The tale of the Hillsborough dunnock
Day one: mid February
Travel to Hillsborough, spend 2 hours walking around the forest. At one point hear a brief trill from a dunnock in the swathe of brambles. Hang around for a few minutes but he doesn’t repeat. On my return to the car, take a swing past the same spot. He’s singing. I record five or sing songs. He stops. He doesn’t resume. I head on.
Day two: one week later.
Return to Hillsborough. After a failed attempt on a shy blackbird (obviously not highly motivated enough yet), I make my way to the same bramble patch. I notice a nearby discarded water pipe. A comfortable seat! I sit for two hours while early morning dog walkers and joggers question my strange appearance with their eyes. The dunnock sings desultorily once or twice. I curse him and go home.
Day three: three days later.
Sole mission is to record that dunnock. I have a plan. I set up the equipment and leave it to run while I hide behind a derelict building at some distance. The batteries will just have to last. I also walk off at half hour intervals, fingers crossed that nobody steals my stuff. My focal bird won’t recognise me as the same individual and hopefully won’t realise that I really am out to get him. Three hours later I have nine minutes worth of songs! I have outwitted a small bird! Ladies and gentlemen, the Hillsborough dunnock has been caught!