I remember now why I hated the British Winter. Endless dull days. Probably colder and drier than now but still dreary. I used to do a new year’s day bird count if the weather was cold, crisp and sunny (not often) but yesterday we hardly left the house. So miserable.
Today I could see the water settled all over the lawn and even the rose bed is waterlogged in one corner. I went out to see how bad it was and slung a pair of bin’s round my neck, just in case. The light was already poor but you never know. And so it proved today. Some high pitched bird calls attracted my attention and I eventually managed to find the owners. A pair of tiny featherballs sporting a crisp, broad, white supercilium. Unmistakeable. Firecrest.
When I left Hampshire the latest Avifauna described it as “A scarce breeder, passage migrant and winter visitor”. The 2014 Hampshire bird report describes it as “A moderately common and increasing resident and passage migrant”. It is also described as under-recorded. So its distribution and frequency have changed. I clearly need no longer go to the New Forest to search for them. They come to me.
There were 2 maybe 3 birds. I had a sighting on the other side of the garden from the first pair but can’t be sure one had not looped around. The birds were inquisitive and confiding. If I had had a camera with me and if it had been significantly lighter I would have been able to take good photos – easily close enough with a 400mm lens. And that will be my goal for tomorrow. Better light please and the birds lingering. I wonder if they will stay and breed as the Goldcrests do.
I have some oddities on the garden list already but plenty of common birds missing. Tawny Owl woke me on new year’s morning. Grey Heron flew over the same day and a Dunnock was around the pond. I don’t see them very often here. But Firecrest is my most unexpected and welcome bird so far. Certainly the Winter seems brighter for its presence. A good start to the birding year.