Saturday, 20 June 2009

Royal Tern, Llandudno, Conwy, N. Wales, and male Red Backed Shrike, Brockholes Wetland/Boilton Wood LWT Reserves - 20th June 2009.

Above & below: Adult African Royal Tern, Llandudno promenade, Conwy, N. Wales - 20th June 2009.

News of a prob Royal Tern off Llandudno mid-afternoon prompted an emergency twitch to be organised and within thirty minutes Dave Bickerton, Cllr John F. Wright, Bill Berry and Myself were enroute, with DB at the helm. About a third of the way there news came on the pager that the bird had flown high west, deflating the carload somewhat, but we continued on in the hope it would be relocated.

At 16:48, near Mold, N. Wales, the mobile rang. It was Preston birder Nick Green who delivered the bombshell news that he had just found a male Red-backed Shrike in the wider area of the local patch, Brockholes Wetland LWT........ AARRGGGHHHHH!!!!!!!

The final leg of the journey to Llandudno was spent frantically disseminating the news to the local text grapevine and beyond, but Orange mobile reception was frustratingly patchy.

On the outskirts of Llandudno, still struggling to get the texts out, a call to Chris Batty regarding the Shrike was interrupted by Chris shouting down the line that the Tern had just been relocated on the east side of the town. In panic and still on the phone, I ranted to the rest of the crew what Chris had said and the call was abruptly terminated (sorry Chris!) without mention of the Shrike as we hurried to the scene only to find that the Royal Tern had flown minutes before.

Shortly afterwards, news came through that the Royal Tern had been relocated on the west side of the town, off the promenade, so we hurried over to find the bird was fishing some 100yrds offshore and for the next twenty minutes we and many others enjoyed terriffic scope views of the bird as it patrolled and fished before flying around the end of the Great Orme. I managed to fire just three shots off with the still camera through the scope during one fly-past, so am pleased two are usable for the blog.

We assumed the bird would probably head back around to the eastern side of town again, so we staked that side out for 45 mins in the despondent company of three Burnley birders, Bob Ashworth, Jeff Howarth and Tony Bennett who had missed the bird by minutes due to TB's unfortunate need to defecate enroute!

Sadly, the bird would not reappear for them for the remainder of the day and what made things worse was that this was the second time they had dipped the bird, having spent 12hrs searching in the Porthmadog area the previous week the day after the bird was first found! - The agony! Hopefully they will get another crack at this impressive, mega-rare Tern.

With no joy in relocating the Royal Tern, we headed back for the Red Backed Shrike at Brockholes, arriving at the bird 20:40. What a great find by Nick Green, in an area to the north of the site just north of Boilton Wood, where most of us very rarely, if ever venture.

The Shrike, with seemingly only a stump of regrowing feathers for a tail, sang three times during our time watching the bird at distance to minimise disturbance. It may have set up territory within the scrubby area it has chosen to frequent, so may stay longer. Time will tell.

Above: Male Red Backed Shrike, Brockholes Wetland/Boilton Wood LWT - 20th June 2009. A stunning discovery by Nick Green.

I have been watching the site now for almost 11 years and new species have naturally become much more irregular, so four patch ticks since 10th May is quite remarkable and all of pure quality: s/plum Red-necked Grebe, Avocet, Fulmar and now a male Red Backed Shrike! - Whatever next for the Brockholes area?..... As far as i'm concerned, a 'humble' Pied Flycatcher would do!!!

Once again, a huge thank you to Nick Green for the initial call and for sharing the news of his discovery which made a lot of birders very happy today.