Posted by: Ross Gardner | April 3, 2016


I have written many times on nature’s ability to provide ongoing surprise, even to one who might regard himself as an experienced naturalist and who has focussed his attentions for many years on such a small county as the UK.  This, I am very pleased to say, continues to be the case.

A few weeks back I was lucky enough to watch a firecrest picking its way among the shrubs that run wild on the grounds of Warley Place.  This is one of those birds that I have never really spent much time looking for.  I do check the winter flocks of (the very similar and much more common) Goldcrest on the off-chance of this rather rare addition to their number, but have by and large relied on good fortune for the privilege of seeing one.  For this reason this last sighting was only my fifth ever.  And scarce they are.  The RSPB currently estimate just 550 British breeding territories, all in the South of England.

There is, as you are now doubt already suspecting, a late twist to this brief tale of birdwatching opportunism.  That individual at Warley was indeed not the only one of its kind I would lay eyes this March.  A surprise enough, but not only for the unexpectedness of two sightings so close together.  The surprise was more in the location and also in the quantity.  As regards the former, it was during a visit last week to Brighton.  Walking through the (Royal) Pavilion Gardens with the spring-warm sun beaming down on my back, my eyes were alert to movements, but really those of bees and other insects, busy among the early-spring blooms.  But it was the wings of birds that caught my eye, flitting to the ground beside an area of shrubs beside the museum.  They were tiny and I thought it odd to see goldcrest going to ground.  Walking closer and with my suspicions aroused, I was sure I’d glimpsed the bold eye markings that distinguish the firecrest from the goldcrest.  Taking my binoculars from my bag (I was almost going to leave them in the car!) my suspicions were confirmed, but not just of there being one, but three firecrest and in the middle of Brighton!

It just goes to show how useful it may be for those inclined, to have one eye on the small movements around them, regardless of were you might be.  I was close enough to grab a shot of one of the birds, but click here for some clearer images.

Firecrest (Regulus ignicapillus) foraging on the ground in the Pavilion Gardens, Brighton. Ross Gardner 2016.

Firecrest (Regulus ignicapillus) foraging on the ground in the Pavilion Gardens, Brighton. Ross Gardner 2016.


  1. Nice

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