Monday, 4 October 2010

Bluethroat on Kingsdown Leas

The view out was gloomy, and with the alternative of staying in and watching the European Ryder Cup boys kicking American A*** I had to make myself leave the comfort of the house and venture into the misty morning.

I got to the monument and stared to walk down towards Hope Point. A quick text to Jack and I knew that I would be alone this morning. Things were quiet, with a few Meadow Pipits over and lots of Carrion Crows and Jackdaws out in the sodden field. A couple of Blackcaps tacked at Hope point and there were three more in the scrub by Hope Bay Studio's garden. I normally walk as far as the end of Little Green's garden and then return, but the day was improving and I decided to continued to the golf club and scan over the end of the undercliff to see if I could spot a Black Redstart on the rocks. No sign of the Black Redstart so I turned round and took the path nearest the cliff edge. When I got to the two small bushes above a small bird flicked into the back bush. I "tutted" at the bush and a Robin popped on to the top and then a second bird moved up the bush facing away from me. I didn't recognise what it was and "tutted" Blackcap style again.

This time it came out and landed on the scrub in front of the house the Bockhill birders have nicked-named "Out of Africa" because of it's colonial look, but actually called Ty Bryn. I was more than surprised when I put my bins on it and discovered it was a Bluethroat.

The first look was very brief and it disappeared into the bush. The second time I saw it I managed two completely out of focus shots, the twigs in front being beautifully sharp.

It was about ten minutes before I saw it again, and this time it did show quite well for about 30 seconds, before returning deep into the bush, right by the cliff top. I knew that a couple of people were on their way and sat on the conveniently placed seat watching the bush. I saw the bird just once more but stayed watching in case it came out and moved along the top. That was the last I saw of it and as far as I know, Gerald, Martin and Steve, who arrived a little later had no luck either. Aging and sexing the bird, and even deciding on the race is not as straight forward as I thought it wuld be. I can see no evidence of buff tips on the coverts, as one would expect in a juvenile/1st winter bird. Adults moult before they leave their breeding areas, I think, and I can see no red above the blue, so it may be a white spot. The extent of the blue may indicate a male, but I'm not certain.

After popping home for something to eat and drink, and watching the last few minutes of the Ryder Cup I returned to the Leas with out any success. I had a look along the Undercliff incase it had found it's way down there. The arrow on the top of the cliff shows the area I last saw it in on top, so it wouldn't have bee that far for it to move.

The only chat down here was a Wheatear, not that I really thought that it would be here. I suspect that it was probably still close to where I found it, but whether it will stay overnight is another thing.

Out of interest a first year male White-spotted Bluethroat was ringed in Hampshire on 30/9/2010 see here. The buff tips to the greater coverts aren't that obvious until the wing is spread.