Thursday, 23 February 2012

A Wet Day in Wales - Never!! Yellowthroat UTB for 5 Clams

We were the first car to arrive at Rhiwderin and the first to attempt to negotiate the muddy access to the field adjacent to where the bird had been seen. Four Clams [Clear Lunacy and Madness Society] members, with another Clam in his own car, were in South Wales to look of the reported Mega, a common Yellowthroat.

Still dark, we made our way down the hill to an amphitheatre valley with well grown hedgerows and scrubby margins to await the call of ‘over here’, ‘got it’ or even just ‘oi’!

Other birders arrived in numbers and soon there were two long lines with scopes and bins scouring the bushes, bracken, long grass and bramble patches. Away from the chatting lines, individuals searched away from this area and walked the edges, all hoping to be the one to find the bird. A group gathered by a dung heap. Others by a wet ditch and as time went by and still no bird the search extended to nearby fields and hedges.

Cloudy from the start, with drizzle occasionally, rain started to fall around 10 o’ clock and the Clams decided that breakfast was in order. Brave lads we!

Soon monched up, we headed off for the nearby drake lesser scaup on offer at Cosmeston Lakes. An easy bird to find once the slippery broadwalk and wet mud had been negotiated in the rain. Yet the rain stopped as soon as we saw the drake amongst a group of 40 odd tufties. “Here’s the bird boys. I’ll just turn the tap off.”

Now one of the Clams {Stand up Oilly – Scabby Clam – Jason Oliver} had been one of the young schoolboys who had found the first ever lesser scaup for the Western Palearctic, when he and Alex Barter [The Bear] pointed out a strange duck to two local birders at Chasewater, Staffordshire way back when. A major twitch then ensued and yet now it’s a bird that, whilst still rare, is regularly seen.

Pager alert! Yellowthroat found. I texted a friend, Dave Walker one of the Upton Warren birders, who was still on site. He, more brave than we, had stayed on in the heavy rain and soon texted back to say he’d scored; the bird was on his list.

A dash back to the car, past a tame (countable for the year list?) whooper swan and a quick drive back to soggy fields. A sedate leisurely walk down the hill. Who are you kidding? A mad run down the hill, skidding to a halt in order to join the throng and the bird was soon seen by all Clams, except one who’d had to go back home to get to work. {He returned the next day and saw it.}

2.00pm – over seven hours since we’d arrived and at last the bird was secured, UTB and seen well as it emerged from brambles into a small dryish ditch to give brief views again and again. Like Monty Python’s brontosaurus sketch, this wonderful American warbler was bright yellow at one end, fatter and duller in the middle and bright yellow again at the other end. Birders almost broke out into spontaneous applause when the bird popped up facing everyone on a bramble bridge. Its bandit’s mask and pale pinkish feet standing out, small bill above the bright yellow throat. Happy faces and smiles, even laughter all round as the bird disappeared into the undergrowth, appearing again to jump up and catch a fly.

Off again to try for a Bonaparte’s gull in Cardiff but despite searching through the railings of the perimeter fence to the inaccessible water works and hundreds of black heads no bird was seen.

Down to the path adjacent to the muddy waters of the Severn Estuary – Bristol Channel with more gulls to scour. With the sun going down on our chances of yet another Yankie, three in a day was to be too much and we headed back home with two.

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