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Wader's epic journey

WE are pleased to add a new name to the roll call of Scotland's natural wonders.

Step forward the red-necked phalarope which, though it may sound like a derogatory term from the southern United States, is actually a tiny bird from Shetland which has thrilled the scientific community.

It has just been discovered that the phalarope in question - a delicate wader, one of the UK's rarest breeding birds now only found in Shetland and the Western Isles - makes a 16,000-mile round trip every year to winter on the Pacific coast of Peru. Scientists say the journey made by this feathered phenomenon has never before been recorded for any other European breeding bird. They have described it as one of the world's great avian migrations.

A tracking device fitted to one of 10 birds nesting on the Shetland island of Fetlar shows it flew across the Atlantic, down the eastern seaboard of America, across the Caribbean and Mexico, ending up off the coast of Peru. After wintering in the Pacific, it returned, following a similar route.

Its remarkable stamina is to be admired. As, of course, is its good taste in its choice of a summer home.

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