Monday 25 November 2013

Western Orphean Warbler Twitch

With the Western Orphean Warbler still residing in the garden of Orlandon Kilns cottage, at St Brides, deep in the heart of the beautiful west Wales countryside, on Saturday, a plan was hatched for by far my longest twitch of 2013. I was joined in the filthy twitch mobile, by driver Jono, Nick and Howard, making his long awaited come back to mega twitch scene. An early start saw Howard pick me up at 2.30am to rendezvous at Wanstead, and take Jono's bigger car on the long journey west. Around 4 hours 45 mins later (including the obligatory 20 minute stop for MacD's breakfast), the sun was rising and we were almost there.

From left: Jono, Howard and Nick

The car park was helpfully sign posted and easy to find and well stewarded by local volunteer birders, who gave directions to the cottage, and house rules i.e. keep quiet, queue up, leave when asked to leave etc, and advised us that the bird was still present. Yay! Three hundred yards up the road we arrived at the cottage and joined the queue.

This is where we queued, the garden was around the back not viewable from here
There were already 40 birders in the garden and the bird had been seen but in poor light so they were being given extra time to see it again before rotation system would kick in. Thirty odd minutes later, the bird had completed another circuit and had performed well so the birders in the garden were asked to leave.

Most did, some didn't. I am not going to write a whole section slagging off photographers, but let's just say, from what I saw there's too many that are just plain ignorant and don't give a shit about anyone/thing but themselves. And, another thing, why don't they realise that all the cammo gear actually has the opposite of what it was designed to do, and it makes them stand out like a sore thumb! Enough of that, back to the bird. We all stood in silence, scanning the bushes and apple trees for a good 15 minutes then Howard, in hushed tones called it. It had come in and was feeding on an apple towards the back of the garden, but difficult to view.

Views were obscured by branches, apples and Dick's head as he kept moving to get a better view! It made its way closer and eventually into the 2nd closest apple tree, probably 25 yards away and never right out in the open, but provided good bins/scope views for 15 to 20 minutes and then it was off again. With 40+ birders outside having not seen the bird yet we were asked to leave. We did. The same dudes that didn't leave the 1st time didn't, nor even have the decency to acknowledge the request, they just stared ahead and stayed put. Well done lads.

The best I could do

After rotating there was now no real queue so we began one and waited to go back in. Birders just turning up were allowed to go straight in, and 30 minutes later after another good show by the bird, we were back in. Same pattern, wait a while, the bird would come in, feed on apples, play hard to get in terms of photos and then head off. It was a twitch I will remember for a long time. A rare and smart bird in beautiful surroundings, set up and stewarded by some really nice people. Well done and thanks to the home owners and all the volunteers who made it a straight forward and stress free twitch.

Jono back at the make shift car park - Orpheon Warbler successfully ticked

Next we headed even further west, where after 2 miles we hit the coast. From the National Trust of Wales car park we had up to 5 Chough, with 3 feeding in the field next to the car park and a couple of noisy Ravens.

The long journey home included a very unsuccessful stop for Two Barred Crossbill for Nick in the Forest of Dean, where we could not find the birds, or even the site! Happy to take the blame although I have never claimed to be an expert map reader! At 6.45pm I arrived home, around 630 miles later, very tired after a very enjoyable twitch. I must admit I don't think I could do mega distance twitches like that too often, but every now and again, why not. On this occasion it all went well, great company and a successful tick. BOU 399 and counting, what will 400 be? Watch this space.
Howard after just finding a Dartford Warbler

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