What a week?!
It exhausted me, but ‘Anglesey Marine Week 2012 Wythnos Morol Mon’ is now over. It took two whole days off nothingness to help me recuperate (the first bank holiday I’ve not worked since goodness knows when), however it was all worth it!
The whole idea was to create a week of events to enthuse people about the sea and we definitely succeeded. It may have been my brainchild, but it could not have gone ahead without the hard work of the event organisers and volunteers which gave up their time.
I am happy with where we’re at; a marine week that Anglesey can be proud of, build upon and enjoy! There are learning points for next years event, of course, but with the basics now laid out the island can take hold of the event if it wishes and run away with imaginative ideas for inspiring people in 2013. Good luck Mon Mam Cymru!
All, but one, events were attended and I would like to thank Elgan Hearn from the Holyhead & Anglesey Mail for his part in that. I was surprised at the recognition I got from having my snorkel-clad face in the local paper!
We had the rain to thank for the poorly attended ‘Spot the Dolphin’ which was such a shame as we were perhaps on the best place on the island that day. Tucked below the lighthouse at Point Lynas we saw porpoise feeding throughout the two hours. To my delight I spotted a mother with calf breaching the surface, with their seeming singular body and double dorsal fin. A special moment thanks to Emily and Lauren from Seawatch Foundation.
The week was kicked off at Moelfre Lifeboat Day where I was astounded by the feat of organisation by the commitee; a real triumph and a regular date in the diaries of regular visitors and islanders alike. Emily and Lauren from the ‘Spot the Dolphin’ event held a stall in the Seawatch Centre and chatted to people about cetaceans as well as the work of the Marine Conservation Society – thank you ladies! Also, thanks to Rod, Mandy and all the other commitee members that organised Moelfre Lifeboat Day on the whole.
The weather was on our side for most of the week (unlikely as that seems!) with Sunday getting off to a drizzley start. Nonetheless, Caroline from Anglesey Wildlife Walks entertained us out on ‘the range’ (or Penrhosfeilw Common). Although we didn’t see any seals we heard about many of the medicinal uses of the plants that although beautiful can be so easily overlooked.
On Monday I headed back to Cemlyn where I had spent the summer as a tern warden for the North Wales Wildlife Trust. This time I joined in with a trust of the national variety as we ripped out an old kissing gate and replaced it with a shiny new one. Surprisingly, although the original gate was seemingly fine, it was not wide enough for our new physiques… the guys from the National Trust cheerily advised me that there we many more that needed replacing should I fancy it.
The seawatch at RSPB South Stack was rather lacking on the ol’ bird front, but that’s just the way of the world. It was a beautiful evening enjoyed by quite a crowd as we explored the heath in full bloom the last remaining chick on the sea cliffs, a chubby fulmar. This was also the first event at which we were joined by Alison who had come to North Wales specifically to join in with Anglesey Marine Week festivities.
On Tuesday, I missed out on a guided walk at Cemlyn by the Friends of Anglesey Coastal Path. Chris managed to make it though and he text me to say ” Lovely walk around Cemlyn Bay today. Nice pace, good company”, I was pleased. Chris really made the most of Anglesey Marine Week attending eight of the weeks events!
The next event was a guided walk of Newborough Warren by Graham Williams, the CCW reserves manager. We were all flabbergasted by Graham’s knowledge; he showed us the intricate relationships between the plant species, insects, mammals and birds as well as throwing in a bit of social history for good measure. When we stopped for lunch, Chris had to remind us to let Graham eat as we continued to bombard him with questions!
Whilst I was being windswept on Newborough Warren, the National Trust were at it again at Cemlyn Bay with a fully booked driftwood carving session… photos welcome guys…?!
Wednesday was a very hectic day with drama coming from Dave from Outdoor Active (the coasteering provider). Dave had very kindly agreed to collect the extra chairs needed for Glyn Davies’ talk later that evening. In the meantime however he managed to slip and stab himself in the hand with a knife! Ouch! Dave was in the capable hands of Bangor A&E department and I needed to find some chairs now that our original supplier was shut. So huge thanks to Nigel Brown of Treborth Botanical Gardens for his help in keeping us sat down for “Welsh Light” in Glyn’s gallery.
“Welsh Light” came at the end of a very busy day and was the perfect antidote. We admired Glyn’s stunning landscapes and were transported by his poetic descriptions. Glyn is a captivating speaker and I gained a brilliant understanding of his motivations which are much more complex than merely to take a pretty picture. His emotional connection with the sea, for me, summed up the importance of Anglesey Marine Week; our unspoilt world is food for the soul.
Despite having joined the Friends of Anglesey Coast Path down at Malltraeth Estuary on Thursday morning, I spent almost the entire time with Adam and Jeremy from BBC Radio Wales (sorry guys!!). The ‘friends’ diligently picked up litter and kept the coast path accessible whilst I chatted about Anglesey Marine Week and our brilliant coast for the weekly programme ‘Science Cafe’. Until Tues 4th September you can listen to the episode here – Science Cafe Seaside Special.
The weather forecast for Friday was terrible, but instead of heavy downpours I was greeted at Cemlyn by red hot sunshine and the smiley faces of Nia and Ben from the North Wales Wildlife Trust. Here we undertook everyone’s favourite seashore past-time, rockpooling! We produced a great haul! I was particularly excited to find a sandeel and felt that this was my most advanced qualification yet to work with seabirds 🙂 Hat’s off to the youngsters though as they really did us proud! Our specimen trays were full to the brim with sticklebacks, blennys, shrimp, crabs and the most gigantic prawns!
Last Saturday I was joined by my friend Anna for the weekend and she and I went along to Carol Mead’s childrens’ poetry workshop down in Llys Llewelyn, Aberffraw. The info had said for 6-11yr olds, we were all engrossed! Carol read from her award-winning book ‘Sea Things’ and we joined in, wobbling like a wibble-wobble-ish Jellyfish! It was particularly pleasing that a young chap inspired by his rockpooling with the Wildlife Trust the day before had come along to express himself through this medium. Having too much fun, we ran over time and Anna and I dashed off to join in with the last event of the week up at Porth Dafarch.
As mentioned before, Dave from Outdoor Active had managed to stab his own hand and spent Saturday having surgery in a Liverpool hospital and so was unable to jump off cliffs with us! In his place, the lovely Geraint lead us round the stunning coast left out of Porth Dafarch. Our group was diverse, aged 10-60 and with varying levels of ability and bravery. We swam, scrambled, climbed and jumped our way along the course for two hours. I was very happy scrambling around the rocks, but my legs turned to jelly (like the wibble-wobble-ish Jellyfish) when I had to jump in. I was completely put to shame by ten year old Grace who showed us all how to do it. With out a doubt she was the most fearless participant and I wish could have captured the look of disappointment on her face when we turned to head home.
So that was it. Anglesey Marine Week over.
The feedback I’ve had from everyone that’s joined in has been great and if you are, I’m definitely on for next year?!
A massive thank you to everyone that gets a mention in this post and also Laura from Ann’s Pantry, Hayley from RSPB South Stack, Ann and Angus from the Friends of Anglesey Coastal Path, Gwynfor and Bryn from the National Trust, Ken Croft & David Wright for their time volunteering at the South Stack seawatch, Jon Pinnington (North Wales Tourist Guide), Steffan Hughes from the Anglesey County Council Tourism Department, Danielle Gibas from Seawatch Foundation, Gareth Owen from Keep Wales Tidy and Rebecca O’Dowd from the Marine Conservation Society.
Thank you to everyone who made Anglesey Marine Week a success!
After being a warden at Cemlyn for more than a month, my last day off was a chance to explore the surrounding area. From the reserve a hill with a trig point is visible and I made this my first goal. From here I carried on cutting a diagonal corner off north-west Anglesey by heading over to Church bay. This part of my adventure was pretty overgrown and although following footpaths, it was evident that they were not much used. Facebook and Twitter followers will have seen a picture I posted en route, where in an attempt to highjump a spiders web I was viciously attacked by a nettle on the sidelines. Ouch and silly girl!
From the beautiful Church Bay I followed the coast path back around to Cemlyn, taking in the sights of the isolated Carmel Head. Having not re-visited South Stack since I started working at Cemlyn this walk was a welcome opportunity to be reaquainted with some of the cliff top birds i’d known there. Just a few minutes walk from the cafe at Church Bay, Fulmar were easily visible zooming, straight-winged, out from under the cliffs (where they were nesting). A moment later and a pair of Chough screeched into view and a Peregrine Falcon tried her luck. Anglesey really is amazing for happening upon such renown and enigmatic birds.
I was also taken a-back by the stunning cliff-top flowers. Bright pink, blue and yellow from the Sea Thrifts, Sheepsbit Scabious and Dandelions of all things! Further round were luminescent Primroses adorning the steeper gullies.
This trail also provided hidden gems, bays that I had viewed from the top of Holyhead mountain, but had never visited. It was novel to meet just one other walker on this coast path stretch and the isolation added to the areas allure.
Returning to Cemlyn and after a shower, I headed out to the hills where a non-birder was showing me his patch. The stunning Moel Faban at the foot of the Carneddau. As well as being ‘wowed’ by the breath-taking scenery, I was astonished to see a huge white bird soaring at the summit. At the time I couldn’t pinpoint what I was looking at, but upon reflection it must have been the pale underparts of a male Hen Harrier made surreal-looking by the setting sun. Beautiful. It’s things like that which make the desolate mountain tops so special.
Last weekend, Cemlyn was invaded by visitors and field experts as we tried to document everything we have on the reserve in the first Cemlyn Bioblitz. A brilliant organisational effort by those at the North Wales Wildlife Trust. Saturday was great and we saw lots of species. Sunday, however, was a bit of a wash-out. Nevertheless, we (the wardens) were able to add the days bird species and an intrepid Spider expert made the trip outdoors. The results are currently being collated, it will be interesting to find out how many species we racked up and, in time, how that changes.
The weather picked up for bank holiday monday and we saw our first Sandwich Tern chicks had emerged on the islands. It must be hard for those guys and their parents in all this rain. The islands are covered in foliage this year though, so we hope that they have plenty of shelter and height to their nest-sites. We, as always, will be keeping a watchful eye.
There is no television reception here at Cemlyn so David (fellow warden) and I have not managed to keep up-to-date with everyone’s favourite Springwatch… it is a pleasure though to have so many nest-cams up and running around the country. I’d like to share two of my favourites with you; my old friends from South Stack http://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves/guide/s/southstackcliffs/webcam.aspx and some new friends from Attenborough Nature Reserve back home http://www.attenboroughnaturecentre.co.uk/sightings. Enjoy!
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):
Lesser black-backed Gull
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…
Hope you all had fun out and about today,
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.
Well it’s been all change this week as I left behind me the delightful cottage at South Stack where I’ve spent the past year falling in love with each season. In my wisdom I decided to forego another season at South Stack, not because I didn’t love the place, but because I wanted to branch out a little bit. This weekend heralds the start of the summer contract for my replacement so I started my last South Stack fry-up, stopped cooking half way through to dash outside and down to the cliff tops for some Wheatears that Ken had picked up, and then dismantled my home.
After giving up my job at South Stack I was very, very happy to be offered a job with the North Wales Wildlife Trust as a Tern Warden over the summer months. However, with no overlap in accomodation I am spending a few weeks staying with a friend. I expected moving onto a housing estate to be a shock to my system after so long couped up in a cottage by myself, but I knew it was okay when I pulled up on the new driveway with a newly arrived Chiffchaff in the tree to my right. A lovely welcome, my first of the year too 🙂 I am also enjoying the number of House Sparrows and Starlings which are bursting out of bushes and dripping from telephone wires. Also, there’s a lots of Rooks around and these are not a bird I’ve ever seen at the stack. A Sunday morning highlight for me was a Jackdaw screaming at a rock outside Tesco. Maybe it was impressed by the echo?!
It was glorious weather here on Sunday and Ken and I took a walk around the Breakwater Country Park. We saw and heard lots of Greenfinches as I struggled to get to grips with spring bird calls again and we saw Goldcrests all over the place!
Later that afternoon we made it down to Treborth Botanical Gardens just outside Bangor where we were met by rather a lot of cars! A friend of mine, the zoologist from the island’s ‘Pili Palas’ had told me there was an event on, but I had not expected this – cars were parked all along the roadside backing up to the Menai Bridge and as we walked down the road we passed dozens of families clutching their new toys, instruments made from sticks and bottle top (more impressive in real life). The event was ‘Wild Science Day’ and was the finalle of Bangor University’s ‘Science Week’. There were stalls along the grass, a tree top lift, a specially made planetarium as well as exhibits filling three green houses and a ‘refreshments lab’. The atmosphere was great as kids of all ages (Ken was my honourary kid) learnt more about our wild science. I think Ken and I were most captivated by the BTO stall where they were showing bird-ringing in action. It’s always amazing to see a bird in the hand, it puts a 10g Coal Tit into perspective. Built on the success of last year, this was the second time this event had been held thanks to the organisation of Nigel Brown from Bangor University and a former Countryside Management student Tom (I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your surname).
Today I went to Cemlyn (my soon to be place of work) with a volunteer party to set up for the breeding season. We were particularly lucky with the weather as Cemlyn is famed for being windy and we had it calm and mild for most of the day. Between us (around 15 volunteers) we set out nest boxes (in the hope of attracting breeding Roseate Terns), set up the weir (to control the water level of the lagoon during breeding season) and fenced of the shingle ridge (visitors are welcome here, it’s just a fence to allow the Terns a little privacy – the views are still second to none). It was a really fun day and lovely to meet all the volunteers: for some it was their first volunteering experience and for others a regular occurance. If you are thinking about volunteering, then go for it. Your help is vital to charitable organisations and you’ll get lots out of it too. You can ‘like’ the North Wales Wildlife Trust on facebook, where there is a picture of our work party posing on the weir today https://www.facebook.com/northwaleswildlifetrust.
I am hoping to take a very exciting trip this Monday…can’t wait to let you know how it goes…
Kathy x x x
You may by now realise that I enjoy my food rather a lot and of course I love my birds, so to be taken to a cafe for breakfast surrounded by birds was a great addition to last weekend!
At first I was just struck by the lovely location, nestled in the beginnings of the Llanberis pass, and then the building itself was enough to please me. It is a multi-use building with the cafe taking advantage of views of the garden through almost entirely glass walls. I chose my breakfast and then I started seeing things…Great Tits, Blue Tits, Coal Tits and Chaffinch all feeding right in front of my face…who was watching who feed I wonder?! The glass barrier afforded views I’m not accustomed to and was an excellent way to appreciate the size differences of these realitively common birds.
My friend went up to order and as I glanced over towards him, treecreepers! Two, over the otherside of the cafe. I (actually) skipped across the cafe exclaiming “Treecreepers! Look! Look!”. The rest of the clientelle politley smiled as I interupted their serenity.
I was so overawed by this dining-birding experience that I actually returned a few days later with my visiting friend, Sam. This time the weather was less in our favour and the little guys weren’t showing. Still it is a lovely spot for breakfast. Then, a Sparrowhawk flew in and perched on a branch metres from our window. Prooving that no matter the weather this is a top place! If you like to try it for yourself it’s called the Caban and can be found in Brynrefail off the the A4244.
Tuesday was spent with Ken and Sam. We had a walk around Pentraeth Forest before moving on to Red Wharf Bay. As we pulled into Red Wharf Bay I decided it was most definitely time for lunch. I think Ken often despairs of me and my need to eat so frequently – he is built for birding, other functions are secondary. Ken scanned the estaury with his scope, whilst from inside the car – literally biting into my cracker with cheese, I shouted “Bird of Prey Ken!” tee hee, small victories 🙂 Ken identified it as a Merlin. I could see it chasing after some small bird but had to settle for watching ‘cracker-in-hand ‘ as lunch had buried my binoculars somewhere.
We saw a flock of Common Snipe take to the air and as we walked along the coast path towards Llandonna and several Jack Snipe popped out of the saltmarshes to say hello.
This Saturday morning I joined the North Wales Wildlife Trust for a guided walk around the Alaw Estuary near Valley, lead by Ian Wright and my very own Ken Croft. What a fabulous morming we had awoken to?! The previous evening had been wet and windy, the sea battering against the cliffs at South Stack. I left my house before Ken arrived to pick me up and was stunned at the millpond-esque sea around me. What a transformation!?
Down at the Alaw a sizeable group had gathered and we spent a couple of hours enjoying the weather, the company and the plentiful birds. There was a whole range of birders there, from novice to expert and it was nice to be able to share the sights with them all. We had a list of some 39 bird species in and around the estuary before the rest of the group headed on to Penrhos Coastal Park.
Saturday night was a starry, starry night down at Treborth Botanical Gardens. Nigel Brown, along with ‘Friends of Treborth Gardens’, presented a star-gazing evening. It was well worth the £3 entry fee. My knowledge of the night sky is limited to say the least and armed with a torch, Nigel led us on a guided tour of the constellations. It was incredible! The moon alone was worth looking at in more detail, through binoculars the craters and seas were well defined. I have now learnt various constellations and notable features of the sky tha I hope will be able to find on my own. It is definitely something I will do again. I will take advantage of the skies up at South Stack on a clear night and see how I fare. A big thank you to the astronomical society who came along and let us look through their mammoth scopes – through these I saw an up-close shot of the moon and even the striations on Jupiter!!
Can’t sign off without mentioning the naturebites birdrace which is fast approaching! I am starting to gather teams, but it’s not too late to enter…just email me before you head out with your team members, which county you are choosing and which day you are going out. I am excited to say that so far we have participants in the West Midlands, East Yorkshire, Benbecula, Leicestershire, Norfolk, Gwynedd and Anglesey – why not represent your county?! It really is all about having fun so if you have a day where you can spare six hours then give it a bash 😉 See my previous post for the brief rules and you’ll be on your way…
I really look forward to hearing from more of you who want to join in,