White-Headed Magpie


Not even the IOC taxonomy lists this as so much as a subspecies. Nor Coventry magpie: the bird flap-bounced across a field at Ansty, near to that city. The bouncing flight and what I thought was white in the wings initially made the sighting all woodpecker. A brief suspicion of jay did not hold up with a lack of white rump.

I was happy with great spotted woodpecker until the bird came to rest low down and perched facing me from the other side of a field. Through wavering binoculars I got the full benefit of white head and breast surmounting a body that blended with the dark hedge behind. The creature looked for all the world like a giant long-tailed tit. It was certainly no woodpecker. I needed to steady the view and squatted to improve my balance.

Of course, by then the bird had flown. Missed; and so, mystery.

I found myself in that neck of Warwickshire to fill a tetrad for the BTO Bird Atlas. Most of my nearest counties had their minimum quota of tetrads allocated, so I had found one that didn’t. I love filling in gaps. I used to do the same for BirdTrack up in Angus.

Now the news is that I can fill in Somerset too. I’m moving to Portishead, which rather changes yesterday’s non-motorised birding challenge. It’s been a long time since a passenger train got within ten miles of the place, so I’ll have to bus it. Or I’ll just accept that Portishead caters solely for car owners and admit defeat. Actually, doesn’t non-motorised disqualify buses anyway? And trains for that matter?

In which case: game on again. A stroll away from the town, all the surrounding mud, estuary and scrub should be a bird paradise.

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