It has been almost one month since I last saw a new bird to add to my list and this whole bird-chase challenge has become a bit frustrating.
As I write this, I have got to 181 and fear that I have run out steam. It was bound to happen, I suppose.
On a positive note, the autumn migration is in full swing, so, I’m hoping that it is only a matter of time before millions of the birds that visit the UK for the colder months start streaming-in from further north. I have probably seen some of them already, without realising, so, in effect, I should get another chance to identify a few of the species I missed at the start of the year. I’m hoping my ID skills have improved a bit – I’ve spent enough time with my face in bird books.
Using my trusty RSPB British Bird Finder book, I have spent a little bit of time writing a ‘shopping list’, of sorts, of the birds I could try to catch up with before the year is out. I have consequently realised that I could probably get very close to the magical 200 mark with a combination of a trip to Scotland and a pelagic boat trip and way beyond if I see all the others.
However, I’m not likely to be anywhere near Scotland in the next two or so months and have no plans to get on a boat, so will just have to take my chances that I might bump into some of the others on the list whilst randomly traipsing around the Surrey countryside.
Excitingly for me (and probably less so for you – as it means more words to wade through), since writing the above, I had the chance to break my duck after almost four barren weeks…
As luck would have it, a couple of Grey Phalaropes had been reported at the RSPB reserve at Pulborough. The only problem was that I wasn’t due to be at the reserve for my volunteer duties for five days. As I’m no longer allowing myself to go gallivanting around the country after birds, I had to hope that they planned on sticking around for almost a week.
Grey Phalaropes are small wading birds that breed high up in the Arctic Circle and then migrate for the winter to the Atlantic Ocean of the coast of West Africa. They infrequently end up stopping off in the UK if a storm blows them off course on their journey. Rather confusingly, they are known as Red Phalaropes in America.
Thankfully, they stuck around for long enough for me to go and have a look.
Before I show you the evidence of what I saw, I’d like to apologise for the standard of my photographs of late. They have been a bit ropey, at best. There seems to be a phrase in bird-watching circles to describe such images – a ‘Record Shot’. This is a photograph that is usually grainy and out of focus, but (just about) provides enough detail of the subject to work out what it is with a great deal of squinting. They won’t win any awards, but they will prove you’ve seen what you said you have and I seem to be able to take a lot of them.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you my ‘Record Shots’ of Grey Phalaropes: -
I don’t know if Pulborough Brooks has become a place where escaped captive birds can seek asylum because in the grass adjacent to the Phalaropes was a Red-Breasted Goose and a Bar-Headed Goose – Neither of which seemed to be causing too much excitement to the other onlookers. Why? Because everyone seemed to assume that they were likely to be escapees – probably from the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust reserve at Arundel down the road. As escapees they fell between the floorboards of my far-from-comprehensive rules for the year… To count, a bird must be wild. While, they were almost certainly birds from a collection (and therefore shipped-in from abroad to make someone’s pond look particularly exotic), the geese in front of me were, to all intents and purposes, free birds. They had flown in from somewhere up the road through choice and were comfortably going about their dabbling business amongst the other geese. Sadly, I still couldn’t count them as they shouldn’t really be in the country.
And here are my ‘Record Shots’: -
After missing out on Ring Ouzels a few weeks ago, I unexpectedly found a couple during a visit to a local pub… They were in a glass case, most definitely stuffed and bizarrely called Edward and Phylis, but seeing them persuaded me to make a final trip to Leith Hill to try and find some before they depart south for the winter for another year.
And, do you know what? I managed to find some… and a Brambling, to take my total for the year to one-hundred and eighty-four.
Here are some evidential photographs – Cross your eyes and squint a bit and all will be revealed: -
No new birds for ages and then three (plus two escapees) in two days. Hopefully, this is the start of a good run.
Just to prove I can take the occasional partially-semi-good photograph, here is some of the other less elusive (and closer) fauna I have seen lately…