Saturday, 25 February 2012

A Full Day's Work

Yesterday we got up early & headed for Wales on the postponed Common Yellowthroat hunt. We travel about in a Combo van, otherwise known as Vera’s Boudoir, as its main function is to carry her around in comfort.  She has a basket (with duvet), additional travel blanket, an 18" Basil Brush, towels, food, treats, water and a selection bowls that take up most of the back. As a consequence, it cost £12.10 to cross the Severn as opposed to the £6 for a car... but she’s worth it.

We arrived in Rhiwderin, just West of Newport at about 1030. We left V guarding the van & crossed the well used muddy style into the fields where the Yellowthroat has been living. I’d found a useful map on an excellent local blog that showed which hedges the bird has been frequenting & highlighting its favourites.  

Bird's usual hangouts. Style top right corner.  (taken from he doesn't mind)
There was a smattering of people with bins & scopes, but not the numbers that were there during the first few days & at weekends.  The bird had been seen earlier & put on Birdguides at about 08.30. First thing I did as we entered the field was play the call (which I’d loaded onto my iphone) as a reminder. As I played it a bird called back which was either it, or something amazingly like it. Unfortunately, it didn't do it for long & we couldn't find the source. We stayed put for about 45 mins watching the bushes, but didn't hear or see anything. Did we imagine it? Simon said it was the same call & he wasn't fussed whether he saw it or not, so it can’t have been wishful  thinking.  We made our way up the field a little way, then Simon went back to the van to take V for a wander & keep her company. As it was such a large area & there were only about 30 people spread about, it looked like it may be a long day.

The path in (top right) 
The reports all described it as being very skulky, keeping low in the brambles & occasionally feeding in the grassy tussocks below, before flying close to the ground to another hedge. I had a slow wander around the main field, circuiting its favourite hedge before meeting up with Simon for a quick butty & brew in the van. He'd chatted to a bloke that had seen the bird at about 09.30 in the same hedge that we'd heard that call....

There had been no sightings since we arrived. Still it was a while before it would start getting dark.....

The favourite hedge

Back to staring at hedge bottoms & adjoining tussocks.  There was a fair turnover of people arriving & giving up & leaving. I was beginning to resign myself to a Yellowthroatless day. Simon was off with V again, & I was standing watching the 'favourite' hedge at the top of the field (ie the far left of the hatched area on the map) when I heard a shout & a bloke in the field on the other side of the hedge suddenly pointed & started waving his arm in the air. Scramble! There had been another chap standing a few yards away from me & both of us started legging it up the field to get round the hedge, being careful not to get too close. Nothing flew out of the back of the hedge towards us, so hopefully it was still in there.  I was one of the first to get there as I’d only been about 80 feet away, all be it that I’d had to run around the hedge. The guy that had waved said he’d been listening to the bird making a quiet noise for about 5 minutes in a patch of brambles, was fairly happy that it was the Yellowthroat & that it had just flown low across the 20 feet of open ground & disappeared into the hedge. It would have been nice if he’d waved before it moved! More people kept arriving as the word spread that it had finally been seen & we all stared at the hedge willing it to come out. And stared. And stared. And waited. And waited. There was a chap of about 25 or 30 next to me on the bank, his bins & scope were probably older than him! Every 5 mins he sighed, humphed, muttered, & then, by way of a change, farted! Charming!  It was driving me potty. 

It must have been about 3.40 in the afternoon when it was sighted & by about 4.30 people had drifted off to peer into other hedges nearby. I decided to give it a bit longer. There were only 3 or 4 of us left when I saw a bird fly up from the tussocky grass about 2 feet from the brambles & go into the hedge. I just saw the movement & had no idea what it was, but it was in the right place & flying out of a tussock. I moved down the slope a few yards so that I was opposite the bit of hedge where it had disappeared, followed by the remaining birders. I looked into the hedge with my bins & was blinded by a luminous yellow throat!!  GOT  IT!!!  To say I was happy would be the understatement of the century!! It was quite a way into the hedge & I was trying to help the other chaps to find it, so didn’t get as good a look as I would have liked. Still, the others got on it, so we were all happy! It then moved & I saw its greeny back & watched it flick its tail just as it's supposed to.

I wonder how long it had been ferreting about in the grass right in front of us without being seen! After 6 hrs searching, I must have had it in my sights for all of 3 or 4 seconds. It was worth it!

Simon appeared shortly after & I think he knew from a distance that I’d seen it. That enormous grin is a bit of a giveaway! We stayed for another 10 mins to see if it would reappear, but there were some real idiots getting far too close to the hedge so it was never going to come out.

Originally it had been in the brambles on the right & flew into the hedge on the left. Those idiots came after.....

 I moved down to here from where the group is to the left. It had flown up from where those pillocks are now standing into the hedge in front of them. Like it's going to come out again now! 
We decided to head home. I was frozen. I was also bursting for the loo. I'd been needing to go since lunchtime - there were too many people with binoculars looking into the hedges for me to have made use of one! Finally got to a loo in the services at 6.30pm.

We finally got home at about 7.30 & I cooked tea. I think the 'cross-legged' carrot was taking the pi**!!

Simon says he actually quite enjoyed his first experience of a twitch, even though he didn't see the bird! I can't believe I didn't get a photo of him in action, or indeed inaction when he found a 'Murphy' sized seat  in  the form of a large wooden horse jump!

Year List now on 134 plus 1 Sub-species.


  1. Ahh, a blog entry with a map - marvellous!
    Very careless of you not to get Simon in the realm of all those twitchers! No tacks required then?

  2. I'll try and do better next time! You're right, no tacks!