A solo East European migrant draws watchers to a willow tree in Walthamstow Marshes

EXCITEMENT on Walthamstow Marshes and it was nothing to do with the imminent anniversary of the first British powered flight that took place there 107 years ago.

Yet it was to do with flight, that of the common [sic] rose finch, a warbler-size male whose liking for the branches of a willow lured bird-watchers from all over England.

Dog-walkers and amblers have been surprised this week to see the twitchers tipping excitedly out of commuter buses then bustling across the watery fields, high-powered binoculars around their necks, long camera lenses jutting out of their knapsacks.

This rare species then flocked, with much coming and going, to a path on the marshes.

Carpodacus erythrinus, the object of their affection, is usually found nowhere west of the the Caucasus and Eurasia, so it may simply have been blown off course.

Chances of the finch’s call attracting a mate are low, although a lazy bird-watcher (yes, your reporter) noticed a bird of the same size trilling from a high antenna in northeast Ridley Road E8 1NH, at about 3pm today Thurs 070716.

common rose finch © Chris Batty
The common rose finch and, top, some of the people it attracted

Its cheery chirping in two-second bursts resembled that in some online recordings and its colouring might have been that of a female.

Was it the one the wretched lost bird was calling to from the marshes, 4km north?

The 37 hectares of Walthamstow Marshes became a Site of Special Scientific Interest in 1985 when a rare plant species was found there but local ornithologists know that the area also harbours kingfishers and reed warblers and is overflown by peregrines, ospreys and other fun-to-watch raptors.

David Altheer 070716

* Backstory: Hack to the future: website cuts through undergrowth for an intrepid air pioneer 

* Finch picture courtesy Chris Batty of Rare Bird Alerthttp://www.rarebirdalert.co.uk. Other pix © DavidAltheer [at] gmail.com. Most photographs are available in bigger formats. 

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