Friday, 18 February 2011

A Lifer At Last

Its been a bit frustrating this winter with several mega birds largely unavailable-Oriental Turtle Dove in Oxfordshire identified from photos, a stunning male Dusky Thrush in Manchester-none readily available for over fifty years, also identified from photos and the of course Slaty Backed Gull which has put in brief appearances in the Thames area largely out of public view.
This past week things have turned out a bit better-on last weekend the Turtle Dove appeared in a birders garden and he happily opened up on Monday and Tuesday for a suitable donation. Unfortunately, the press had a field day on the Tuesday when only the first fifteen got to see the bird. However, those that persevered got to see the bird from outside the houses over the subsequent days. To add to the excitement, the Slaty Backed reappeared at Rainham on Thursday.
So I took today off.
First bit of bad news was that a serious accident had effectively made Rainham inaccessible all day, which was to be our afternoon destination. Out of about 150 birders that got there apparently only one claimed to have seen the gull anyway.
We arrived at Chipping Norton just after 0800 and heard that the dove was showing well-apparently Steve had opened up the house again. I saw a bit of a queue outside his house, but was directed to a garden a few doors up which was being renovated. The high hedge made things very difficult, but shortly after finding a milk crate the Oriental Turtle Dove was located in an apple tree. Views were a bit tricky as we were looking through a closer tree, and although visible to the naked eye, getting the camera on it was not so easy but I managed a few shots in the dull gloomy light. In binoculars the bird was stunning, and I was able to see all the salient features indicative of the subspecies orientalis-the grey tail tips, the greyish vent and belly and the general violet rather than pinkish tones to the head and breast.
I left the garden to find Colin coming out of the house, and as I seemed to be one of only a few outside decided to pop in. Unfortunately the Dove was sitting well back in the tree and largely obscured, though parts could be seen occasionally. The garden feeders were amazing-in the fifteen minutes I was there we had a couple of Siskin, a Brambling, several Bullfinch and a Blackcap as well as the more expected tits and sparrows. Soon after 0900, a Wood pigeon came down, flushed the Dove and it flew off-something that it generally has done at about this time.
We stood around for a while chatting to friends and commiserating with late arrivals, though as the bird was seen later I guess most were eventually successful and eventually headed home.

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