Rock Thrush.

14th October 2017
On Thursday this week a local birder from the Blaenavon area found a 1st winter male Rock Thrush in an isolated quarry on the Blorenge Mountain, near Abergavenny. These birds are a major rarity in the UK and are on many birders list of priorities. Rock Thrushes normally inhabit high altitude rocky areas, much higher than the Blue Rock Thrush and they are also quite shy and therefore difficult to see. Susan and I went over to the quarry yesterday in awful weather but we managed to see the bird in spite of the dire visibility. The weather forecast predicted an improving weather picture for today so we decided to have another go at seeing it. When we arrived at 08.30 there were a line of cars already parked right up the roadside and we only just managed to squeeze into a parking space. We walked the kilometre to the quarry and when we arrived we were greeted by what looked like a scene from the film Zulu. Birders lined the ridge above the quarry where they thought the bird might be, however, this was not the area where the bird was seen yesterday, so we walked on hoping for some peace and quiet away from the melee. When we reached the spot of the previous days sighting there was one birder/twitcher up on top of the escarpment talking loudly on his mobile phone. How these people expect to see a shy bird like a Rock Thrush when they behave like that I don’t know! I motioned him to get down and use some common sense and field craft and he disappeared from view to where I don’t know – frustrating behaviour!! I stopped and set up my gear and Susan walked on down the path and then I could see her waving to me and I ran over as best as I could while carrying my kit. She had just seen the bird in front of her and it had dropped down amongst some loose rocks – great spotting I must say! The bird was obviously avoiding the crowds. Two birders came walking past and I told them about Susan’s sighting, together we kept checking the area until one man shouted he could see it. The weather was still windy and drizzly with grey skies but I managed to get some half decent shots of what is a very elusive bird. We have seen two previously in Spain up in the Gredos Mountains but never in the UK and most people we spoke to were saying that it was a UK tick or even a ‘Lifer’ for them also. Yesterday I spoke to a man who had driven up from Penzance as far as Bristol and as there were no reports of the bird he turned back to go home, and he had reached Truro when the bird was reported, he then turned around and drove all the way up to Blaenavon and after seeing the bird he returned to Penzance. A round trip in the region of seven hundred miles, now that’s dedication!!! Such is the rarity factor of this bird there were around two hundred birders at the site by 08.30 this morning. I must admit I still enjoy a little twitch but not too often and only when it ends well!
Please see Latest Images, Rock Thrush.