Saturday 15 February 2014

Red-flanked Bluetail - Marshfield, Gloucestershire

After a long spell without a post mainly due to the arrival of Sarah and my son, Tobias, in April 2013 the current wintering Red-flanked Bluetail at Marshfield, Gloucestershire was such a beauty that it inspired a post and hopefully a revival of this blog.

After a pre-dawn start I arrived at a beautiful Cotswold valley to the north of Marshfield on the Wiltshire/Gloucestershire border and followed the path east alongside the Broadmead Brook. Within a short while of arriving at the location where the bird is wintering I glimpsed a Robin like bird and was soon watching this stunning eastern chat at close range and with no other birders in sight. Over the next two hours I watched the bird sheltering within its favoured Hawthorn bush and feeding on the ground in the sunshine. Interestingly the bird was in near constant subsong, examples of Red-flanked Blutail calls and songs can be found here on the Xeno-canto website as well as a range map.

Red-flanked Bluetail - Simon Colenutt

Red-flanked Bluetail - Simon Colenutt
Red-flanked Bluetail - Marshfield, Gloucestershire (Simon Colenutt)

The bird has been present since the 3rd February and, with this its 13th day, the longest staying Red-flanked Bluetail in the UK ever, the previous longest staying bird being that at Spurn, Yorkshire from 17th to 27th October 2009. To the end of 2012 there have been a total of 118 accepted records in the UK with this being the first wintering individual. The species is well known for going from near mythical status to a scarce but to be expected autumn drift species with records surging since the mid-1990's. Prior to 1990 there were just 12 records from 1900 to 1989, while since 1990 there have been 106 records peaking at 32 records in 2010. This change in status has been largely attributed to an westward spread in the breeding range but may also be linked to a change in the distribution of wintering birds associated with eastern spread in breeding birds.