It was way too early for the net curtains to start twitching in Otford, Kent, when Neill, Trops, Duncan and I rocked up at stupid o’clock today, but you could smell the money even in the low dawn mist and poor light.
Mature trees, high fences and walls – yup, garden twitches can certainly be difficult, especially when you haven’t got access to the relevant garden (not that I blame them – I wouldn’t want me in my own back garden sometimes), and all you can do is ‘scope over the fences and hope the target shows in taller Sycamores etc.
We joined a small crowd of birders on The Butts (absolutely no tittering at the back there, but you’d think they’d have come up with a less amusing name for the street amid all the Kentish suburban affluence).
It was cold as the dawn chorus whistled and spluttered away, but after about half an hour, round 0550, I managed to pick up the Western Rufous Turtle Dove that has been haunting this leafy enclave just off the M25 since February at least.
Initially it sat high in the foliage of a Sycamore, barely moving, then it flew onto some bare branches to give us all great views, although dawn light, overhanging trees and mist meant my pics were the usual poop – still, you get the general idea.
Striking undertail, wing pattern and bluey grey wash, but with the greatest of respect to the family Columbidae, a dove is a dove, and not overly blessed with charisma.
All the same, it was my second UK tick of 2016, so bad light or not, it was a successful trip and we were able to watch the dove as it shimmied along the branches in the gloom for about 15 minutes before it dropped down into the gardens and out of sight behind the fence.
Job done – no need to stay any longer, so we were back on the road by 0630, quicker’n you could shake a Pimm’s on the Village Green.
With shared driving duties we managed to hurtle up-country past 23 Red Kites as the motorway snaked through Oxfordshire, rattling back home to Southport by 1130.
Whatsamatter? Doesn’t everyone pop down to Kent for a 60 minute visit on Bank Holidays???
Thanks to Neill, Trops and Duncan – another great day in the field chaps, even if our stay at said field was pretty brief this time…