Alarm calls

It’s funny what wakes one up. I’ve been struggling with a throat infection, so after an early morning interview with the Bishop on Monday I was on my way back home for a kip – until I received a text about a tawny owl ‘in full view’ in Grimley. It was from Brian Stretch, who runs a local bird news service as well as The Birder’s Store. When there’s a tawny owl to see in the daytime, kipping can wait.

I’ve discovered that terms like ‘in full view’ or ‘showing well’ are ambiguous. They seem to imply that the bird is prominent and easy to spot – but this might be true only if you have high magnification optics and can thus identify the bird on the other side of a large lake. I was about to discover another meaning.

Tawny Owl at Grimley, photographed by Brian Stretch.

Tawny Owl at Grimley, photographed by Brian Stretch.

Three birders happened to arrive at the spot at the right time (luckily for me as I’d have struggled to find it otherwise). Brian was still there: this was fortunate for all of us as he had found the only sight-line through an array of leaves and branches to an ivy tree, through which one could peer carefully to spot a well-camouflaged owl nestling up against the tree trunk. ‘Showing well’? – considering that tawny owls are almost never seen in the daytime, and I’ve only ever seen them at night, then yes… It says something about Brian’s expertise that he had managed to spot it at all.

Lesser whitethroat at Castlemorton Common.

Lesser whitethroat at Castlemorton Common.

On Monday last week I decided to go on a dawn walk on Castlemorton Common. It’s said to be a regular spot for grasshopper warblers, which I’d never seen before. At 5:30am I arrived, parked the car, and set off across the common. Before too long I heard the grasshopper-like churring, deep within a bush. After a while, it appeared fleetingly, before flying off. As I meandered around, I heard several others, and spotted one – again as it flew off. It’s an elusive bird at the best of times (unless you are Jaybee who’s on a roll with gropper images at the moment), so it maintained its reputation – but it was very satisfying to hear and spot it.

Meanwhile, the lesser whitethroats – which I’ve rarely seen before – were prominent and showy, so much so that I could even grab some decent images…

Lesser whitethroat at Castlemorton Common

Lesser whitethroat at Castlemorton Common

On my way back, I chanced upon this stunning view of the Malvern Hills, so I stopped for a few snaps.

Malvern Hills from near Welland

Malvern Hills from near Welland (click to enlarge)

Stop press: So I was telling my neighbours Tony & Helen about my amazing birding exploits this week, when Tony says, ‘I saw an owl sitting on a fence post near Ockeridge Lake just recently. It was brown with white flecks. Do you know what type it was?’ At this point my face acquires a shade of green… ‘You’re telling me you’ve seen a tawny owl in the daytime! On a fence post!…’

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