Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Saturday 18th February 2012 - Rhiwderin, Gwent

All week we had been discussing whether to stay in Staffordshire for a third consecutive weekend or should we go on a trip further afield. The problem was there was no clear cut location to visit, and we would have probably ended up staying locally, until news of a mega broke late on Thursday afternoon. A 1w COMMON YELLOWTHROAT had been found in South Wales. The funny thing was we had talked about the possibility of an over wintering Yank passerine last Autumn, and it had taken until February for it to be found. Dreams of visiting another garden soon evaporated when details were released; it was in a hedgerow in fields!

We assembled a crew together, but unfortunately, CJW was unable to go again, as it coincided with his long weekend in work, and so John Sutton came along with us. We left Stoke at 04-00hrs and made the straight forward journey down to South Wales with no problems at all. A field had been arranged for parking, but there was no access until 07-00hrs. We had virtually arrived on site when we came across a group of cars hovering in a lay by. We joined them but at 06-57hrs, I thought it was near enough time to head up, and so our car led the way up the lane. We were the first car in the field, and even at this early hour, access was tricky.

We were soon stood in the fields, waiting for the light to improve and for the bird to be relocated. We knew it was going to rain from about 09-00hrs until early afternoon, and we were hoping for an early showing. Unfortunately, the wind was quite strong, and by 09-00hrs, despite quite a lot of searching there was sign of the YELLOWTHROAT.

ABOVE - The expectant crowd gathers at first light and waits...

The whole twitch was slowly dying on its feet as the morning went on. We hadn't even had a possible sighting of a Dunnock to chase after and get everyone going. There was a small glimmer of when we moved down to the dung heap area. One birder had seen something flit across the ditch here, and then another bird was seen by someone else. We thought we were finally going to strike lucky, but then the trail went cold. The rain came down heavier, and by 10-30hrs we were sat back in the car having a bite to eat. The rain came down even heavier and we watched as the cars headed out of the car park, most needing to be pushed.

At 12-30hrs, it was suggested that we headed down the short distance to see the LESSER SCAUP. At least it was something to see, and was only 15 minutes away by sat nav. Unfortunately, the sat nav took us right through the centre of Cardiff, and we were soon sat in traffic going nowhere. PJ started to panic, but we carried on crawling at a snail's pace. Then, the rain appeared to be easing off, and finally, the inevitable message came on the pager - the COMMON YELLOWTHROAT had been seen briefly at 13-05hrs. Somehow we managed to turn the car round, and the roads out of town were relatively traffic free. We hurtled up the lane to the field again, only to be confronted by a traffic jam as the cars became stuck in the mud trying to get back in to the field. I turned the car round in a drive way, but it was then suggested that we leave the car here as well. I wasn't too sure, but I was persuaded and we parked up. As the others were heading off, the house owner came out. She was alright about us parking there as long as were didn't block her gates. What a stroke of luck and thanks if you are reading this Mrs Nice Welsh-Lady.

We ran/trotted/walked down the field and joined the crowd. We soon had brief flight views, but even though these views were fleeting, you had a sense of the olive colouration of the bird. We thought we had made a classic school boy error by leaving the scene, but when finally the Common Yellowthroat came out in full view it was a very sweet moment. It moved through the hedges and eventually settled in a ditch area, and we had a series of regular views as it flew back and forth. The sun was out by now, and South Wales turned into a lovely place to be.

The crowd shot including a rare picture of me - time to play "Where's Wally!"

The jubilant crew celebrate

The view down the field towards Rhiwderin

A videograb of the Common Yellowthroat.

This stunning collection of video's were the only shots I managed to get