Saturday 3 January 2015

Week 50: Bugs & Frogs of a Different Kind

Last Sunday morning, the forecast for the week ahead suggested Monday through to Wednesday morning were going to be glorious. Hard frosts with bright clear skies. Perfect, I thought: Trust land, rendered in dramatic winter light, covered in shimmering shards of frost. I was looking forward to getting back out there.

Sunday evening, as I drove back from Warwick, I suddenly had the most annoying frog in my throat, which all the fishing in the world would not retrieve. Back home, I picked up the exciting news that a Penduline Tit (Remiz pendulinus) had been found at Meadow Lane gravel pit in Bedfordshire. This is a little bird I have wanted to see for a fair old while. In 2013, I was sorely tempted to bribe friend, family or stranger to somehow get down to Stodmarsh in Kent to see one which was wintering in a reed bed there. It was a relief when that bird finally stopped “showing well” and I could stop pining for it.

Anyway, Monday morning, still harbouring my rasping frog and having had only 1 hour’s sleep (for no obvious reason whatsoever), I joined a couple of birding friends for a Trip to the Tit. I figured I could hit Box Moor the following day. The forecast was spot on. Freezing cold, a hard frost but wall-to-wall sunshine. The Penduline Tit rarely settled, moving from one stem of Reedmace to the next, searching for grubs and feeding on the seeds. Views through the telescope were amazing. The sun was behind us and the Tit perfectly lit, its bandit-like markings and colouring irresistibly beautiful. It eventually disappeared into some vegetation and we called it a day, back home in time for lunch.

By this point, I was beginning to wonder if the 1 hour’s sleep, my thumping headache and the frog in my throat were perhaps going to develop into something more sinister. Just in case, I thought I’d better get to the Oak that afternoon and, whilst I was out, I decided I may as well check the small reed bed by Old Fishery Lane for Reedmace. I was fairly sure there wasn’t any but I wanted to be certain.

At Dellfield, the ground was still hard under foot and, even at 2 o’clock in the afternoon, anything that hadn’t been exposed to the sun was still covered in hoar frost. I photographed the Oak and some ice crystals on a fallen stick and hoped that I’d be able to return the following day to make the most of the frozen landscape. Off Old Fishery Lane, on the east side, a Little Egret and the young female Kingfisher were fishing in the narrow channel of the Bulbourne. As I suspected, the pocket-sized reed bed doesn’t contain any Reedmace - it would take a small flock of winged pigs and a minor miracle for a Penduline Tit to tarry here. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that a Water Rail is lurking in there somewhere though...

By now, you’re probably wondering why I’ve mostly been prattling on about a bird in Bedfordshire instead of the wildlife in Box Moor. The thing is, I woke up on Tuesday morning with a temperature of 102 deg F and, the rest of the week, as they say, has been a write off. I've barely left the sofa and the comfort of a duvet, let alone the house! The fever broke yesterday but my head and chest are still full of bugs. Anyway, since you’ve come this far in the tale of an out-of-town Penduline Tit, I should probably include a photograph or two, even if the bird was a little distant.

Penduline Tit (Remiz pendulinus)

Ordinarily, you’d expect this species to be wintering down in Spain or Portugal or over in Greece. Maybe this was a Danish bird that got blown west and didn’t fancy going any further, who knows. Either way, it was a splendid late Christmas present.

In the sequence of heavily cropped photographs below, the bird had found a grub in the seed head and proceeded to pick it up with its claw foot and place it in its beak.

Penduline Tit (Remiz pendulinus)

I’m crossing my fingers that I’ll manage more than just an Oak photograph next week.

All that remains for me to do is to wish any readers a very happy new year and to hope that it includes good health and a fair dose of nature’s wonders.


Martin Parr said...

Well done on the Penduline Lucy, glad you got it! Hope you are feeling better now and have a very Happy New Year!!

Lucy @ A Natural Interlude said...

Hi Martin. Yes, on the mend, thank you.