Cooling Marshes, Kent, 7th December 2014

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Getting Lucky

"Psst Pete...I think there's a Ring Ouzel on the lawn!"

These were not the first words I expected to hear when I walked into the kitchen on Thursday morning but sometimes you're just in the right place at the right time.

My housemate Simon was when he spotted the Ring Ouzel hopping about on our front lawn as he made breakfast last week. It was brief, there and gone in a minute, but unmistakably an adult male. I managed a hurried photo from the smeary window, seconds before it flew off - you can just make out the distinctive white cresent across its breast:

Ring Ouzel (Turdus torquatus) Bromhey farmhouse, Northward Hill 17/11/11
The appearance of this ‘upland Blackbird’ corresponded with similar appearances of migrants along the coast on Thursday – perhaps a result of steady southerlies holding up their migration south. Ring Ouzels are a spring visitor to the UK where they primarily breed in the steep, craggy valleys of northern England and Scotland. However, this late in November, this bird was likely a Scandinavian migrant. Although regularly recorded on passage in north Kent, Ring Ouzels are red-listed in the UK as a result of severe population declines.

I don't know whether it's THAT strange name, famously noted by Shakespeare who wrote of  an 'Ousel cock, so black of hue...' in 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' (he was referring to the more common Blackbird - the Ouzel's nearest relative), or the fact that Ring Ouzel's are by nature shy, secretive birds of upland areas - an environment that is itself mysterious and evocative. But it's a bird I've always wanted to see. I never thought I'd be able to do so from the comfort of my kitchen.

Nice one Simon!

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