I’m off to the north today on the trail of Red-Necked Phalaropes. Yes, I know, it’s a silly name, isn’t it? I’ve packed a cheese roll. Not just any old cheese roll, though. It’s baked on Westray at The Westray Bakehouse, with cheese from the Westray farm at Noltland, Wilsons of Westray. That’s all as local as you can get. Just to add a touch of sweetness I’ve added some cotognata, a jammy ‘leather’ I’ve made from quinces which is tangy and delicious. I’ve also got a flask of strong tea in my pack.
I’m expecting them to be difficult to photograph. I have binoculars with me and see them from a distance. I say ‘them’, there’s only one. I spend a full half an hour crawling up to it like a snake. I’m using the most of the slight undulations in the terrain as there’s no natural cover at all. I’m desperately hoping it won’t fly. It’s a tiny, delicate, busy bird.
Finally I get to the edge of the pool it’s in and I’m thrilled that I haven’t disturbed it. I get a shot. Fabulous.
What a beautiful bird. It’s moving up and down in front of me and giving insanely clear views.
I find that I can move up and down with it and it takes no notice of me. I sit up and pour a cup of tea and it’s only a few feet away, minding its own business. I get my cheese sandwich out and ponder, as I munch, and it struts past.
I could have just walked straight up to it and yet I’ve just spent half an hour anxiously crawling on my belly towards it. My sandwich tastes so much better for the effort I put in, even though it was completely unnecessary. It’s time for a cup of tea and a laugh at myself. It’s one of my main occupations.