At last the notoriously unpredictable Greater Yellow Legs seemed to have settled into some sort of routine, showing daily at Titchfield Haven for a whole week. With a free day Saturday, this was my chance to add it to the British life list.
I picked Dave J up at 06.00 and headed for Hampshire. Knowing that the Titchfield reserve doesn't open until 09.30 we made the 1st stop of the day the quayside at Southampton. Here we quickly picked out the Bonapartes Gull feeding fairly distantly on the mud.
Not much else of note here, just a pair of Australian Black Swans, So with an easy year tick banked, the mood was positive and we set off for Titchfield Haven. Although the reserve was not yet open a decent crowd had assembled along the Beach Road where the bird can often be seen from without getting ripped off for £4. No sign of our bird but given it's regularity all week it was surely just a waiting game..... wasn't it? A curious phenomenon unfolded before us as the sea rose steadily behind us and the pool in front of us drained to reveal large mud banks. Weird but surely not a bad thing in terms of luring our quarry in to feed. It has reportedly been associating with Black Tailed Godwits, so when 8 of these dropped onto the mud it was looking promising. But the hours passed, the Godwits buggered off, the pool filled up with water again, great clouds of midges enshrouded us and the GYL was nowhere to be seen. A number of people had gone onto the reserve to search from the hides but the news was all negative. A brief cameo appearance from a Water Rail, an incubating Med Gull and another Black Swan were as good as it got.
It was time for that most frustrating of dilemmas. In the words of The Clash, "should I stay or should I go now?" In an attempt to apply some logic to a totally unguessable situation we decided to cut our losses. The changing water table of the marsh had gone full circle as we watched, without tempting in our bird. We could always turn back if news broke of the bird appearing.
Both myself and Dave (founder of the 'London Peregrine Partnership' http://london-peregrine-partnership.org.uk/) are self confessed 'raptorphiles' and a female Red Footed Falcon was performing along the coast in Wareham Dorset. This could be a more than adequate consolation. As I drove, Dave took on the not inconsiderable task of ridding the van of the myriad midges and bugs we'd acquired on our persons at Titchfield. On our arrival the Falcon had gone missing. Here we go again!!! A couple of Lesser Whitethroats were having a sing-off as were a couple of Cettis Warblers and a few Reed Warblers. A number of beautiful Banded Demoiselles were lurking amongst the reeds. Beautiful but also Red Footed Falcon bait I hoped. A Little Gull was another notch on the year list.
A small Falcon appeared flying high towards us. It was lost to view behind trees and despite looking a good candidate, the head-on angle and height made it difficult to rule out hobby. But soon after the Red Foot was located perched in a dead tree. Probably the same bird. We enjoyed distant views through the scope for 15mins or so before she took to the sky, thermalling up to where the flying insects were loitering in the warm sunshine. Showing off her skills she set about catching them in her talons or bill with equal success before flying off strongly across the water meadows. Typically poor record shots below.
So two raptorholics headed happily homewards. The Yellow Legs didn't show all day so the right decision was made. Who needs Yankee Waders anyway? Oh yes me!!! Another time maybe.