Black Redstart & Merlin, Portishead

Black Redstart

It just keeps getting better and better. By the tortuous route of joining the North Somerset Library, checking out their free online offers, finding the Bristol Ornithological Club, wondering if there was similar round here… well, I meandered through cyberspace and ended up at Clevedon & Portishead Birds, whose Latest Sightings page listed a black redstart at Battery Point on the 24th.

Rare enough to be on BirdGuides, I’d have thought. But, no. So, maybe five days too late but hopeful because the bird had been reported throughout January, I assayed Pointwards through East Wood. This gave me a calling nuthatch to add to my car-free list, so the trip was not going to be entirely wasted. Then I was faced with an expanse of land holding a robin-size bird.

Using my folk knowledge of black redstarts, i.e. they like power stations and waste ground, I reasoned that the open-air swimming pool (of which Portishead is very proud) was the best bet. I checked the Point anyway and, boy, am I now glad I did.

A falcon burst away from the slight cliff on the Bay side. I assumed kestrel but got the bins on it all the same. Grey tail: male. Grey back and inner wings. Is that right for a male too? Hmm, I made a mental note and checked my Collins back at the ranch. No, that’s a male merlin, that is. Yay! Year bird 112.

Year bird 113 followed a minute later when something that did look a lot like a robin popped up just feet from me. It turned to show that it had no red breast, then turned again and let me pick out a slight rusty rump. What an obliging little lady. And she not only adds to my Somerset list, as did the merlin, but my English list moves on again after the snow geese at Leighton Moss three months ago.

So, many thanks to goldcrest88, who web-masters Clevedon & Portishead Birds, and all the folk who report in to it.

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