Friday, 17 February 2012

Gone Birding

Friday 17th February 2012
A gloomy sunrise over the Welsh village of Rhiwderin.
At 4:30 pm yesterday, when I was at the farthest point of the farm, Sue came running all the way down the land to alert me.
My pager had started wildly wailing again.
A Common Yellowthroat, a small, brightly coloured warbler all the way from America. What was it doing just outside Newport, Gwent? Well, it probably came over last Autumn, blown way off course and dumped into a strange, foreign land. The warmer than average winter will have meant it could survive on a diet of insects and invertebrates. Possibly it had been in this place for several months now, or more likely the recent spell of cold weather had caused it to move on and find a new temporary home.
All credit to the person who found it. It would most certainly be an unexpected bird to see in a Welsh hedge in February.

Now, I have seen a Common Yellowthroat on this side of the Atlantic before, one in a lighthouse compound in the far West of Ireland. That was in 2003.
The last one to be seen in Britain was in 1997 on the Isles of Scilly, so most people had waited almost fifteen years for a repeat visit. It's not often a twitcher gets to see yank warblers in this country, so I quickly made arrangements to travel overnight to be there from first light the next morning.

Everybody spread out to search for the bird.
Nothing for the first hour.


Not the actual bird.

Then...a to see it in case something ghastly happens to it in the next two minutes...there it is it now?...that's it!

Well, I hope you're impressed.
By early afternoon we were heading back through the rolling hills of East Midlands. In one small area we saw over twenty Red Kites, just floating on the air searching for carrion. This dense population is the relic of a release scheme designed to bring this rare raptor back from the brink of extinction in this country. It has been a tremendous success and these birds now have a flourishing and spreading population. It can't be long before one soars over the farm and has me sprinting for my binoculars, if they're not already round my neck.

A Single Long-tailed Tit and a Thousand Lapwings
Wales and back, and still time to do some birding on the farm!
A diminutive Long-tailed Tit swung from the feeders. A relatively infrequent garden visitor, these birds almost always travel in groups of up to a dozen birds. To see one all on its tod was an even more unusual sight. Later, as I regaled a friend with the events of the morning in Wales, I broke off the conversation to check out a distant, tight flock of birds. The heavy, flopping wings gave them away as lapwings. Quite common in the winter around here, but here was a thousand plus in one flock. Presumably our local population has been topped up by birds coming off the continent following the recent big freeze.

As a long day ended, I managed to keep the Little Owl calling for more than tem minutes by answering its calls. Unfortunately it stayed tight in the hedge and remained unseen.


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