by Kathy James

Posts tagged “Arctic Tern

Perhaps the best wildlife spectacle of my life?!

Yesterday had done enough to please me. It wasn’t raining, the wind had dropped and I had had a glorious morning walk around the reserve, documenting all our feathered inhabitants. It was a long walk as there was lots to see! It was very apparent that morning that the birds were also enjoying it. New families finally emerging from the bushes, Whitethroats in great number and other youngsters branching out on their own. By now the islands at Cemlyn are teeming with bouncing baby terns (mostly Sandwich, but also Arctic and Common) and the lagoon is host to a variety of ages of young Oystercatcher, a family of Red-breasted Merganser and a solitary Coot chick. Away from the lagoon there are young Great Tits, Blue Tits, Blackbirds, Whitethroats, Sedge Warblers, Little Owl, Meadow Pipits, and Pied Wagtails all bursting into near-grown life.

The afternoon was spent, like many, meeting visitors on the shingle ridge that separates the Tern islands from the sea. Although the weather was stunning, there were few visitors, but those that had made it stayed a long while and were rewarded with one of the most remarkable things I have ever seen.

A tip of mine for visitors to Cemlyn is to sit down on the shingle ridge, the sea-worn shape naturally means that you’ll be facing out to sea. With your profile lowered the Terns zoom low over the ridge and you get the most amazing close-ups of elegant terns and their silvery prey. Yesterday afternoon I was sat on the ridge doing just so and saw an almighty splash of water metres from a boat that was moored up in the bay. My initial thought was *what have those people thrown off their boat?!*, my mind rationalised that they would not be able to throw something so large as far as that. Seconds later a re-emergence and a cetacean rose up out of the water and into view. Suddenly, bubbles of grey skin were rising all across the bay in a rapid progression toward the shore where I was now stood up and running across the shingle to my nearest visitors. After I had alerted the unsuspecting couple to the activity in the blue, I plonked myself down next to them and gawped as twelve bottlenose dolphin leaped out of the water, flipped in the air and chased fish skywards! I have never seen anything like it. I was amazed (and kept telling the couple so!). The spectacle lasted minutes as dolphins of various sizes appeared and disappeared all over the bay. Looking around the bay, I was pleased to see that everyone in the vicinity had cottoned on to them. Everyone along the shingle ridge, those on the coast path towards Wylfa on the east and those enjoying the “Trwyn” headland to the west all faced inwards to witness this special moment together. We were all beaming.

Around ten minutes later my dear friend Ken arrived on the ridge and had to listen time and again as we all recounted our tale. I’m sorry he missed it.

Another spectacle at Cemlyn this week was kayaker John Willacy as he completed his solo circumnavigation of the UK. Check out John’s latest post about the wildlife he saw as he battled through our stormy seas. It’s particularly fascinating to hear about how the birds acted as weather forecasters…http://clockwisekayak.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/wildlife.html

Wishing you all wildlife spectacles of your own,

Kathy X


Wales Coast Path Launch.

Where I work, at Cemlyn Bay, the birds seen from the section of coast path that passes through the reserve are surveyed on a daily basis throughout the tern breeding season, and today we invited members of the public to join us to add to the Wales Coast Path Birdrace organised by Visit Wales http://blog.visitwales.co.uk/10630/wales-coast-path-bird-race-2012/.

The weather was certainly on our side with glorious sunshine throughout the day (which actually felt hot when we managed to get out of the wind!). There was a morning and an afternoon walk led by Ben and Nia from the North Wales Wildlife Trust.

Highlights for me were:

1) Watching the terns bring in huge fish with which to impress their lady friends. The beauty of Cemlyn is that the terns pass right over your head as they cross the shingle ridge to the lagoon. The coast path is actually temporarily diverted on this section during summer to afford the breeding colony some privacy. The walk is barely altered though as the path is just on the seaward-side of the ridge.
2) Seeing two Canada Geese swimming out to sea with necks bent parallel to the surface of the water, disguising the four goslings sailing between them.
3) A calling Chough overhead (my first Cemlyn sighting).
4) Seeing a pair of Whinchats on the Trwyn (the headland on the westward side of the bay). The first time I have ever seen this species and especially welcomed in the absence of Stonechats locally.
5) Everyones enthusiasm and interest. I will never tire of seeing how wildlife delights and inspires people.

Below is the comprehensive list of birds seen (64):

Arctic Tern

Bar-tailed Godwit

Blackbird

Black-headed Gull

Blue Tit

Buzzard

Canada Goose

Carrion Crow

Chaffinch

Chough

Collared Dove

Cormorant

Common Sandpiper

Common Snipe

Common Tern

Coot

Curlew

Dunlin

Dunnock

Fulmar

Gannet

Goldfinch

Grasshopper Warbler

Great Tit

Greylag Goose

Grey Heron

Guillemot

House Sparrow

Feral Pigeon

Jackdaw

Kestrel

Lesser black-backed Gull

Lesser Redpoll

Linnet

Magpie

Mallard

Meadow Pipit

Mediterranean Gull

Mute Swan

Oystercatcher

Pied Wagtail

Raven

Razorbill

Red-breasted Merganser

Red-legged Partridge

Reed Bunting

Ringed Plover

Sand Martin

Sandwich Tern

Sedge Warbler

Shag

Shelduck

Swallow

Swift

Turnstone

Tufted Duck

Wheatear

Whimbrel

Whinchat

Whitethroat

White Wagtail

Willow Warbler

Woodpigeon

Wren

You can now ‘like’ naturebites on facebook http://www.facebook.com/Naturebites and you will soon find pictures/videos from today’s event on the North Wales Wildlife Trust facebook fanpage – hope to see you there!

Ken Croft (@angleseybirdman) was birding elsewhere and has asked me to submit his records…

At South Stack Ken saw: Goldfinch, Blackbird, Willow Warbler, Song Thrush, Jackdaw, Wren, Wheatear, Woodpigeon, Teal, Herring Gull, Mallard, Robin, Pheasant, Carrion Crow, Pied Wagtail, Swallow, Great Tit, Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Greylag Goose, Linnet, Gannet, Guillemot, House Sparrow, Chiffchaff, Dunnock, Peregrine, Meadow Pipit, Oystercatcher, Manx Shearwater, Raven, Skylark, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Kittiwake, House Martin, Razorbill, Shelduck, Red-throated Diver, Rock Pipit, Cormorant, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Shag, Stonechat, Great Black-backed Gull, Fulmar, Puffin, Chough, Chaffinch, Blackcap, Sand Martin and Lesser Redpoll.
At Soldier’s Point, Holyhead Ken saw: Starling, Black Guillemot, Greenfinch, Sandwich Tern, Collared Dove, Feral Pigeon and Ringed Plover.
At the Alaw Estuary Ken Saw: Mistle Thrush, Grey Heron, Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Dunlin, Sanderling, Black-headed Gull, Red-breasted Merganser and Buzzard.

Hope you all had fun out and about today,

Kathy x


My first week at Cemyln.

I have struggled to know where to begin with this blog. I feel as though as I have had so many fantastic experiences during my first week as tern warden here at Cemlyn, and yet it seems they are for me and my brain alone!

I first visited Cemlyn on very rainy day about one year ago with my friend Sam (the same fellow I have just visited Pembrokeshire with). I cannot remember a single bird, but can remember having wet feet all day. I next visited Cemlyn with a group of birding enthusiasts during an event run by Birdlife International with Rio Tinto to encourage the local youngsters to become interested in their natural surroundings. I remember stepping out of the car in the Bryn Aber (west) car park and gawping skywards as the tern colony had taken to the air to chase away a peregrine falcon that had taken the opportunity to strike. The scene was immense and we all took that powerful image away with us. I visited several more times throughout the summer and I think I was always a little bit glad to get back in the car and out of the infamous wind.

Starting at Cemlyn little over a week ago, it hasn’t taken me long to fall head over heels for the place. There is so much more than at first meets the eye when you take a trip over here to trudge along the shingle ridge to look at the terns. Although this is a spectacle in itself, there are little nooks and crannies full of life that are just waiting to be explored. The past week has thrown some dreadful weather our way, but the way I see it is if I can fall in love in the wind and rain then that love will bloom in the sunshine! (Perhaps a little optimistic of me to expect sunshine!)

It might sound a little bit odd for a ‘tern warden’, but today was all about familiarising myself with the three sorts of tern we regularly encounter here. Like with spring calls, the subtleties of these summer visitors needs some revision. sandwich terns stand out with their black-crested heads and their yellow-tipped bills, but arctic and common can look very similar indeed. One suggestion I would make to visitors is to come at either end of the day when the sun affords you a better glimpse of the black-tipped common tern beak, or the bright red (although short) legs of the arctic. Today was the first day that we had common and arctic, often dually referred to as ‘commic’, terns back in any number so was my first opportunity this year to compare.

Some of my favourite moments, however, have not been tern-related; spotting the first whitethroat of the season was a great feeling; a washed up coconut on the beach; having a patch to own, not in a possessive sense, but in a knowing sense; and perhaps finding a robin here in a place where a robin is a ‘red letter day’ (according to fellow warden, David).

I mentioned in my last blog that I had taken part in a competition to become a ‘rainforest reporter’ – a joint initiative between the RSPB and Tesco. I am both surprised and pleased to announce that I made it through the regional heat and now have the final to attend in London at the end of next week! There’s a little about this online http://www.togetherfortrees.com/reporter.aspx , but so far your guess is as good as mine as to what the final will entail! I would be over the moon to win this so send me your good vibes please!

Looking forward to tomorrow with a visit from a butterfly expert and then a North Wales Wildlife Trust barbeque for the Cemlyn volunteers, excellent.

Kathy x