by Kathy James

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Now you’ve moved too!

Hello,

It’s taken me a while, but I have now transferred your subscriptions to the new website – high five!

I worked this out slightly after publishing my latest blog (including videos) about a starling murmuration today on Anglesey… Please check it out here.

The next time I blog it should wing it’s way straight to your inbox :)

Thanks for sticking with me!

Kathy x

I’ve moved!

This is a post just to say that the Naturebites blog has moved to the new website.

I thought I had moved all the info, including all your email subscriptions, from this blog site across to the new home of the blog. Unfortunately when I posted a blog on the new site last week I realised that it didn’t get sent out to you guys! Website design is not my forte!

I intend to sort this problem out and re-subscribe each and everyone of you. In the meantime, please visit the new website as I have blogged and I would love you to read it!

A cute rabbit to appease you while I rectify the issue!

Thanks for your support as always,

Kathy x

Anglesey Birds – An October Review

The irony of turning my hobby into gainful employment is that I am increasingly spending less time outdoors whilst I attend to the business side of things! To prove that one of us is still ‘out and about’ here is a guest blog from my friend, birder and now colleague Ken Croft…

“The month began well with the long-staying Osprey on the Inland Sea. Together with Kathy James and Elgan Hearn (Holyhead & Anglesey Mail), we managed to get close enough through a ‘scope to read the ring on it’s leg as it perched on a post. A Pied Flycatcher in the Holyhead Breakwater Country Park (BCP) on the 4th was the first of a good run of scarce Anglesey birds at this site (although breeding close by on the mainland Pied Fly’s are very seldom seen on this side of the Menai Straits).

A calm, sunny day on the 6th and I was stopped in my tracks at Soldier’s Point by a gorgeous Firecrest. Unfortunately this bird disappeared before Alan & Ruth (of Biggest Twitch fame) arrived, but shortly after they left and I had moved on into the BCP I was soon on the phone and they were heading back. I had found a little gem from the east in the form of a Yellow-browed Warbler, this little beauty stayed for them to see. Alan returned the favour a couple of days later on the 8th when he found a Spoonbill on the Inland Sea, this bird was still present the next day when I found it feeding with an amazing total of forty-one Little Egrets!

A Firecrest was the next good bird to grace the BCP on the 10th, my first Redwing of the autumn was at Soldier’s Point the next day. As I was driving into the BCP on the 13th, a pale-looking bird in a hawthorn bush caught my eye and I was quickly reversing back trying to beat two approaching dog walkers! I just had time enough to confirm it as a Barred Warbler before it was flushed . This was the 9th record of this species for Anglesey, the last eight of which have all occured on my local patch, the only other record was way back in 1910 on The Skerries. The problem for me now was relocating the bird, but luck was with me and I quickly nailed it down before the first birders arrived. This bird proved quite showy for a Barred Warbler, usually very skulking birds; it remained until the 16th.

Walking back from the BCP on the 15th, I checked out the warm sheltered area below the top road at Soldier’s Point, it was alive with birds; Goldcrests, Long-tailed Tits, Great, Blue and Coal Tits and amongst this throng of birds I found another Yellow-browed Warbler. This bird was very mobile as it moved around this roving tit flock. My hot streak continued the next day, in a morning of thunderstorms, sleeting rain and hailstones I found a 1st winter Red-breasted Flycatcher. The bird remained in the ‘Cathedral’ (a stand of tall trees near the BCP quarry face) all day. It was the 11th record of this species for Anglesey, eight of the last nine also occurring on my ‘patch’.

On the 19th, I found my 3rd Yellow-browed Warbler of the month; this one at Soldier’s Point and with others being found at Hen Felin (14th) and at Penmon (24th). These five birds made up the best year ever for Yellow-broweds on Anglesey. The first record of this species occurring as recently as 1985, these five bring Anglesey’s total up to 37 (25 of which have been found either at Soldier’s Point or the BCP and all but one of the 37 have occurred in the month of October).

After many days of searching in vain this year, I finally found a couple of Lapland Buntings on The Range on the 21st. As usual, they were very confiding, shuffling about under my feet. The 25th was a bit special on the Inland Sea with the Osprey hovering overhead and a stunning Great Northern Diver in full breeding plumage regally patrolling the water, then as I made my way to Four Mile Bridge I was greeted by 21 Mediterranean Gulls (11 adults, 8 2nd winter and 2 1st winter).

The month finished with a wintry feel when four Whooper Swans flew in high from the North-West over Soldier’s Point with four Eider also arriving the same day. I hope there are still a few passage migrants to be found, but I fear I’m going to have to go into winter-birding mode.”

It is testimony to Ken’s modesty that he doesn’t mention that, with the exception of the Skerries record in 1910 (which was not even alive!), he has found all the Barred Warblers that have ever been recorded on Anglesey. And if that weren’t impressive enough, he also spotted all eight Red-breasted Flycatchers and all twenty-five Yellow-browed Warblers in the Holyhead area

I hope you enjoyed reading about Ken’s October as much as I did?!

Kathy x

Starling Murmurations

With one week to go until our guided walk around Malltraeth Marsh, Ken and I went to see what the starlings had in store for us… It was a quiet start which gave us a chance to spot Little Egrets and Whooper Swans amongst the flooded reed beds. Ravens escorted us along the path as they headed to their evening roost.

A small group of around thirty starlings appeared from somewhere over the A55. Then the odd individual appeared in dribs and drabs before tens of flocks containing thousands of birds made their way to this central point from all directions. Black slicks of birds snaked through the sky; dancing their way across the landscape like Chinese dragons. Some flocks impressed more with their sheer size as they passed directly over our heads wings beating audibly in unison.

The photo below shows David watching a distant flock of birds approach.

 

Over in their destination (some fields above the reed beds) the Starlings collected in black mass. No two occasions are the same when watching the performance of a collection of Starlings as they go in to roost, you never know quite know whether the show will be direct and short or whether there’ll be a spectacular encore. Tonight, we had the most fabulous display. Much to the surprise of the sheep in the field, the mass of Starlings took off, swirled and contorted around above the reeds. What is so impressive to me is that the shapes created by the birds are not flat, opaque images but stunning three-dimensional structures with light a pivotal part of the overall effect.

As I’ve mentioned, you can come and see this amazing spectacle for yourself… join Ken and I next Sunday (November 11th) for a guided walk of Malltraeth Marsh between 3:30pm and 5pm (adults £10/ children free). Call 07790431078 or email Kathy@naturebites.co.uk if you want to know more or to book your place (booking essential).

Photographers also extremely welcome as the phone snapshot I have included goes no way to expressing the magnitude of the event unfolding!

Be great to share this wonder of the natural world with you…

Kathy x

Rainforest Reporter

This spring I was fortunate enough to make it to the final of a UK-wide competition, run by Tesco in conjunction with the RSPB, to find a “Rainforest Reporter”. It was an altogether amazing experience and I didn’t even win! Imagine how the winner, Gareth Jones, would have felt?! His training involved a day’s tuition from the rather hunky Ed Stafford, an adventurer and explorer and the first man ever to walk the length of the Amazon river.

Following on from the frivolities of the London final and the celebrity training Gareth then set off on the more serious journey of a trip to Sierra Leone. From the Gola rainforest, Gareth produced a series of short blogs about conservation efforts by the RSPB and their overseas partners. Most importantly, for me, he spent time with the real heroes of rainforest conservation, the people well and truly on the front line. I am delighted to be able to read one of Gareth’s articles on today’s Guardian Environment pages. You had read the beautifully written article here.

The together for trees project is a true conservation project, not just for a species, but for an ecosystem. The people are as integral to this project as the trees themselves. Sustainable livelihoods in a thriving forest, let’s hope so!

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It’s actually very easy to ignore the ‘eco-messages’ that every business is now obliged to purvey, perhaps the Tesco  ‘Together for Trees’ message has passed you by? Feel how you may about Tesco and their exploits, this can only be seen as a step in the right direction; buy the together for trees reusable bags when you need one, donate your clubcard points when you’re feeling generous – if we’re opting in to the conglomerate scheme then let’s direct it where we want it to go!

As an RSPB member, and ex-employee, Gareth’s voyage of discovery fills me with great hope. With the RSPB claim that 91 pence in every pound donated is spent on conservation, ‘ to know it’s getting to the right places.

Congratulations to Gareth for spreading the good news from the forests. It’s great to know that all is not yet lost, not yet.

Kathy x

P.s- thank you to Gareth for the use of his photographs.

Exciting news!!

I am extremely pleased (and excited) to announce that Ken and I are now offering guided wildlife tours on Anglesey!!

Birds will obviously be our main focus (Ken is the Birdman of Anglesey after all!), but we will also show you Anglesey’s spectacular scenery and catch up with seasonal wildlife spectacles.

 

There will soon be a spangly new website for you to peruse and seasonal tours for you to choose from, until then just give us a call or drop us an email and we can have a chat about what you’d like to see and do.

We’re hoping you’ll want to join us yourself, or perhaps buy a tour as a gift for another nature lover and we’re happy to book you in for dates in the future :)  Beginners will benefit from tailored tuition, leaving you with the skills necessary to observe wildlife when you leave us. Experts will benefit from our ‘patch’ knowledge and Ken’s Anglesey birds expertise.

Really excited to share this news with you and hope that some of you will join us for a tour!

Kathy & Ken xxx

A Focus on Nature.

There is really only one thing that I need to go outdoors and observe wildlife to the extent that I do; binoculars. At different points through the year I might be clad in shorts and flip-flops or layer upon layer to fight off those impressive Anglesey winds, but to really see the magic of a tiny Goldcrest or a far away Godwit I need a little magnification!

Whilst working at Cemlyn Bay this summer, I briefly met a lady called Lucy (working as part of a team to promote young conservationists) and as any diligent blogger would I quickly dashed off as I was on my way to a scoop; namely kayaker John Willacy had just arrived back from circumnavigating Britain in his boat.

After filming John’s return (still to this day I have not shared the footage, as my blog will not upload it) I found out more about the programme that Lucy is a part of. ‘A Focus on Nature’ (AFON) is an organisation to “open eyes…minds…and imagination” of young conservationists and to nurture their career in this field. The panel, consisting of Stephen Moss (nature writer, broadcaster and BAFTA award-winning television producer, notably the original producer of Springwatch and producer of Big Cat Diary), Pete Gamby (dynamic sales and marketing manager for Opticron), Dr Rob Lambert (Environmental Historian from Nottingham University and one of the most interesting folk you’ll ever meet) and of course Lucy (McRobert), an Environmental History graduate and nature writer.

This inspiring team of visionaries have developed the idea of AFON and now offer youngsters setting out in a career of conservation the chance to develop their field skills with a pair of binoculars (an often very expensive and yet essential edition to someone’s kit). Although this an opportunity for many, the candidates do have to compete for their optics; showing their passion for conservation through nature-writing, photography and more.

It may have been that I decided to write about AFON in a desperate plea for their assistance, luckily this is not the case. Having submitted work from this very blog, the panel have selected me as one of the recipients of their award. Amazing! Thank you.

It may be apparent from my posts and photographs that I have benefited from use of binoculars throughout, these weren’t mine though. The adorable Ken Croft, my birding mentor and friend, used to lend me his super-duper binoculars and forfeit his own sightings (a difficult thing for a birder to do, believe me) and latterly he lent me an old pair of binoculars to see me through my contract with the Wildlife Trust at Cemlyn Bay. Massive thanks to Ken for his kindness and generosity here.

Without these binoculars I may not have made it through to the final of the Rainforest Reporter competition, written many of my blogs or seen any of the wondeful birds I’ve caught up with this year.

So yes, this AFON prize of Opticron binoculars is very relevant and not wasted on somebody who won’t benefit; I am very excited and will cherish this prize! I have so many plans for the future and for my career and these binoculars will kick-start me on my way. Wahoo!

You can check out other winning entries and even apply for yourself here. This scheme is set up to help, so please don’t be intimidated. The panel want to encourage you, so apply and see how you get on! For those that won’t be applying, I’d still check out the site as I expect that we’ll hear more from these names in the future and you’ll meet them there first!

Kathy x (eagerly anticipating her new binoculars!!)

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