I had to head to Coventry today for work and all was going as expected until I picked up my hire car at 9am this morning. A quick check on Birdguides had me changing my plans to take a scenic route via Andover, rather than the more mundane M5, M42. The reason, three little words "radde's showing well". I always carry bins and a camera, so it was an easy decision to make...I was on my way.
An hour and twenty minutes later I arrived at Anton Lakes LNR on the north-east outskirts of Andover and discovered it was still showing albeit briefly. I also discovered I could've done with my wellies but had to make do.
A short, muddy walk from the car I soon found about 20 people lined up watching a patch of willows, blackthorn, grassy clumps and dead willow-herb. Twenty minutes passed and then it called. Stems swayed around, more calls and then song! It was only about 15 feet away but could I see it? Could I heck! It moved around like a ghost, somehow travelling from one area to another without detection.
After nearly an hour-and-a-half it called again, only this time more distantly - it had moved further along the track. Myself and four others, took ourselves away from the main group and walked to where we thought we'd heard it. After a few minutes my first, brief views of it as it moved left through thick undergrowth. Then nothing for another five minutes. "showing well" it might have been early this morning but this was one difficult bird to get to grips with now! Then it called again, this time it sounded close. A willow moved, I got my bins up just in time to see it before it dropped like a stone into the base of the bush. Striking supercilium greenish brown uppers, buffy undertail coverts...and gone. Still calling though, so not gone far. After another five minutes a willow-herb swayed, bins on it again and then there it was! It climbed into view, called and flew into deep cover once more. This was the view I'd hoped for and only three of us had it. Up until this point it was like a jigsaw, if you'd pieced together all the little views you had, you'd get a radde's but no view of the whole bird. I felt relieved and incredibly lucky. I had one more brief (probably less than a second) view as it vacated the blackthorn it had flown into for a dense weedy patch behind and out of sight altogether. It was at that point I realised I probably wouldn't get another good view of it and it was time to head on. Goodbye radde's, hello Coventry - I know where I'd rather be...