The Ring Ouzel plate from Richard Crossley's ID Guide to Birds of Britain & IrelandI'm back home after a superb 10 days exploring the Rio Grande Valley in southeastern Texas. I have come back to a grey, cold London with the prospect of snow high on the cards. Down at Wormwood Scrubs we are still struggling to see our target of 100 species and are currently stuck on 98 having been so since late September.
One bird that we eagerly await every year to add to the year list is the occurance of Ring Ouzels - my favourite bird. Every year for the past 10 we have received visits from this most mysterious of our British thrushes. Quite why they chose to visit my urban patch with such regularity has always been a puzzle for me. They are normally birds of wild mountainous regions yet I associate them amongst urbanity standing in trees with the cityscape spread out behind them as a backdrop. A totally incongruous sight, I'll tell you.
When my migrants come they often don't announce their presence. We just know to keep a sharp lookout from mid to late April, our spring window and from late September into early November for autumn birds. This year we didn't manage to catch sight of any birds in the spring. This has occasionally happened before as birds may literally pass through at a blink of an eye; pausing to catch breath for a couple minutes before heading on north. If you are not in the right place at the right time then you your chance to see them has gone. This autumn we were fretting. Time was running out and although a few were being seen in the London area crucially, we were not seeing any on the patch.
One Saturday morning in late October whilst I was playing football, I got the phonecall that a male had been finally sighted on the patch. It hung around for five minutes before disappearing. I was elated. Our yearly record of sightings had continued. But I was also deeply disappointed because I had not seen my favourite bird this year. I consoled myself later by staring at the Ring Ouzel plate in Richard Crossley's ID Guide to Birds of Britain & Ireland. It was like looking at a beautiful compilation of the Ring Ouzels I have seen in the past.
For more on the Crossley Guide check out http://blog.press.princeton.edu/crossley-uk-blog-tour-schedule/
There will be a live video call with Richard Crossley and writer Dominic Couzens on November 21 at (http://shindig.com/)