News of this bird broke on 26 October 1998, while James McGill and I were looking for a White’s Thrush on Lewis (which we saw, though that twitch is worthy of a tale in itself another time). We were in despair – we hadn’t seen the White’s Thrush at that point, and could hardly have been further away if we’d tried. It had been 10 years since the last twitchable American Robin, and the easy mainland birds of recent years were then in the unknowable future. To make matters worse the previous one had been near Aberdeen while I was at Aberdeen University, but also while I was away for Christmas, so I completely missed out. We tried to find an option for the next day, but all flights had booked up while we were incommunicado on Lewis, so we had to sit it out a day and go on Wednesday 28th. I even got a day’s work in, though my mind wasn’t really on it.
The weather was dicey, and worries about flights put a lot
of people off, it seems, but in the end it was fine and by late morning we were
on Barnaby Lane on Aggie. The bird had been seen, but had gone missing. An
anxious wait, then suddenly there was an orange-red patch in the hedge of the
field we were looking in. There it is! It dropped down and began feeding in the
field. I had seen lots of them in the States, but it was the first one James
had ever seen, and he was blown away – it was a first-winter male, and a really
nice example of the species.
The White’s Thrush had already disappeared, so we couldn’t
help but sympathise with the guy who put out the message ‘Lift offered from
Ullapool to Penzance’ that night. A horrendous double dip awaited him, as the
robin too went overnight, but we had managed to get both birds by the skin of