Friday, 15 February 2013

A Reed Too Far

There have been a quite few Penduline Tits in Kent and this century it has been annual. Never-the-less it is still a vagrant and can be difficult to see. The one currently at Stodmarsh is extremely obliging and while I was there today it ensured that all its prospective admirers received long and good views. The Eurasian Penduline Tit is the sole European representative of a small family that has seven representatives in Africa and three (apart from this one) in Asia. In addition the Verdin from North America ans two other Asian tit-like birds are sometimes placed in the family, Remizidae. The four European and Asian species are sometimes considered a single species. The family seems to be a real headache for the taxonomists! The species has undergone a large range extension since 1950, reaching the Netherlands and N E France by 1985, although there are only a total of 2 or 300 pairs. There are much larger populations in Spain and Germany and if vagrants continue to arrive in Kent with the frequency they have over the last few years  proven breeding can't be too long in coming.

It did spend some time tuck away at the bottom of a clump of osiers while it meticulously preened, but even then it remained in view, albeit half hidden.

When it came out into the reed maces it sometimes started quite low, but normally it was visible and moved up the stems to be in good view.

While I was watching it did maintain a reasonable distance and was never in comfortable range for a frame filler, but in all honesty it was the best I've ever watched one either here or on the continent.

 If they do colonise the population is not easy to estimate as they have a polygamous mating system and they have no pair bonding.

 Although they are mainly insectivorous, and take other small invertebrates in summer I presume that they eat the small seeds when they dismantle reed-mace, as this one does so expertly.

 Although they are not the best, I've included a few more shots of this charming visitor, it might be the only chance I get, then ext one might not be so helpful.

 It seemed to spend a good time on each head, bits of fluff blowing around, betraying its whereabouts even when you lost it for a moment.

 After a while it would either move to another reed-mace or back into the osiers for a preen. I was almost as if the constant bits of fluff mean that it had to look after its feathers more frequently than other small birds.

 Where the occur on the continent their presence is often given away by the very high pitched, plaintive, far carrying "tssssseeooo" call.

 I think when it came to the top like this it was getting ready to move on the next reed mace.

This was a really big head and it got fluffed out so much that the bird more or less disappeared into the middle of it.

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