06 April, 2013

White-spotted Bluethroat, Isle of Wight


With the small annual influx of Bluethroats (of the race cyanecula) that has taken place recently along the south coast, I've been eyeing up one particular male on the Isle of Wight for the past few days. The bird, found by local warden Ian Ridett, has been present for over a week on the National Trust's reserve at St. Helens Duver, but seemed to have become slightly over-shadowed by the appearance of multiple birds on Portland. I've never seen a Bluethroat of any kind before, let alone a ridiculously smart looking summer-plumage male, so figured that the two and a half hour journey down there would be a small price to pay for seeing such a bird. 

The alarm went off at horrible o'clock yesterday morning, and after a train, hovercraft and five mile uphill bike ride into strong coastal gales, I'd finally woken up enough to get out of bed. By the time I'd reached St. Helens, it was gone 10am, and with no reports of the bird in the past 36 hours, no other birders present, and with a large area of windswept coastal scrub to search through, I set myself up for a long, cold morning. With only half an hour gone and still nothing, I'd manage to convince myself that it had flown overnight, and that coming all the way to the Isle of Wight for a restless migrant that was likely to leave at any moment was complete madness. With that thought still in mind, it's quite hard to explain what it felt like the moment the male Bluethroat suddenly hopped out of a heather bush to forage in the short turf with a Robin, only metres from where I stood...


Rather than flush the second it saw me, he continued to forage at ridiculously close range, and thus I was treated to my first ever one-on-one with a Bluethroat. With 20 mph winds blowing about, and my hands physically shaking, it was quite hard to get a sharp image. To get anywhere near enough stability, it was a matter of lying flat out with the lens resting on the grass, practically looking up at one of the most stunning birds I've ever seen. Totally worth the slog to get there, and without a doubt one of my most memorable encounters yet...





As the morning progressed, more people showed up, and the bird started skulking more, showing on the odd occasion up until early afternoon, when all went silent. By now the wind was becoming unbearable, and the all day full English breakfast on offer in the local cafe looked pretty enticing, so I reluctantly called it a day. All that was left to do was to wish him a safe journey back to his breeding grounds in mainland Europe!



4 comments:

Gibster said...

Excellently and impressively done!!! Nuff sed mate.

Tom Hines said...

Excellent account - sounds like a great day.

Dalton said...

....just recently found this here Blogspot mallarkey and randomly happened upon your postings.....as an ancient,time-worn outdoorsman and 'nature' lover, I've gotta say...your blog and specifically your photography is a joy....long may you continue fella....

Bill said...

Seth- Cheers mate

Tom- Thanks, Tom. T'was a great day indeed!

Dalton- Glad you could stumble upon the blog, and I'm pleased you enjoyed the photography.

Bill :-)