He finally broke through the barrier with a visit to Rudry Common - target species Tree Pipit, Garden Warbler and Cuckoo. Although the Common resembled a military scorched earth zone (see below) one of the first birds we heard on getting out of the car was a Tree Pipit and within a minute we'd found it (#199). There were quite a few pairs around, which was good to see. But, for the first time ever I think, I didn't hear a Cuckoo calling at Rudry Common. We needed to find a Garden Warbler more than ever. Mister Lister beside me was edgy and irritable as, over the next three quarters of an hour, the only warblers we heard singing were Blackcap, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff. And then, suddenly, we heard it - a Garden Warbler singing deep in a thicket. But, it wouldn't show itself. I believe if I'd wired up the Twitchmeister to the National Grid he could have supplied enough energy to light Caerphilly for a month. We decided to leg it around the other side of the thicket and try our luck there. A good decision - out it popped and continued to sing its little heart out (#200). Thank God for that - I think he would have punched me if we'd failed! Of course, two minutes later we found another one.
Then, during May half-term holidays we went on a family trip to Mid-Wales. We stayed at the Youth Hostel at Borth just north of Aberystwyth where we were able to seatwatch in the comfort of our bedroom. We had streams of Manx Shearwater, plenty of Gannets and Gulls, 3 or 4 Sandwich Terns, a Guillemot, Ringed Plover and Dunlin. A male Common Scoter which sat on the sea really close in for a while was a bit of a surprise and proved to be #201 for Gethin.
We paid two all day visits to the Ynys Hir RSPB reserve near Machynlleth. It was idyllic. The weather was fantastic and we managed to see good numbers of Wood Warbler and Pied Flycatchers, and also one or two Redstarts and Spotted Flycatchers. When a Cuckoo called briefly in the distance the Little Lister was off like a shot in search of it - but to no avail. He really began to have a hang up about Cuckoo, convinced he'd never see one - particularly having heard that it's now on the UK Red List.
We went to sit in a hide overlooking one of the reedbeds (above). Reed Warblers and Buntings were calling and then suddenly a shout: "Dad - Hobby!" And he was right. It was above us for no more than thirty seconds but in that time we saw it catch a dragonfly before it flew off. How he so confidently called a bird he'd never see before I shall never know. (#202).
We then moved on to stay at King's Youth Hostel near Dolgellau. Nestled in a wooded valley Gethin went out for a walk while we unpacked. He came back to say that he'd found a Garden Warbler, a Wood Warbler, pairs of both Redstart and Spotted Flycatcher and nesting Grey Wagtails and House Martin. He'd also heard but not seen another Cuckoo. Ouch.
But, his luck finally turned. While out walking just below the Cader Idris massif (that's not it on the left - believe me there a big mountain on the right just out of shot) a Cuckoo (#203) flew over our heads and landed briefly on a tree on an island (below). The relief! Not so much for Gethin but for the rest of us - life without having a Cuckoo on his list was as unbearable for us at it was for him! Of course, that evening, we had crippling views of another within (Cuckoo) spitting distance of the hostel.
We returned home with four more days of the holidays still left. So, to round things off nicely, Gethin and I visited Goldcliff where he scored with a brace of Spoonbill (#204) and an evening visit to Llanwonno where we clocked some Nightjars - at least 5 churrers, and flight views of two birds (#205). A cracking two or three weeks were the Boy Birder really came of age.