In the week since returning from my winter break abroad there hasn’t been much that was new and different on RBA to tempt me out from home. But today I found myself unwittingly part of a covert Oxonbirder sortie into neighbouring Gloucestershire to track down that county’s wintering Penduline Tits.
Two groups of this attractive and fascinating bird had remained in England throughout my time away. I had already devoted a whole day to a threesome in Hampshire in December last year, eventually being rewarded with distant views of a male at Titchfield Haven. Two more males at a site by the A417 / A40 Gloucester bypass (pictured below) seemed like an easier task, and so on this grey and drizzly morning I decided the 50-mile trip west would break up the day nicely.
Andy being an occasional travelling companion, I sounded him out but after an hour there was no reply. “Probably not up yet,” I thought and so headed off. Then half way along the road to Gloucester a text came in from Badger saying they were heading back from the Forest of Dean and would meet me on site. On arrival at the intriguingly named Horsbere Flood Alleviation Pool I could see my two Oxon birding friends mingling incognito with a small number of locals, and this group clearly were all watching the birds.
From a layby opposite a Premier Inn motel a muddy track led down to a reed fringed pond that looked ideal habitat. Andy immediately put me onto one of the Penduline Tit (pictured above) that were both moving around nimbly in the reeds at fairly close range. The views today were as good as at a Bedford site 13 months ago (see here).
This was my fourth sighting of a species that is resident in southern Europe but migratory further north. All those seen have been wintering birds in England. The two males were sharing the Gloucester site with several Long-tailed Tit, Goldfinches and two Chiffchaff. The three of us stood around chatting and observing these birds for around an hour, then headed back east and home. And so my afternoon was filled most congenially.
Video courtesy of Megabrock