Last year two penduline tits took up winter residence at a small lake right next to the A40 close to Gloucester. For some inexplicable reason, considering it's only about an hour from Old Caley Towers, I chose to ignore them, forget about them and ultimately not to see them! So when news broke last weekend that one, a fine male, had been found at an even smaller nature reserve just a few miles down the road from last year and again right next to the A40 then I decided there and then not to make the same mistake again! So, on Wednesday morning and with me already winding down for the Christmas break, I skived off and drove down to Gloucester.
Mrs Caley and I had only seen penduline tits once before when we saw two close to Dunwich in Suffolk about 15 years ago. That twitch had involved a long walk through the Westwood marshes before reaching the birds that were frequenting a vast area of reeds in an even vaster area of reeds! We had seen them well, in the end, but had no camera in those days so just had the distant memories for posterity. This Gloucester bird had most considerably set up stall on a pair of very small ponds less than 50 yards from a very convenient car park just a few hundred yards from the busy A40. We parked and walked across the grass to the edge of the pond and saw the penduline tit. As easy as that! Ticked!
|Part of the small stand of rushes
The penduline tit was attempting to feed on the reed mace and bullrushes that grew in the small ponds. I say attempting to because unfortunately there was a photographer present who insisted on walking round and round the ponds hounding the poor bird wherever it went. At one point he stood right at the edge of the pond and was almost in the water! Now I realise that we all want to get "the shot" but there has to be limits surely. I suggested to him that he should maybe move a bit further back and give the bird some space but my appeals were largely ignored. Ah well, I did try. For my own part I stayed 10-20 yards away and managed some pretty decent images since the bird was comfortable and dropped in to some reeds right close to where I stood. Needless to say it didn't stay long once the inconsiderate "togger" had followed it. The problem of people getting too close to birds at twitches is getting worse and I fail to see why the picture has taken precedence over a birds welfare. I mean there's no real financial gain in it since everyone gets the same shots. Maybe it's all down to oneupmanship in the "toggers" world? I couldn't help but feel slightly guilty despite staying far enough away myself. I also felt pity for the poor bird.
Because of the constant harassment the penduline tit spent a lot of time in some nearby bushes where at least it was out of reach. Here it was easier to see and to photograph for the "toggers". The bird flew high and to the west and I thought that that was that, especially when there was no further sign for the next 45 minutes.
|Off he goes!
I tweeted out that the bird may have gone but then, just as we were going to give up, I looked back to the bare bush where it had last been seen and there it was! It always amazes me how birds will return to the exact same spot and it's remarkable how they do it without anybody seeing them! This time it was only me that had seen it so I quietly shared the info with Mrs Caley and Hughie (well met on the day) and we casually strolled over towards the tree and the penduline tit. We stayed our distance and enjoyed prolonged views of it preening before the inevitable onrush of the others once they'd realised what we were looking at. The penduline tit immediately became more anxious with the extra attention and flew once again, this time to the row of trees that border the A40. Here it showed extremely well for the masses and the trigger fingers were kept happy.
The bird made a few short sorties to the bullrushes allowing for a few more "natural" shots and views. I think that the bird looked far more at home and in harmony when in the reeds than in the trees but maybe I'm just being soppy!
At one point it briefly associated with a male stonechat that was also frequenting the ponds and I chuckled when the (annoying) "togger" ran after the stonechat shouting I've got it, I've got it! Maybe he should invest in a pair of bins and a good guide book. Or maybe he'd come for the stonechat?!
We'd stayed on site for a couple of hours and had had good views of a long sought after bird. The bird was wearing some bling on its right leg (something I don't always agree with) and info gained from a photo confirmed that it had been ringed in Alderney at the end of October. It is more than conceivable too that it is one of the same birds from the previous year but of course that can't be proved. Also, and thankfully, all the harassment that it's been getting doesn't seem to have harmed it since it is still present at the same site and doing well as I write this on Christmas Eve!