Earlier this week, I had the brief opportunity to visit Caithness in Scotland, for my first trip 'off island' since arriving on Orkney in December. The weather was absolutely peachy, barely a breath of wind and glorious day-long sunshine. As I drove to the ferry, the North Sea and Scapa Flow, on either side of the Churchill Barriers, were flat calm. The low morning sun produced some wonderful lighting on the reed beds at Loch of Graemeshall, but I didn't not have time to tarry and admire the view or look through the flocks of birds assembled on the water. The 60 minute ferry crossing was as smooth as anticipated, so I was able to risk a bacon sarnie, without any fear of consequences.
Once back on the Scottish mainland, the journey to Dunbeath took about an hour. During the drive, I was surprised at how less green the landscape looked compared to the Orcadian fields around our home, just a scant few miles away across the Pentland Firth.
On arrival in Dunbeath, I was startled by a somehow strange, yet oddly familiar, sight... a thronging bird table and feeders. The air was filled with birdsong and the sounds of squabbling over a precious resource. Colourful avian characters jostled one another for nuts and seeds in a continual feeding frenzy of wings and beaks. It occurred to me that I had made a trip from one county to another, a journey of several hours, at no small expense, and was now clocking up new species for the year at an alarming rate. This sounded awfully like the definition of a twitch, that much-maligned and idiosyncratic behaviour beloved of way-too-serious birders. Bloomin' heck, Tense, get a grip of yourself!
So what were these rare and precious creatures that were exercising my eyes and ears?
Er... Blue Tit... Great Tit... Coal Tit... Goldfinch... Dunnock... and Song Thrush. Impressive, huh?
I hadn't seen any of that lot since leaving England three months ago!