Friday, October 02, 2015


Photo: J von Leyden
Photo: J von Leyden
It's not often you get this close to the UK's smallest bird. The trick is to have it fly into a window and stun itself. My neighbours kindly arranged just such an event and called me to come and see. I corrected their impression that it was a juvenile goldfinch but misleadingly as it happened as I told them it was a Goldfinch! It is in fact a Firecrest, Regulus ignicapilla, the similar but much rarer first cousin of the Goldcrest. The distinguishing features are the white cheeks and black eyestripe. The Firecrest is slightly larger than the Goldcrest but imperceptibly so. It inhabits the same habitats: mainly conifers. 
Firecrests first bred in the UK in the early 1960s (Goldcrests have always been around) and in Sussex in the 1970s. Their numbers here are increasing. 
Usually you hear them before you see them. Firecrest song is a single accelerating note whereas Goldcrest ends with a slight flourish, not unlike the flourish of the Chaffinch.

Having enjoyed close-up views of the bird I proceeded to sample the delicious blackberry, elderflower and lime drizzle cake on offer. I fancy it was finer than the raspberry friands on offer last week, but it's not easy to be sure.

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