Monday, 21 February 2011

Feb 19th: OTD at last!

Today, I made a return trip to Oxfordshire to try again for the Oriental Turtle Dove, with John Marchant.  The weather forecast for the day was very poor and I was very pessimistic about seeing the bird with visions of wasted hours traipsing in the rain.  When we arrived, there was already a queue of some 400 people waiting for their time to view the garden of No. 41 The Leys.  Those at the front of the queue were there from 4am!  Clearly it was pointless joining the queue - even if it was in full view all the time from the house, it would be 3pm by the time we'd have made it through the door.  Judging by past days' performances, the dove tends to arrive at c. 07.00 and fly out about 08.30, so we felt the best tactic was to wait until it flew out hopefully into an adjacent tree.  Sure enough, at around 09.00 hours the bird flew up from the garden into an Ash tree where it stayed put for perhaps 5 minutes, just long enough for me to get my scope onto it and to see all the diagnostic features before it disappeared again.  I guess some 100 or so others managed to see the bird too at this point, and it was something of a crush as everyone tried to get their eye in.  Some half an hour later, the dove was spotted again to the west of the Leys, perched atop an Ash tree in bud.  Surprisingly it stayed put on the canopy of the ash for what seemed like over an hour, allowing excellent views if slightly distant for a prolonged period.  It was really satisfying and a huge relief to finally get the views I'd wanted of this bird; I had already wasted 9 hours on Tuesday searching the town, as well as patiently queuing, all to no avail.  I have to say that I don't really enjoy birding with large numbers of people around, but the pleasure of seeing the bird outweighed that.  It was also pleasing to see the bird given that I initially identified it.  See the Birdguides article.  It would seem that most people who have travelled to see the bird have now been successful; it has made a lot of people happy which is good!  It'll be good to do something different next weekend, a bit more relaxing and stress-free.  I attach the sketches I made today, as well as a re-worked version.  I've not got round to re-working the water colour painting but I plan to soon.  This paint sketch was done at the time in the field, with an umbrella in the pouring rain, whilst sitting in a cramped position facing slightly uphill, and with a terrible migraine.  So, about as difficult as it could possibly be.  Somehow I managed to keep the rain off and I have something tangible to show for it. 

Below: the above sketch with a bit more detail added in:

The residents of The Leys have been amazingly kind and tolerant of this invasion of people to their neighbourhood, and several had opened up their garden to allow viewing of the bird where possible.  Some have raised considerable sums of money for charities of their choosing which is great.

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