Tuesday 13 May 2014

Serin Dippity 13th May 2014

Last Saturday I was all set to go and see a female Serin at Gibralter Point Nature Reserve near Skegness in Lincolnshire. In fact I got within twenty miles of it before turning back and returning to Oxfordshire to try and see a Spotted Sandpiper. That is another story that has been recounted in the post previous to this one

The following Sunday and Monday reports were still coming through of the Serin being seen regularly below the feeders at a place called The Plantation at Gibralter Point. I decided to make another attempt to see it on Tuesday provided it was still there. I resolved to wait until the first report of its continued presence appeared on RBA on Tuesday which it duly did at just before 10am. Anticipating a positive outcome on Tuesday reference the Serin's presence, the car was already loaded with my birding gear so it was very soon after ten when I left Kingham.

The forecast for Tuesday was showers up until lunchtime and then sunshine. This was good as it was a three hour drive to Skegness so I would be driving through the showers and hopefully watching the Serin in sunshine.We live in hopes!

Arriving in the flat topography of Lincolnshire I could see the bulk of Lincoln Cathedral dominating the skyline from miles away as I drove northwards. Quickly by-passing Lincoln I was soon in the Lincolnshire Wolds, a new and pleasurable experience for me. The rain had not materialised and it was wonderfully sunny and warm. The countryside was simply at its utter best. Gone were the brown fields of winter and the stark, leafless skeletal branches of tree and hedge. The hedgerows were now rounded, pillowed and soft with new leaf growth. The May blossom, the best I have seen for years, hung heavy and profuse on the hawthorns, dragging down the thin branches with their weight, creating a white canopy on each bush, like a tablecloth that all but smothered the green leaves. The heady, sickly sweet scent of the blossom came to me on the breeze through the open car window. I drove down winding rural roads bordered with the endless white May blossom hedges and every possible shade of green on the trees. I wish it would always be like this but then instead of being inspiring it would be mundane and familiar. This growing time creates such a restlessness in me. Caught up in the hurry of Spring it is both exhilarating and slightly un-settling.

I arrived at Gibralter Point at around one thirty, driving down a long and narrow road out of Skegness with a golf course on one side and large houses on the other to find myself in a car park with the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust's modern looking but rather ugly visitor centre beyond.

Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust Visitor Centre
The Plantation, which the Serin was frequenting was mercifully close by and I commenced a short walk along a track bordered with a froth of white and green created by the delicate fronds and flowers of Cow Parsley.

I met another birder coming along the track from the viewing screen and enquired about the Serin. He told me the Serin had been seen but was proving very elusive, He had waited an hour and a half to see it. Not to worry I had all the time in the world. I made my way to the viewing screen which overlooks a small pond with the feeders beyond it. 

The viewing screen. Otmoor regulars will be interested to hear that the
locals complain just as much here about the heights of the apertures 
The view from the screen with the pond and feeders beyond
Twenty minutes passed by pleasantly in the warm sunshine as I waited with half a dozen others for the Serin to arrive. Many other birds were coming to the feeders in the meantime so it was hardly boring. A Willow Warbler came down to drink and bathe. Greenfinches, the males green and yellow and quite beautiful, delicate Goldfinches, Chaffinches and a feisty Robin were regularly feeding on or below the feeders, drinking or bathing in the pool. Great, Blue and Coal Tits came and went as did a male Blackcap.

Willow Warbler
Male Greenfinch
Male Chaffinch bathing
Someone said they could see the Serin in one of the trees by the feeders but then it disappeared. I scanned the ground below the feeders and suddenly it was there on the ground. I remember noticing the prominent fork in its tail and streaked back as it faced away from me. No one else seemed to have noticed its arrival. I said 'There it is below the left hand feeder' and everyone jumped to it. The Serin shuffled around feeding on spilt sunflower seed. A classic little brown job. Grey brown, paler below with the merest hint of green on the back and with prominent darker streaks on its body. Totally non descript apart from two distinct buff wing bars, a hint of yellow around the neck and face and a vivid lemon yellow back and rump, only visible when it flew. Much smaller than the other finches with a stubby little bill it  held its own and fed happily on the seeds in the company of the other finches. It was superbly camouflaged on the sun dappled ground and frustratingly, with photography in mind, it was a nightmare to focus on as it kept in the cover of the nettles growing up around the feeder poles and moving from light to shade.Ten minutes passed all too quickly and then it flew up and away.

It did not go far but just into the nearby trees and was often visible quietly sitting there. Once it actually went to sleep in the sun but I suppose coming from the Continent it was just having a normal post midday siesta!

It revisited the feeders three times in the space of two hours and seemed to spend the rest of its time in the nearby trees so I was well pleased with my encounters.

On one occasion whilst waiting for the Serin to put in a re-appearance a Spotted Flycatcher made a typically hyperactive but all too brief appearance. My first for the year and a most welcome surprise

Four o' clock came and after watching the Serin for the third and final time, feeding for another ten minute spell before flying up into the trees, I made my way back to the car. The sun still shone and indeed did so until I left Lincolnshire. On the way home I reflected on what a difference a couple of days can make to my mood and the feeling of frustration from last Saturday 

The words at the bottom could apply to many things!

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