I shouldn't be doing it but with all of the personal s*#t going on in my own life right now I needed to clear my head a bit and relax. And what better way to get a bit of space than go twitching! Not for anything mega but for one of the most unusual birds that we get in the UK, the Wryneck. Wrynecks are fabulous members of the Woodpecker family, although they are very unlike most of that family by behaving in a, mostly, completely different way. I've seen a few Wrynecks before and even found one (without a tail!) myself in Cornwall a few years back but they're the type of bird that you can't get enough of. In the UK the chances of seeing Wrynecks are largely confined to the Spring and especially Autumn migration periods since they are virtually lost as a UK breeding species. Sightings are mostly around southern or eastern coastlines although a few do get found further inland.
|My "self found" Wryneck, Cornwall, 20/10/2016|
|Wryneck, Hampshire, 26/08/2013|
We set off around 7 o'clock aiming to be at Ogmore around 10. This would be my last chance for a day out for a while owing to forthcoming work and family commitments so a jaunt to Wales was actually quite exciting. As always while on a journey to see a bird I had Mrs Caley constantly checking the bird news for updates. No surprise then that half way down the M5 news came through that the Middleton Lakes Wryneck had been seen again whereas there was no news of the Ogmore bird. Dilemma! I pulled into Michaelwood services and consulted the SatNav, we had 60 miles left to get to Ogmore and 90 if we turned around (at the next junction, I'm not that reckless) and headed back north to Tamworth. We sat and mulled it over for a few minutes but, mainly thanks to Mrs Caley's insistence, resisted the temptation to abandon our plans and reroute to Middleton Lakes so continued on our way towards the M4. No amount of checking the internet for updates was going to find any news of the Wryneck in Ogmore, it just wouldn't would it? So as it was we arrived into Ogmore-by-Sea and found the prescribed carpark which was purportedly just 150 metres from where the bird had been showing, baulked at the £6 parking charge and found a spot on the main road for free instead which would mean a slightly longer 250 metre walk. But I love walking, that's what legs are made for!
We took the path which ran through a nice gorse and scrub area overlooking the Ogmore estuary. A very nice place made slightly less nice by the hordes of dog walkers and their charges, fine if on leads, not so good if allowed to run amok as several were doing, some of the dogs were too. Birds were still very much in evidence though and I took a couple of photos of the female of a pair of Stonechats that were busy flying from one exposed perch to another. But I was on a mission so to my shame gave little time to the other common birds that were around.
I'd travelled maybe 50 metres along the shore away from Mrs Caley when suddenly a medium sized and pale beige coloured bird flew strongly from one gorse patch to another and instantly I knew I had it! Fortunately it had landed on a dead gorse twig and was now perched there. I whistled to Mrs Caley but she was already on her way having also seen the bird fly out and then had seen me lift the camera since, naturally, I was already taking record shots. The other birders present, there were about 10 now (where do they all suddenly appear from?) were slower on the uptake and by the time they caught up the Wryneck had disappeared into the scrub once more. One chap then dared to suggest that it had been a Meadow Pipit, the cheek of it! I've been birding long enough to identify a Wryneck thank you very much! He only backed down when I showed him an image off the back of my camera! Oh yes, so it is!
It was down to me again to relocate the Wryneck which I did with pleasure when less than 5 minutes later it popped out of the bush and landed right at the base of the slope and started feeding on the grassy bank. While the bird probed in the soft earth for food its long tongue could often be seen. We were all assembled probably 20 metres or so away and at that distance the Wryneck didn't appear to be concerned at all. But of course some folk want to be closer and sadly don't exhibit my patience either so moved in towards the bird, the result of which was that it flushed back further along the scrubby bank.
Thankfully though this time the Wryneck stayed in view perched on top of a bramble bush but by the time we'd all attained its position dropped onto the grass bank again. This time the assembled took my lead and stayed a respectable distance away from the bird but in truth that was more down to the fact that to get any closer would have meant scrambling over the rocks between us and the bird. That said my lens didn't really have the reach for good photos but I'd have been more than pleased with them considering my efforts with previous Wrynecks.
Even then, as before, an over zealous birder ruined the party by deciding that a view from the top of the bank would be better and by over encroaching, allied with a booming commentators voice, managed to send the Wryneck into cover again. We wondered if our last view of the bird peering out from the top of the grassy slope would be our last.
But this was to be our lucky day! Almost an hour and a half after arriving on site the Wryneck then suddenly appeared on one of the rocks. Alerted to it by one of the other birders I settled in and waited for the bird to approach me. Mr very loud voice had left and would now miss out on the best views of a Wryneck that you could ever hope for. For the next half hour or more we watched the Wryneck, sometimes at just a few metres distance and I and the other birders, only half a dozen now, filled our boots! My apologies for posting so many photos of the same bird but, what a bird!
Finally sated with such crippling views and with rumbling belly telling me it was time for lunch we left the Wryneck which was still showing extremely well, not something I'd do very often! One chap I'd spoken to and who had reluctantly grumbled back told me he had spent all day photographing the Wryneck the day before and had come back for more. I took over 400 photos, how many must he have taken? The mind boggles!
The Wryneck became bird #258 on the Old Caley year list and a few friends have now posed the question, am I going for a 300 year? The answer is I'm not since I can't get to either Scilly or Shetlands and I believe that I'd need to in order to get anywhere near that figure. But if I'm able then I reckon I can get to 275 or even 280 with still some localised species such as Chough and Cirl Bunting to get, we have a trip to Cornwall in October planned as usual to get those, and a few seasonal birds such as Shore Lark and Smew to go for in the winter months plus any goodies that turn up in the meantime. I still don't have a Hoopoe, Red-footed Falcon and Pectoral Sandpiper amongst others this year so who knows!