A week of sunshine and the summer migrants arrive

This week has been unseasonally warm. I've been relatively housebound for most of it but did manage to get out this weekend to catch some rays of sunshine - and some pictures of migrant birds that are now arriving in greater numbers.

My birding friend Paul Joy and me scouted the Blorenge and Pwll ddu area to see what birds had arrived.

Whilst checking out some woodland we were pleased to see the flash of Black and White in the trees we were looking for.  A trio of male Pied Flycatchers were chasing each other through the trees. At this time of year they will have just arrived after travelling all the way from sub-saharan western Africa. That's just an incredible journey to make to a woodland in South Wales.

Its likely the males have arrived slightly earlier than the females so that they can start establishing territories.

We saw quite a few male birds which were quite accommodating to photograph.

I am quite familiar with the birds after spending quite some time last year patiently observing them from a distance.

One of the males bathed in a stream and then perched on a branch quietly preening its feathers for a good 5 minutes.

After leaving the wood we headed for Pwll ddu to try and find some Wheatears. These migratory birds winter in tropical Africa.

It did not take us long to find some on an old drystone farm wall. They entertained us for some time and put on quite a spectacle. The first sight many people get of these birds is their white rump when they fly away. They get there names from this as apparently it has been told that the name Wheatear is derived from the old English "White Arse" :)

Later we ventured down from the hills to the lower valleys where we found some Willow Warblers in the very vibrant yellow gorse that has now coming into bloom .

The Willow Warbler can easily be confused with the closely related and visually very similar- Chiff Chaff. I find the way to tell them apart reliably is to listen to their very different songs. At a push I would say the Willow Warbler "usually" has lighter legs but I would not rely on this all the time.

Its amazing to think these small unobtrusive birds fly something like 12000 kilometres from Africa to breed in the UK during the summer. A real marvel.

There was one migrant we heard but unfortntaely did not get to see. We heard a number of Cuckoos calling but they were always the oppoiste side of the valleys to us. A fellow birder/photographer friend of ours however did capture some pictures which was a great find.

Throughout the day we saw a huge variety of other birds ranging from Chaffinches, Tits, Buzzards,Stonechats, Meadow Pipit's, Tree Pipits and Red Kites to mention but a few.

My final highlight was finding a really big beetle. After some help identifying it courtesy of a Facebook Insect Group it was established to be a Violet Oil Beetle. These creatures have an amazing lifecyle involving solitary mining bees. The beetles larvae hitch a ride on the bee from a flower such as a Dandelion and then when the bee arrives at its nest the larvae eat the pollen the bee has collected.

Preening Male Pied Flycatcher
The white rump which the Wheatears owe thier name too..aka "White Arse"
Male Wheatear
Willow Warbler singing his heart out
Violet Oil Beetle

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