A very hard and bird-less day. Most of it was spent looking for the Yellow-Browed Warbler in Uffmoor wood. After an age looking at very little we left with an hour or so left of daylight, where we headed to Upton Warren, which other than 30 Pochard and 10 Curlew it was very quiet!
The Upton Warren work party was highlighted by 4 Jack Snipe that flew out of the sedge as we checked the perimeter fox proof fence . Additionally, 20 Common Snipe flew out but other than these the mind was focused on getting the tasks done!
It was somewhat surreal to hear the news that late on the previous night, a Red-flanked Bluetail had been found. Two things stood out, we are still gripped in the depths of winter, and possibly more impressively, the bird had somehow found its way to a small valley in South Gloucestershire!
After checking the location of Marshfield, it became clear that the bird was only just over an hour away along the M5, just outside Bristol.
Waking up the next morning, news came through that it was still present and i was somewhat annoyed, with Tuesday being my day off and having little work to do.
Luckily, while still lying in bed, the benefits of social media became apparent, and i was contacted by a fellow twitterer asking if i wanted to join them as they were heading down. And they only live just down the road from Dudley.
A short while later and we were on our way, the sun shining, and the bird still showing!
A short walk from the country lane down the very picturesque Shire Valley to the small stream where the bird was feeding followed, and we were soon greeted by a fairly large crowd of twitchers.
And there it was, a stunning 1st winter male RED-FLANKED BLUETAIL flitting around the base of trees on the stream edge!
Occasionally the bird would pause briefly on the adjacent fence, where i was actually able to get a couple of Digi-scoped shots.
Annoyingly, many of the crowd did not take the birds welfare into account, and it was incessantly harassed up and down the stream, leaving me quite annoyed. I chose to stand in the one place and wait for it to appear in front of us, and while doing so, Vern appeared, and waited also, with similar feelings to me. After the bird had been forced into the garden of the adjacent farmhouse, the crowd spread out, and luckily, when the bird returned it landed directly in front of us. Unluckily however, the crowd soon converged as i pointed the bird out to my companions, and we had a few minutes viewing before the bird was again pushed up the stream.
At this time, we were in prime position, and i was able to admire this really quite stunning looking bird. Having a behavior somewhat intermediate between a Robin and a Flycatcher, it was very active, and was constantly flicking and opening its tail, occasionally flycatching off the fenceline to catch an insect, showing of that characteristic blue tail.
Red-flanked Bluetail is a species almost exclusively tied to Autumn passage (with the exception of a few spring records), so for one to be found wintering in the country was unprecedented, with it being the first occurrence of an overwintering bird in Britain! Somewhat happily, as i write this in early March, the bird is still present, and one has to wonder if it will stick around long enough for some of that beautiful summer plumage to emerge, it is a male after all!
We can hope!