Thanks to Jen Walker up at Leighton Moss for sending me details of the almost totally albino (you can still see some buff markings on the chest, and there's pigment in the eyes and bill) Bearded Tit seen in the reedbeds there.
The brilliant picture above is copyright John Wright, and the fine Starling flock coming into roost one at the end of this entry is copyright David Mower.
Thanks for the pics guys, and thanks for the Bearded Tit press release below Jen.
The only way this bird could make itself an easier target for a passing Sprawk would be to paint a nice red target on its chest!
"ONE-IN-A-MILLION BIRD IS SNAPPED AT NORTH WEST RESERVE
Wildlife experts have been stunned by the sighting of a white bearded tit at the RSPBÃ¢ÂÂs Leighton Moss nature reserve in Silverdale.
ItÃ¢ÂÂs the first time that a white one has been seen at the nature reserve and, as bearded tits are one of the UKÃ¢ÂÂs rarest birds, the RSPB says that the bird could be one-in-a-million.
The bird could be unique and it is thought that it is the first time that a white bearded tit has been photographed. Bearded tits are normally brown and black and the males have Ã¢ÂÂmoustachesÃ¢ÂÂ and grey heads.
A member of the public first spotted the Ã¢ÂÂmysteriousÃ¢ÂÂ white bird in the reedbed during a visit to the reserve and took a photograph of it.
The photo was sent to RSPB wardens, who were amazed to identify the bird as a bearded tit. This bird is not a true albino as, although it is almost completely white, the bird has pigment in the eyes and beak.
Jen Walker of the RSPB Leighton Moss reserve, said: Ã¢ÂÂBearded tits are elusive birds at the best of times and because they spend all their lives living in dense reedbeds, they are usually very difficult to see.
"To be able to take such a stunning photograph of this bird was quite an achievement. Bearded tits have been called the spirits of the reeds, but this bird is more like Leighton MossÃ¢ÂÂs very own reedbed ghost!Ã¢Â?
Albinism is due to gene mutations that affect the production of pigmentation. True albino animals lack melanin and are white with no markings and with unpigmented pink eyes. In some species there is also a form known as blue-eyed (or partial) albinism. It is thought that albinism may also occur as a bird gets older, in the same way as people go grey!
Jen added: Ã¢ÂÂThe normal opinion is that albino birds donÃ¢ÂÂt live very long in the wild because they are very conspicuous to predators. However, there is every chance that our white bearded tit will be able to survive in the dense, well-managed reedbeds at the RSPB Leighton Moss reserve. I hope that other visitors to the reserve may get the chance to spot this remarkable bird.Ã¢Â?
Bearded tits are very fussy about where they live - they are only found in reedbeds, where they nest among the reed stems and feed on reed seeds and reedbed insects. With less than 500 pairs in the UK, they are one of the countryÃ¢ÂÂs rarest birds and a target for special conservations effort by the RSPB. Leighton Moss is one of only a handful of places in the country where the sparrow-sized birds nest. Around 30 pairs of bearded tits nested at Leighton Moss this year and raised almost eighty young.
Leighton Moss is the largest remaining reedbed in north-west England. The reserve is well-known for its special birds: breeding bitterns, bearded tits, marsh harriers and avocets. The reserve and visitor centre are open daily all year round (except 25 December)."
So there you have it.
Haven't heard of much down here at present - a few hundred Pink Feet on the Hightown Bends yesterday afternoon, and some calling over Dempsey Towers in the darkness tonight.
Goldcrests, Robin and Blackbirds in the garden.
Eyes to the skies everyone, eyes to the skies.....