A Winter Shorelark.

21st November 2016
Shorelarks are a winter visitor to the UK from the frozen north, typically Scandinavia. It is here the Shorelark breeds, high above the tree-line on exposed stoney ground. This very attractive bird usually appears in small numbers on the east coast of the UK in winter, typically Norfolk. They usually frequent coastal salt marshes feeding mainly on insects and seeds roosting near their feeding areas on the ground.
Their head tufts, small feathers, are somewhat stunted in winter but are more prominent in summer during the breeding season. They have a very distinctive head pattern, a contrasting creamy yellow and black and a well-defined black breast band making them pretty much unmistakable when seen well.
Over the last year two birds have turned up on isolated and quite high hills in this area. In March 2016 one appeared in atrocious weather above Llyn Y Fan Fawr in the Brecon Beacons, and now a bird on Garway Hill in Herefordshire. Both very rare or possibly ‘Firsts’ for the respective counties of Breconshire and Herefordshire.
Yesterday I met up with two birding friends and we decided to try and see the Garway bird. The Beacons bird had been too difficult to photograph because of the atrocious weather and a short stay of one day.
We drove up to the bottom of this quite isolated hill in a four/four jeep and made the trek up to a small pond where the bird had been seen. After a steep walk up to the pond we could see the bird feeding continuously around the muddy shoreline - living up to its name! Thankfully we were all able to get some shots despite the really bad light on a very grey and overcast day and in addition after about an hour in the freezing cold it started to rain heavily so we packed up and quickly descended the hill for a welcome cup of coffee.
It was well worth the trip to see this lovely little bird which is very rarely seen away from coastal marshes in the UK in winter.
Please see Latest Images, Shorelark.