So to last Saturday the 21st October, rock thrush still present and thankfully settled and showing very well most days. No problem then. We drove away from Cornwall in absolutely atrocious conditions, heavy rain and strong winds most of the way through Cornwall and Devon courtesy of said Storm Brian. We pulled off for a coffee at Exeter and the rain eased off and we cheered up a bit believing that we had a chance. The drive through Somerset was made in reasonably good weather although still very windy, we crossed the new Severn bridge and shelled out our £6.70 charge to enter Wales (really!?). Then the rain started again and got heavier and heavier. Driving was treacherous to say the least but we kept going and eventually pulled up at the designated spot where the thrush was showing nearby. On the top of the hill it was howling a gale and the rain was driving in horizontally. Just a second out in it would be enough to drown a cat! We sat in the car for an hour during which time the rain increased in ferocity so we gave up. With over a mile walk to the bird and not wanting to make the remaining two hour drive home in a sorry soaking wet state we drove away somewhat regretfully. Fair weathered birders indeed! So it was back to fingers crossed time again for the following week although I was now reasonably confident that the bird would remain.
And indeed it did, so on Saturday morning we left home at an early hour and made our way West. And it was forecast to be a nice, wind free, sunny morning! Hurray!! We parked up alongside a half dozen or so cars already on site at Pwll-du (Black hole apparently) and followed the track around the hillside.
|Tilers this way apparently!|
|Need that record shot just in case!|
The rock thrush is first winter male and a very fine looking chap indeed. It blended in remarkably well with the surroundings (understandably) despite its bright orange underparts and if it remained still could be hard to spot amongst the rocks and boulders. We settled in about 50 feet away and watched. The thrush began working its way toward us forcing most of the other birders to move to get a better view. We had the best seats though and at one point the bird must have been no more than 20 feet away. I fired off shot after shot of this lifer for both us.
|A thrush on the rocks? Must be a rock thrush!|
There has been a bit of consternation amongst birders on social media about people feeding mealworms to the thrush in order to entice it to come closer and thus obtain better photographs. Such methods are becoming commonplace and certain birds, the bluethroat in Lincolnshire is one such case, are thought to have been made unwell (and even ultimately killed) by such feeding since the mealworms are not part of the birds natural diet. Furthermore such supplementary feeding methods are putting birders and photographers at loggerheads but lets face it neither much like the other anyway. I didn't see any mealworms being administered to the area nor did I see any on the ground but obviously they could have been there. The rock thrush was certainly feeding well in front of me so could well have been picking up mealworms. A few meadow pipits were also feeding in the same area. I did see the bird locate and eat 3 earthworms so it was quite able to find its own food.
The thrush would feed for a couple of minutes and then rest unmoving for a short while before resuming its feast. At one point a sparrowhawk flew in strongly scattering all of the birds and it pursued a pipit up and over the cliff face but was ultimately unsuccessful. When this happened I thought that would be it and that the rock thrush wouldn't be seen for a while but to my amazement it was stood on the ground hunkered down in the same place in front of us. Maybe it was totally sure on its camouflage to defeat the sparrowhawk, if it is then I dare to say that is one dangerous game to play and I wish it luck!
|Hunkered down after sparrowhawk attack|
We stayed for only an hour preferring to leave since the site was getting busier with more and more birders and toggers arriving. I had taken over 250 frames of the same bird! It would take me far longer than an hour to go through them all but I am more than pleased with some of them!
The rock thrush was a beautiful subject to observe and take memories of. I hope to see another soon.