Sunday, 14 June 2015

Cretzschmar's Bunting, Bardsey Island

I was lying in bed having a well earned rest after yesterdays trip to Bardsey Island when I made the fatal mistake of looking at Birdguides on my phone. "Cretzschmar's Bunting again at the lighthouse on south side of island". Doh! Despite the best efforts of 40 birders yesterday it had somehow managed to elude us all and today was "back" and singing. The rain was throwing it down outside and our planned local walk didn't seem too appealing, so I tentitivly suggested Bardsey to Elaine, because at least the sun was forecast to shine there today and she had expressed a keen interest in going to the island when I told her about it yesterday. I just don't think she expected to go today....

We were out of the house and on our way at 10:30, with no idea of how many people might be trying to get onto the 12 passenger boat which was due to leave at 13:30, or how bad the roads might be to slow us down. However it was a very smooth drive, and by 13:10 we were on the boat and ready to go, one of us at least bouyed by the news that the bird was still showing just half an hour earlier, the other wondering what she had gotten herself into and who all these other strange folk were on the boat. In fact at that stage there were only seven of us on the boat, so we had to wait until 13:30 to see if anybody else came. Four more people arrived and we were on our way.

The boatman seemed keen to get us there and went at a decent speed, the boat bouncing around in the swell, and spray soaking us several times over. Fortunately though, the sun was shining on Bardsey and we soon dried out once on the island. We made our way to the lighthouse and joined about 12 other birders peering over the lighthouse compound wall.

Thanks to excellent organisation skills by the bird observatory staff we were all able to get a good look at this cracking little bird, even Elaine added it to her UK list, which now stands at about 21. On occasion the bird was also heard singing (the Cretzschmars bunting, not Elaine). It wasn't always in view and was very skittish and flighty, and probably I only watched it for a total of 5 minutes in the hour and half or so I spent waiting, but it was well worth it. Also around the lighthouse a black redstart, at least 4 wheatears and a chough flew over.

It was a glorious day on the island and thrift clearwing moths were on the wing, though difficult to see, and also a few painted ladies amongst the butterflies.

We had another rocky boat journey back, but at least we were entertained by several Manx shearwaters around the boat. Back on the mainland at Porth Meudwy, on the walk from the boat to the car park somebody pointed out a greater butterfly orchid in amongst the bloody cranesbill, and a couple of choughs flew over.

UK: 409; Year:225 (Cretzschmar's Bunting)

Cretzschmar's bunting.

Thrift clearwing.

Painted lady

Considering that Cretzschmar's bunting is only the 6th for Britain and that this is easily the most accessible of the lot, it was a very small turn out, in fact probably only 40 birders saw the bird today. That's obviously partly down to the logisitics of getting there, but when you consider that many people will spend £500 twitching Shetland or Scillies, it was a little surprising that some boats were leaving for the island only half full to see this stonking bird in full summer plumage and singing. Still it was good for those of us who were there, made it much easier to see!

Greater butterfly orchid.

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