Sunday, July 09, 2006

So raise the Scarlet Grosbeak high....

Ohmygod I can't believe I did this... maybe I should show a bit of self-respect, but (come closer, I don't want to shout...that's it, closer, closer, NOT THAT CLOSE!!!) today I twitched a Common Rosefinch. Having previously sneered with disdain at such low-listing-type behaviour as twitching non BB rares, but there you go. I'm a hypocrite, sue me. But I had an excuse... this is a red one! And sooo close to home as well - Newmachar, just north of Aberdeen, it would be churlish not to. So there I was, and I get out of the car and I'm wolf-whistled. Don't like to boast, but my new glasses do give my a certain panache, but wait! I'm being wolf-whistled by a Common Rosefinch. Is that allowed? So out in the open, in some bushes behind the Newmachar Hotel, it's 'pee-pee WHIEEEE YEUUU!! Astonishingly loud and piercing, and a Common Rosefinch singing. A grotfinch that's fallen in a paint tin (Poppy Red, btw). Very erythrinus, even. I had pre-prepared all sorts of pseudo-cool statements like 'pah, bit showy, give me an autumn juvvy any day' etc., but they were kind-of forgotten. Have to admit, give me my grotfinches in 'red-with-volume' ANY day of the week. Crown, face, chin, throat, upper breast red red red, very bright. Bit of a browner bandit mask around the eyes. Upperparts medium buff suffused with more red, and a reddy pink rump. Median covert bar was thin and white, stood out. Very mobile - kept flying off to the medium distance, but could easily be tracked by its song. At one point it fed at the side of the road with some Greenfinches - argh! Colour clash! Looked awful. Now it would have looked really good next to a Great Tit, or even a Siberian Blue Robin. Actually, I think I'd look good stood next to a Siberian Blue Robin - must try it one day. Anyway, you get the drift.

Before I leave the subject, I have to mention this.

Ian Wallace is has sometimes been criticised, perhaps unfairly, for his exuberance in the matter of writing descriptions of rare birds; but history will list him as one of ther Heroes of the Revolution, and you cannot criticise his ability to see and think on a big scale, and to communicate his ideas. One of the best things he ever wrote was this paper in British Birds (1999; BB 92, 445-471) charting the history of rosefinches in Britain and Ireland. It's a lesson in descriptive writing, and very interesting too.
'Taken into account all records, it appears that a peculiarly dynamic species of finch is throwing itself at Britain and Ireland at an uneven but growing rate.'
'The usually amorphous finch with beady eye and plaintive song will continue to present one of the most startling and enigmatic performances of all Palearctic passerines' etc.
Urge you to beg, steal or borrow a copy of this paper. If you ask nicely I'll even take a copy round to your house*
(*offer applies to immediate Newtonhill area only).

Back to matters current, and even as I was being sexually harrassed by the Red Grotfinch I was aware that there was a freshish south-easterly wind with drizzle and bits of mist, and that it would also be a good idea to be back in Newtonhill looking out to sea. Can't be in two places at once, but I CAN drive from the one to the other, so I did. By 9.15 I was back on the cliffs at Newtonhill. Errr. OK. There were lots of auks (3 spp) flying south with fish and a few hundred Gannets with fish and plastic bags, fishing nets, etc. But 45 minutes and 10 Manx Shearwaters later, I was starting to wonder if there was honey still for tea. I was really starting to wonder if we had any bacon left in the fridge (God's way of telling you to go home). The light was against me too. I tried to amuse myself looking at a family of recently fledged Carrion/Hoodie Crow dysgenic hybrids, but in the end decided to head for home and go out again later. Eugh, you've made me think of honey now. Hate honey. And the word 'mellifluous' - is there a nastier word in English? I doubt it. Rubbish seawatch - wish I was on Cape Clear for August. Except I'd miss my wife and kids obviously. (Sorry dear didn't see you standing behind me there). The when evening came, it was raining, so I didn't want to go out again! How rubbish is that? Twitches rosefinches, but only goes out if it's dry.


Bonsaibirder said...

Hi Martin,

Do you sit on the bench to Seawatch? - I've been there done that (ie. a few duff seawatchs from there)! Forgot to tell you that I used to live in Newtonhill last time I PMed you on Birdforum.


Martin said...

No, have given up on the bench as you are too likely to be joined by schoolkids drinking Bacardi Breezers or (worse!) chatty people with annoying dogs. I walk down the track to the rocks at the end.