Penduline Tit at Bedford – 29th Dec

To begin with an Oxon birding update, after adding two scarcer wildfowl to my 2014 total in recent days, both winter swans touched down in the county yesterday. I caught up with three Bewick’s Swan at Otmoor (another addition), then two Whooper Swan on the River Thames near Radley offered much better views than the last such visitor in January. Three White-fronted Goose that graced Otmoor a day earlier were more likely to be wild than a bird in Port Meadow earlier in the year. But despite having searched suitable sites for Siskin and Crossbill a number of times, and once in expert company with The Wickster, these winter finches seemed notable by their absence locally. So this year’s final county tally was 164.

Adding to the sentiment expressed at the close of my previous post, I have a special liking for cold clear days in winter and being out and about on one yesterday was both motivational and cleansing, besides producing some good sightings. A little further afield Penduline Tit was reported on RBA in of all places Bedford, offering a further short haul twitchette for today. This is another species encountered just once before, unforgettably close in front of a reed bed hide at Minsmere RSPB reserve, Suffolk in 1989. But it had eluded me on both of my winter trips to southern Portugal.

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I arrived at Bedford Borough Council’s Priory Country Park (pictured above) mid-morning in beautiful midwinter sunshine with the landscape still coated in frost. Here a line of birders were watching the Penduline Tit and the first person I spoke to pointed the bird out as it flew to within 30 yards of these assembled observers. From thence on I followed it for some time in my binoculars as it moved around to a backdrop of murmured and occasionally anxious conversations between birders all trying to put one another on it.

What a little beauty! After all the effort and frustration of trying to locate wintering birds in several Algarve wetlands, here was one buzzing about a small reed-fringed pool and sitting up to be noticed just 55 miles from home. At times this PT seemed close enough to recall that 1989 bird at Minsmere, but still not within range for even a half-decent record shot with my equipment. Instead I present a puzzle picture (below): it’s in there somewhere!

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