This is probably where I get my affinity with our northern wild vagrants too, and so far I have been very pleased ( and lucky) to catch up with Snowy Owl, Ivory and Ross's Gulls, Stellers and King Eiders, Arctic Redpolls, Snow and Lap Bunts, Bluethroats, Waxwings, Shorelarks and even Orca all on the mainland UK.
But, for the discerning observer, there is more than these pager darlings to set the pulse racing - the sub-species. Northern races of our own familiar hedgerow birds.
Since I was a kid out in the woods and fields with 'Old Geordie' we looked for and found Mealy Redpolls and I longed to see a big brutish glowing Northern Bullfinch or those white headed Long tailed Tits. The old handbook and of course my early mentor looked at these races almost as if they were good species in their own right.
Living in Northumberland I suppose we are quite well placed to catch up with these birds and since those early days I have found several big bullies, and lots of Mealy Redpolls ( 'Common Redpolls' never).
This week I hear that another of my 'most wanted' has hit the headlines. Northern Treecreeper. A lovely, frosty, classic example is at Flamborough, and what a bird. If these are being overlooked we should be ashamed. Do you look at Treecreepers? I know I do, because for years, between October and March, I've hoped that one day I might come across one with a Swedish accent in some local coastal scrub or woodland. ( our garden is ideal!)
In the late 80's DIM Wallace mentioned this form in an early edition of Bird Watching magazine, and I was inspired all over again.
I know that Mr Wallace's ideas are not to modern tastes, but the man is very perceptive and open minded. I wonder if the Willow Tit will ever be found? One day maybe.... In the mean time, this weekend I'm going to check my local Long tailed Tit flocks, they often carry Treecreepers with them...
And who knows, maybe a snow ball Long tailed Tit too!