Monday 2 January 2012

New Year, New Forest

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.
Brockenhurst is less than an hour from home but it was still gone 1430 when we got there. On arrival there had been no sign for the best part of an hour, and people were wandering off looking disappointed. Within 15 minutes, however, a shout went up when a small flock of Reed Bunting flushed from the long grass and among them, perched distantly in a dead tree against the light, was what I suspected to be the Junco. Advancing a few yards I adjusted my angle to get some trees in the background and confirm my suspicions.
It flew a couple more times but each time remained perched in view on landing, and eventually flew back to the trees near the Hawkhill car park. Luckily it landed fairly close allowing some prolonged views and digiscoping attempts - a photo tick for me - although the light was by now fading and the bird was often partially obscured by branches. It was never easy to see well, but perhaps birders' expectations are getting too high as I didn't think it deserved the 'elusive' tag attached to it in the pager messages throughout this afternoon.
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!

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