Abergavenny: Rock on!

This spring the Isles of Scilly managed to pull off as expected, one of the biggest rarities of the year when an adult male Common Rock Thrush turned up; a vagrant from the continent native to the Meditterian region, the Common (formally known as Rufous-tailed), Rock Thrush has been recorded no less than 28 times in Britain up until 2015. Given its status as a Cat. A as given by the BOU, it came as a surprise when a second bird to show up later in the year down in Gwent, Wales; this time a 1st winter male which is only the 3rd Welsh record.

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1st winter male Common Rock Thrush (Monticola saxatilis) – Pwll-du, Gwent 27.10.17
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1st winter male Common Rock Thrush (Monticola saxatilis) – Pwll-du, Gwent 27.10.17

It’s fair to say that my twitching habits are dying off, I find a walk round patch or anywhere on the Wirral peninsular far more satisfying and rewarding rather than chasing rarities across the country. However, saying that the thrill of the chase is an experience which never fails to disappoint weather or not it’s a tick or dip. Having not had much time to catch up with Wiltshire birder and photographer Harry King since we last crossed paths on Bardsey Island when he attended the Next Generation Birders trip, heading south half way to meet at the thrush seemed like a good plan to follow. Taking out two birds with one stone, catch up with an old friend and seeing a Common Rock Thrush in utterly breath-taking scenery, what could be better.

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1st winter male Common Rock Thrush (Monticola saxatilis) – Pwll-du, Gwent 27.10.17
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1st winter male Common Rock Thrush (Monticola saxatilis) – Pwll-du, Gwent 27.10.17

Arriving on the site in Pwell-du, Gwent the first thing which struck me was the sheer quantity of birds passing over head and through the valley parallel to where the thrush was showing: Common Chaffinch (100c), Meadow Pipit (200c), Lesser Redpoll (8), Eurasian Siskin (23), Common Woodpigeon (370c), Merlin (2), Eurasian Curlew (2), Fieldfare (20c), Redwing (70c), Ring Ouzel (4) and Red Kite (1). Meanwhile grounded migrants consisted of Eurasian Blue Tit (20c), Willow Warbler (2), European Blackbird (10c) and Goldcrest (50c).

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1st winter male Common Rock Thrush (Monticola saxatilis) – Pwll-du, Gwent 27.10.17
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1st winter male Common Rock Thrush (Monticola saxatilis) – Pwll-du, Gwent 27.10.17

The bird its self, the Common Rock Thrush was in one word, unreal. When we first encountered it the bird would at best come down to ten meters, giving us pleasing and respectable views, but it just got better and better under its own accord. As the day progressed it got to the point were Harry and I had to back off cause it coming so close, it just didn’t care what was happening around it. Whilst the pair of us were sat up on a bank the thrush then thought it would be a good idea to pop up, so close that we couldn’t focus on, that’s how mad this bird was as even when the shutters were firing as loud as machine guns it didn’t even batter an eyelid.

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1st winter male Common Rock Thrush (Monticola saxatilis) – Pwll-du, Gwent 27.10.17 (Image – Harry King)
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Myself and Harry King looking as cheerful as ever…(Image – David King)

Having spent a good half hour on top of the quarry wall, the thrush then flew over our heads and of all places landed on the edge of the footpath, as I said at the beginning this bird was just unreal;  not even when I encounter them on the continent are they this obliging. Next thing we knew the bird shot off over to a scree slope where its next move was certainly the highlight of the trip, if not the year when as Harry correctly predicted just minutes before, a drink. To our delight the pool the bird was drinking from just happened to double up as one fantastic reflecting pool which you can see from Harry’s first rate shot above. Honestly this kid is just in a league of his own and if you don’t believe me then take a look at his Photostream of flicker as they’ll be some of the finest wildlife images you’ll ever be fortunate enough to set your eyes upon.

 

Harry King: Twitter & Flicker

 

Anyway folks thanks for reading and a special thanks to David King for ferrying Harry and I to and from the thrush. E

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