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Surprises Through My Zeisses / 4 Firecrest (1 Viewer)

Troubador

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You are welcome to join me in this fourth of a series of articles taking a look back over my shoulder at some sightings that have not only delighted us but startled and surprised us.

When we first began birding, way back in the dim and distant 1970’s and 80’s, we occasionally glimpsed a Goldcrest Regulus regulus, usually high in the tree canopy, and then agonised over the diagrams and descriptions in the field-guides of the day, trying desperately to determine whether or not it was a Firecrest Regulus ignicapilla . As far as we could tell it never was and this left us with the lurking suspicion that these two delightful passerines are devilishly difficult to tell apart. How wrong can you be?

Fast forward to 2018, me with my trusty Conquest HD 8x32 and Troubadoris with her Trinovid HD 8x32, creeping through the carr (wet woodland) at the head of a big reed-bed in the depths of the county of Suffolk. We had in mind to make our way to the edge of the reed-bed and listen for the mechanical-sounding twangs of Bearded Reedlings Panurus biarmicus, one of our favourite small birds, and hopefully catch sight of them looking like caramel lollipops on the ends of their slim tail-sticks.

We were slowly moving through the heart of the carr, with air full of the smell of stagnant water and all-pervading wetness, and had stopped to survey the scene and discuss the changes since we were last here, when a small bird parachuted down out of the canopy and landed close to us on the broken branch of dead tree. It leaned forward and uttered a small call impossible to describe, just as both of us got our binos in focus on it. This was our ‘Eureka!’ moment, and we both hissed ‘Firecrest’ to each other, having recognised it in an instant. Honestly, we nearly did backward somersaults, this bird was so staggeringly different from the Goldcrests that visit our garden. In particular the white eye-stripe was huge and it continued around its forehead from one side to the other, and combined with various black stripes and of course the famous fiery stripe on its crown, made it immediately recognisable. No need for field guides this time.

I have no idea how long we gazed at the Firecrest, and it stared back at us with its beautiful bright eyes, leaning forward on its perch studying us intently, but it was more than just a minute or two. Eventually it was us who decided the Firecrest had been kind enough to give us so much of its time, and that we should leave and allow it to resume it’s foraging. It was a sighting worth waiting for, and all the more delightful for being totally unexpected and initiated by the bird, not us.

Lee
 

Troubador

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Arthur and Edmund, thank you for your kind words. These memories are taking me on a journey into the past too!

Lee
 

Tringa45

Well-known member
Europe
Hi Lee,

Firecrest and Goldcrest are named Sommergoldhähnchen (little summer hen) and Wintergoldhähnchen (little winter hen) in German and, although by no means common, can be seen here all year round. I see now though that for you Yorkies the Firecrest must be a very rare bird :).

Funny isn't it that one concentrates on features in a field guide (yellow and orange crests) that are not that easy to separate in real life. I always used to look for the yellow eye rings of Little Ringed Plovers but that can be very difficult at a distance. The orange legs (and beak) of the Ringed Plover are the better distinguishing features.

John
 

Troubador

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Hi Lee,

Firecrest and Goldcrest are named Sommergoldhähnchen (little summer hen) and Wintergoldhähnchen (little winter hen) in German and, although by no means common, can be seen here all year round. I see now though that for you Yorkies the Firecrest must be a very rare bird :).

Funny isn't it that one concentrates on features in a field guide (yellow and orange crests) that are not that easy to separate in real life. I always used to look for the yellow eye rings of Little Ringed Plovers but that can be very difficult at a distance. The orange legs (and beak) of the Ringed Plover are the better distinguishing features.

John
You are exactly right John.

Lee
 

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