Last April a Black Redstart turned up in our garden - a very nice surprise. I was digging the veg patch and it was pure luck that I saw a little bird perching in the ash tree.
This morning I was innocently looking out of the bathroom window (no frosted glass, you see) for no particular reason. I saw a small brown bird perching near the honeysuckle. From a distance it looked pretty much like a Robin, but its tail shivered.
Then it disappeared into the foliage. I knew what it ought to be, but I told myself I'd probably got it wrong (no binoculars in the bathroom, even in our house).
I got my bins from the study and watched for a couple of minutes, hoping it'd pop up out of cover. It didn't, so I got on with washing my hair.
I couldn't help looking for the mystery bird again before going to work. Something perching on our neighbours' fence caught my eye. I trained the scope on it (ready for precisely this kind of emergency) and I knew immediately that my earlier gut reaction had been correct!
A female Redstart sat on the fence, half-hidden by the leaves of a nearby tree. It was sod's law that some leaves completely obscured its head, but the warm buff colour of its belly was the important thing. The tail shivered again.
Leaving the scope in position, I had to charge downstairs to get Darren (I suppose I could have phoned him, but that would have been silly). We saw it again for a few seconds before it flew out of sight again, never to be seen again.
Like the Black Redstart, the amount of luck involved in seeing this bird is almost scary. If I hadn't looked out of the window at that moment, if it had been on the opposite side of the fence, if I'd ignored it, if I hadn't had my glasses on...
I can't help but wonder where it hatched, where it's going to breed - a Scottish or Welsh oakwood, perhaps? - and where it spent the winter. I'm quite certain there's nothing special about our garden, so how many other Redstarts are making their way through Cambridgeshire at the moment?