After at least three false starts at weekends we finally decided to go up on Saturday the 16th for the Harlequin which has spent a few months on the River Don in Aberdeen, now this is a 8hour drive from us so we decided to stop one night in Aberdeen. However as with our previous attempts there was no sign of the bird Friday and Saturday morning…. so once again we reluctantly decided to put it off. However mid afternoon on Saturday the bird was present again so we decided to head up on Sunday (17th). We got up and after a couple of abortive starts (don’t ask!) we set off up north on a beautiful sunny afternoon. The miles passed by and in the late evening of the 17th we pulled up above Grandholm Bridge which crosses the River Don in northern Aberdeen. The light was fading but we had decided to have one quick look from the bridge before heading to our digs and getting a nights sleep. We walked onto the bridge, looked over into a small patch of rocks and lo and behold there he was, dozing amongst the rocks along with a couple of Goosander and a Mallard with young! We watched him for about half an hour as he rested and then headed off to our digs confident he would still be there in the morning.
The weather Saturday night on the telly predicted heavy rain clearing in the mid morning to sunshine, so we were nicely suprised in the am to wake to a sunny morning. We headed back to the bridge… could we find him… No of cause not!
Anyway after a few walks up and down the Granholm/Persley section, seeing loads of Dipper and Grey Wags (and getting to know every other duck on that section personally I think!) we went and checked Seaton Park etc (lovely Kingfisher in there showing well) but no sign.
River Don below Persley Bridge.
Time pressure was telling now as we had the 8 hour drive back to think about so reluctantly we had just decided to call it a day and head south when the heavens opened. We put off the start of the drive back over the border for an hour or so, and therefore retreated to Tescos across the Persley Bridge to have a spot of lunch before going home. However whist doing this we made the decision to have “just one more” go at the rapids section just up river of Grandholm bridge before leaving. After walking up the north side of the river opposite the “big iron wheels” this time and although seeing another Kingfisher and the usual cast of Dippers, Grey Wags and Goosanders, we still had no luck, but the rain was easing and we decided to have one last walk up the opposite bank just in case…
Big industrial ironwork..not sure what it was for.
By now my t’other half was convinced we were not going to see the bird again (to be honest so was I!) and he had literally just got those words out of his mouth, when I raised my bins and there the little so and so was, just above the rapids, what relief, and then the sun came out to make it all the better! Where had the little devil been all morning (or had we missed him tucked under the bank or behind a rock?)? We spent a happy three quarters of an hour watching him feed and rest on a rock in the middle of the river…. leaving for the journey south as he moved a little further up stream and begun to feed actively.
1st Summer Drake Harlequin.
This photo is my favorite, I like the strong, intense colours and the rushing water effect….
My favorite Photo of the Harlequin.
My video… click to watch in HD as for some reason its rubbish unless you do!
River Don (Harlequin on rock in middle of river!).
Now when he got out of the water he definitely has a limp and and therefore issue with one leg, but he was standing ok, and feeding actively. His older feathers look somewhat worn and brown (inc wings and parts of his tail) so maybe he wont go far at all.
Now Harlequin has been a long time desire for my UK list, I even got into trouble by painting one in my O level art classes (not a suitable subject apparently). Circumstances have always conspired to thwart previous attempts and I have to admit I wanted to see a male so so very happy now!
However our trip to Aberdeen wasn’t fully over as we decided to nip (!) over to the harbour to see the Bottlenose Dolphins, which duly showed in the harbour mouth and have a quick walk round Footdee (this contains one of the best collections of “Shedage” I’ve ever seen!).
On the journey home, we only reached Mussleborough near Edinburgh before fatigue set in and we stopped for the night in a Travel Lodge! The rest of the journey home was on Tuesday and included bits of sight seeing along the way!
Coast near Eyemouth.
Fishing Boat and gulls.
Grey Seals. (taken from the A1!).