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?!
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…