Thursday, 6 February 2014

Bluetail bonanza

Lifers take precedence over all others and I've learnt from bitter experience (green heron among others) that waiting for weather/ a more convenient day means the bird clears off. So, the report of a red-flanked bluetail in Gloucestershire meant a day-off at the earliest possible opportunity. Wednesday was dreadful weather but today had a window in the morning when it was at least not chucking it down.
A not too bad start of 6am got me to the Gloucestershire countryside near Marshfield by about 8. Although you always worry about finding the right spot from the instructions, about 15 cars parked on a small country lane gives the game away. Only about 10 minutes walk down a very muddy field led me to a herd (gaggle?) of birders all studying a bush. I got straight on to the bird.
RFBT's, as it will now be known, are normally in Finland in the Summer and migrate to Asia in the Winter, so this is the wrong side of the country and the wrong time of year. Most records are autumnal on the East coast. We normally get a couple or so sightings a year in the UK. This had led to speculation that this may have been either around here or at least in the UK since it tried to migrate and got lost in the Autumn. Also, it may stay around till the urge to migrate in the Spring.
Anyway, this is a bird that really does what it says on the tin. The size and habit of a robin, it has red flanks rather than a red-breast and a very attractive blue tail which it shows off by flicking incessantly. The photos, which were all at range and in very poor light, show off the main features.

They also show what it was doing most of the time - flitting from hawthorn bushes to the ground to get worms and then taking them back to the tree to eat them. Generally it was pretty confiding and came as close as 6 feet at one point giving great views if not ones that were easy to capture. 
I stayed with the bird for about 30 minutes before moving off. The weather was closing on so the only other bird i managed to get was a pair of ruddy shelducks, which are not tickable on BOU rules, only on 400 club, but are great birds to see.

Takes me up to 141 on the year-list and 327 (400club)/ 319 (bou) on my UK life-lists.