24th February – 200+ in Gwent.   Leave a comment

For the first time this year I left England and headed for Gwent in South Wales. Chris Chapleo offered Paul Morrison and Jol Mitchell and I a lift by  to see a Common Yellowthroat in the little town of Rhiwderin near Newport. This American warbler is an extremely rare vagrant to the UK and probably has been in the country since the transatlantic storms of last autumn. Paul and I had seen this species on Scilly in 1984 but it was a British tick for the other two.

We left my house at 0515 and arrived at a group of fields outside Rhiwderin at 0740. The fact that it was ever discovered wintering in these unpreposing fields in the first place is remarkable. There were about thirty birders present and there was an awful lot of hedgerow to search, but we had only been there about 30 minutes when it was found. It took a while before it showed again but in due course gave good views.

To enlarge any of the photos just click on them.

Crossing the Severn Bridge into Wales.

I didn't get close enough for a decent photo, so here is a shot of the same bird taken from the Internet. Yellowthroats are common in wetland areas in the USA and southern Canada.

Later we headed for Cosmeston Lake to the west of Cardiff. Here another American bird, a Lesser Scaup was wintering. We had good views with Tufted Duck for comparison. Lesser Scaups are most closely related to Greater Scaup, a bird that occurs in both North America and Eurasia, but differs by its slightly peaked crown, blue rather than green gloss to the head, finely vermiculated flanks and smaller size.

Unknown in the UK before the mid-eighties, Lesser Scaup (on the left) is now found annually.

A Whooper Swan was also on the lake but it was very tame and wore a plastic ring, so almost certainly was an escape from captivity.

We debated whether to make a detour on the way back and see a Cackling Goose at Torr reservoir near Shepton Mallet. As I mentioned before when I tried to see a similar bird near Southampton, the problems are twofold, a) is the bird actually a Cackling Goose rather than one of the smaller races of Canada Goose? and b) is the bird a transatlantic vagrant rather than an escape? All the evidence pointed to it being a ‘Richardson’s Goose’ the nominate form of Cackling and by far the best candidate for vagrancy, however it was wintering with feral Canada Geese and was a lot farther south than most Cackling Geese, which are normally found with wintering Pink-feet or Barnacles in western Scotland. 

I think the others in our car hadn't realised how distinctive the tiny Cackling Goose was, it certainly was well appreciated.

To our delight an Iceland Gull flew in and landed by the geese.......

.... before landing on the reservoir.

Before I left my year list was on 198 and I wondered if I could push my list to 200 before the end of February, now it stands at 201 !

Posted February 24, 2012 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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