Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Sardinian Warbler - Mire Loch, St Abbs Head, Borders, Scotland - Sunday 27th October 2013

My wife's been so busy of late that I've been practically the sole parent of our children over the last few weekends. This has meant for some fun - but very tiring - times. And for very little birding or twitching. So I took the whole of half term off work, hoping to spend some quality time with the family and get some birding in. As ever, I didn't get out to do much birding during the week, but did squeeze in this fine day of twitching…

On Sunday 27th I left home some 2.5 hours before dawn, to arrive at St Abbs Head NR, Borders, Scotland, around half-an-hour after sunrise. I was after a male Sardinian Warbler - a real looker from the photos I'd seen. I'd received some great on-site directions via Twitter and needed to get to the car park at the starting point of those directions. But, the gate to the reserve appeared locked, so I parked outside the reserve and walked up to the car park on the far side of the reserve. Turns out the gate wasn't locked - it just looked that way - so I had added around an hour to my trip… Ah well, I did have a lovely walk through this dramatic reserve.

I took the long route...

When I got to the bushes, I found there were five of us early-risers looking for this bird. A couple of the guys had already seen it early doors, giving me hope that it would soon show again. The weather was so lovely - bright, sunny, still, cold but warming up - which added to my optimism. The bird was apparently favouring the sycamores, birch, blackthorn and gorse, rather than the nearby pines; but you could tell what it was favouring when it was completely out of view and off the radar for 99% of the time?

 Just a handful of people looking for this bird

There were a few other birds in the area: Chiffchaff, Blackcap (which give us some raised heartbeats on a couple of occasions), Goldcrest, Robin, etc, with Redwing, Fieldfare, Reed Bunting, and Yellowhammer occasionally alighting higher in the trees. As I waited I watched the tumbling Ravens over the loch and picked out a beefy-looking Peregrine glide stealthily overhead.

Before long the Sardinian Warbler popped up, although I missed it the first time - I was checking another area. Once I'd got my eye in, I got great views. The striking white throat of the bird really stood out against the black hood and gunmetal-grey of the mantle. The tail was often cocked while the bird perched on a favoured birch branch, where it was often stationery. The red eye-ring was very clear. The bird showed well three times while I was there, and I only left because the weather was turning wet. A real cracker of a bird, making me annoyed with myself for damaging my camera in Kent the the previous week.

This is a species I've seen before, but only in Spain in 2010, while on holiday with the family. I did manage some photos of Sardinian Warblers then, though not of a male.  Not an easy bird to photograph in deep cover - here's my best digiscoped attempt of a female from that holiday.

Sardinian Warbler (female) - Orgiva, Spain, 11th June, 2010

There are some good shots of the St Abbs Head / Mire Loch bird here, here and here.

As I travelled home the rain eased and I decided I'd try Hartlepool Headland for the Western Bonelli's Warbler, again. The rain may have gone, but the wind was now up - this was at the time of the southern "Great Storm". I managed to scan every tree, bush and shrub in the gardens and park and see absolutely nothing, just as the other birder on site had said I would. God know how the the bird found later (well after I'd got home).

I did have the consolation of getting good views of this Glossy Ibis in nearby Hartlepool, in a flooded paddock at the end of Valley Drive. Some iphonescoped attempts in high wind…

Glossy Ibis - Hartlepool, Sunday 27th October 2013

1 comment:

  1. Great trip. Have you had whale watching argyll? It's an awesome thing to experience. Especially with the kids. They'll have a fun learning experience seeing them live before their eyes.