22nd March 2019
Monday 18th March, 2019, was my birthday and we had decided to go out for the day with my good lady choosing Aultbea, a two hour excursion, but when you live remotely on the west coast, everywhere is a fair drive.In Mellon Charles there is a shallow reedy pool/lochan which had looked promising on a previous visit, so I decided to check it out. There is an access road and parking area nearby, providing an open view of the fringes of the lochan. As always, I was driving quietly with an eye on the water and saw the drake Blue-winged Teal with the naked eye before I had even stopped the car. It was one of these eureka moments and I suspect several unrepeatable expletives were uttered, before I manoeuvred the vehicle into a position where I could see the bird clearly with binoculars. Drake Blue-winged Teal, with their white crescent shaped markings on either side of a dark head and bill are almost unmistakeable, even moreso at distances of 30/40 metres. There was little need to consult a guidebook or take detailed notes. I have become an opportunist photographer for moments like this, and was amazed to find that in the ensuing 45 minutes I rattled off nearly 500 images. Because the car was used as a hide, the bird behaved quite naturally, dabbling and surface feeding, at one stage down to 15 metres before swimming to the far side of the lochan. There were other wildfowl on the loch including a female Shoveler, quite rare in the north west Highlands. Blue-winged Teal is a rare vagrant from North America and this is only the third record for the Highland area. A very happy birthday indeed.