5 weeks ago
Sunday, 22 January 2012
Friday, 13 January 2012
Wednesday, 11 January 2012
...was my initial thought on hearing that a 'probable' Spanish Sparrow had been hiding among its Hampshire cousins for over a month in Calshot. With rumours of hybrids initially complicating the picture, the promise of queueing with tetchy twitchers to get crap views through a condensation-soaked conservatory window, even for a bird of this rarity, really didn't appeal. I was sure Calshot was very nice, but the odds of Steve Akers style hospitality, with ground coffee, croissants and comfy chairs, Chipping Norton style, seemed slim. Given all this and the likelihood of a long-staying bird, I thought I would give it a few days before attempting a twitch. Then I remembered that the next few weekends might be compromised by visits from family and friends. It also emerged that the bird could in fact be seen from the wide open spaces of a public road, so a soup-kitchen style twitch might not be necessary after all.
By Tuesday I was contemplating a Wednesday afternoon attempt, but the offer of a lift from fellow Dorset birder and near neighbour Jol Mitchell persuaded me to take this morning off work instead. It was an excellent decision, as we arrived on site shortly before 0800, saw the bird at 0805 and watched it on and off for the next hour or so with a good-natured gathering. This was in turn watched from a safe distance by two of the key ingredients of an urban twitch in the early 21st century: bemused pensioners, themselves twitching behind net curtains and shaking their heads as if to say 'is this really why we went to war?'; and cocky schoolchildren, snapping away at the crowd with their smartphones so they can post photos labelled 'peedo' (sic) on Facebook. Such is the state of education in Britain today.
The initial views were difficult as the bird remained in a hedge, but a tick was gradually assembled as black chevrons on the breast and flanks revealed themselves, followed by the chestnut crown, white cheeks and narrow white line either side of the eye. It eventually made its way to the top of the hedge before flying off to a garden feeder somewhere. It wasn't gone long though, and returned to perch briefly in the open to catch the first rays of the sun. The light was still too low for me to get sharp photos, with a 1/100th of a second shutter speed the best I could manage with a hand-held lens, but I was happy enough to get anything on film.
Having bid adios to one rarity (or perhaps hasta la vista, as I suspect 'I'll be back' if it lingers), there was time to revisit the nearby Dark-eyed Junco, which showed almost immediately. Calling Crossbills and a singing Woodlark added even more value, the latter making a warm morning feel almost like spring. The journey home was a breeze through the gloriously clear and crisp New Forest air, and with twitching this easy we had plenty of time to exchange tactics on how to build up domestic brownie points for when the next rarity arrives. I proudly showed my son my photos of the Spanish Sparrow this evening. His reaction - 'looks like a sparrow' - suggested he didn't quite share my joy at getting the first tick of 2012 before the middle of January.
|Spanish Sparrow: don't be shy.|
|Spanish Sparrow: that's better.|
|Dark-eyed Junco: a rare sparrow's fart from the hispaniolensis|
Monday, 9 January 2012
Rock Pipit was the most numerous bird on the beach at Kimmeridge this afternoon, living up to its name among the eroding cliffs and cracked ledges of this geologists paradise. A thinner call from the mobile flock eventually revealed a single Meadow Pipit slumming it among the seaweed with its beach boy cousins.
Sunday, 8 January 2012
|1st winter drake Scaup|
Monday, 2 January 2012
When news broke on New Year's Eve of a Dark-eyed Junco present in the New Forest since Christmas Eve, followed by negative news throughout New Year's Day, I started to think it might have been a hoax. Bad weather probably explained yesterday's non-appearance but someone fortunately persevered to relocate the bird by mid-morning today. We had visitors for New Year so an attempt yesterday or an early start today were out of the question, but having seen them safely off to Kent after lunch the rest of the family were persuaded that a trip to our nearest National Park might be worth it.
My only previous sighting of this species was a half-decent flight view of a calling bird in Somerset a couple of years ago, so to see this one perched today was a big improvement. It was also a relief to turn up to find room in the car park at a relatively modest twitch, only about 20 birders being present despite the rarity of this bird. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that the blogosphere has been full of worthy promises to stick to patch-watching etc come the New Year. Being the fickle sort, and having made no such rash promises, I was glad to be free to tart around a neighbouring county. I do hope to get some 'proper' birding done in 2012, but, for now, here's to tarting!