If you keep an eye on the UK’s bird news then it is very unlikely that you haven’t heard of the male Marmora’s Warbler that has taken up residence at Blorenge, Gwent. It first turned up over two weeks ago while I was on Mull, and on my return I had to look it up in the bird book as I had never even heard of it. It was to be found hiding in the section in the back that should really be titled “Birds you will never see”. For the Marmora’s this would be very apt as this is only something like the sixth recorded example of this species in the country. I had no plans to go and see it for myself as I was on call last week so couldn’t travel far anyway. Last night however I was free, BirdGuides was reporting that the bird was still present and the sun was even breaking through the clouds. Above all I felt that I was rather missing out on all the excitement. I was off. And was I successful?
Yes. The picture above is the only one that I managed but as a record it is more than adequate. I had my easiest drive up through the valleys ever, covering the 50 miles in just under an hour, before finding the appropriate car park at the first go and pulling into the last remaining spot. I got out just as the Marmora’s stirred after being hidden for the last hour or so and flew behind me. I had brief flashbacks to the missed Gyr on Gower as that had also flown behind me as I got out of the car and had never returned. Not this time though. What followed were two hours of almost continuous views of a bird that I felt I already knew after seeing so many pictures of it on the web. It spent its time doing loose circuits around the car park, singing from its various perches and also whilst in flight. I got to see its full repertoire, including a visit to the nest that it is building in vain and a brilliant imitation of a Stonechat. At one point the bird landed literally at my feet but before I could react it was moving on again. Another time it flew right through the middle of a small group of us that were watching. I personally think that the bird knew what we were there for and was just toying with us. He would always stay on a perch just long enough for you to focus the camera before moving on again, or would sit just so that it was obscured by a twig. Whatever its motives it was such a characterful bird that you could forgive it anything. As one of the gathered people said, the chance of it choosing that exact location to stop at with such easy access is almost astronomical. Nature always finds a way to be just that little bit more amazing than you expected.
Something that isn’t often mentioned in reports of the Marmora’s, apart from the view, is the number of Whinchats that are also in the area. This is the first time I have seen this species in Wales and was almost as exciting for me as the Marmora’s. I think I caused a bit of agitation a few times while I was looking at them as people thought I had a good view of the Marmora’s. Sorry about that. There were also good views of Meadow Pipit and Raven in the area, and the distant call of a Peacock. I don’t think that last one counts as a tick though unfortunately.