Penduline Tit in Gloucester and some turn of year sentiments – 30th Dec

For my final twitchette of 2017 I made one of those under the radar crossings into neighbouring Glos to re-experience a wintering scarcity that seemingly in Oxon fears to tread. An unusually quiet December has offered little in the way of either national or local birding. But paying a visit to the city of Gloucester’s third long-staying Penduline Tit of recent winters, and my own sixth in Great Britain filled a short Saturday nicely.

A pair of these birds wintered through the first three months of 2016 at a flood alleviation site just outside Gloucester by the northern by-pass (see here). Today I drove on a further couple of miles to the A40 / A38 Tewkesbury Road junction beside which another PT has set up home for the last 15 days. The site was very easy both to find and access, and upon approach several birders were visible to the left on land below the road embankment.

plock court wetland.1701

Plock Court wetland area, Gloucester

Plock Court Wetland (SO837204) is one corner of a playing fields area that is prone to flooding in winter. So faced with the difficulty of managing this site, the local authority instead fenced it off and turned it into a small wetland nature reserve. The information board tells how Green Sandpiper and Little Egret might be seen on the two scrapes here, so the present masked bandit is probably the most notable visitor to date.

Through my two hours on site from 12:20pm the Penduline Tit, a first-winter male divided its time between feeding in the reedmace of the scrapes and resting in the roadside hedge to the rear. When in the foreground the bird was always flighty and often difficult to pinpoint. But on repairing to the hedge it would often perch quite prominently, preening and surveying its surroundings. Fortunately those present all kept to the near side of the pools, so the PT was watchable for good periods of time. Nobody chased it around and this was certainly the easiest to observe of its kind that I have encountered.

I would not describe the camera images below as photographs. Perhaps in their all too obvious imperfection they more resemble paintings. Others might say they are out of focus or full of noise. But since I am seldom likely to gain pin-sharp and perfect competition entries with my equipment I might as well do what I can in the editing suite, then be as pleased as is possible with any “creative effects”. The bottom line is that how ever these pictures might be described I rather like them just as they are.

I noticed a new trend amongst the more earnest today for the lens cover to match the patterning of the camouflage jacket, in one instance with his n’ hers synchronicity. Then there was a rather tweedy biggish lens toter who upon her arrival walked straight up to me and asked “where exactly one should be focussing?” That was a little different from the more usual: “Any sign?” or “Is it showing?”

County birding in Oxfordshire has matched the national picture in rather fizzling out again this year. Had I been year listing I would have matched my best ever totals of 181 were it not for five notable misses. Of those White-winged Black Tern, Kittiwake, Wood Sandpiper and Whooper Swan were not seen due either to being at work, needing to get there or simple carelessness in not noticing the text alerts. Then on the day I was delayed returning from Fuerteventura a party of Bewick’s Swan passed through but did not linger.

Once again this demonstrated all too readily how to top 180 birds in the county one must never be off-guard, be able to drop everything and go whatever the circumstances and not risk going on holiday. Then there is the sheer dedication needed to find some of the more difficult species that I now find it difficult to summon. And so I intend to retire from county birding, new ticks aside in 2018. But the habit will be difficult to break so what I may do instead and how firm this resolution might be remains to be seen.

In the shorter term, a week hence I commence the next stage of my personal development through a three week, solo winter break on a new continent North America. So today will be my last at the petrol station where I have worked part-time for the last 16 months. Reluctantly I am abandoning the inky, stubbly grunters to their soiled high-vis suits and smelly vans; leaving the newly-18 ID wavers to their roll-up slang of straights, skins and tips – instead cutting loose and heading off to experience an entirely new and different wildlife.

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One thought on “Penduline Tit in Gloucester and some turn of year sentiments – 30th Dec

  1. Any chance you could find me an Arctic, Pom or LT Skua before you hang up your (local) bins? That Great Skua was my county bird of the year!

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