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,
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.