The sound of tickers' teeth gnashing ...
Third new bird to appear in Britain in six weeks draws hundreds to
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
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
"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
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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