I’m reliably informed by numerous electronic and physical devices littering my house that somehow, unbeknownst to me, November has crept in to take the place of summer. It seems like only yesterday I was watching Terns on the Burry and yet here we are with another seasons leaf growth blocking the gutters and Christmas advertising inextricably seeping into our every day lives. The intervening months have been a blur of work, stress and the occasional bout of serious walking which has left little time for birding. Clearly that’s a state of affairs that could not be left to continue so mid-morning today found me stalking the reeds at Cosmeston country park. Much to my delight it only took a few minutes before the distinctive calls of a Bearded Tit could be discerned, quickly followed by the bird itself. True to form it managed to stay almost completely obscured though not to such an extent that the small group of gathered observers weren’t able to watch it feeding avidly for a good couple of minutes. Of course getting a photograph was almost impossible but this effort is one of my best yet. At least you can tell what it is!
When it did eventually vanish back into the reeds that call allowed us to keep tabs before a couple of superb flight views really got the juices flowing. Anticipation was high for a repeat performance but sadly it seemed that the increased footfall was getting a little too much and the Bearded Tit went to ground. Not to worry as numerous Reed Buntings flitting through the reeds were a more than adequate distraction. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen any quite so accommodating with this female being one of the best.
I could only manage a few more minutes however before the attraction of another rare visitor had me crossing the muddy west paddock to where a small gathering had formed. Of all the birds I’d expect to see at this time of year Turtle Dove doesn’t even feature, but here was one feeding happily on the sodden grassland barely twenty meters away. It seemed oblivious to our presence and I can safely say that they are still one of my favourite birds. There’s just something about their intricate plumage and that eye which elevates them beyond the ordinary and always makes me think of the orient. Considering the rarity level I consider myself more than fortunate to have seen three individuals in recent years and hope that something can be done to ensure the species long term survival.
After half an hour and an encounter that at times had come down to just a few foot I considered my fill suitably taken and left the bird to its own devices. Judging from reports later in the day we probably could have held a tea-party there and I doubt it would have even batted an eyelid. What a stunner.
The day of course wasn’t just about rarities and I spent a happy couple of hours walking the rest of the park and getting reacquainted with some of our commoner species. This Magpie posed perfectly against what has become a rare sky in recent weeks whilst nearby a particularly guilty looking Wood Pigeon was wondering if I’d seen it hoover up a whole heap of seed. I had.
Disappointingly I didn’t spot any Redwings but a couple of Mistle Thrushes could be heard near the east lake where flight views of a Common Snipe and Great Spotted Woodpecker were very welcome. A copious supply of bread and unsuspecting children’s fingers there also meant the usual gathering of Mute Swans and waterfowl, but as usual it was the gulls that stole my attention. Cosmeston really is the best place I know to get up close and personal with Lesser Black-backed Gulls of which there are always many. The following shot I particularly like as it really captures that sense of cunning which these birds often display (particularly just after the bins have gone out).
This Black Headed Gull on the other hand just looked rather fine in the sunlight.
With a strengthening breeze and an influx of yet more people I baled to the quieter confines of Lavernock Point, a reserve to which previously I have never been. First impressions are very promising and I shall certainly be adding it to my list of haunts even though things appeared relatively quiet today.
Back at Cosmeston and one final stakeout of the Bearded Tit delivered brilliant and prolonged views though always close to ground. Still, what a way to get back into the groove of things and hopefully a good omen for the months ahead.