A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

Friday, 19 June 2015

Cretzschmar's Bunting at Bardsey delights the crowds!

First spotted on a Wednesday morning by a sharp eyed visitor (who originally thought it was an Ortolan before realising the true magnitude of the find) and with only a brief sighting two days later at Friday lunchtime, it seemed unlikely that many would be able to connect with the Cretzschmar’s Bunting that was teasing birders on Bardsey Island in Wales. With boat loads drawing a blank for the rest of Friday and with no sign at all on the Saturday, it seemed the likely option that this mega Bunting had slipped through the net and departed.

It came as some surprise therefore when I awoke early on Sunday morning to see a report had just come on that the bird had been seen again that morning at the lighthouse compound – on several occasions. With a second message confirming that it had returned to the same spot 5 times that morning and had even been singing, I made a quick on the spot decision that this (like the recent Citril Finch) was a bird not to be missed and managed to persuade Alex that we needed to at least try our luck – he who dares wins after all….

After a 3 hour journey and arriving 15 minutes before the first scheduled boat departure, I was expecting a mass of birders to greet us at the boat platform with all the places already taken – therefore it was a bit of a shock when the ramp leading to the sea was completely deserted and there were just 7 other birders waiting in the boat! Everyone had either clearly been put off by the fact the bird had so far been extremely unreliable during its stay, or the first come first serve basis of the crossings had deterred them!

Either way, half an hour later we had landed on the beautiful Bardsey Island, departing amongst Grey Seals and seabirds and ready to make the short ten minute walk through the carpet of wild flowers and up the lighthouse compound where the bird had been favouring. 
Bardsey Island, Wales
Joining a small nervous crowd who hadn’t yet connected and with seed now having been laid down on the paving slabs that morning by the observatory staff, we were told the bunting had flown in to a small patch of clover and flowers to the left hand side of the wall -  and as of yet hadn’t been seen to exit. However, after ¾ of an hour anxiously waiting for the bird to reveal itself but with no sign at all, it began to cross my mind that our bunting may indeed have slipped away unnoticed.
Bardsey Island Lighthouse, Wales
The lighthouse compound where the bird was favouring
A small brown bird flitting down from the lighthouse suddenly caught my eye, and raising my bins I was greeted with the stunning male Cretzschmar’s! The gorgeous slate grey head was clear to see, as were the rusty orange underparts, moustache and throat patch- much darker in colouration than the similar Ortolan. Getting all those assembled on it, we enjoyed excellent but brief views as it fed amongst the Sea Thrift, hopping between the paving stones for several minutes before flying off around the corner of the lighthouse building and out of sight!
Cretzschmar's Bunting - Bardsey Island, Wales
Relieved and elated at being the first boatload to successfully twitch the bunting, we enjoyed views once again half an hour later when the second boat arrived, and it soon became clear that it was following a pattern of feeding on the seed for 2-3 minutes before disappearing for 60-90 minutes at a time.
Cretzschmar's Bunting - Bardsey Island, Wales
Cretzschmar's Bunting - Bardsey Island, Wales
With the bunting vanishing towards the inaccessible area of the lighthouse once again, we headed over to the observatory to take a look around the island before our scheduled boat departed. Several Chough were busy feeding on the turf offering excellent views, whilst Manx Shearwaters cruised past on the distant waves as Peregrine Falcons patrolled the cliffs.

An absolutely stunning location in the glorious summer weather, Bardsey was a fantastic place to spend a sunny afternoon, and a huge thanks must go out to the brilliant staff there who put in so many hours relocating the bunting after it did its disappearing act (it was first seen at the other end of the island) and subsequently managing to get so many birders to connect in what has been a really well organised twitch.
Happy twitcher
Someone was happy to connect
Bardsey Island, WalesOnly the 6th record for Britain ever, this has solely been a Shetland/Orkney bird before now, meaning this accessible individual (once pinned down) was extremely welcome for many! With half of all records occurring in the last 7 years and with another bird currently present in Finland, it may yet become a more frequent visitor to the UK over the years.

Since the Sunday, every boatload of birders appears to have connected and this is down to the hard work by everyone at the observatory coupled with Colin the boatman’s efforts in getting everyone across. Still present and into its 10th day (closing in on the record 11 day stay by the very first Fair Isle bird in 1967) it is likely that this individual will continue to wow the crowds and draw people to visit this fantastic island for days to come!
Bardsey Island, Wales

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