Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Larking about

After a lot of searching, this superb Shore Lark - a major London Area rarity - finally gave itself up today.
Back from Norfolk last night to news that Britain's second Eastern Crowned Warbler had apparently been trapped and ringed first thing at Hilfield Park Reservoir, on the Hertfordshire fringe of the London Area, but not seen since. I decided not to waste a day there dipping with the crowds today but to go and look instead for the Shore Lark which turned up last week in the Surrey sector of London, and which was still present yesterday.

The bird looks like it has largely retained breeding plumage, somewhat unusually for October.
After several kilometres walking the banks of Queen Elizabeth II Reservoir at Walton-on-Thames sans lark, I opted to phone a friend for advice, and then retrace my steps closer to the water line in case the bird was foraging unseen in the lee of the embankment wall. Meeting up with another birder on site, Fraser, we duly found it poking about in moss - about the closest habitat to tundra (or indeed saltmarsh) in Walton-on-Thames. It's a terrific bird, still yellow faced and with 'horns', as well as a rather warm hue (almost pinkish in places); speculation that it's a North American Horned Lark rather than a Eurasian Shore Lark may be a bit premature, however (even if it failed to respond to the Shore Lark calls I played).

Eurasian or North American? Online debate has already begun about the potential origins of this bird.
It was a welcome addition to my London list, especially as I had searched for but missed the last one, which was at Rainham Marshes back on 7 November 1998 (and, I think, possibly a single-observer record). Thanks to Johnny Allan and to Dave Darrell-Lambert for the on-site advice today.


  1. Hi Dominic
    Not sure by how many minutes we missed each other yesterday at QE2 res - defo a different experience.
    Not sure I would recommend the full frontal over the fence and up those very steep and high and exposed to the outside world steps! lol.
    I was a bit worried that the valeting men might report me - older lady took it into her head to jump over (nope fall over the fence) and run up (no stagger up) the steps - bound to be a jumper!
    lol! really could have done with arriving when you did then it would have been all cool!
    any way love your photos- I wasn't going originally yesterday but (your) the pager said Shorelark still present - so I went!sans camera!
    mind thats no prob as most of my pics are just record shots!
    New camera tho is proving to be a bit different! Panasonic FZ150 ...
    if its cool could I use one of your photos on my blog - all acknowledged?


  2. Hi Corinna, sounds like you made quite an entrance to the reservoir - shame I missed it! Thanks for the kind comments about my photos, and for taking the trouble to ask permission - you're welcome to use one on your blog in exchange for credit with a link. Please post the address here so other readers can see your blog too. Haven't used one of those Panasonics but hear good things about them - look forward to seeing your results. Kind regards, Dominic

  3. The Shore Lark is a handsome beast...... a strange name when you think that races of this occur in central Eurasia, many miles from the sea. Has "Horned Lark" fallen into disuse ?



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