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Monday, 26 December 2016

Masked Wagtail at Camrose and 7 Chough at Marloes

On Thursday 23rd December, having arrived in Wales to spend Christmas with my Mum, Thursday was easily the best day to go birding as the default weather for Wales is rain. The forecast was for the odd shower punctuated by sunny intervals. Travelling down to Haverfordwest, I encountered a couple of rain showers and took the B road, easily found amazingly enough on what I had considered the most confusing road layout of any British town I had encountered but the signing has improved and dramatically and within 20 minutes I was drawing up into the village taking the right hand bend by the church and seeing a dog walker, he helpfully told me where Croft's Villas were (just further along the road and I parked right outside no.5 where the bird had been first spotted. This bird is the first recorded sighting of this, a sub species of our Pied Wagtail, this race is normally found in Kazakhstan, Iran or and Afghanistan and is therefore way off course. Possibly brought over here by the recent cold weather over there and the prevailing easterly air stream over much of the previous autumn. Another birder was there and during the next 90 minutes the bird proved elusive, I heard and saw somewhat high pitched "Pied Wag" call and a bird fly left looping over some of the back gardens but appeared to settle in the out of view. I walked down the road checking other sites and as soon as I got back we were talking and I suddenly saw a wagtail fly down onto the road right where we were standing barely 10 metres away, I raised my bins and it was the beautiful Masked Wagtail! What an incredible bird and easily one of the highlights of the year! It then ran towards us and was within 3 feet of us, it was actually too close for the camera! The other chap put some bread down in the middle of the road and it kept returning to feed on this. It was an incredibly confiding bird being seen down to 3 feet. I took pictures of it on the road, the side of the road and when it fed on a few maggots it found on the grass verge. It then flew (giving a higher pitched call than your usual Wagtail and confirming my earlier suspicion that the bird seen earlier had indeed been this bird) up to a parked van where we saw it perch on its roof. It then returned to the road again feeding from the bread but a van driving down the road flushed it and it flew past the houses and away. We though that was it when another birder arrived, but within 10 minutes it was back feeding from the bread on the road again, having a little rest at the side of the road. Then it mean towards us and then ran further down the road, before it flew up to some cars, a garden wall. Then flew up to the roof guttering of the houses it worked along here, before flying back down onto the road again and I took more pics by the side of the road. Sunny intervals helped with the photography too. When I left I also saw a Pied Wagtail. I decided to drive all the way down to Marloes, parking in the NT car park at the end, I walked over the style and immediately heard the "Keeyah" call, a bit like a child's musical trumpet toy, and saw an excellent Chough flying right overhead. As the point, I saw a Chough, but before I could get any photos the 2nd birder from Camrose appeared and tried to get pictures himself by walking straight up to it (he had a 300mm lens). I met him and explained we'd need to use a bit of fieldcraft and approach low to the ground and slowly. I then spotted 2 Choughs to our right, one in particularly was intent on probing dung for insects and we managed to get quite close and it walked over to some rocks where we obtained some shots. he then left and the birds flew over the path and were probing in other dungs heaps and I managed to get reasonably close without disturbing them before a runner flushed them completely! As I walked back, I was pleased to see they had returned to the same area and looking over the western cove, a Grey Seal stuck its head out of the water and 5 adult Kittiwakes flew right to left.By the muddy area by the style I was pleased to see my 3rd wagtail of the day, a drab female Grey Wagtail was feeding by the steam. Walking back to the car, it was somewhat disconcerting to see 3 Oil Tankers travelling past Skomer and this wonderful environment to the Milford Oil Terminal. On a much better note, In the field behind the car park, I saw 4 Chough probing the ground, whilst another Chough flew past them, calling as it flew by. So, together with the pair at the point remaining faithful to the area, I had seen a total of 7 Chough, a great tally!

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