Sunday, 19 February 2012

A twitch to Welsh Wales

When it comes to twitching, I'll do a few a year but I couldn't do it all the time. Once you've seen everything, where do you go next? Much better to leave something in future I think. But a twitch was planned for yesterday, which originally was the Dark-eyed Junco/Spanish Sparrow double-whammy in Hampshire. Although personally, the Junco would've been the priority as I saw the Cumbria Spanish Sparrow in 1996.

That was until Thursday evening, when looking through Birdguides it mentioned a Common Yellowthroat at Rhiwderin, just outside Newport. Eh, did I read that right? Right, this Saturday twitch has to change! For a start it's much nearer, between the Yellowthroat and the Junco I'd much rather see the Yellowthroat. And most important of all, it's a bird in Burton Albion colours!

Arriving at Rhiwderin about 8am, fingers crossed the Yellowthroat would appear in the hedgerows before the impending rain later in the morning. It didn't! Some rather yellow-looking Siskins around, and a Goldcrest flitting about in the hedges. After a couple of hours the rain started to get heavier. The forecast had it lasting for two or three hours, then clearing away for a sunnier afternoon.

Hopefully by then, old Yellowthroat might become more active. So to pass the time, and a slight thought of not wanting to get the car stuck in an increasingly muddy field, there were a couple of other places to try. The first being Cosmeston Lakes Country Park, just south of Penarth, which in turn is just south of Cardiff.

Completely new territory for me, never been to Cardiff before. The main reason for coming here was a drake Lesser Scaup, which showed extremely well with the Tufted Ducks.

Also present were a Med Gull which looked like it was leaving it's 2nd-winter plumage, not a lot of black left in the primaries. And a very friendly Whooper Swan, whose wild credentials were somewhat questionable!

Two different Bonaparte's Gulls were around Cardiff Bay, by a Helipad and water treatment works, so that was somewhere to try next. I suppose this is where I really should've done some research as to where this spot was. Getting your bearings around the Cardiff Bay barrage as a start, couldn't even find the helipad never mind the bird! But a few Rock Pipits and Turnstones were around the barrage, with the Welsh Assembly building in the background.

With a biting wind and rain around the barrage, the pager went off to say the Yellowthroat had been relocated. Let's not waste any more time here, but get out of Cardiff and back to Rhiwderin as quickly as possible, in a style similar to something from Smokey and the Bandit!

Parking in Rhiwderin village this time, the field was too muddy by now, even an AA van was stuck! But wellies on and a mad dash up the hill, and the Common Yellowthroat was happily feeding away in ditch. Regularly jumping out, catching insects and moving from one side of the ditch to the other. Phew, and what a fantastic bird it is! When it could be seen openly in the ditch it was hopping around like a Robin, but with a bright-yellow throat and black mask covering the face.

A brilliant bird and an unforgettable twitch, a day of real lows and highs and a mixture of weather conditions. If anything it should give all local patchers hope, you never know what you might find. No thoughts of getting any photos of the Yellowthroat from me, but the next best thing is the twitch shot.

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