Sunday 17 November 2013


Photo by Dave Hutton

Following the re-identification of a chunky Lesser Whitethroat in a secluded Welsh garden, the birding based social media and internet forums were plunged into some kind of Sylvia induced meltdown. Whilst some of those who spied the Hartlepool Head WESTERN ORPHEAN WARBLER last year tried hard to convince themselves that this latest individual was an EASTERN ORPHEAN WARBLER, those that missed out last year were just happy that another ORPHEAN WARBLER had turned up so quickly. 

For a write up of my 2012 twitch click on this link.... 'Hartlepool Orphean Adventure' .

The two Marshals onsite at Orlandon Kilns did a sterling job!
Photo by Adam Archer

Despite the hype and hysteria I knew in my mind and heart that we were dealing with Britain's second hortensis in successive years. This did not stop me embarking on the long, winding journey through the valleys and down into the extreme south west of Cymru though. With Dave Hutton at the helm I joined Johnny 'Vegas' Hague and Tony Barter for our trip to Pembrokeshire, a trip that took us nigh on four bloody hours to complete. Upon leaving the car park on top of the hill by foot, 'Dave Laurel & Johnny Hardy' tested our stamina further by taking us the wrong way to Orlandon Kilns, not once but twice. Only the ORPHEAN WARBLER itself had a worse sense of direction than this pair of reprobates.

Anyway, thanks to Shropshire birder Mike Stokes we eventually found the correct location but due to our early morning stroll we had to wait outside until the garden emptied a little. To stress out the lads who needed this bird even further there was more bad news, the rarity had not been seen for nearly ninety minutes. Johnny Hague was beginning to sweat like Lee GR Evans in advance of an appointment to see his GP. Noticing that a cardiac arrest or two was imminent the kindly steward who was helping to organise the event promised to get us into the garden as soon as the bird returned.    

After about fifteen minutes the bird did return and as promised we were ushered onto the property without delay.

Photo by Dave Hutton

Within a few seconds I was watching my second WESTERN ORPHEAN WARBLER in Britain. The bird performed superbly as it stalked insects in surrounding trees and even better as it feasted on decaying apples in the garden itself. It would go missing for a few minutes but would always return to the same few trees, totally unconcerned about the thirty or so birders quietly admiring it. Other birds in the vicinity included a single Blackcap, a Chiffchaff and a few Goldcrest among the more usual garden avifauna. The odd Raven also passed overhead, cronking away as they went. I was really glad I made the effort to see this rare visitor from southern Europe and north Africa. The views were way better than those I had last year and the whole twitch itself was much more relaxed and civilised. 

Photo by Dave Hutton

On the way back to the Midlands someone had the bright idea to visit Cosmeston Lakes Country Park near Cardiff. Here we dipped a recent Turtle Dove, I got savaged by a Basset Hound and Bart slipped over in the mud causing a minor earthquake. Apparently the inhabitants of Lundy had to evacuate the island due to a high tsunami risk. Despite all of this it was yet another enjoyable day of really rare birds, incessant piss taking, childish giggles and hearty laughter.

Bart reaches climax after seeing his first ORPHEAN WARBER!
Photo by Adam Archer

For an alternative take on the very same trip click here.... 'The Drunkbirder'

Special thanks to 'The Royle Family' - Peter and Rosemary for letting us mooch around your garden. You are lovely people who will be rewarded for your kindness in Heaven. Thanks a million!

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