Hunt for Red-Necked Phalarope

We had heard there was a red-necked phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus) about. It had been seen in a small road side loch. For a week we drove by, lingering with binoculars, knowing it was there somewhere. It had to be. But the weather was rough, winds were harsh and this migrant from the Pacific had hunkered down.

This small bird was special. The summer months were spent on Shetland, the males incubating eggs and rearing the young while the colourful female enjoyed herself attracting new mates. Migrating in the autumn, they initially head north to Greenland and then travel down the east coast of America to the Caribbean before cutting across to Peru and Ecuador; an epic 16000 mile round trip. Even more epic given their size, they are also the only migratory birds on Shetland known to head west.

As we were about to give up, we finally found her. Tucked amongst the reeds asleep, she was spotted. It was then a waiting game. Had she just dropped off or was she due to wake from her slumber and go for a potter around her summer loch. We gave it a while until eventually a noise across the valley woke her. Nervously she emerged for a very short while before heading behind the reeds. A short encounter but enough to say I have seen a red-necked phalarope in the U.K. even if the evidence is grainy and distant!


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