Who says social media and the internet discourages real interactions? This week I was I was lucky enough to meet my twitter friends, and winners of ‘best bird’ in the naturebites birdrace this February, @SecretBirder and @chrisdowns77… otherwise known as Josie and Chris the keepers of the blog ‘Not your average birders’ http://notyouraveragebirders.com/. Having met these guys via twitter in was lovely to see them making their way along the ridge towards me at Cemlyn this Sunday (although, I have to say I did stutter as I started to say hello as I realised it may not be them and that some really embarrassing explaination would have to follow). It was them, thankfully, and it was a pleasure to hear about their challenge…Josie (acknowledged birder) is going head to head with Chris (acknowledged novice) to see who can see more bird species in the year than the other. They also have a top ten birds list each which they are aiming to see. On Chris’s list in particular is the magnificent creature that is an Osprey. Unluckily for Chris he had missed an Osprey just a matter of hours earlier at Cemlyn!
Ken knocked on my door to say he’d caught up with a beautiful male redstart that had made an appearance earlier in the day. I was collecting my things to go and have a look as the phone rang, it was David (fellow tern warden) saying “there’s an Osprey above the lagoon!”. I promptly hung up, alerted Ken and gawped as a gigantic Osprey soared towards us from across the lagoon. Wow. I have seen an Osprey previously at Glaslyn where the RSPB have a hide set up to watch the nest. The view I was getting now though was second to none as this pioneering Osprey searched for fish below. Although the terns reacted at first I was surprised at how calm they were in it’s presence. Perhaps they were content to let the gulls see it off? As the gulls mobbed it, the Osprey seemed barely to notice. I wonder if they spend their whole lives wondering at the attention they receive from other birds? After all they are only out fishing.
Bird-wise that topped off an amazing Sunday with loads of birds knocking around at Cemlyn including a hooded crow, whinchat and water pipit!
Although the weather took a nosedive, Monday saw me see my first Swift of the year (finally!). I added to my Swift collection just a couple of hours ago as, sat on the train London bound, I decided to start a ‘train-list’. After this decision, I looked up to see four swifts zooming around above the track near to Llanfairfechan.
Terns are back at Cemlyn in good numbers now and we have sandwich terns incubating. It has been a pleasure to watch their courtship rituals and interactions on the islands. Aside from the glorious terns, a hilarious behavioural moment to watch was a black-tailed godwit (who has spent a few days in the lagoon now) looking from side to side and his seeming alarm when two red-breasted mergansers popped up either side of him. I could almost see him blush!
There’s been a bit of a delay but here are some pictures from my recent holiday to South Wales:
My train journey is almost over now and I am looking forward to tomorrow’s excitement… the final of the ‘togther for trees’ rainforest reporter competition! I am likening it to the apprentice as there will be a board room appearance, hired or fired and a “treat” afterwards (I’ve even brought my wheely suitcase to complete the look!). I’m looking forward to the whole of tomorrow, but am also hoping that I can win the competition as it’s me through and through…I will let you know…Fingers crossed for me!
This time last week my Dad and his girlfriend arrived for a weekend visit. With a relaxed start to Saturday morning with bacon and egg butties for my Dad and Elaine and crumpets (my absolute favourite!) for me, we joined Ken and Cal (the South Stack volunteer) for a day out.
As mentioned in a few of my blogs now, my Dad is suddenly absorbed in bird-watching and, knowing that he has his daughter so well placed in Anglesey with renown bird expert Ken Croft in tow, decided he’d like a tour of what the island has to offer!
The Fulmars were once again down at Hen Borth, but they were difficult to see as they plunged down behind the cliff edges. From the description I gave of these rigid-winged seabirds Cal decided that he’d also seen these a few days previously near the lighthouse. We visited our usual haunts of Soldiers Point, Penrhos Country Park and then meandered through the centre of Anglsey ending up at Llyn Llywenan. We saw a buzzard circling high above the lake and various waterfowl such as Greylag Geese, Shoveler and Goosander below. As my Dad got to grips with Shoveler in the scope I took the opportunity to get a better view of the Buzzard, now much closer by. It struck me that I rarely get lasting views of the majestic creatures, I normally whizz past them on the A55 or they are far to high for me to make out much detail. It struck me that this Buzzard looked a bit different to how I usually thought of them, it’s head looked odd. It was then that Ken asked if I’d had chance to have a look through the scope at the Shoveler, I said “Yes, I’ve just been watching the Buzzard quartering over those shrubs”. At the word ‘quartering’ and knowing that this was not characteristic flight of a Buzzard, Ken grabbed his binoculars, hurriedly looked over in the direction of the Buzzard and exclaimed “that’s a Marsh Harrier!!”. So, having apparently learnt nothing from Martin Garner and his talk about questioning things that appeared different, I spent a good minute watching an ‘unusual-looking Buzzard!” – idiot!! In my defence, this was a first for me, I’d never encountered a Marsh Harrier before and because of this I will probably always recognise them straight off. The female harrier continued to give us great views as she quartered back and forth, a quality birding experience we all agreed. I shame-faced got back in the car.
Another highlight of the day for me was seeing Yellowhammer, not a bird I had encountered on Anglesey before. They were once commonplace here, but as with other birds that thrived on Anglesey, the once bread basket of Wales, have become virtually extinct with the change in farming practises.
We finished the day off at Benllech sea front with my Dad spotting a Red-throated Diver flying off into the distance and a Guillemot popping up right in front of us. Having worked at South Stack all summer with the 8,000 odd Guillemots I can say that this was the closest I’ve been to one…and luckily I had Dad’s camera with me to show you just how close.
On Sunday we yet again went out birding – we’re insatiable! We completed our haul of Corvids (the crow family) when a Jay flew across the road in front of us as we’d seen a Hooded Crow flying near Hen Borth the previous day. We took in Eider ducks from some distance close to Penmon Point on the far corner of the island (diagonally opposite to South Stack). We totalled 75 species of bird over the weekend (including three new species for me!) and had glorious views of many so I’m hoping Dad thought it worth the trip!?
The following day, yet again, had clear blue skies and glorious sunshine. I took an afternoon trip into Snowdonia to climb Cnicht. A mountain that looks like one you draw as a child, a full-on pointy triangle! I could not quite comprehend that I would make it up there without some serious climbing equipment as I started out, but the ordinary people I met walking back down did enough to reassure me and the school group I could see up ahead (thank goodness for binoculars!). As I rounded one corner I saw an elusive Tree Pipit in the path ahead, but alas the altitude was getting to me and it was Meadow Pipit certainly at this time of year. The mountain afforded stunning views of Snowdonia and down the Porthmaddog estuary. The day was perfectly lit and I was warmed by the exertion, only cooling if I admired the view for too long. Throughout the climb I could see a Raven circling the summit and was pleased to be greeted by it and it’s partner as I reached the top for cheese and pickle sandwiches. One of the Ravens (presumably the one I’d seen circling from below) came really close in to check us out. The wind whistled through it’s wings as it effortlessly soared. Then, a new noise. My ears pricked up instantly. I thought there’s not much it could be up this high and upon my return and after my rendition of what I can only describe as a rattling trill, Ken confirmed it must have been a Red Grouse. I couldn’t see it though. Making our way back down the hill a flock of Linnet flew overhead. Although there are many Linnets at South Stack in the summer months, this was my first meeting with them this year. Right down at base camp, a village named Croesor, was a field full of fieldfare. Along with sheep, that completes the list of wildlife I saw that day and quantity cannot out compete the quality of those encounters. I find mountains (along with the sea) bring out a spirituality in me and sitting on that pinnacle watching a Raven fly around in front of me with a huge drop below is really not a thing which, to my mind, can be beaten.
That evening I had been invited to dinner with Alan Davies and Ruth Miller of ‘The Biggest Twitch’ fame. Alan and Ruth hold the world record for the most bird species seen in a year and ‘The Biggest Twitch’ follows their quest to do so. After a lovely dinner, Ruth showed me their photographs from a recent trip to Botswana, I promptly fell in love with the Black Crake. It fits my ideal description of a bird; yellow beaked, black bodied, long-legged and red legs just for the wow-factor – yes please! I have not yet read Ruth and Alan’s book, but came home on Monday night with a signed copy that I have promised them I’ll read after I’ve finished David Attenborough’s ‘Life on Air’.
One last thing to share with you before I sign off is a couple of photographs of Snow Buntings at Cinmel Bay along the North Wales coast. A beauty of a bird, a year tick for me and an absolute pleasure to watch as they posed on and around a log on the beach.