Thursday, 21 July 2011

Rosefinch Wrangling

As I mentioned in my previous post, I'm not much of a twitcher. What's more when I do consider making a sortee it is generally rather restricted in a number of ways:
  • I don't generally go at weekends due to family commitments but as I work for myself I can give myself time off during the week
  • I don't like travelling too far - for one thing any dip would be too painful and my VLW already thinks I'm mad to travel any distance for what's "just a bird" so I limit myself in general to two hours in the car (though exceptions have been made)
  • I prefer the bird to have been around for some time so that it's well established and predictable. This way I can read up on where it's been seen and I know that there's a good chance of it still being there so there's less chance of a dip.
When I do go, I like to plan my trips in advance, plotting out the route and writing it down on a scrap of paper- I don't have Sat Nav or even want it and in fact enjoy learning different routes to places. As I'm usually on my own I like to look on Google Streetview to help with navigation and it's amazing how this makes key parts of the route look familiar. I also use Streetview to suss out where I can park when I get there so all in all it's a well-planned operation.

The common rosefinch at Melbourn, near Cambridge fulfilled all the "can I twitch it" criteria having been around for a good week now. Apparently it was discovered when a motorist pulled over to let a cyclist go by on the single track road and heard it singing through his open car window so who knows how long it had been there. I'd had my eye on this bird all last week but as I ended up going to Daventry to see a greenshank (grrr!) I felt that I couldn't take a second day off that week. All this meant that I had to wait until Monday of this week before I could justify another trip.

Having done my prep on the bird over the weekend on Monday morning at about 9am I set off and it was a surprisingly short 1 hour and 35 minutes later that I arrived in Fowlmere Road near Cambourn (M40, M25, exit at J21a onto A404, A414, A1(M), A505 and A10 in case you're interested). I figured that after a whole week of the bird being there there wouldn't be vast hoards of twitchers any more (and so it proved) so I parked carefully on the verge rather than the pager-recommended golf car park and as soon as I got out of the car I could hear the rosefinch calling in the distance with it's familiar "Yes, I told you so" call. I know that it's conventionally written as "Pleased to meet you" but to my ear my version suits better. It was calling from the garden of "The Old Barn" house though it was not visible at all. I'd read that it moved around and would periodically appear on a convenient tall tree or even venture into the field opposite but for about half an hour it doggedly called away invisibly from behind the house. A few other people turned up: an old couple who'd been looking further up the road in the wrong place and who didn't know what a rosefinch song sounded like (they hadn't done their homework!) and a local guy who was more into botany and kept on saying things like "is that it in the walnut tree there" or "what about the apple tree" which wasn't very helpful to people who didn't know their trees. Eventually I spotted it singing in the top of what I was told by the tree man was an apple tree. I got it in the scope and everyone had a look but it then scarpered before I was able to take any photos. The bird would stop singing for long periods and I was told that it sang best in the morning and in the evening so as it was now midday it started to take long breaks from its singing.

After a while the others got bored and left but I hung around, wanting to get some photos. Whilst I waited I put the news out on the information services that it was still there. Soon after a twitcher from London turned up and then a local guy who lived close by and who'd seen the bird quite a few times in previous days. No sooner had he got out of his car than he gave a masterclass in "rosefinch wrangling", doing a reasonable whistling impression of both it's call and song. The bird responded quite well to this initially, we got some reasonable views for a short while and I even managed to digiscope some video footage of it.

In this video you can hear the "wrangler" whistle and the bird respond

The bird seemed to get bored with this call and response routine after a while and moved off presumably to feed. It called again occasionally for a while but then tailed off so we all decided to call it a day and I headed back home with another successful sortee notched up.

I came across this lovely photo of the bird taken by Mike Lawrence from his blog "Back in Birdland" which I thought that I'd share with you all (with kind permission I should add). I particularly like the "happy" expression of the bird in this shot - very often rosefinches don't look that attractive in photos .

Melbourn first summer common rosefinch, (c) Mike Lawrence Back in Birdland

No comments: