"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Twitching a "Lifer"

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"!


David Turner said...

Great stuff, it is always great to tick off any new species of bird (or indeed any other flora or fauna) isn't it, but a bird as rare as this is something really quite special :-)

I share your views about twitching and rarely travel more than 10 miles to see any bird and even then I think twice and like to wait until the initial rush of twitchers has died down. Indeed the last time I twitched was for some Waxwings in Hull last November.

Countryside Tales said...

How amazing to see a Dunnock feeding a Cuckoo- I would be made up to see that. We have so many cuckoos here but I've yet to see any chicks.

Sounds like your new reserve was well worth the wait for the permit and will yield wonderful things all year round.

Love the photo of the cygnet.

Margaret Adamson said...

HI RR Well that wasworth going on that twitch but I think you were right inmot takingBrian with you on his first visit to this MArch.

Em Parkinson said...

So pleased it was worth it - very envious!

Ragged Robin said...

David Turner - Many thanks :) Agree about waiting for initial rush to die down - from photos I've seen it was a lot busier there at the weekend! Glad I went Monday though and didn't leave it any longer because I don't think there were any sightings yesterday.

Countryside Tales - Many thanks :) Its the one and only time I've seen a young cuckoo being fed - certainly made up for lack of Bee-eaters!

Margaret - Many thanks. Yes, very worthwhile visit :) Will go along with Brian soon :)

Em Parkinson - Many thanks. Felt amazingly lucky that it arrived just after I'd joined!

Dean Stables said...

Nice one, Caroline. I`ve been lucky enough to see a Dusky Warbler...some years back, mind.

Ragged Robin said...

Dean Stables - Many thanks Dean :) So glad you've seen one too - they are rather special little birds :)

Wendy said...

I'm glad you saw it. There does seem to be so much to see all year at this reserve. I would fascinated by the sight of a Dunnock feeding a Cuckoo, too.

Stewart said...

That is a GOOD bird for your inland location Caroline and it will be some time before you get another one as close. Living on the east coast I have seen several Duskies over the years and have even found one myself a good few years back.They are always skulking devils and can be a right old runaround to see well.
Sometimes a short range twitch is a good way to learn and see something you may not get the chance to do otherwise....

Ragged Robin said...

Wendy - Many thanks :) The Dunnock and Cuckoo are amongst my favourite birding moments ever :)

Stewart - Many thanks :) Yes, it was a good record and feeling so chuffed it appeared just after I joined :) Well done on your sightings especially the one you found yourself :) You are so right - it is a good way to learn :)

SeagullSuzie said...

Well you certainly have a lot to look forward to at that reserve. Loved your twitching stories.

Ragged Robin said...

SeagullSuzie - Thanks so much - really pleased you enjoyed :)

Lou Mary said...

I was very lucky to see my first ever waxwing last winter 10 minutes walk from my house! I do love finding my own birds. Lovely to hear of your twitching stories :)

Ragged Robin said...

Lou Mary - Many thanks :) Well done on the Waxwing - aren't they beautiful? Probably my very favourite bird species :) So much more exciting and satisfying to find your own :)

Pete Duxon said...

niec one

Ragged Robin said...

Pete Duxon Thanks :) You did ok too this weekend :)

Chris Rohrer said...

Congrats!!!! So it's out! You are a twitcher:) Those little trips are always epic whether the bird is found or not. I'm glad you were able to see the bird. Warblers are not easy to capture on the camera. Looks like a beautiful place to bird though. I'll have to add that one to my long list for my eventual trip over.....someday:) Thanks for sharing and congrats again!

Ragged Robin said...

Chris Rohrer Hi Chris :) Many thanks. lol re: being a twitcher - couldn't keep the secret hidden for ever :)

Yes, its a great reserve - so glad I finally got round to becoming a member - holds great promise and very close to home :)

Do hope you make it over here someday - you would love it over here I am sure :)

Central Birder said...

Well done Caroline I went Sunday with two birding buddies everyone saw a warbler of some kind but too far to I.D. and therefore tick!

Ragged Robin said...

Central Birder Many thanks. So sorry you didn't get close enough views to count it :( It seems to have been further away at the weekend - on this day it was in trees right by the path. I only got one good view of it though.