I caught the overnight ferry back to Aberdeen and headed straight back into the Cairngorms to continue filming. The weather hadn't changed and I struggled to get any other decent footage of my target species so I'll definitely have to return in March. In the meantime I hit the forests and connected with all the expected specialities (including Capercaillie and Crossbills) but failed with Golden Eagle.
A week later and I had an assignment due but managed to wangle some free time to go to Ireland for the day. Unfortunately myself and Stuart Piner failed miserably to see the adult drake Baikal Teal at Tacumshin Lake (Co. Wexford) despite searching the area thoroughly. Nonetheless there was a nice selection of birds present including the juvenile female Northern Harrier frequently hunting the marsh.
Once the assignment was done and dusted, I went back south to surprise Emma for valentines (who said romance was dead?). There were a few things I wanted to see whilst back in the south so headed off to East Sussex with Lee Fuller for the residing adult winter Bonaparte's Gull (16th). It wasn't showing as well as I had hoped for photography but I still couldn't really complain. On the way home we stopped at Goring for the Snow Bunting and then finally Emsworth for the resident Spotted Redshank; both were far more obliging. And the Great Grey Shrike finally gave itself up at Beaulieau Road Station (17th) with presumably the same male Hen Harrier quartering the heath.
Being February I really didn't expect there to be much else going on on the birding front this month. I was given some work for the week whilst in Hampshire; very handy I thought, that was until the drake Harlequin Duck on the Outer Hebrides broke. Bugger. If I was in Carlisle I would've left for this bird immediately but in this case I had to wait till the weekend. It was a long week but the bird lingered on so myself, Kev Hale, David Campbell and Gordon Beck made the overnight journey to the Isle of Skye to catch the ferry to North Uist. Whilst at Uig we were treated to fantastic aerial displays from a White-tailed Eagle giving two Golden Eagles some serious grief for at least thirty minutes!
Once on North Uist we dashed to Balranald RSPB where we promptly located the Harlequin Duck diving and preening near off shore rocks. A truly stunning bird to stay the least, even if it wasn't quite in full adult plumage just yet. Unfortunately my photos of the bird simply don't do it justice! Also on the same beach was a flighty 1st winter Glaucous Gull, 20+ Purple Sandpiper, 200+ Linnet and Twite with what looked like a Greenland-type Redpoll amongst them briefly before the flock were flushed by a hunting Merlin.