Purple patch for UK Twitchers

To: Birding Aus <>
Subject: Purple patch for UK Twitchers
From: knightl <>
Date: Wed, 4 Jun 2003 15:32:15 +1000
The sound of tickers' teeth gnashing ...

Third new bird to appear in Britain in six weeks draws hundreds to Anglesey

By Brian Unwin and Michael McCarthy

03 June 2003

Birdwatchers from all over Britain were flocking to Anglesey yesterday to see the third completely new bird for the British Isles to be recorded in just over a month.

The cause of their excitement at the South Stack nature reserve, near Holyhead, was a black lark, Melanocorypha yeltoniensis - 2,000 miles west of its normal haunts on the remote steppes of Kazakhstan.

More than 1,000 twitchers have already glimpsed the largest member of the lark family, a thrush-sized bird of striking black plumage with black plumage and pale feather edges on the upperparts.

The black lark follows a taiga flycatcher from eastern Asia at Flamborough Head, East Yorkshire, in late April, and an Audouin's gull from the Mediterranean at Dungeness, Kent, in early May, as the latest new bird species to appear in Britain in six weeks. In summer, black larks normally occur no further west than the land to the north of the Caspian Sea, their favourite habitat being open plains where wormwood and feather-grass are the dominant plants.

They move south-west for the winter but usually no further west than Ukraine. Only a very few have ever ventured into western Europe - and the bird in Wales is by far the furthest west the species has ever been recorded.

Lee Evans, one of Britain's leading twitchers, who runs a rare bird alert service, said birders began heading for Anglesey as soon as they heard.

"I was on Scotland's Outer Hebrides when the news broke, so I faced particular hassle getting there," he said. "By dawn on Monday at least 700 people were gathered at the spot and the number steadily grew. The number of people coming to look at such an extreme rarity, a once-in-a-lifetime experience, is going to run into thousands.

"It's certainly well worth the journey. I've seen numerous rarities over the past 30 years but this is one of the most fantastic ever - it's like a chunk of living charcoal as it runs about over the burnt-out heathland."

Mr Evans, from Little Chalfont, Buckinghamshire, who has set a record for seeing the most species of birds in Britain in a year, explained that the lark was probably not on the blackened heathland for camouflage purposes. "The ground is very warm after the recent fire and it is attracting a lot of insects, on which it is feeding. A lot of other migrants have been going there to feed - but there has been nothing so mega as this incredible bird," he said.

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