Today is the first of October and, as I sit at my PC, I can hear the rain lashing against the window. It’s a classic October day. I just love days like this, don’t you?. This is real birders weather!
Surely not, I hear you say? Being out in such weather is dreadful. Your bins and scope are soaked. You are soaked. And there isn’t a bird to be seen. All true I concede, but look at the weather for what it is…it is migration weather.
In recent blogs I have spoken about the birds in the garden on dull damp days. Couple that with south-easterly winds all the way from North Africa, bringing birds drifting across Europe into Ireland and you will soon know what I mean. With overcast conditions, birds tend to rest and wait until the weather clears. This past few days European birds like Red-backed Shrikes and Melodious Warblers have been reported widely. Wrynecks, those weird but wonderful members of the woodpecker family have been seen across the south coast.
Casting an eye on my old notebooks I see (with a smile) that today is the 34th anniversary of my seeing my first ever Irish Wryneck.
Date 1st Oct. 1979.
Place: Cape Clear Island, Cork.
Weather…wait for it….South-easterly winds Force 4-5, complete cloud cover and prolonged periods of heavy rain.
I could easily be describing today’s weather!
So its real birder’s weather…as soon as the rain eases off, birders will emerge from shelter rubbing their eyes like bears emerging from their hibernations. There will be birds to be seen. There is even a Hoopoe in Howth today so get out there.
A Birder's Bird
And who knows, you might just find a ‘Birder’s Bird’. This is a much more difficult thing to describe but a ‘Birder’s Bird’ is not always the most beautiful bird to look at. It is not always the most confiding bird. It is most likely a difficult bird to identify. But it has something special. It’s rare…usually from far-flung places. More importantly, it is a bird to learn from, a bird to experience, a bird to savour…a bird you have waited a long time to experience.
Last week on a dull, damp morning on Hook Head in Wexford, I experienced a Birder’s Bird in the shape of a delightful Booted Warbler. This was only the fifth time this species had been recorded in Ireland. It was an LBJ (Little Brown Job) that looked a little like a Chiffchaff (see the image above). It breeds in places like Northern Russia and northern Kazakhstan and here it was in Wexford. It was feeding actively on insects (including some very large Daddy Longlegs) it found along low thistles in the middle of a field near the lighthouse. How it got to be here is anyone’s guess but perhaps a thing called reverse migration was at play (you really do need to come to our migration workshop later this month…this is just one of many subjects we’ll cover!!).
Regardless of how it got here and ignoring its lack of colour, this bird had real character. It flicked its tail and swung its body from side to side. It called and flitted into cover and then sat out in the open. I have spoken about being in the presence of greatness in my last blog and here I was again, in awe at the sheer resilience of such a bird that probably weighed in at no more than 10g.
It was a real Birder’s Bird and the shot I have used above shows it for all it’s beauty, a small bird defying the odds. The raindrops on the wire and falling from it’s left foot captures the moment so well.
It didn’t mind the rain…and neither did I!
Eric D Birdman