Moving from a puny plant to a whacking great warbler, I present one of very few bird twitches that I attempted this year. I was quite literally parked less than a mile from the site when news of this bird came in– on one of those rare moments when I remember to check the local bird news whilst having a coffee break between stints of fieldwork – so, to employ a phrase I like to use on such occasions, it would have been rude not to go!
Great reed warblers are exactly what their name suggests. They’re much like a regular reed warbler but the size of a thrush, with an impressively ear-splitting song. It’s Europe’s largest warbler, in fact, and as a spring overshoot from continental breeding grounds it’s a bird I would categorise as a ‘proper’ vagrant, rather than a freak, in that individuals turning up in Britain may yet be able to rejoin the breeding population and are not half-dead lost causes.
So it was a bird well worth seeing – and hearing – and as twitches go, this was a pretty good one. It didn’t take dispiritingly long to find the bird, the views were good if not crippling, the company was not too irritating, and the bird was singing from a reed bed, therefore doing a reasonable impression of being in good health and of belonging in Reading.
I’ve not exactly gone off birding, but my horizons have certainly been expanded in recent years. I tend to get my kicks going deeper, not wider, exploring other equally marvelous wildlife or getting to know our local birds better through training as a bird ringer. My UK year lists have naturally dwindled, from a high of 211 in 2011 to 160 at the time of writing for 2014. This doesn’t bother me half as much as I would have predicted, but it’s still nice, from time to time, to get amongst the birds. If I’m ever to increase dramatically on the 252 species I’ve seen in Britain, I’m going to need a few more of these ‘acceptable’ twitches!