Saturday, 16 November 2013

A grey bird on a grey day

Old school twitches, where you drive overnight and do the Saturday dawn raid, are largely a thing of the past for me. However, with an Orphean Warbler having turned up in deepest, darkest Pembrokeshire on Thursday I joined a team of London's finest - David B, Bob W, Josh J and James L. After an uneventful drive (I don't remember any of it from Reading onwards), expertly skippered by David B, we arrived in Haverfordwest in the pitch black. After the usual shenanigans at the 24 hour Tesco, we went to the site where the local guys did a thoroughly professional job of parking all of us jokers, herding us together and escorting us to the house where the bird was favouring.
Orphean Warbler - St. Brides, Pembrokeshire 16th November 2013. Grey day... grey bird.
Within minutes of the dark turning to semi-light, the Orphean Warbler appeared and then for the next hour or so got amongst the apples in typically lethargic, rather uncharismatic fashion. Adding to the greyness of the bird was the day itself, so although you could see the obvious white leading up the outermost tail feathers and what appeared to be unmarked undertail coverts, the bird felt pretty cold in its appearance. It's still an art rather than a science when it comes to firmly concluding whether this bird is a Western (hortensis) or Eastern (crassirostris), and having never seen either species in the autumn, my hunch that it's a Western comes solely from the rather contradictory literature/web-base dialogue. You could say this is a shame as I'd have preferred an Eastern, on the basis I'd seen the Western at Hartlepool last year, but c'est la vie. And to be honest, though I fully agree that the populations and breeding/migration routes are completely different, I do still smell a whiff of bullshit when it comes to determining with surefire certainty lone vagrants like this...

While soaking up a nice 1st-winter Med Gull on the nearby Gann Estuary, news of a large flock of Two-barred Crossbills in the Forest of Dean tempted us back east. Spending the afternoon around Speech House was rather pleasant except for two things - we didn't see any Two-barred Crossbills and probably the loudest birder Gloucestershire has produced decided to detail out aloud everything he had seen this autumn before answering his phone, raising the decibels even further - God alone knows why he wore camouflage gear, his noise scared things off before he was even seen. This aside, I saw a nice Great Grey Shrike, 2 Hawfinches, 2 Bramblings, 3 Crossbills and loads of Redpolls and Siskins. All very nice, and I was home for mid-evening.

No comments:

Post a Comment