08 May 2012

Golden Oriole

There were few migrants on the morning of the eighth of May at St Davids Hd, apart from a trickle of Hirundines, a Swift and  Redpoll (sp) over. Then it all turned around when I flushed a large yellow bird from a gorse bank. Golden Oriole and Green Woodpecker went through my mind almost simultaneously (both equally rare in Pembs). The bird remained in sight as it flew about 50 metres and landed on top of, then dropped into, another gorse and bramble patch. As it perched up I could see a large hairy caterpillar hanging from its bill.

It was clearly a female or 1st Summer male Golden Oriole.

I hung around for an hour and a half or so till someone else arrived, seeing it briefly once more back at the original site. This time it flew into a spindly bush before dropping down into gorse and blackthorn. Again, it was carrying what appeared to be a large caterpillar. I thought I had it well pinned down in a reasonably small area but when people arrived it soon became clear that it had moved on. How it had managed to sneak away I don't know but apparently it isn't unusual for them to be elusive even in limited cover As I walked through the area I noticed a number of large, hairy caterpillars underfoot, it wasn't going to be hungry.

The first flight views were dominated by the lower back and rump which were a very bright lemon yellow.
The flight itself was smooth and swift, quite unlike a woodpecker’s. The overall impression of shape was sleek and aerodynamic, it's something I've noted before. The Mercedes of the bird world.
The overall impression was bright yellow and green. The wings and tail pattern lacking strong dark tones and adding to the sleek and bright appearance.
The wings and upper back mantle were, therefore, contrastingly darker. I could see the head was pale yellowish with a dark angular eyestripe, broad at the eye. The bill shape was obvious, long and strong with an obviously curved culmen adding to a pointed effect. Very striking.

This sighting was part of an influx nationally, there were two other records in Pembs during may. Perhaps the best season ever.

Golden Orioles in Pembs since 2000

Ramsey 13th&16th May 2000  (RH)
Marloes Mere  18th May 2000  (SJS)
Skomer  13th&26th May 2001  (JGB et al)
Skomer  3 from 14th-20th May 2006  (JGB)
Skomer 22nd-25th May 2006  (JGB)
Skomer 24th-26th May 2008  (DB)
Skomer 14th-15th May 2009  (DB)
Bosherston  25th May 2010  (BH)
St Davids Hd  8th May 2012 (MYP)
Martins Haven  11th May 2012  (MJ)
Trefeiddan 26th May 2012 (J&MB)