Booted Warbler: Great Orme, Great Bird

The Great Orme, this 300 million old lump Carboniferous limestone is by its self a thing of sheer beauty. On its flanks you can see the huge white layers of Limestone, on top you can see its iconic Limestone pavement, its geologist paradise hence why every so often I like to pay a visit not just to set my eyes on the stunning geology, but to also see its spectacular wildlife: Birds, Mammals, Plants and Butterfly’s, it’s got them all! But this year my visits seemed what lacking and I somewhat forgot about this truly epic site, yet on the 3rd of October Tom Gravett was having a bird round the Orme when he came across a rather peculiar warbler. A short time after its discovery it became evident that this mystery warbler was infact something very special indeed, Iduna caligata aka Booted Warbler, the first ever record of a bird on the Welsh mainland with all previous records being from the welsh islands of Skomer, Ramsey, Stokholm and of course little old Bardsey.

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Booted Warbler (Iduna caligata)

With news coming out Monday morning I was hoping that I’d be able to pop up after College due to me having a few free periods, but rather disappointingly that day I was handed over a rather substantial amount of work to do which prevented me from seeing the bird. Myself and many others who were unable to go see the day of discovery were praying for a miracle, that it would for whatever reason stay an extra day or so. The next day to everyone’s amazement the Booted Warbler was still present at the same site as yesterday, with all work completed and my shofer i.e. Mum free in afternoon also, it soon reached 3:20pm, the college bell rang and off we went on the quest for the Booted Warbler (Iduna caligata).

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A front view of the Booted Warbler. As you can see the bird has no black feet (hence the name “booted”),  down to it being a 1st winter bird

After an hour of racing along the A550 & the A55 we were finally here, the Great Orme. Unlike on previous visits there was no time to stop to look at the breath taking views and geology because light was running out; a “quick” stop off at home had taken longer than expected and by the time we’d finally arrived there was little light left in sky. Pulling up in the car park at the northern tip of the Orme (Thanks Alan Davis for directions), it was thankfully evident that the bird was still around from the small crowd of birders and twitchers present showing rather well.

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I’d say this is my worse shot of the bird

Racing to get out of the car to see the bird it was just a case of well, there it is. I thought that ok it’s going to be a reasonable distance away from us, perhaps 10 meters or so, but when I got out about 5m I’d say and it just kept on getting closer, closer and closer. Before long to everyone’s amazement the bird came down to around a foot away from us as it got flushed by a passing car and for a brief moment landed on a single branch of grouse before heading back off into the undergrowth were it played hide and seek popping in and out like a little jack in the box for a good 5-10mins. This twitch was actually much more fun than myself had anticipated, looking through the Collins at Booted Warbler you just think it’s just another dull, plain and unattractive warbler. But when you’re out there in the field watching it a multitude of ranges in conditions and habitat that really show off its plumage, you begin to see what a lovely little bird it really is. I think the word I’d use to describe this mini twitch would be joyful.

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And I’d say that this is my best of the Booty

 So with the sun setting behind us as we watched the first mainland welsh record of Booted Warbler on the magnificent Great Orme it was time to head off back to base and prepare myself for yet another day of College.

 Thanks for reading,

Elliot

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