Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Marmora's Warbler (Sylvia sarda)-Blorenge, Gwent & Iberian Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus ibericus)-Wentwood Forest, Gwent. 13/06/2010

Iberian Chiffchaff-Phylloscopus ibericus

After a disappointing start to the World Cup for England there's nothing better than a good old twitch to lift the spirits and a Warbler double header in Wales would do just that. The destination, first Blorenge, Gwent to see only the 5th Marmora's Warbler for Britain and then off to see the long staying Iberian Chiffchaff at Wentwood Forest, Gwent.

I awoke Sunday morning at 6:45am feeling rather groggy but couldn't determine whether it was due to the alcoholic refreshment I had consumed during the England-USA game or just the result or Robert Greens unfortunate error which was continually flashing before my eyes over and over. I figured it would be a bit of both and pressed snooze on the alarm. It went off a couple of times before I thought better of it and turned it off completely finally waking about 8:45am all the better for it, with the missus in tow we set off for Wales.


I arrived at Blorenge as mid-day approached and after finding a place in the car park wandered down the road to the dozen or so birders viewing the area, of course by the time I had finally found a spot to park the Marmora's Warbler had been on show, sung well and now had disappeared and gone silent. Typical I thought but I'm sure it's happened to us all on one or more occasion, I wasn't too downbeat as there was still plenty to hear and see whilst I waited and searched for the Marmora's.

The heather and ferns that covered the hillside were busy with bird activity, plenty of Meadow Pipits on show and often down to a few feet as they perched on the tops of the vegetation, Tree Pipits sang continuously whilst I was there and as soon as one finished singing and returned to it's perch another started. In the distance a Cuckoo could be heard calling every now and then as well a distant Willow Warbler, a couple of Swallows flew through as did 2 Swifts. A male Whinchat appeared and disappeared in front of us only giving me the briefest of views but eventually it did return later and showed very well, a rather tatty male Wheatear also put in a very brief appearance as it searched for food along the roadside bank before flying over the road and down the hillside.

Tree Pipit

I had now been here for 3 hours and there was still no sight or sound from the Marmora's Warbler, birders had come and gone, passers-by had stopped to ask what we were looking at and the weather had changed so many times that I didn't know what season it was. The clouds were slowly rolling across the hillsides towards us, the few blue patches of sky were no more and the wind started picking up. It actually managed to blow over 3 tripods whilst I was there and I'm sure that's got to be some kind of record, I don't ever recall seeing 3 go over on any twitch I've been to.

Meadow Pipit

I'd met a very nice gentleman from Wiltshire who had seen the bird on previous occasions and had returned to see it again today, we had been chatting and trying hard to find the Marmora's to no avail and as 3pm approached I finally cracked. I was dying to point Percy at the porcelain if you no what I mean and as they clouds were getting more ominous I decided that it had beaten me and I would have to come back another time, that and the fact that my other-half was sat in the car and although she had a book with her and is very tolerant I was probably pushing it, I also hadn't told her that we would be going to see the Iberian Chiffchaff on the way home!

I took one last scan across the habitat before packing up my scope, there was still no sight or sound from the Marmora's Warbler so I said my goodbyes. I was sure I would get home and read on Birdguides that the bird was seen just after I left and all I could think about was when I could get back to try again. I wandered back to the car and popped my scope in to the boot, just as I was shutting the boot I noticed a bird fly past from the hillside in front of the car park and over the road. I then heard the Marmora's song and then nearby birder located it, I rushed over and immediately got it in view as it sat in the vegetation singing. It stayed here for no more than 45 seconds before it flew back across the road and in to a small tree on the roadside, it sang again briefly before dropping down out of sight. That's probably the closest I've come to not seeing a bird, in fact I don't think you can cut it much finer. I wished I could have had some longer views and had a chance to get some photos but I was certainly delighted to have finally seen it and if it remains I will probably return to Blorenge.

Meadow Pipit

So after all the excitement I left Blorenge slightly relieved and headed towards Wentwood Forest, Gwent in search of the Iberian Chiffchaff. On arrival at the Cadira Beeches car park a Wood Warbler could be heard singing from the opposite side of the main road, just as I was about to go in search of the Iberian Chiffchaff I met another birder who was returning to see it, this made life much easier as he led me straight to the area where the bird frequents and as we approached the area the Iberian Chiffchaff could be heard singing.

Edging our way along the path we soon came to a copse of small trees and could hear the Chiffchaff in a young Silver Birch in front of us, all of a sudden the bird appeared towards the top of the tree before flitting out of sight on the far side of the tree where it stayed for a few minutes continually singing and giving brief views through the foliage. Every now and again it would make its way through the tree canopy and in to view snatching a few flies as it went, after a few minutes of getting quick views here and there it perched in full view and began to sing giving us amazing views. Incredibly it stayed still long enough for me to grab a few photos before flying to a nearby oak tree where it began singing while flitting round the tree.

Iberian Chiffchaff-Phylloscopus ibericus

It would be easy to overlook this bird without hearing it call and in contrasting light the bird looked very different, when it was in the open the yellow tones to the top of the throat/breast, flanks and vent were evident, the white belly and green hue to the upperparts as well. The supercilium is generally quite bold and in good light the yellow tones can be seen towards the front of it but in dappled shade the bird looked much darker and the yellow tones were less obvious.

Iberian Chiffchaff-Phylloscopus ibericus

Iberian Chiffchaff Song

It was very active whilst I was there, continually searching for food, singing and even the odd preen here and there. Elsewhere in the wood both Garden and Willow Warbler could be heard singing and nearby a Common Whitethroat's scolding call could be heard. The weather then took a turn for the worse and the rain started to gently fall, I decided to make a hasty retreat and said farewell and thank you to the Frampton birder making it back to the car just in time, it then proceeded to chuck it down most of the way home.

So the day could have been a lot worse, I could have dipped on both but instead managed to see 2 Lifers. I fluked the Marmora's and got amazing views of the Iberian Chiffchaff, I pulled that one right out of the bag, now if only England could do the same!


Anonymous said...

Woodlark! What's all that about?

Ashley Stow said...

God only knows where that came from, a slight Freudian slip me thinks ;o)