Tuesday, 26 March 2013

A Black Redstart's tale

Last Thursday, my wife told me that she had seen an 'interesting' bird in the back garden. "It was grey", she said, '"with white sides and showed some red when it flew". Although she is not a birdwatcher, her knowledge of common garden birds is pretty good, so I was intrigued. A non-birder is never specific, and their colour descriptions can be misleading - was her 'red' in fact 'bright chestnut'? Exactly where on the sides was the area of white?  After showing her images of such species as Fieldfares, Bramblings and Waxwings, she was adamant that these were not her mystery bird. It didn't re-appear so I then forgot about it.

Yesterday I returned home from work and, after a few minutes, she mentioned that the 'interesting' bird had been back again. She had seen it not only in the back garden but also hopping about on the front lawn. This time she could be more specific. It was smaller than a thrush (but larger than a finch), was a dark grey all over and the white on the side was quite striking. Most interestingly she could now confirm that the bird's tail was red...

I then had my suspicions and showed her a photograph of a male Black Redstart. "That's it!" she said, "That's my bird!" I now suffered several emotions. Slight doubt - Was it really one? Realisation - She was most probably correct in her identification. Envy - What a great bird to see in your garden. Panic - Had it gone?

It was now 18.10hrs and the light was starting to fade. The previous Thursday's sighting had been at this exact time. I pulled up a chair, grabbed my binoculars and sat at the dining room window that looks onto the garden. And bugger me, three minutes later a spanking adult male Black Redstart flew into the garden, landed no more than 4m from me, hopped about the patio for 30 seconds and then flew up onto our roof. Bloody hell!

This morning saw me with camera in hand to try and photograph this stunning bird (my 82nd bird species recorded in or over the garden). It was a no show, but there's always this evening. Could it be a migrant that is utilising the relative shelter of suburban gardens to 'sit out' this freezing weather? Has it wintered nearby undetected? Questions, questions...

7 comments:

  1. Nice one Steve!

    A friend moved to a new house close by. It was still a building site more or less and one of his first five or so birds was a Black Redstart too. Jammy.

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    1. A fine species to have on a back garden list Andrew, and an unexpected one in suburbia!

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    1. No Neil, I've spent the last two early mornings (and yesterday evening) waiting for it, but no show.

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  3. There was a male Black Redstart singing from the roof of 16 Pound Lane, Epsom at 0650 this morning. I walk past this house twice a day (as I go to and from work) so I shall see if it is still there tomorrow. No sign this evening, but it was pretty cloudy and dull as I wandered past. Cracking birds, this is the first I've ever seen in the Epsom area.

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    1. I saw that you had seen this Seth and wondered if it might even be the same bird - probably not, but you never know...

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    2. Probably not the same bird if yours was "spanking". Mine was of the dull female-type plumage. Cairie, is it called? Something like that. Guess I need to find a dead Kittiwake on Epsom Common now and join the latest 'club'!

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