The day we twitched (and dipped on) a Wryneck
My Birding this week
Following our previous fruitless search to find a Firecrest, we headed out birding the following Sunday to Lepe Country Park, near Southampton, on a beautiful calm morning with a blue sky overhead.
We chose the site as during the previous couple of days a Wryneck had been seen - a bird that would be a lifer for me.
This elusive member of the Woodpecker family is only about the size of a Sparrow, and is almost always seen on the ground, as its main diet is ants.
With its streaky brown plumage and skulking manner it can easily hide in scrub. It breeds in Europe and Asia and winters in central Africa and the Asian sub-continent. Each year a few birds are see along eastern or southern coasts of England and in the Northern Isles.
As soon as we arrived at the car park we saw birders with scopes and tripods walking about; some returning despondently to their cars, others just venturing out. I spoke to a couple of people and heard that the bird had not been showing.
Undeterred we prepared ourselves for our birding day by heading down to the cafe. I was delighted to find that they served vegetarian sausage baps, which went down very well and made a good start to our day. While eating we watched the many Pied Wagtails that were busily hunting for insects.
I then kitted myself up with my harness which holds my binoculars, camera and side bag, and my rucksack containing my tripod and recording equipment. I’m nothing if not prepared!
As we wandered through the pines on our way to the beach we heard lots of high-pitched calls. As always, keen to see whether a Firecrest was present we took good care to look at each moving bird. We found 3 Goldcrests calling loudly, and displaying their yellow crowns prominently. I watched them for some time and took some photos and video. Unfortunately there were no Firecrests among them.
Goldcrests are notoriously difficult to photograph, as they are constantly moving along branches looking for insects, and you can rarely get a clean shot.
However, I took photos anyway, and made the following collage.
We then headed down the beach to the area where the Wryneck had been seen the previous day.
We could see a line of birders in the distance looking at the area we guessed the bird had previously been seen, but as there was no excitement being exhibited we surmised the bird was not present.
We spent some time looking at the birds in the pools opposite the beach, noting a Grey Heron, a Mediterranean Gull amongst the many Black-headed Gulls, lots of Pheasants, a few Redshank plus Linnets and Stonechats in the scrub. Oh, and a distant sighting of an electric blue jewel - a Common Kingfisher sitting on a fence!
We spoke to various people along the way, asking if they had seen the wryneck, but no one had.
We decided to carry walking up the beach and eventually came to a spot where trees were adjacent to the beach. We could hear calls of Goldcrest or potentially Firecrest, so we looked really carefully at all the birds we could see moving.
Then … I saw what I thought at first was a warbler, and it was a Firecrest!
This was a first of year bird for me, but unfortunately my husband, John, missed it. I briefly saw a couple more, and then finally John saw one - a lifer for him!
After that success we retraced our path back along the beach, hoping it might be our day to also see the Wryneck, but it wasn’t to be.
We will return to Lepe Country Park. Apart from all the birding opportunities, the vegetarian sausage breakfast bap is calling to me!
It’s the Global Bird Weekend!
Over the next 3 days birders around the world will be watching birds, including the species facing the challenges of migration.
Today the theme is ‘Learn’ - with educators sharing information to enthuse young people. All of us can benefit by taking the time to notice the birds around us, watch their behaviours and interactions, and build up our personal knowledge.
There will be livestreams from Swarovski Optik featuring birders worldwide sharing the birds they are seeing in real time.
Tomorrow is the October Big Day. Around the world people will be out counting birds and sharing their checklists to eBird, contributing to their research database.
On Sunday the theme is ‘Share’ - where we are encouraged to take someone birding or introduce them to the natural world. Or share photographs, drawings or other crafts depicting birds to inspire others.
The Casual Birder Podcast Team comprises 31 of the show’s listeners, from UK, USA, Canada and Europe, coming together as a virtual team and sharing the birds we see.
We will be ambassadors for the birding community: welcoming all and encouraging others by sharing our knowledge.
We are also raising funds for BirdLife International to help support their important work protecting birds and habitats around the world, working with local communities to do so.
If you wish to donate, please visit our JustGiving page:
Being mindful of the natural world can bring us enormous joy and calm.
Promise yourself a 15 minute break this weekend to look out of your window or take a short walk and notice the birds around you.
Latest podcast episode
There is no new episode this week - but maybe listen to one of my favourites from the back catalogue: visiting the London Wetland Centre with author Lev Parikian, and featuring my first proper encounter with a Cetti’s Warbler!
Community notes / Recommendations
In the past few weeks, there have been lots of disturbing and worrying news items concerning wildlife in the UK and around the world. It can get overwhelming and difficult to know where to put our focus.
I really appreciated this recent episode of the UK Wildlife podcast which discussed these important stories.
Do take a listen!
Keep in touch
I love hearing about your bird experiences or your recommendations for places to go birding.
Tell me about them here:
Support The Casual Birder Podcast
If you would like to support the podcast and the other things I create, you can buy me a virtual coffee at Ko-fi.com
Another way to support the show is to talk about it on social media and recommend it to your friends. Do tag me in any posts you write.
Until next week, happy birding!
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