Friday, 17 February 2012

Boney bonus

Today was amazing. I left early with Ian and we arrived at Rhiwderyn with little problem, in the hope of seeing the Common Yellowthroat. The twitch seemed to have a good turn out, with the field turned car park hosting dozens of cars, and lots of familiar faces knocking about. It seemed there was free range over the fields that the bird had been frequenting, and people were spread out. Ian and I covered a part of hedgerow that no-one else was watching. We waited half an hour or more then there was the tell tale mas scrum in an adjacent field. I dropped everything and ran like the wind but was still too late. Another twenty minutes or so and nothing - then another shout from further up. Ran up there and it looked like it was going to come to nothing again but soon the COMMON YELLOWTHROAT flew up, then back, then up and so on a few times. After this went on a little while I eventually saw the little beaut perched up for a second or so, getting the mask well. It disappeared, and the shout went up again fifty yards or so down the hedge. Everyone scrummed but I could see a pattern of people stampeding and the bird moving emerging so took it a bit more calmly. I did see it even better a little later on a couple of times. A really nice one.
My photo was too awful to keep on here, so here's a neat shot kindly provided by Colin Manville
Having spent about three hours there and both seen it well, we made tracks for Cosmeston Lakes which was a nice setup. They did quite good chips and while we were scanning the west lake, two birders called us over after they picked the smart drake LESSER SCAUP out nearby at the west end of the east lake. It showed well and was a prim bird; great to finally see one after dipping a couple! On the way back we noticed a ringed Whooper Swan (Y59) within slapping distance by the boardwalk.
Lesser Scaup
Whooper Swan
Wicked. Next, Cardiff for the adult Bonaparte's Gull that had been seen recently. It was a nightmare finding an access point to the coast near the heliport but eventually we found an unofficial method of entry in a quiet corner of an industrial estate. We were the only birders there. There were good numbers of Pintails and Shelducks, plus a few Shovelers and a reasonable gathering of Black-headed Gulls. We kept scanning the gulls but there was nothing for ages, until an adult Med Gull put in an appearance.

More gulls gathered as the tide rose and the day went on but there was still no sign of our quarry and we were losing hope. Ian went further down the path to try to find more gatherings of gulls. As I was scanning, my eye was drawn to a first-winter gull, much smaller than the Black-headeds. It had a fine black bill and a grey wash to the nape - I was getting pretty excited and took some shots, one happened to be at the right moment when the bird opened its wings. This revealed a very neat dark trailing edge and a clean white underwing. OK, this was looking very much like a first-winter BONAPARTE'S GULL - a new bird (the one that had been present previously being an adult)!!! I rang Ian and after a few minutes he returned, we double checked it and put the news out. GET IN!!! Fancy that, dipping a rare bird but finding another individual in exactly the same place... and my third lifer of the day and my best ever self found bird!
showing the characteristic wing
grey nape, darker upperparts, thin dark bill and short pink legs visible here
good comparison with 1w Black-headed Gull - so much smaller!
After enjoying the bird for nearly an hour, it flew (giving wonderful comparison with Black-headed Gulls) and we headed off home. Cheers Ian