Sunday 27 January 2013

Drive-by shooting

Birders often describe non-birders as 'members of the public', particularly when they suspect the member of the public in question doesn't know one end of a bird from the other. So when a Hoopoe was reported by a member of the public in Hamworthy, many assumed that a 'pinkish bird with crest' was a Jay or maybe a Waxwing at best. But after a couple of days of phantom sightings, some diligent cruising of the backstreets by some non-members of the public eventually produced an indisputable report complete with photo.

Suburban twitching throws up some weird street name combinations. The Hoopoe had been in Annet Close, so when I saw Samson Road I thought maybe the theme was the Isles of Scilly...
The next street was Goliath Road, so clearly not an Isles of Scilly theme. Herons perhaps?
Then it dawned on me: of course! The hits of Tom Jones!
Hamworthy is a large suburb of Poole, characterised by long circuitous avenues with myriad cul-de-sacs, and about a million lawns kept with varying degrees of fastidiousness. The Hoopoe seemed determined to visit them all, but none for very long, and ranged over a wide area. Other birders had made 5 or 6 visits and put up to 15 hours into seeing this bird without success - kerb-crawling in their own words - so I joined the effort on Saturday afternoon more in hope than expectation. After the best part of 3 hours aimless taxi-ing, I had drawn a blank.

Hoopoe was not the only bird on the lawns of Hamworthy. Redwing were also in the area.
During this time I was getting increasingly quizzical looks from the occupants of a police car whose beat I appeared to be following - we passed each other at least 4 times. Another birder, whose name I've withheld for legal reasons, was actually pulled over by them for suspected Hoopoe-bothering, but a flash of his Collins Guide saw him get off with a caution.

Another lawn, another bird. A Fieldfare this time.
Most reports of the Hoopoe had been from one of two main residential areas and, having searched both pretty comprehensively, my last throw of the dice was to try a smaller area between the two where I could not recall the bird being reported previously. It was a good move as I stumbled across it feeding on a front lawn next to the road. I got the news out quickly and despite reinforcements arriving within 10 minutes the bird had flown before anyone else could see it, making mine the only sighting yesterday as far as I am aware. Unless, of course, some 'members of the public' saw it. The car was the perfect hide in this situation, and I took some quick drive-by shots in the fading light. Fortunately the bird was present in the same area today allowing most of the locals to finally catch up with it.
The notorious Hamworthy Hoopoe - on the run, giving Dorset's finest the slip.
After no luck with all that Biblical Samson and Delilah Street nonsense, I eventually found the Hoopoe in the reassuringly rational vicinity of Dawkins Road
The bird seemed to be feeding well...
...but was present for just 5 minutes before flying off and wasn't seen again before dusk.

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