As the autumn bird migration gets into full swing, my avian equivalent of the bat phone has been going crazy with all manner of unusual bird sightings flashing-up on the weathered display – Most of which I’ve never heard of.
If I was able to see them all, I would comfortably get to double my original target of one-hundred and fifty within the week. I won’t see them all, so this won’t happen and, if I’m honest, I’d just take one or two as unexpected bonuses and keep my eye out for something more within my comfort zone.
I have almost been overwhelmed by the sheer number of birds I have never heard of turning up in various parts of the country over the past few weeks. A Lanceolated Warbler sounds like Mariah Carey has had an accident at a medieval joust, whilst a Rustic Bunting suggests decorations at a barn dance, but they are actual birds that occasionally pop up in the UK. Mind-boggling, isn’t it?
It is amazing how these unusuals are identified in the first place.
I am in awe of someone who can look at a little brown bird flitting in amongst the leaves of a hedge and confidently state that it is, for an example, a Two-Barred Greenish Warbler. To be able to differentiate between that and all the other little brown birds that might be in that hedge is a phenomenal skill. If said bird had sat motionless two-feet in front of me for a good half an hour, holding up a sign saying ‘Hello comrade, I’m a Two-Barred Greenish Warbler and I’m from ze east of Siberia’, I would have probably identified it as a Sparrow. The text on the mini-placard was a bluff to catch me out… Surely?
Obviously, the chances of a Two-Barred Greenish Warbler turning up in a privet in the UK are slim to none, but the fact that it might makes the identification of birds for an amateur like me incredibly daunting. The knowledge necessary is mind-blowingly immense. And, at times of migration, almost anything could get a bit blown off course and end up here.
With all these interesting new arrivals showing up, I decided that I had a decision to make. Well, two decisions… The first was to decide to decide to make a decision and the second, to actually make a decision. The course this paragraph has taken has made me realise that there is probably a third decision to make – Which darkened room to lock myself in.
What I had to decide was whether or not to career around the country (well, the local bits) after these interesting new sightings to add to my year list. If you’ve been reading this blog, you will have noticed that recently I have made the odd effort to chase-down a new species here and there. My success-rate has been a tad hit and miss – I have been lucky enough to see a Long-Tailed Skua and some Bee-Eaters, but missed out on almost too many to list. For example, I’ve been eluded by a Garganey (Britain’s only summer visiting duck) at local water features on no less than five occasions – Although, as the female looks similar to a Mallard, I may well have seen it five times from distance and not realised it.
The problem with chasing after birds that turn up somewhere on their migratory route is that they usually only stop-off briefly for a quick rest and some dinner, then quickly continue on their travels. By the time someone has taken the trouble of texting their sighting to the bird app people, the bird app people sent the information out to the subscribed masses and I’ve read it, the bird is probably sunning itself somewhere in the vicinity of the Côte D’Azur. That’s before I’ve started wrestling with my conscience as to whether I could justify getting in the car to stalk it (and even before I’ve struggled with my shoelaces). In sum, the chance of catching up with it is quite small.
As a result of the slim chances of success, I have decided that it would be unwise to go gallivanting after a bird unless it’s within the local area or there have been a number of different birds sighted at the same nature reserve, wooded area or reservoir*
* Do you notice how I have been unclear with the specific details to allow myself the opportunity to renege on my decision and go gallivanting after a new sighting? I’m sneaky and should not be trusted!
Anyway, let’s not probe too deeply into the depths of my personality – You might never get out… Here are some photos of the latest new birds for my year list (all seen by chance and not because my bird app implored me to track them down): -
In other news… Fauna Corner returns to prove that I am a multi-faceted individual who doesn’t just spend all his time gawking at birds. I, in fact, gawk at a great many things: -
And before I start suffering withdrawal symptoms, here are some more birds…