I’ve still got some catching up to do in terms of telling you what I’ve been up to, so let’s revisit the story of Martin Garner (bird ID expert featured in yesterday’s blog)…
Martin finished his vivacious talk on finding rare birds and promptly went out the following day with Alan Davies (of The Biggest Twitch fame) for them to only go and find a first for Wales (that is to say the first recording of a bird of it’s type in Wales)!! The bird in question was a race of Iceland Gull, named Kumeliens. I believe it is still awaiting official ID but speaking to the chaps afterwards there was no doubt in their minds – cool hey?!
I had spent the day following the talk birding around Holy Island with Ken and we bumped into Alan, Martin and the rest of the group at Penrhos Country Park where we were watching a couple of Meditteranean Gulls amongst the Black-headed variety. This was a bit of a refresher for me because I’d apparently got a bit rusty on my old med-gull identification and after watching them for a while I soon got to grips with the differences again – the white wing tips and bandit mask being particularly useful things to look out for.
This was the end of my days birding, but what a day it had been! First thing, Ken I went down to Hen Borth at the bottom of South Stack road to see Fulmars for the first time in months! I love Fulmars because they seem to take their time about everything, on this occasion I think they were checking out ledges to nest on in summer, early bird catches the worm eh?! Next we had a scout around soldiers point with a grotty little pool throwing in a Water Rail stood next to a Grey Wagtail! Beautiful! The Rail even looked at the Grey Wagtail bobbing around for a moment, decided it was not too fussed and continued to toss leaf litter around. It was a beautiful morning with plenty of birds flitting in and around the trees, and then something stopped me in my tracks…a beautiful male Bullfinch! This might not sound so exceptional except that as far as I knew you just didn’t get Bullfinches on this part of Anglesey – get in!! We watched as it was joined by a female and a couple of Dunnocks danced around below. Fingers crossed that they stay!
I got to see Purple Sandpipers for the first time on the shore at Treaddur Bay, these tiny fellows were a delight as they snuggled amongst the rocks and preened. Here we stopped for lunch and were dismayed to find one of the clementines was mouldy
Afterwards we took a route between Treaddur Bay and Penrhos and I was aghast as once again there was a pair of Bullfinches! Brilliant! I’m hoping that now I’ll be able to tell people that we do have Bullfinches on Holy Island and (in the future) that they breed here too…let’s hope so!
Fridays find me helping out on the reserve (RSPB South Stack) and last Friday was particularly enjoyable. Along with a team of other volunteers, Denise (the assistant warden) led us in heather burning. It seems abhorrent to me to write that. It seems the most unnatural thing to do when you spend the summer extolling the virtues of Wales’ largest maritime heathland and reminding certain visitors that it is illegal to take it away with them. This seemingly barbaric process however is a vital part of the habitat management undertaken on the reserve and around Britain. The idea is to create a mosaic of heathers at different stages of development to benefit the ecosystem as a whole. One particular area of focus at South Stack is the conservation of the Chough population we have here. Last year there were eleven breeding pairs of Chough and these exist within a Special Area of Conservation which means we need to provide them with a habitat to see them thrive. Heather burning is one way in which the reserve can provide suitable foraging area for the invertebrate-eating beauties.
To put your mind at rest further I can tell you that this burning process is all carefully planned. Besides waiting for an ideal day where the wind was on our side, Denise had been busy creating firebreaks around the area we wanted to burn so that along with our help on the day the fire would be contained to that specific area. Also, the linear method of burning means that anything not rooted to the ground has the chance to escape, as exhibited by a darling shrew that day.
Weather permitting; there will be further burns throughout the next few weeks to help complete that mosaic I referred to.
Here are some pictures…
…and despite what you might think about burning Heather…it does not smell good!
This satisfying day was topped off with a stunning sunset over the sea as we walked back to the visitor centre. I tried to photograph it, but it’s never quite the same. To quote a Greenday song, I like to “take the photographs and still frames in (my) mind”.
I am writing this on a single carriage train somewhere between Derby and Crewe. This weekend I travelled back to the East Midlands to celebrate my brother’s 30th birthday in his lovely new house. Needless to say that his lovely new house has now has a much dirtier floor, but other than that I think it escaped any party damage!
It was well into the afternoon before I could emerge from my den. My Dad picked me up to take me down to the local gravel pits in Long Eaton so we could try out his newly purchased scope.
The gravel pits have changed so much since I used to walk my dog there when I was younger. The hedgerows have matured and the pits themselves have multiplied and all turned into lakes teeming with bird life. The two slices of toast I’d managed to get down me moments before did nothing to insulate me – it was bloomin freezin! Flipping back the mitten part of my gloves to fiddle with the scope was dreadful, especially as I was still feeling a bit worse for wear!
Although cold, it was a beautiful afternoon (I hear the morning wasn’t too bad either!) and we saw loads of lovely birdies. There were tonnes of Fieldfare coating the bushes and the tracks and plenty of birds on the water which, aided by Dad’s new scope, we were able to identify as Tufted duck, Coots, Mallard, Mute Swans, Canada Geese, Black-headed Gulls, Pochards and Gadwall. Above, in the skies we saw Cormorants, a Grey Heron, Woodpigeons and Goldfinch. While the trees contained Blue Tits, Blackbirds, Rook and Jackdaw. My Dad tells me there was an Egyptian Geese nest there earlier in the year. I had previously caught up with these at the adjoining Attenborough Nature Reserve run by the Nottingham Wildlife Trust in Feb.
So I had a very enjoyable bit of bonding time with my Dad and we worked out his new scope so hopefully he’ll be getting out and about and using it!
I’ve had a great response about the birdrace in the first week of Feb (if you don’t know about it please read the post entitled “I propose a Birdrace”). If you are thinking of taking part put a date in your diary and don’t forget to let me know when and where you’re doing it and who is in your team. I am hoping that local teams will be able to meet up on Sunday 5th in a central location to find out how everyone got on and perhaps for a spot of food!
Hope you’re not too cold wherever you are!