Pied Wagtails are unquestionably the finest birds that I didn’t get to add to my life list this trip.
I’d seen them three years ago, when the Inimitable Todd had first traveled to Scotland in quest of science fiction books and Scotch. Driving on the wrong side of the road through quaint loch-side villages and passes with names like Rest and Be Thankful (we did,) we were both enchanted by the landscape.
I hadn’t brought my binoculars, but a few birds make it so it doesn’t matter. Herons. Robins. And, when we stopped by the side of a loch to admire the landscape, a handful-sized black and white bird with a tail that could have served as the counterweight on a grandfather clock. (Well, a grandfather pocket-watch.)
This confiding little critter wandered up and down the rock wall practically to my feet, and even my seriously outdated Peterson’s left me with no doubt that it was a Pied Wagtail – the British subspecies of the White Wagtail Motacilla alba.
There is nothing in North America that really resembles a Wagtail – sure, we have ground-feeding birds, and birds with twitches (as opposed to birds that get twitched,) and birds that hang around paved areas scaring up food, but none of them has quite the sleek, natty put-together look of the Pied Wagtail. I hoped sincerely to see them again on my return to Britain.
Did I succeed? Stay tuned to my next installment, in which we learn just how awkward and autistic I can be while looking at the most graceful and elegant creatures on earth! (Those would be the birds – no offense, Charlie!)