Twitching Yellowlegs


BIRDING.  The joy of going out watching birds, any birds the more the merrier.  Could be in the garden, park, nature reserve, anywhere really.

TWITCHING.  Going specifically to see a rare bird.  The name derives from the nervous twitch that comes on as you near your destination.

DIPPING.  Not seeing that rare bird you dropped everything to rush off to.

MEGA.  A very rare bird.

Back in the day I used to have a radio pager that would give me up to the minute information and directions to all the rare birds in the Country.  I gave up the pager due to cost but still receive weekly emails.  Whilst reading this week’s offerings a headline caught my eye, a ‘mega’ in the neighbouring County of Suffolk and at the same site another major rarity!  Checked the old interweb and both were still present on Wednesday.  Now, I haven’t been twitching since 2016 when the Lemming used to accompany me (Mrs H didn’t like the crowds and madness involved).  But I have a bit of spare time on my hands and an old urge came over me, no faffing around to get ready for work, the joy of retirement!  So as the Ramones sang “Hey ho lets go!”

“You little beauty!” The object of my ‘twitch’ Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca)

After a 50+ mile drive (Disclaimer.  I was travelling to exercise so not strictly breaking lockdown rules 😉) I was faced with a mile hike (the exercise bit!) on a wind swept shingle ridge to reach the shore pools the bird was on.  Was I getting that nervous twitch?  Slightly, some old feelings never fade away.  Half way I met a returning birder “It’s showing down to 20 feet”, relief, I could see a small group of people up ahead, let’s hope it doesn’t discover it’s wings.

Eye on the prize. The Greater Yellowlegs spots lunch

I can imagine some of my American readers thinking “Oh it’s only a Greater Yellowlegs” but put into context this is only the thirtieth of this species to be found in the UK and for me it is a ‘lifer’ a first sighting.  The shorebirds, also called waders, are my favourite family of birds and are not always found on shores or wading! (see And now, with this very confiding bird, I have seen 62 species.

“Show us your legs! Yep they’re yellow”

I did mention at the beginning there were two rare birds present.  When your lucks in.  After a couple of hours snapping away at our American visitor the other flew in landing on an island in the pool.  It was an Eastern Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla tschutschenis  try saying that after a couple of beers!).  This gorgeous little bird had pitched up on our east coast all the way from eastern Siberia or Alaska.  Sadly it stayed out of range of my lens, I have a record shot and if you squint you can see what it is.  I had thought I might post the image but no, it’s a bit poor to be truthful.  Oh I might as well but don’t laugh!

That yellow blur is really an Eastern Yellow Wagtail, honestly

Have a great week!

43 thoughts on “Twitching Yellowlegs

      1. That’s the spirit (aka strategy), get the Brownie points in and then you’re really a free man! My Mrs H is letting me go walking again tomorrow – these good ones are hard to come by, so we have to look after them!
        P.S. We had 2 birds around the other day which looked very similar to Bonelli’s Warblers and 5 Long-tailed Tits on the bird feeder. Birds have been quite scarce for the past few months, but the weather is turning and I sense the numbers and types are increasing.

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  1. Lovely delicate light – particularly on the first and third pics. And what a beautiful bird – in good condition too consider how far it’s come. How did that happen? Anyway, two megas sounds like a very good twitching day out. Nice one!

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    1. The light was a bit hit and miss all day, mostly cloudy then the sun pops out for a few minutes. I wanted the sun to get the glint in the eye but too much and it burned out the white in the plumage, anyway I got enough shots to pick the best and the first is my favourite.
      It was one of those days to remember.

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  2. How wonderful you have seen the Greater Yellowlegs!! I totally know excited you are for I was just as excited to see the Ruff that turned left and wintered in Silicon Valley and returned for several years! It may still…time will soon tell.

    I also get the ID image. I have loads of those blurry shots kept just for ID purposes and for me.

    Congratulations on the Lifers! What a great day of birding, and thanks for the Brit Birding Vocab! 😀 I don’t think we have anything like that.

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    1. Thanks Deborah it was a memorable day. I’ve been waiting a long time to see a Greater Yellowlegs, seen a couple of Lessers for some reason they turn up over here frequently. Have you seen the Ruff in his breeding plumage? Now that’s a smart critter. We get them here and the range of colours is impressive. The females (Reeve) looks a completely different species.

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  3. Yes! I can feel that twitch as well and those Yellowlegs are worth seeing. Two great captures, Brian. Hope next time the Eastern Yellow Wagtail comes a little bit closer to you, … gives you twitches😉

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    1. Always so exciting to see new birds Greta!
      I’m happy I saw the Wagtail and not too bothered I could not get a nice photo, it was a lovely little bird which I saw clearly in my binoculars so I have the memory.

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  4. Congratulations! Two life birds is a good day in anyone’s book – twitcher or not!

    Based on your definition, I reckon I must be at least a partial “twitcher” as I certainly get that feeling on every trip, rare bird or not!

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      1. You are right, they are sometimes out there around us and we don’t even know it! Couple days ago I was photographing pelicans and a tern kept flying around/with them, so I shot it too. Last night looking at them, it’s a tern species not on my lifer list. 💃 (post soon! 😉 )

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    1. Exciting indeed Dries! Winter plumage waders are difficult as they are mostly shades of grey. I spent many, many hours in the company of the ‘old school’ experts (most sadly now passed) and learned a great deal, studied the best field guides available yet still I can see a bird and it has me scratching my head for an id!


  5. Nicely done B! I hit the pictures first and recognized the bird (a rarity for me with the subjects you bring us) and then got to your words to find out how rare it was over there. Had to feel good to get back out there after a bird – some feelings never go away ha. As you know, I have no issues with a blurry shot especially if it is the only one you could get – you have already seen some of my “finger painting” shots as I like to call them (I can still see all the key markings in your shot) – I keep telling nonbirders that it is a bit difficult getting birds to behave in front of the camera. Note, I really like that first shot – wall hanger for sure

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    1. Happy days B. Yes it was good to get out after a lifer (or two) but better not make a habit of it or Mrs H might give me hell! I managed loads of shots of the Yellowlegs which really did come as close as twenty feet so not to nail the Wagtail didn’t bother me, however if we were not in lockdown and the stores open I would have had the 600 and things would have been a lot different!
      So glad you like the 1st image, I’m so pleased with that one the light was just right it had been a bit hit and miss all morning.

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