. All to no obvious effect whatsoever, apart from the ghoulish observation that in a cold, salt-laden atmosphere a dead sheep’s skin doesn’t rot, but instead turns into a sort of taut leather on the bones. Yummy.

First blood of the year on the isle goes to BM, who found a Tundra Bean Goose last weekend on a bare rig above the Houb. I had to wait a week before catching up with it on Saturday, though a week is a short time compared to when I last saw any Bean Geese, which would have been at least 7 winters ago on Romney Marsh. A nice bird, as geese go, and a small relief insofar as it’s never nice to be the last resident birder on the isle to be missing something the others have seen.



Other exciting bird news… is rather few and far between. In the spirit of RF and SM’s 2009 garden lists elsewhere on Shetland I’ve started one as well. It’s not going very well as yet, but had the potential Water Rail blocker inked in a few weeks back when we had a good snowfall that forced the terrible lurker into the open.  List currently stands on a very modest 37 species.