Saturday, 25 February 2012

Throat Action

Loads of rarities turn up every year, but the pinnacle of these are more often than not yank passerines. And while driving along a country lane in Kerry last week, news broke of a Common Yellowthroat in Gwent. I was pretty pumped at the time, though evidently not enough to bother going last Sunday (the day after I got back from Ireland) as I opted for local birding. With the opportunity to go with a good team (Gary, Mike and Paul) as well as good weather today, I headed west on the Yellowthroat trail.
It wasn't lying either... there was one that way
Early morning, and the bird was still around unsurprisingly. It was quite tricky though for sure, as this species often is in its natural New World habitat (and on Scilly in 1997; the only other British Yellowthroat I've seen). It was skulking, keeping low to the ground although after a couple of hours or so of waiting and fleeting glimpses, I managed to see this really smart little bird. Well worth the trip out west, with its black speckled bandit mask, vivid yellow throat and yellow undertail-coverts.

Crowd behaviour was remarkably good, and an excellent reminder that people can behave as well as this being testament to a twitch that was smoothly organised by local birders. There were just a few birders speaking a little bit loudly when the bird was showing, so no wonder they couldn't hear the bird calling - they were either deaf, dumb or both. But that was the only beef that went down in Rhiwderin this morning.
second weekend slackers
Next stop was Cardiff Bay. We eventually managed to find where to park to get to the foreshore, and once on site scanned through the hordes of Black-headed Gulls. I really liked this place, as like the Thames areas I bird, it was a real gritty place with loads of birds (well, gulls and a few Pintail) and no people continually asking 'have you seen anything interesting?'. A couple of adult Med Gulls were nice and then, floating out offshore, was a 1st-winter Bonaparte's Gull. Kind of expecting the adult more, this was a real bonus and it had a good fly around before heading east exhibiting its lovely white underwing, two-toned wings (including white outer primaries) and nice black terminal tail band. Quite an advanced individual moult wise.
Possibly the worst photo of a 1st-winter Bonaparte's Gull... ever (rear bird by the way!!)
With the sun continuing to shine, last stop of the day - as it was now mid afternoon - was Cosmeston Lakes for the returning drake Lesser Scaup. Although I was expecting point blank views of this bird, it wasn't to be and I had to settle for ok views in perfect light. Nice to see the neat nail at the bill tip, the greyish wingbar in the inner primaries and of course those nicely dark vermiculated mantle. Sheen colour variable from green to purple.
Bigfoot. Note the two-toned wingbar - white on the secondaries, grey on the primaries. A nice classic pattern for this Lesser Scaup's upperwing.
Can't complain with today's yank haul though and a really pleasant relaxed day. Thanks to Gary for driving, and all three for the good company. And petrol was considerably less than £35.

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