Occasionally I get away from my desk for a stroll at lunchtime. Even more occasionally I find a bird (or two) of interest. Last week's finds made it a red-letter week indeed.
First of all, a quick turn down by the river (just downstream of the medical centre, if you know the area) turned up the male Mandarin Duck which had been reported a few days earlier. OK, so it's not exactly a native, and I wasn't the first to find it (that shouldn't matter, but it just does) - but even so, it was a mighty fine sight to brighten up a grey February lunch hour.
Slightly more 'authentic' was the walk I took, a couple of days later, down the canalside from nearby Preston Bagot. There was plenty about - three or four Great Spotted Woodpecker vyed for territory and attention (I suspect it wasn't me they were trying to impress); two Buzzards tried to continue with their circling, soaring courtship while ignoring the irritation of mobbing crows; Wrens hopped through the tangled undergrowth; and Long-tailed Tits flitted pinkly (that may not be an actual word) through the trees overhead.
But the star birds of the day, as so often at this time of the year, were the Siskins, in this case perhaps 80 or 100, my biggest flock of the year. These beautiful little finches fed furiously on alders at the canal's edge, allowing me to watch for many minutes until a passing jogger caused them to erupt in a explosion of pingy squeaks (it's not easy explaining sounds with words, so just bear with me here).
Bird of the week: Siskin (Carduelis spinus), a most exquisite little winter visitor to these parts, most commonly found feeding on alder trees near water.