Friday, June 10, 2011

Wednesday morning seemed incredibly quiet for migrants on the island. I (Giselle) had spent most of the previous day moping about the White-throated Robin in Hartlepool. Not only is it my ringing stomping ground when I'm not on the island, but my ringing trainer Chris Brown was the finder and ringer of this MEGA third for Britain and first for the UK mainland. Even Chris Evans was talking about it on the morning radio show. We finished finding nothing on the South End, and as we approached the narrows we saw that the boat was in, much earlier than usual. Rich then said "do you fancy going to see the White-throated Robin" in a non-serious way. Rich hates leaving the island incase a good bird turns up, so I ignored him with the words "absolutely, lets go now!". We then spent the next 100 metres of walking towards the Obs daydreaming about what it would be like to drive up to Hartlepool and see such a fantastic bird.

At 9:15am I realised that Rich wasn't joking and by 9:30 we were on the boat. The boatman indicated that we were all on the verge of insanity but it was too late, we were crossing the Sound and there was no turning back! We drove through torrential rain, along miles of motorway and as we arrived at Hartlepool at 3:30pm the nerves had set in and a deadly silence took over the car. Despite the reports of crazy wall clambering and ladder loaning on the day of discovery, we joined a mere ten people who were watching it in glorious sunshine, feeding out in the open, tail cocked and looking fantastic. Fish and chips and three bottles of Chris's home-made rhubarb wine later we celebrated our successful mission and Chris's stunning discovery. We still had time for some sneaky views the morning after, before heading back to North Wales for a 3:30pm boat back to Bardsey.

White-throated Robins spend their winters in a relatively small area of Africa extending from the Kenyan plateaus into Tanzania and with some birds in Zimbabwe. They migrate up East Africa to breed in an area extending from Turkey in the West across to Kazakhstan in the East. They are not very sociable birds and are generally solitary on migration. (c) Richard Brown

There have been just two previous British records, a male on the Calf of Man on the 22nd of June 1983 and a female on Skokholm between the 27th and 30th of May 1990. We have therefore probably joined the lucky few individuals who saw these birds in having seen Chough and White-throated Robin the the same day. (c) Richard Brown

The outer unmoulted greater coverts and the knackered tips to the primaries indicate that this is a first year bird. It showed incredibly well for the couple of hours we watched it, hopping across the road to feed under cars on Olive Street before returning to the bowling green poppies. It's a shame that photographers took to standing in Olive Street the following day, the area the bird had fed in for most of the previous day. This no doubt goes some way to explaining the bird's more illusive behaviour since we were there. (c) Richard Brown

So we managed to get back to Bardsey and bird in the evening, just to make sure nothing had slipped in during our brief absence. It hadn't. Dawn broke today and again there were no passage birds. But a stunningly hot and still day made for great invertebrate conditions and we soon found the first Thrift Clearwings of the year. 

This cracking little moth had only previously been recorded in 1980 and 1996 until Rich made a concerted effort to prove the existence of this scarce moth in 2009. He successfully found many individuals in late June and early July near Ogof Ystwffwl Glas on the South End, the same place he found them in 2010 and again this morning. As we went to ring Kittiwakes on the East Side today, he found another adult, a first for this location. Thrift Clearwings are a Notable B, or Nationally Scarce B, that is to say they are only to be found in 31-100 10km squares in the UK. (c) Richard Brown 

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