23 April 2013

Western Subalpine Warbler St Davids Head

Set out to get a good look around in the still and dull but warmish weather; also hoping the Woodchat Shrike would still be around the beach area at Porth Melgan for a third day. Luckily it was still present though was more mobile, moving further up the valley at times. I watched it with Dick Seekins, Wendy James and Karen Mr. As Dick and I moved off along the path to the Head a small bird flitted through the gorse and bracken scrub on the bank in front of us. The shape flight pattern was very reminiscent of Dartford Warbler but it appeared paler blue-grey above and quite orangy below and I called it as A Subalpine Warber. 'That's a brave call.' said Dick but I'd been comparing the two in Spain on a couple of occasions and I was pretty sure, but still thought it best to hedge bets somewhat. There were many anxious moments as the four of us tried desperately to nail it with a clear view of a white sub-moustachial stripe, which would make us all feel happier. Eventually a few seconds 'scope view and there it was! After that it was good fun following it getting good views and some pics eventually. Then we could settle down to enjoy the experience of a rare bird, which as the word 'rare' suggests just doesn't happen that often.

The bird was intensely coloured red-orange on the throat and breast, paler on flanks and belly with a fine white sub-moustachial stripe and blue grey above on upperparts excepting brownish flight feathers and white outer tail feathers. The eye was red and the legs yellowy. It was clearly a male and indeed was heard to sing briefly a little later; the brownish cast to the primaries suggests a 2nd Calendar year bird. The thin sub-moustachial stripe indicated 'Western' as did the orangy underparts, less intense than might be expected for Eastern and more diffuse overall. It was very similar to a male I watched in Granada, Spain early in the month. With both the Warbler and the Shrike present in a small bit of West Wales, who needs Spain? This is the first Pembs record since Steve Votier's Ramsey Record in 2009. It appears also to be the first ever mainland record.

Photo Mark Hipkin

Subalpine Warblers in Pembs since 2000:

Skokholm 2nd-8th April 2001 (GT) and 3rd Nov 2001(GT)
Skomer 16th May 2002 (SD)
Skokholm 4th-5th May 2003 (GT)
Ramsey 23rd-27th May 2006 (GM,LM)
Ramsey 15th May 2008 (JW)
Skomer 19th May 2008 (DB)
Ramsey 23rd June 2009 (SCV)
St Davids Hd (ssp Cantillans) 23rd-27th April 2013 (WJ, KMr,RSe,MYP et al)
Skokholm (female ssp cantillans) 16th May 2013 (EW et al )
Skomer female 29th May 2013 (ES)

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