I was planning to take Brian to Marsh Lane NR last weekend to show him round my newly discovered reserve. However, on Friday news broke that a scarce visitor - a Dusky Warbler - had been spotted at the reserve. Brian isn't really "into twitching" and I decided as the reserve would probably be rather busy and there would be no guarantee of even getting in the car park, it might be best to leave his first visit until things quietened down.
Monday, however, was a beautiful sunny day and I found I could resist temptation no longer and in the afternoon I paid the Reserve a visit. The recent sighting of Dusky Warbler is only the second record for the West Midlands area - the first being way back in 1996 at Sheepwash Urban Park.
"To twitch or not to twitch?" that is always the question. To be honest I don't do it very often and usually, with a couple of exceptions, its only local twitches I attend. The first I went on was years and years ago when the children were little and I'd heard that Waxwings had been spotted on a certain road in Halesowen (about a hour away). I had never seen Waxwings and eventually persuaded Brian and the children to go. We were very lucky to get really good sightings of this beautiful species and it wasn't really like attending a twitch as we had the site to ourselves for the first hour. David and Emily couldn't get over how tame the birds were - you could walk under the trees as they were feeding without disturbing them. I've twitched Waxwings several times since locally and, after that first wonderful occasion, have always felt a bit disappointed even if the birds were present. It seemed like "cheating" somehow. In recent years though I have been lucky enough to find my own Waxwing flock twice locally and have been totally over the moon - experiencing a very different feeling to attending a waxwing twitch.
The second long distance twitch I eventually persuaded Brian to attend was in Herefordshire in July, 2005, to see nesting Bee-eaters. Unfortunately, when we arrived we discovered that sadly for the Bee-eaters the nest had been predated by a fox the day before and the pair had disappeared. It wasn't a wasted journey though as we watched, entranced, as a Dunnock fed a recently fledged cuckoo nearby which certainly made up for missing the Bee-eaters and then had Sunday lunch in a nearby pub called "The Bunch of Carrots"!!
I've often rushed off to local Shustoke Reservoir on hearing of a rare bird there but always seem to "dip" on the bird in question at this location. To be honest because I am always so unlucky there I trend to um and aah for days and by the time I do make the effort I find the bird has long flown! The only "rarity" I did manage to see there was a Black-throated Diver which was a life "tick" for me.
Once I dragged the family off to a place near Tamworth called Alvecote Pools in search of a Firecrest. This was really quite embarrassing as the children were teenagers and really had no wish to be there - in fact daughter was dressed in clothes more suited for a night club than a country walk and no - I didn't find the Firecrest :(
In 2009 I attended another local twitch in nearby Coleshill when a Black Redstart had been spotted at an Industrial site - my daughter again insisted on coming along with me and then refused to budge from the car so I didn't get to see the bird that day. I returned (on my own!!! ) the following day and was successful.One thing I've noticed from attending twitches is that you rarely see other females. Luckily on local twitches many of the faces are familiar to me as they tend to be people I've seen on local reserves even if I've never spoken to them but they always make you feel welcome.
More recently I was very tempted by a fairly local Hoopoe sighting (thanks Stewart :) ) but it was when my back was bad and for the same reason I missed out on another Hoopoe in Oxfordshire.
Anyway I digress... the car park at Marsh Lane was only a little busier than usual and there was no-one around and I really wasn't 100 per cent certain where to go to actually look for the warbler so I visited Car Park Hide first of all - picking up a new bird for me at the reserve - a Little Grebe. Luckily someone was leaving the hide as I entered and I was able to find out exactly where the rarity had last been seen.
View from Car Park Hide - lovely blue skies :)
Walking along the Old Road - lots of berries on the bushes and seedheads in the hedgerow. It was along this road that I saw Jays collecting acorns on my last visit.
Cygnet on Pool
The warbler had been seen on a part of the reserve I hadn't visited before along what is called the old "concrete" road. Reading the Reserve newsletters this is a good area for butterflies especially Small and Essex Skippers so now I know where to go next summer! Although the sad news is that this part of Marsh Lane will be disappearing under HS2 if it ever goes ahead :(
You can see the twitchers in the distance -
Did I get to see the bird? Well yes, I did although only fleeting glimpses as it spent most of its time hiding amongst ivy leaves and only emerging occasionally. The best views were when it flew into a nearby oak tree and there was a very helpful man on the "front row" calling out instructions as to location whenever it moved!!
Dusky Warblers (Phylloscopus fuscatus) are leaf warblers that breed in East Asia and migrate to SE Asia for the winter - so it was quite a bit off course!
I didn't manage to get even a record shot (the photo below shows the ivy covered trees where it spent most of its time) which wasn't surprising as even the men with the "big lenses" and extortionately priced cameras were I think struggling. But imagine a warbler similar to a Chiffchaff with a white supercilium.
There are some photos on this website http://www.birdguides.com/species/species.asp?tx=1320 - apologies for non-working link please just copy and paste.
So, all in all, I am glad I went - had a lovely walk in the autumnal sunshine and had a life "tick"!