Thursday, 22 August 2013

Citrine Success

1st-winter Citrine Wagtail

After a truly incredible late spring/early summer for rarities which culminated in a week involving both White-throated Needletail and Bridled Tern, things have predictably slowed down for me on the twitching front. As August has unfolded, all the action has been in the Southwest and I had planned to head to Cornwall next week for some seawatching until the weather conspired against me. The resultant lack of decent birding has resulted in a severe case of boredom which I had planned to alleviate today by taking a trip over to Nottinghamshire with my dad in the hope of scoring some Honey Buzzards at Welbeck. The birds there have been rather showy in the past few days and as I have a rather strange affliction for Honeys it was an exciting proposition.

After a recent dearth of twitchable rarities I hadn't really expected anything to crop up and derail this plan. I was pleasantly surprised therefore when I received a text off Alex Jones around 9am informing me off a 1st winter Citrine Wagtail showing well from the Benarth Hide at Conwy RSPB. Citrine Wagtail is a tricky bird to catch up with in this country and one this close was well worth the effort. I therefore made the easy decision to go for it and by 11am me and dad were speeding west towards Conwy. After a slightly longer than anticipated journey involving a man transporting a mobile home on the A55 who appeared to have a death wish, we arrived on site just before 12.30.

We decided to head straight down to the Benarth Hide but upon entry I was informed by the birders present that the bird had been showing more reliably from the boardwalk screen. A report of the bird again from that location caused us to quickly changed tact and we dashed around to the other side of the reserve. We were informed on arrival that the bird had walked out of view around the back of an island and was currently missing. A tense wait followed with every juvenile Pied Wagtail that dared pop up receiving close scrutiny before being dismissed with annoyance.

After about half an hour a report came through on twitter of the bird showing from the hide and suddenly one of the guys present located the bird feeding along the edge of one of the closer islands. He kindly let me have a look in his scope to bag the tick and there it was, a pristine 1st-winter Citrine Wagtail! I soon had my scope on the bird and proceeded to enjoy cracking views as it worked its way back and forth along the shore. The bird was incredibly striking in appearance, clean white underneath with a strong double white wingbar and a bold white double supercilium extending round onto a pale cheek. The bird also had noticeably long legs giving it a taller appearance in comparison to a Pied. A really subtly beautiful bird, almost nicer to see than a gaudy adult male in my opinion, and a valuable tick bringing me ever closer to my target of 300 by my 20th birthday in mid-October. The bird eventually disappeared round the back of the island but showed again more distantly after ten or so minutes.

Satiated, we headed off home, stopping at the café and the visitors centre where I picked up a copy of Mark Avery's much acclaimed "Fighting for Birds". After eating our sandwiches by the river in beautiful sunshine we hit the road. A brief stop at Llandullas produced huge numbers of Common Scoter out by the windfarms but unfortunately they were just slightly too distant to grill properly for an early Surf or Velvet. Still it was nice to be by the sea on such a beautiful day.

The beach at Llandullas
All in all a great day out with a fantastic bird as the reward. Also nice to meet a few Northwest birders from the Wirral, hopefully I'll bump into them again soon. With the winds heading easterly in the next week or so I think a trip to the East coast is beckoning. Hopefully the Red-Breasted Fly at Spurn today is a harbinger of things to come. Watch this space...

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