What a cracking 24 hours! Left work a bit early yesterday to go and twitch what would be my first British bird tick for several years; the Western Bonelli's Warbler at Church Norton. I don't tend to twitch birds these days but I reckoned there wouldn't be much of a crowd, it was fairly close by and I had a couple of hours spare, so why not? Well, news suggested that it was extremely elusive so it could be a complete waste of time as I needed to get away by 7pm at the latest.
Arrived at about 4.45pm, saw it about 4.48pm! It was feeding actively in a flowering sallow (as so many insectivorous birds are at the moment due to the lack of leaves on anything) and after disappearing for about 10 minutes, it returned to the same tree. Maybe the reason it was so 'elusive' was that most of the birders were watching the wrong side of the scrub, even when told it was showing!
From there I went up to Surrey to see if Sloe Carpets were flying yet. They weren't but I did see my first ever Signal Crayfish in a tiny stream (more of a dribble really). Now I know they're non-native and are causing problems for the White-clawed Crayfish but I couldn't help but be seriously impressed by an amazing animal. Being totally unexpected, I have to admit that it gave me more of a buzz than the Bonelli's. Maybe that's why I don't twitch much any more!
Down to the New Forest this morning to try to catch and colour-ring Hawfinches as part of a research project in the area. So far this winter, three ringers have managed to catch none so it was a case of hope triumphing over expectations. Nevertheless, a flock of some 40+ birds feeding under holly had to be worth a try. It was great to be surrounded by so many Hawfinches but after a couple of hours we had still drawn a blank. We then found a new area where they were coming down, quickly put up a 40ft net and ...... SUCCESS!
Dan did most of the handling and therefore suffered most of the injuries (nothing too serious!) but I did incur one wound - well worth it! Later in the day I caught a water boatman by hand (didn't have a net with me) and that gave me a nip which hurt far more! We caught a total of 4 males and one female. One of them seemed to be saying 'Don't make me angry'.....
Spent the afternoon watching 'my' Wood Warblers, looking absolutely stunning in the sunlight - time for my summer obsession to resume.
On the way home, the radio played Michael Bubble's 'What a beautiful day' - yes indeed.