I think by now I’ve taken things far beyond the realm of suspense..! Apologies for my two week absence, despite even finding time to blog during a recent holiday, I have just been far too busy these past two weeks!
As I stumble through life I find myself thinking “I must mention that on naturebites”. One such incident was a recent twich to see three stunning Dotterel that had landed on Anglesey. I’ve had the blog title “Dot.Dot.Dotterel” in my head ever since. With almost two weeks having passed since then I thought it was just a little out of date. Those round, colourful birds are still getting a mention though. I was particularly impressed to find that these striking specimens were female, showyness mostly associated with the males of a species. Following on from this, it may interest you to know that this reversal in aesthetics is a sign of their reversal in habits also, with the males left to rear the young.
There was an initial delay in updating the blog because I was awaiting the results of the ‘Together for Trees’ Rainforest Reporter competition. The result came in on the Tuesday following the final and I was told not to broadcast the news until it had been made public by the Together for Trees team… I am pleased to report that they found a worthy winner by the name of Gareth Jones. Of course it was very disappointing not to win, but it was also very pleasing to know that a great person would be going in my place (Welsh readers are probably also pleased to read that a characteristically Welsh name will be flying the flag!).
The same Tuesday that I found out the results of the competition, I also visited the RSPB Glaslyn Osprey project and Harlech castle in the afternoon. The weather was pretty miserable as we pulled into the RSPB carpark and as we looked through the telescopes to view the nest, the rain was driving straight through the holes in the hide. Moving indoors, we saw on the live cameras the three chicks that were now hatched (one just the day before) and their mother stood proudly at their side.
Last week a mega rarity made it to our shores, the Cream-coloured Courser in Herefordshire. I want to share with you the texts I received from Ken concerning this bird. To me, it seems that Ken has seen every bird one could possibly hope to see in Britain and yet it was heart-warming to hear that he is still as wrapped up in our winged-friends as he ever was. Text message number one 21/05/12 10:14am: “Kathy, I know the timing is awful but is it possible you could leave work, Sam (my visiting friend), everyting NOW! and join me on the twitch of a lifetime? A Cream-coloured Courser(!!) has been found in Hereford. I’m leaving in the next few minutes, what do you say? X”. The timing wasn’t great so I sent Ken off without me. Later that day I spoke to a giddy child on the phone who was absolutely over the moon about the bird he had just seen. It was a pleasure to listen to 🙂 Afterwards, text message number two 21/05/12 16:12pm: “Wow! a ‘Stunner’ I’m speechless a dream bird I’m all of a flutter won’t sleep tonight X”. (.,., – here are some punctuation marks for you to insert into Ken’s excited text!). And the following morning, after I enquired if he had managed to sleep…text message three 22/05/12 08:42am: “Very little. I’m still on cloud nine and fearing it was all a dream and I’m guna wake up soon X”. I hope these messages and his love and enthusiasm made you smile as much as I did when I read them.
Another week and another day of work saw me take to the hills as my desire to laze on the beach book in hand was scuppered by a sudden onset of mist over Anglesey. I was right to abandon ship as Ken and I had a marvellous (and sunny) trip out to see Pied Flycatcher and Redstarts in the woods. We started the day revisiting the Nant Ffrancon Pass where we searched for Twite, to no avail, and had a glimpse of a Ring Ouzel along with Redpoll and Mistlethrush. By now it was lunch time, or so said my tummy, and we took our lunch in the spot where we had stopped to scan for Tree Pipits. From the road below we almost instantly saw and heard a Tree Pipit displaying up above us. In the bush in which in landed we were thrilled to see a pair of Whinchat emerge – bonus birds. We sat in the sunshine admiring the view and the birds. Perfect.
On from here we travelled alongside Llyn Gwynant, where there were fields of intense purpley-blue bluebells. These are well worth a look at if you have chance soon as the concentration of flowers was breath-taking!
I first visited the woods at the beginning of the Watkin trail up to the summit of Snowdon with Ken almost exactly a year ago. During that trip, I soon realised that I would never be able to rush in a business-like pace through a woodland again. The wood was alive and the slower I went, the more I would see. This visit took similar form and we dawdled our way around, seeing Pied Flycatchers and Redstarts as well as me catching up with the elusive Wood Warbler that had evaded me this time last year. Such a distinctive and loud call and yet incredibly hard for me to pinpoint. Gotcha this time! Both Ken and I had achy necks after this prolonged session of staring upward – ouch!
Yes, I am talking about the weather. I’m going to hark back to just over a week ago when Ken and I spent April Fools Day in the mountains.
Over the past year I have been listing the bird species that I’ve seen, I will come back to this point in a future blog, and there is one bird that I have particularly wanted to see…a Ring Ouzel. When I was first working at RSPB South Stack (around this time last year) I remember my birder friend Neil texting me all the way from Nottingham to tell me that there had been a Ring Ouzel spotted on the reserve. I also remember getting half way along the track to said Ring Ouzel, looking at the clock on my phone and realising that I was due at the train station to pick up one of my many summer visitors (yes, I’ve noticed that I’m less popular in winter guys!!). So that was a very half-hearted attempt to see a Ring Ouzel.
A little down the line I had to trip into Snowdonia with Ken and we sent ourselves crazy searching for a ring ouzel in the environs of Cwm Idwal. I saw plenty of apparitions but we failed to connect. We were probably just being greedy though as we had spent a glorious morning in the forest at the start of the Watkin trail up Snowdon. It was a feast for the eyes and ears with redstarts and pied flycatchers zipping in and out of their nest and wood warblers alerting us to their presence but remaining hidden amongst the foliage. Either way, no ring ouzel for me.
Ring ouzels really appeal to me because of their usual habitat, up high in the mountains. I feel a spectacular romance in the mountains, whether in the valley gazing upwards, or at the summit seeing the world before me. It’s an awe inspiring place for me. I am astounded by the feat of glaciation and the rivers of water cutting jagged lines down the ravines. I think it’s an incredible place to survive in and I think I am attracted to the elusive nature of the bird.
Ken caught up with a ring ouzel just a few weeks ago as it passed through South Stack on it’s way up north. I was getting ready to meet a friend when I received Ken’s text. I was in two minds whether to be late for this rendezvous or whether to try to catch this ring ouzel. I decided that I would honour my arrangement. Two reasons: firstly, it’s polite and secondly, this romantic side of me wanted to see one in it’s proper habitat and secretly I wanted to find it myself. (I did drive off chastising myself for missing a ring ouzel).
So back to the 1st April 2012. The sun was shining and we drove down the Nant Ffrancon pass in the direction of Llyn Ogwen (and Cwm Idwal where we had previously searched for ring ouzel). Our first stop was a bubbling river, we thought we’d look for dipper. My spider-senses were tingling and i knew exactly where to look, there in the distance sat quite still on a rock was sure enough a dipper. I showed Ken and then our little dipper obligingly dipped. Ken often looks at me thinking *how on earth did you spot that?* and on this occasion I thought *this is going to be a good day!*.
We saw tits, wheatear, pipits and a reed bunting as we progressed along the road. We paused momentarily at various pull ins and Ken scanned the surroundings as I drove. We reached a farmstead and pulled in alongside some tiny lambs, very cute! And terrible with mint sauce before you say it. Ken suggested “We better have a scan for ring ouzel”. “Ken, I’ve got a ring ouzel shaped rock” I said with some urgency as I had blatantly found my quarry, but distrusted myself. A bit like the birding equivalent of your lottery numbers coming out and not quite believing what you’re seeing. As I tried to describe to Ken where I was looking and he tried to fix the scope onto the ‘rock’ it moved. Yes!! A white collar! My ring ouzel 😀 😀 Over the moon! Ken got it in the scope and we spent around fifteen minutes with good views of the bird. A high five was had.
That day we left this winning spot, had lunch by Llyn Ogwen and then parked at Swallow falls and walked into Betws Y Coed. It was a lovely day, we saw 32 species of bird and Ken was dismayed that I spotted them all first. It’s a one-off so I can mention it 😉
Then two days later the weather had gone crazy! I admired the crashing waves as I travelled Anglesey’s north coast and arrived home to the news of a ship wreck off Llandulas – not good at all. This is the same spot as I mentioned seeing the huge flock of Common Scoter (among others) in my last entry. Luckily, all the crew were rescued. The rescue-men came home safely and it appears that the fuel can be salvaged successfully. Phew.
Snow on the mountains, but by the end of the week we were back to stunning blue skies, a warm welcome to my visiting friends as I showed them Moelfre, Cemlyn and South Stack.
Today’s downpour has completed the full weather range I think. What will tomorrow bring?!