Saturday, 4 February 2012

Oh My God, More Birds!!!

Much more of this and people will think they have stumbled upon a birding blog.... I would however like to point out that my fascist rant about Raymond the Unworthy drew the most comments I have ever had on a single post, ie way more than I have ever had about anything bird related. Therein lies a lesson I suspect, but anyway, it is time to move on.

As I type, it is snowing in Wanstead, although rather pathetically. The media (damn them!) has been building up this apocalyptic snow-storm for about a week now; it stands to reason that it is going to be a complete non-event. Today was very much not a non-event, which makes it an event I suppose. 2012 has continued to surprise with a series of completely unexpected and rather tasty birds. Though I rarely stray off patch, a few weeks ago a short excursion netted a rather smart Spanish Sparrow and a rather nice Dark-eyed Junco. Unseasonal to say the least. So when last week news broke of a Parrot Crossbill in Sussex, followed shortly after by, of all things, a Paddyfield Warbler should be wintering in India, naturally it followed that Bradders would be going for both of them at the weekend. OK, twist my arm then.....

Chunk McChunk?

Who cares what you assign it as? Quality.
Both birds were apparently early morning jobbies, which did not bode well. With negative news of the Warbler on Friday, and suspecting it could have succumbed the dreadful and apocalyptic conditions, we made the difficult decision to start with the Crossbill on the basis that this was more likely to get us a tick, whereas if we started with the Warbler we could easily dip both and come home empty-handed. Nick pitched up at my place at stupid o'clock, and we picked up the Monkey en route, making good time via -7.5c temperatures to Black Down in West Sussex. On arrival we learned that the Paddyfield Warbler was showing well.....

Not to worry, as soon the Crossbill came in and demonstrated to one and all why it had been picked out. The beak was immense, though not monumental - I guess there is a lot of variation - but the bird itself was extremely chunky, noticeably larger than the Common Crossbills it was associating with. Tick, I think. Crossbills are a funny one - I've seen large-billed Crossbills in the Caledonian pine forests, and without much thought bunged them down as Scottish, for no other reason than I felt they were commoner than Parrot, hence I was being conservative. Ahem. In reality, whilst perhaps not approaching the minefield that is Redpoll speciation, they are indistinct enough to probably not be doable in the field, so who knows what I saw. Does Scottish Crossbill travel? Are any large-billed Crossbills away from Abernethy automatically Parrot? Pass. I have no idea. Call it Parrot as that's the one I need, job's a goodun.

Some Geese. About 3 was the general concensus.
With numb toes we walked back to the car. Whoever said it was 3/4 of a mile probably runs a marathon in about half an hour. More like about 1/4 of a mile. I did not complain. A roadside bacon butty van was much appreciated, and we were soon a Pagham Harbour wondering why we were there. We had no chance, none. As we quietly froze, word came down from up the line that the Paddyfield had been seen at the far side of the reed bed. I don't mind admitting that I totally rubbished this notion as pure fantasy, and continued enjoying the Stonechats. A little while later, the same call was made. Whatever. We did however shuffle up to where these calls were coming from, though with little expectation. The location was described, and in fact was a lot closer than we had originally understood. Weeeeeellll, maybe then. And then Bradders called it out, mere yards from where the poor and much-maligned original spotter had said it was. Whoever you are, I apologise profusely. It wasn't actually in reeds at all, it was grubbing about in the grass. Get. In. Wow, a two tick day, who would have thought it? Great and fairly prolonged scope views were had by all, and then, with thoughts of the immense carpeting of snow due any minute (just looked outside again, still rubbish), we headed for home.

Cetti's Wren

I have saved the best bit 'til last. On the way back I made Bradders stop at the Basin. It's mostly frozen now, and was crammed with wildfowl. And what was there? Two Wigeon? Three Wigeon? Four? No!! Five Wigeon!! Yes, FIVE Wigeon. That's a flock! Superb stuff!

A portion of FLOCK


  1. A great account and what a good quality list of birds there and some nice shots.

  2. The geese photo is simply...brilliant