Sunday 28 January 2018

Another shot at the Horned Lark

I was out of the country when the American Horned Lark first appeared at Staines Reservoirs, Surrey, last November. Arriving back on the Tuesday after its initial appearance, I gave the lark a few hours before work that day, only to miss it - was seen again later that day, but then disappeared for the remainder of 2018.

So it was with mixed emotions that I read the news on 22nd that the bird was back. Pleased that it had reappeared, but less pleased with the fact that I was sat in north-eastern Hokkaido, Japan. Of course, its presence hardly detracted from where I was, having spent an afternoon enjoying superb views of Red-crowned Cranes, but it was still a little galling that it had chosen the exact week I was away to reappear. Given it had only lasted a few days at Staines on its last visit, I wasn't hopeful for it to hang on for my return on 27th.

Surprisingly, it did. Daily messages of it showing well along the causeway were a little galling, so it was a pleasure to read it was still there on 27th and, early on Sunday, I headed over to Staines. Happily the lark was still there, and showing well on both sides of the causeway. It was also quite vocal, uttering a call reminiscent of 'our' Shore Lark but perhaps not quite the same. At a range of 15 metres, the views were fantastic through the 'scope, although just a tiny bit distant for my 400mm lens. It didn't help that there were about 50 excitable birders following its every move - I'm sure if there was a small crowd there it'd probably feed right up the bank, almost to the railings. What a great bird, too - clearly strongly reminiscent of flava but differing in size and shape (it appeared a bit smaller and slimmer) as well as plumage tones (more rufous/vinous, darker and colder browns/greys).

'North American Horned Lark' (presumably alpestris/hoyti), Staines Reservoirs, 28 January 2018

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