Searching Badly For Itinerant Vicars

First year Ring Ousel on Out Skerries

At this time of year a few birds that generally breed inland stop off on the Fylde coast on their migration in small numbers. They include species like Pied Flycatchers, Redstarts and Wood Warblers that turn up in Stanley Park and other pockets of trees like the Pleasure Beach bushes I mentioned in a recent post. There is also the upland relative of the Blackbird, the Ring Ousel, which is less tied to trees and can pop up on golf courses and other green spaces.

I’ve referred to them as vicars because they have a white gorget which is not dissimilar to a the ‘dog collar’ worn by a man (or woman) of the cloth. This is very distinctive compared with your bog standard Blackbird, but not all Blackbirds have read the bog standard brief and have bits of white where they shouldn’t and can be a trap for the unwary.

So to get to the point I have something of a confession to make. Whilst a handful of Ring Ousels are seen the length of the Fylde coast every spring I am yet to find one. I’ve seen plenty over the years, both in Bowland where they breed and on Shetland where they are regular migrants. One October day on Out Skerries when it was raining thrushes I reckoned I saw at least ten on the island, picking them out among hundreds of Scandinavian Blackbirds.

So I know what I am looking for, I know I can find them, and yet I continue to fail spectacularly. Last year Jane and I got into a habit of going to Rossall School in the mornings so she could look for seaglass and I checked the playing fields from the sea wall for migrants. I thought I would break my duck then in terms of finding a Fylde Ring Ousel. I didn’t.

The last couple of weeks I’ve tried my hand for migrants in a few places locally. On Sundays I’m rather tied to Anchorsholme Park with the junior parkrun commitments, but with its mixture of short grass and neighbouring gardens it’s the kind of place one could turn up. Ultimately it’s nice to have ‘bogey birds’ as there’s something to strive for. And if I don’t succeed again it’s a good incentive to get in the fells in the summer and see them where they truly belong.

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