Yes, we finally moved to our new house on thursday 7th March. I've been a bit busy since then and the weather, as i'm sure you've noticed has been appallingly wet, dismal and depressing. But on tuesday, the twin curses of cabin fever and DIY drove me back to New Hythe lakes, my old stomping ground, still only twenty minutes away. As it turned out, the weather wasn't too bad, and neither was the bird watching.
I was pleased to see Terry's car in the car park and after a quick phone call we met up alongside Bucket Wood Creek, where once again I failed to find those elusive Grey Wagtails. Terry had already checked out the river from the woods and with nothing much to report we headed straight off around the sunken marsh.
We stopped for a few moments to watch the skies over the marsh in the hope of an early Sand Martin but I think they have seen sense and stayed a bit further south for the time being.
A bit further up the path we could hear what sounded like two Cetti's shouting at each other and as we rounded the corner there they were. In the open, on the outer edge of a bush, the two of them were seemingly having a right old slanging match.
We watched amazed for a couple of minutes while they sat, never more than about a foot apart, calling constantly to each other.
Still these notoriously shy, skulking birds took absolutely no notice of us and we eventually moved to within about four to five metres of them, still seemingly invisible.
We were both astonished at the intensity of their behaviour and speculated as to what it was all about. Given that it was mid March it had to be male territorial aggression or some kind of courtship ritual.
It doesn't help that males and females of this species are difficult to distinguish but my feeling at the time was that this was courtship behaviour as there didn't seem to be any aggression in their actions.
But I was wrong. After watching them for a good few minutes, maybe as much as seven or eight, both birds suddenly and violently locked claws and spiralled downwards, tumbling and calling loudly until we could no longer see them.
Then there was absolute silence and we stood there amazed, wondering what was going on out of sight in the bottom of the bush.
After a couple of minutes a single bird flew out and away into the marsh, then the second bird followed in the same direction and that was the last we saw of them.
Yesterday, Terry called me to say that he had looked up this species in his copy of the Birds of the Western Palearctic and found an account of this behaviour in Cetti's Warblers.It matched to the letter exactly what we had seen and attributed it to male territorial aggression and suggested that the final two minute silent struggle can be quite violent. So the first bird out of the bush was the vanquished and the second the victor, who no doubt returned to the spot to claim the spoils.
Maybe this is quite commonly seen by other bird watchers but neither Terry or myself have witnessed it before and I for one wouldn't be surprised if I don't see it again.