I should say a few words about an epic quest that may just have changed my birding life. Back in November or December a ringing team at our local reserve, Lavell’s Lake, were lucky enough to catch a firecrest in their nets. I have long wanted to see one, attracted by drawings in the field guides and photographs showing a tiny bird, not much bigger than a goldcrest (Europe’s smallest), with the most remarkable plumage: bright yellow green back, a bold black eye stripe topped with a blaze of white over the eyebrow, the head crowned with a flaming golden crest of glory. An absolute jewel, people always say of it, and from the pictures I imagined they were right. I like goldcrests; they are a splendid little bird. I pictured something quite similar, just a little brighter, and stripier. That’s about right, but nothing would quite prepare me for the reality of the thing.

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