From August 18th-25th, naturebites is pleased to present ‘Anglesey Marine Week/ Wythnos Morol Mon’; a week of events to enthuse you about Anglesey’s surrounding marine environment.
Listed below is the current timetable of events, please scroll right down as events are taking place every day and I don’t want you to miss out!
Saturday 18th August
Moelfre Lifeboat Day 10am-9pm
- A whole day jam-packed with tours, music, displays, stalls and general fun! Please see the Moelfre Lifeboat Day website for more details.
- Through naturebites I have arranged for the Marine Conservation Society to hold a stall at this event, so please pop and say hi and also find out more about the conservation of our precious seas.
Sunday 19th August
Heathland and Seals 10:30am-12:30pm
- Take a leisurely walk around the range (Penrhosfeilw common near South Stack) and find out more about the rare maritime heathland in full flower. Watch for seal activity off the headland and look for Gannets and other passing seabirds. Learn some of the names of the wildlife in Welsh and about some of the traditional uses of the coastal and heathland plants.
- This event has been organised by Anglesey Wildlife Walks for ‘Anglesey Marine Week 2012 Wythnos Morol Mon’. The event costs £4 for adults/£2 for children with 50% of this being donated to the Marine Conservation Society.
- Places are limited so please contact Kathy from naturebites to book. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07790431078.
Spot the Dolphin! 12:00-14:00pm
- Join Sea Watch Foundation for a land-based watch looking for dolphins and porpoise and maybe (fingers crossed) whales!
- £2 adults, children and dogs free!
- Meet at the village car park in Llaneilian.
Monday 20th August
Coast Path Volunteer Afternoon 12:30pm-3:30pm
- Join the National Trust at Cemlyn Bay for an afternoon of coast path repair. Volunteers are a vital part of the National Trust team on Anglesey; learn new skills whilst also helping to maintain our fabulous Anglesey coast path.
- This event is FREE.
- Please wear sensible shoes for working outdoors and meet at the Bryn Aber car park (the west one past the house with the big wall).
Seawatch at South Stack 5:30pm-7:00pm
- Come along to RSPB South Stack for a real treat, looking out to sea for Gannets, Shearwaters, Scoters, Porpoise and Dolphins. Speak to our friendly and knowledgeable staff about the wildlife on the reserve, see what you can spot and drop in to use our telescopes and binoculars and view footage of the breeding seabirds from earlier in the season.
- This event costs £2 for adults/£1 for children and is FREE for RSPB members.
- Please contact the RSPB at South Stack to reserve your place on: email@example.com or (01407) 762100
Tuesday 21st August
Tour of Cemlyn Bay 11am
- This guided walk is straight forward; cliff top, beach, quiet lanes, and a lovely old church makes it worth a visit. There’s also a brackish lagoon with a variety of bird life, so we may sneak in a little bird-watching as well.
- This FREE event is brought to you during ‘Anglesey Marine Week 2012 Wythos Morol Mon’. The Friends of Anglesey Coast Path ask you to ensure you wear walking boots and clothes suitable for the day’s weather and suggest bringing some food and drink for lunch en route.
- Meet 11am at Cemlyn West car park (grid ref: SH32993, sat nav: N 53º41’24” W 4º51’56”). Contact Angus for more details on: (01248) 713338.
Wednesday 22nd August
An Introduction to Newborough Warren; it’s wildlife and social history 10:30am-2:30pm
- Newborough Warren & Ynys Llanddwyn National Nature Reserve is one of our most spectacular and important sand dune systems. On this walk, led by the CCW Senior Reserve Manager, you will discover how the sand dune system and its plants and animals have evolved through constant change and the impact of man, and what is being done today to manage and protect it.
- This event is FREE.
- Please wear sensible footwear for walking and clothing suitable for the weather. Graham will include a stop for lunch so please pack some food!
- Meet at the CCW car park at Llyn Rhos Ddu (GR SH 426617).
Driftwood Carving 1pm-3pm
- The National Trust would like to pass on their carpentry skills by asking you to join in with driftwood carving at their Anglesey workshop at Cemlyn Bay.
- This event is FREE.
- Places may be limited so please call (01407) 711178 to book your place.
“Welsh Light” 7:30pm
- Multi-award winning landscape photographer and gallery director, Glyn Davies, invites you to a talk and discussion surrounding his latest book “Welsh Light”.
- In this session, Glyn will read extracts from his new book, and also talk about why he finds landscape and the sea, so important, not just as the subject for artistic photography, but for his life and well-being.
- Glyn is keen to progress the talk towards an interactive discussion, about the ways in which the coast benefits us all, and why & how we should be doing our best to preserve it’s natural beauty. Can photographic imagery help in that aim?
- Tickets cost £10 and Glyn will be donating 20% of the cost of each ticket to the Marine Conservation Society. Books will be available for sale at the talk and a donation from any sales at the event will be made to the Marine Conservation Society.
- Booking is essential. Please contact Kathy from naturebites on: 07790431078 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thursday 23rd August
Coastal Enhancement Volunteer Morning 10am-12 noon
- The Friends of Anglesey Coast Path have won two national prizes for their coastal enhancement this year and would like to invite you along to join in and see just how they do this!
- This event is FREE.
- Please wear sensible footwear and clothing and meet at Malltraeth village car park (grid ref: SH407686, sat nav N53°11’26″W4°23’09”). Contact Ann for more details on: (01407) 730577 or John on: (01248) 712793.
Wrecks & Rogues 10:30am-4:30pm
- The North Wales Tourist Guiding Association in conjunction with Menter Mon bring you a coastal tour and coach trip with stories of maritime history and Anglesey’s wild coast, led throughout by a qualified guide.
- The coach departs from Oriel Ynys Mon in Llangefni at 10:30am and returns at 4:30pm. The trip includes a coastal walk to visit the wreck site of the Royal Charter, with total walking time around 1 hour 10 minutes.
- The tour costs £20 for adults, £18 for 60+, £10 for children (4+) and £50 for a family of two adults and up to four children. Please see the North Wales Tourism website for details of how to book.
- As part of ‘Anglesey Marine Week 2012 Wythnos Morol Mon’, naturebites has arranged for tour participants to receive educational goody bags from the Marine Conservation Society.
Friday 24th August
Seashore Safari 10am-12noon
- The North Wales Wildlife Trust are offering their expertise, showing you around the magical world of the seashore at Cemlyn Bay.
- This event is for all ages! Be inspired by the purple Velvet Swimming Crab, the flower-like Dahlia Anemone and the hidden Five-bearded Rockling.
- Have fun! Root around the shoreline, see what you find and ask the experts if you need some help.
- This event is FREE!
- There’s no need to book. Park at Bryn Aber car park (the west one past the house with the huge wall), walk away from the house towards the open sea and join Ben and Nia from the North Wales Wildlife Trust down on the beach.
Saturday 25th August
Children’s Seaside Poetry Workshop 9:30am-11:30am
- An open public event inviting children aged 6-11 (accompanied by adults) to explore the coast using poetry.
- Carol Mead is a poet and author of the award-winning “Sea Things“, a collection of poems about our relationship with the sea.
- The event is set indoors at Llys Llewellyn, Aberffraw, because of the good ole Welsh weather with the opportunity to go outdoors if sunny!
- Carol is not charging for this event, but is asking for a £3 donation per child which will go to the Marine Conservation Society.
Coasteering 10am-12pm and 1pm-3pm
- Local outdoor sports provider Outdoor Active are offering a MASSIVE DISCOUNT on their coasteering sessions to offer you the chance to get involved and explore our coastline is a fun and interesting way.
- Coasteering involves swimming, jumping and scrambling around the coast. Find out more on their website and then join in for just £10 a person (usually £40!).
- In addition to the huge discount, Outdoor Active are going to donate 10% of each session fee to the Marine Conservation Society.
- Places are limited so please book by contacting Dave from Outdoor Active on: 07971562512 or email: email@example.com.
There are still more events to be added to the programme so watch this space!
If you wish to be involved in ‘Anglesey Marine Week 2012 Wythnos Morol Mon’ either as an event organiser or as a participant then please contact naturebites author, Kathy, on: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07790431078.
I hope you can take part in one or a series of these fantastic events that make up ‘Anglesey Marine Week 2012 Wythnos Morol Mon’.
Thanks in advance for getting involved,
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
Yesterday was my birthday and I felt that the bird world handed me a few presents.
Travelling back up the A55 after a night out in Bangor around 3:30am, I did my best impression of my 14 month-old nephew Jack by pointing silently at a Barn Owl as it flew across the road in front of us. The common denominator with me and Barn Owls is that i’m never sober at the time..are they really there??!! Obviously, I wasn’t the driver and a sober Ken saw it too so it wasn’t in my imagination. Birthday Barn Owl – great 🙂
In the morning as I lay in bed wondering why I was awake, I watched out of my window as a forty-strong flock of Meadow Pipits swarmed around the field in front of my house. This did rouse me from my bed and I got my binoculars on a female Reed Bunting sat on a shrub at the side of the field.
Next, I had a text to say that the first Sandwich Tern had been sighted at Cemlyn Bay on the north of the island so I dragged my friend Elizabeth (visiting me for my birthday), Ken and Cal up to see if we could spot it. Cal spotted the fella first and I re-found him again as we neared the lagoon. This was a very special birthday present as I will be working at Cemlyn this summer for the North Wales Wildlife Trust. We watched the tern fly off out to sea, he’d just come to wish me a happy birthday perhaps?!
As we drove back to Holyhead we thought we’d have a drive through Ken’s estate on the off-chance that the Rose-coloured Starling would make an appearance. We surveyed a few roof tops and about twenty birds later, bingo!! A lovely little chap. I’ve not seen one of these before and having heard that it was juvenile and therefore lacking in the distinguishing plumage, thought that I might find it difficult to identify. This was not the case however as it was much smaller that the other starlings, much paler and it’s beak much less pointed. I have been having banter with a birder/blogger (http://theregionaltick.blogspot.com/) on twitter about this bird, he’s says it’s scruffy and I’d like to confirm that he is wrong, it’s lovely :-p Then again, I do always go for the underdog.
Then, as Elizabeth left and my next guests arrived, we went for a walk around South Stack. South Stack is really coming into it’s own at this time of year, bursting into life…
Had a chilled out day yesterday and had some great birds, so a result!
Have a read of my walk to work on the South Stack facebook page https://www.facebook.com/#!/RSPBsouthstack. I started this facebook page around a year ago when I started working for the RSPB there and am pleased at it’s popularity and the interactions we have had with our visitors, so check it out and keep up the good work!
Enjoy the rest of your day,
Well it may seem like a long time ago now, but I thought I should finally get around to telling you about my team’s birdrace. I loved it!
Firstly, I got to spend the weekend with my Dad which is always good and secondly, we saw far more bird species than I had ever imagined!
The night before my team (Me, my Dad, Ken and Dave) went for dinner at the Seacroft in Trearddur Bay where we took advantage of their two for one deal – a perk of hanging around these windy shores in winter time. Here we planned where we would head the following morning on our birdrace. We’d already decided that an early start wasn’t the way forward for us, especially as one of our team has a problem with getting up early (uh humm, Dave!) and opted for latter six hours of daylight.
Starting at South Stack and after a hearty breakfast (always), Ken, Dave and I set off down the path from Plas Nico car park down the path to Ellin’s Tower. If you have visited the reserve before, that is the path from the lower car park diagonally through the heath to Ellin’s Tower. If you haven’t visited the reserve before (get yourself over here!), Ellin’s Tower is the RSPB’s lookout over the breeding seabird colony which is open for visitors April through to September – a point of note being the new visitor centre and cafe on the reserve so now you get a warm welcome when visiting any day of the year! I digress, My Dad had headed up the hill in his car where we were going to meet him after our initial pre-eleven o’clock reccy.
Soon our plans were dashed though as I saw a ‘little brown job’ on a telephone wire above the heath. I shouted it out and we were able to pin-point it as a Meadow Pipit (the sort of bird that might craftily evade us on a bird race), as I scanned the heather I saw a female Stonechat standing proud atop a gorze bush. That was it, we just had to start – we couldn’t risk that those two birds would show up again somewhere else. Dad would have to miss them. Sorry Dad! From here we charged along the path to Ellin’s tower as now the clock was ticking. Add Magpie.
From Ellin’s Tower we saw thousands of Guillemots and a rapid scan for Razorbills was to no avail. There were also a couple of Fulmars nestled on the ledges. Tick Tick. Making our way up to Dad on the road above Ken and I saw and heard a Rock Pipit zooming around the cliff tops. Get in. When we got to the top we stopped for a group photo and got Dad up to speed with the cliff-side species adding a Kestrel, Greater Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull and a last-minute obliging Chough.
Looking out from the car as we headed back down the hill we saw Starlings and Jackdaws with a Blackbird and Songthrush in my garden.
Leaving South Stack and heading towards Holyhead we stopped to scan the small reservoir on the side of the road and picked up Gadwall, Coot, Tufted Duck, Teal and Pochard. A Black-headed Gull flew over. This is the point at which Dave was mostly lost to the world of Dad’s camera – worked quite well really as we birded and he recorded.
A Blue Tit flashed across the road, only visible to me and my Dad in the front of the car and the House Sparrow bush in Llaingoch did not let us down. In fact, Dad pulled up on the side of the road in this unassuming looking place on the outskirts of Holyhead and found us Greenfinch, Collared Dove, Dunnock, Robin, Carrion Crow and a Mistle Thrush!
A Feral Pigeon flew high above the houses as we drove down towards Holyhead Harbour overlooking the breakwater (1.5 miles long don’t you know?!). Scanning the harbour we were happy to pick up Black Guillemot, Oystercatcher and an unexpected Razorbill.
Quickly back into the car and along to Soldier’s Point, in the shadow of Holyhead Mountain and flanked by the breakwater. Down in the sea we saw a Curlew atop an exposed rock and the usual Redshank – I’m sure he’s the same one…always there by himself. Also down by the waters edge was a Turnstone and there was a Little Grebe sailing the waters. Flitting around in the shrubs were a couple of Goldfinch and Ken spotted a ‘stripey-eyed guy’ for me to have a look at, a Redwing foraging amongst the blackbirds of the horse field. Behind us a Woodpigeon flapped it’s way into the trees. Next, much to my Dad’s embarrassment I announced that “I’ve got Great Tits” (an oldie but a goody and always completely by accident). We pop our heads round the grasses to seek out our familiar Water Rail but he’s a no show. Carrying on down the road we add Chaffinch and Wren. We couldn’t resist searching for our Water Rail again on the way back to car but he’s still not out to play. In his place we find a Grey Wagtail though (!!) and a Bullfinch shows us his rump. Elated with these bonus birds we march onwards. Ken as relentless as ever scours behind us as we near the car and picks up a Moorhen and behind that a Water Rail! There you are!!
Pied Wagtails escort us along the harbour-side where we see Common Gull (new for my Dad I think?), Shag, and Red-breasted Merganser.
I swear by there always being Rook in Morrisons car park so we head there on our way out of Holyhead, none. None in McDonalds’ car park either! “Rook” I scream as one zooms out of everybody else’s sight down Porth Dafarch Road. Damn!
It’s always a relief to pull in at Penrhos Coastal Park as you will always be greeted by some familiar faces, tick Mallard. We use scopes out on the estuary and see Dad’s first Brent Geese as well as Knot, Grey Plover, Curlew, Dunlin, Bar-tailed Godwit, Shelduck, Goldeneye, Great Crested Grebe and Slavonian Grebe. At this point it suddenly dawned on us that we hadn’t yet been to many of the places on our list and we’d been out nearly two and a half hours. The clock suddenly seemed to have sped up. Not deterred we thought that there were a few key species we might hope to see in the woodland beyond the duck pond. A couple of small dudes zipped across the trees in front of our eyes. They evaded us for a few moments and then we had them again, a Coal Tit and a Siskin! On the otherside of the path a flock of Long-tailed Tits, it’s like the birds knew what we needed on our list. A magical moment in the woods.
Worried about time and having already seen some of the species we hoped to pick up there we ditched Trearddur Bay and headed straight for Four Mile Bridge and surveyed the Inland Sea. A flock of Lapwing overhead was our first of many sightings over the day. With many shore birds ticked off already we had to ignore the vast majority of the birds in terms of the birdrace, although Wigeon finally made an appearance! Using a scope though, Dave sprang back into action asking me who the black and white stripey guys were…his first Ringed Plover and a bird needed for our list. I can safely say that this was Dave’s bird of the day. A Meditteranean Gull was chilling out in the middle of the expanse. Then in the revelry of Dave’s find we nearly missed the Little Egret flying in right in front of our faces – Ken was nearly spitting feathers, how apt.
Passing out snacks around the car we moved on to Valley Lakes, our second RSPB reserve of the day. Almost apoplectic than none of the black birds around were Rooks I shouted up a field of ominous looking fellas skulking in a field beside the road we travelling on. Dad and I hopped out the car as Ken attended to his newly painful foot and tiptoed to look over the hedge (Dad is 6’3” so I’m pretty sure he didn’t tiptoe). Whoo hoo, a Rook. Finally.
Valley lakes is surrounded by the houses and runways of RAF Valley and we pulled up in a lay-by alongside the most accessible lake. As Dad, Ken and I picked up Shoveler (hundreds swarming around and around in a perfect circle), Mute Swan, Lesser Black-backed Gull (bonus) and Cormorant, Dave was being questioned by a man in uniform back at the car! You’d think scopes, binoculars, and loitering by the side of the road in a military area were perfectly normal, surely?!
On our way to pick up some more woodland species we stopped to look across fields close to Valley wetlands for more Geese species and were a tad disappointed to see only lovely Greylags. I desperately tried to put someone on to the Pheasant I could see many fields away but a working description evaded me as no one could see where I meant. But oh, a Raven honked way above us!
A Pheasant teetered by the edge of the road before we checked out the usual feeders at Presaddfed and clocked up a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Reed Bunting! Ken saw it first and we had to wait for it to show above the wall again. I willed a Nuthatch to make an appearance but no such luck.
A buzzard and father and daughter nearly come to blows as I criticise his stop-time. Apparently it has something to do with other road users, but I tried to explain that this was different. It was a birdrace!
A flock of Grey Plover have taken to the skies, but we have already counted these. Amongst them Ken spots a glittering golden gem, a Golden Plover. Hee hee.
Our list is looking pretty impressive by now, but there are more sites on the island we think we can make it to for some of those species we haven’t seen yet. As we wind our way across the island we keep an eye out for Fieldfare and soon see masses in a field. A quick stop and a tick. Then we only went and had a Merlin dashing across the fields to our left!! I was giddy (more than usual).
Ken had a ‘nailed-on’ spot for some Whooper Swans and unlike his ‘nailed-on’ spot for the Shropshire Starlings it was successful (read his Shropshire Starlings write-up in the previous blog)!
We paced on down the island to Benllech to search the sea and I’m afraid to say that I had to dash off with Dave to find a proper loo. I’m all for ‘nature wees’, but in Benllech I think it would be punishable by law. Whilst I was otherwise occupied Dad and Ken scoped out Common Scoter and a Great Northern Diver. Well done boys!
Hang on a minute, where has all the time gone?! There’s only an hour left and we are on precisely the opposite side of the island to where we planned to end up to spend time looking for Hen Harriers coming in to roost… Insert expletive here.
Well, we were here now so we’d thought we go for Snipe at Red Wharf Bay, the pointy-beaks weren’t playing, the Jack Snipe neither. Wasted more time! Full speed ahead across the island. Ken and I had taken full control now and decided that for sake of the race we’d sacrifice our Hen Harrier sighting, clock up some other species and go for the Harriers after our allotted time.
As we approached Llyn Coron near Aberffraw I spotted another bird of prey (I was having a good day!), this time a Sparrowhawk – tick! Ken watched as it zoomed down into the grasses and saw it dash back up as quickly as it had gone down. At this moment a male Hen Harrier emerged from nowhere – wow, wow, wow!!! My first Hen Harrier 🙂 And a stunning male, just as I had imagined and even better, it was still within our race time! What a high?! Unbelievable. We like to think that the Sparrowhawk thought *ummmm that looks tasty* only to be surprised by pouncing on the harrier – who knows??
Llyn Coron gave us Canada Goose and White-fronted Goose, thank you. There was a matter of minutes left in our six hours so we hot-footed it over to Malltraeth Cob. Ken and Dad picked up a Spotted Redshank as I sprinted along the cob. I was embarrassed to realise that I was racing towards Jane and David on their bird race and that I was thumping my way along the path (most un-birderly). Pintails, yes! With seconds to spare. Then I realised I was the only member of my team there…”DAVE!!DAVE!!” I bellowed along the cob (sorry quiet birders), he got there just in the nick of time.
Rejoining Dad and Ken back at the road, I caught up with elegant Spotted Redshank and was suddenly exhausted by our amazing, eventful day.
Dozily, I daydreamed in the car back to Menai Bridge and had time for a quick change of clothes and a cup of coffee before joining other bird racers in Bangor.
I was so pleased to hear how everybody else had gotten on that day in North Wales. Everyone was buzzing and I was so pleased that we had all done it. As mentioned previously, Dan, Nigel and Eddie won the race in our Area, only beaten by the Norfolk birders.
I am immensely proud of all your efforts. Thank you.
Even if you didn’t take part then please take the time to vote for your ‘best race’ and ‘best bird’ from the previous blog.
P.s- just as I’ve come to post this entry I have been sat in the office watching with satisfaction as my washing dries on the line and was fascinated by a Magpie in glorious plumage that swooped down into my garden, pecked around in the grass and then proceeded to hop in manic magpie style over to the bush in the corner. I saw him work his way up inside the bush and come out with a piece of nesting material as long as himself (including his tail), he struggled to get away as his wing got caught on his impressive find. Full of the joys of spring 🙂
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.
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”.