Saturday, 31 December 2011

Aberdesach Chough

More grim weather today with low cloud and some heavy showers. I spent a while at Aberdesach late afternoon in the hope of a few Great Northern Divers as it's the best site in the area for them. Unfortunately it was throwing it down as I arrived and all I managed were a couple of very distant unidentified divers while using my binoculars from the car.

Despite giving the sea a good scoping there was little to get excited about  - a lobster fisherman was busy checking his pots causing disturbance to the few birds that were present; just 9 Red-breasted Merganser, 3 Shag and a Cormorant, but as I was leaving the car park a flock of 10 Chough headed low overhead to the SW, presumably off to roost. It seems appropriate that the last bird species I recorded in 2011 was this iconic Celtic crow.

Good Birding & Best Wishes to all followers in the New Year!

Friday, 30 December 2011

Bar-tailed Godwits

Today was calm - at last, although still dull and wet. Late afternoon saw me checking part of the harbour in Pwllheli as the tide began to drop. A similar mix of species to the other day were seen; five Bar-tailed Godwits were the highlight while the Dunlin flock was up to c220 birds with small numbers of Curlew, Oystercatcher, Knot and Redshank. Three Little Egrets were feeding, while three Great Crested Grebe and a pair of Red-breasted Merganser were in the harbour channel. A flock of 50 Wigeon headed west whle small groups of gulls were dropping out of the sky to bathe before heading off to roost at sea.

It was good to hear two Song Thrush and a Great Tit singing as dusk fell while a Water Rail was again calling from the reeds.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Blackbirds & Blackcap

I spent a couple of hours in Porth Meudwy this morning with Peter Kemis-Betty. The weather was again pretty grim with a freezing gale force westerly - although at least the overnight rain had eased off. I am getting pretty bored of the relentless depressions sweeping in across the Atlantic - there has hardly been a calm day for weeks!

Blackbirds were most evident with small groups everywhere, totalling 31 birds, most feasting on the remnanats of the sloes in the upper valley. A few smart Redwings were whizzing about - c18. A single Blackcap, Bullfinch and 7 Long-tailed Tits plus a couple of Goldcrest were sheltering by the stream and a Peregrine flew east. A single Chough and a couple of Raven were also overhead while Aberdaron Bay was quiet apart from a few Shag, Herring', Common' and a couple of Great Black-backed Gulls.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Pwllheli Dunlin

I travelled into town late afternoon - noticing big numbers of Golden Plover, Lapwing and gulls on the roadside fields at Penrhos but did not have time to check them out.

The light was fading and the tide incoming rapidly in the harbour, pushing a decent flock (for this site) of 207 Dunlin towards the Cob before thye headed off to roost. A handful of Curlew, Oystercatcher and Knot were also present with 58 Redshank. Three Little Egret, plus single Great Crested Grebe and Red-breasted Merganser were noted plus a couple of hundred small gulls dropped in.

A group of 15 vocal Teal were on the Cob Pool with a couple of Snipe, while a Water Rail squealed from the reedbed and 3 Long-tailed Tits added to the chorus.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Criccieth Black Redstart

Eddie Urbanski had a Black Redstart this afternoon over at Criccieth. The bird was by the sea front east of  the Moranedd CafĂ© by the WARNING: LANDSLIP sign. 

Friday, 16 December 2011

Goldies & Pewits

Have not done a great deal of birding in often inclement weather these last few weeks - so the blog has been quiet.

I've also been busy as I've become a grandad again (yes, I am way too young I hear you say). The still unnamed baby girl - 9 months isn't long enough to decide apparently! - and mum are both doing well.

Anyway, less talk of mammals and a snippet of bird news. With the drop in temperatures of late I've noticed some good wader flocks. Over 100 Golden Plover and 220+ Lapwing were wheeling over the fields by Saithbont, Botwnnog today while another 200+ Lapwings were over the usual fields at Penrhos which has also held some sizeable Wigeon flocks on the floods.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Rhiw Birding

I've been experiencing a few vehicle problems over the last few weeks - and have been concentrating on birding around my home village in between swearing at my van and sharing bus rides with poor/young/retired/environmentally friendly passengers :-)

Hence the lack of updates!

Anyway, the good news about the trusty old Vito is that I don't have to spend any more money on it - the bad news is because the diagnosis is that it's terminally ill! I don't think even the ace team behind Pimp My Ride could do anything with it. The other good news is that I seem to have found a cheap, reliable, honest mechanic in these parts - Chris Nash at Dragon Engineering in Sarn.

So, it's been lots of walking around Rhiw - and not seeing a lot apart from the usual lovely Green Woodpeckers, Barn' & Little Owls, a decent flock of 19 Yellowhammers the other day etc. I'm sure Porth Meudwy is crawling with Pallas's Warblers ;-)

Loads of Starlings on the Lleyn at the minute including some massive noisy flocks in the surrounding pasture. Good to hear that the Rose-coloured Starling is still visiting a bird table in Nefyn but to be honest it's not the most inspiring looking bird - having said that, I'm in the process of sorting some more wheels out and may succumb to the lure of a peninsula tick eventually...

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Late Wheatear

First thing this morning I opened the window to hear a distant party of Crossbills flying over - could not see them but judging by the noise I reckon there were at least four.

Late afternoon I had a stroll over towards Mynydd Penarfynydd where a late Wheatear was around the trig pint and a couple of Chough overhead.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Blyth's Reed Flashback

There's been a probable Blyth's Reed Warbler today at Breakwater Country Park, Holyhead although views were short and the ID not completely clinched..

Sounds very similar to an experience I had in Porth Meudwy on 19th October 2005, and being such a rarity I thought I'd mention the tale! Firstly, I had brief, frustrating views over 45 minutes of a skulking Acrocephalus warbler clambering around in a dense ivy-covered hawthorn.

It was a rather featureless bird, and in some ways it felt similar to the process I go through sometimes when finding a skulking Garden Warbler - bit by bit you realise that you have obtained a full description of a relatively nondescript bird!

This was a (greyish) brown Reed sized acro with a v.short primary projection, the very slightest hint of some warmer colouration on a rump which was almost concolourous with mantle, no buff tones on underparts, pale throat, no obvious brow like Booted, short off white supercillium barely extending beyond the eye, no contrast or obvious pale tips to primaries in wing, bill longish with pale lower mandible and fairly broadish base... The legs were not seen and call not heard.

That evening I studied all I could online and in my many books and journals, focussing on Blyth's Reed' and confusion species, leaving me in little doubt what I had seen.

Unfortunately nobody I spoke to was able to make it down to look for the bird next day when I 'enjoyed' similar views over a two hour period, reinforcing my suspicions.

Attempted some digiscoping but ended up with lots of shots of the ivy as the bird dropped out of view ;-(

Any comments on identification would be welcome.

This bird is on my "ones that got away list"!

Saw the species at Spurn Bird Observatory in May 1985 (edit: '84) during a classic east coast fall (Bluethroats, Icterine Warbler and Red-backed Shrikes about). It had just been extracted from a mist net and the ringers were giving us a running commentary on the main id features of this legendary species. I remember the massive twitch that ensured - I think this was one of the first available mainland birds. Have vivid memories of hundreds of birders - including some guy in bright yellow waterproofs - chasing this along some hedge!

Anyone else got any memories of the ones that got away on the Lleyn?

Friday, 21 October 2011

Porth Meudwy Peregrines

Had a brief look in Porth Meudwy this morning with Peter Kemmis Betty. I've never visited the valley so much as this autumn, and although at the end of the day rare birds are seldom seen in this area (apart from a certain rocky island not too far away!), the site's potential is great for something good to turn up and regular coverage is the best means of  connecting.

It has, after all, played host to quality birds such as Ruppell's Warbler and Red-eyed Vireo, as well as a virtually full set of scarce migrants despite extremely limited coverage over the years. I'll always remember a conversation I had with the late Clive Stephenson of Bangor who recalled being told of an unidentified Dendroica warbler (as they used to be called) glimpsed some years ago by a friend of his in the valley.

Of course, if I was only interested in the rares I'd be going crazy down here - torn between twitching Scarlet Tanager in Cornwall and Siberian Rubythroat in Shetland. Although I do enjoy the craic of an occassional twitch the prospect of staring at tarmac for hours and then finding myself in a crowd with a good percentage of idiot twitchers is not my cup of tea at all!  At the end of the day the reason I get out as much as I can is because there's a fascinating range of resident and migrant birds and loads of other wildlife to enjoy in the area. 

Anyway, today conditions were far from ideal as time was limited and there was a big SW blowing and many birds were keeping low in the cover - although at least the temperature was significantly higher than yesterday.

The highlight for me was great views of a couple of Peregrines chasing each other low up the valley. The lead bird was carrying prey with the other in hot pursuit. Not much else to report today; the 3 resident Chough, 4 Redwing, 14 Blackbird, a calling Ring Ouzel (hidden in the undergrowth), 4 Blackcap and a Chiffchaff were noted while Goldcrests were down to 12 birds... plus a few other common species.

Overhead a few Starlings and finches were moving while 12 Lapwing flew east.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Goldcrest invasion

First, have to mention some late news for the last few days:

Eddie Urbanski and Dan 'Punkbirder' Brown visited Porth Meudwy on Tuesday and saw very little apart from a Clouded Yellow just before the pool and a Hummingbird Hawkmoth. Later they found a 2w Med Gull in Pwllheli Harbour sporting a yellow ring on its right leg.

Yesterday I walked down to Plas yn Rhiw for a quick afternoon visit. Rhys Jones interrupted my birding by informing me of a ringtail Hen Harrier on Mynydd y Graig. He joined me later and we had a look around the Plas and down towards Tre-heli Farm. A nice selection of woodland species were about (Jay, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Bullfinch etc) but more surprising was a flock of tardy hirundines actively feeding over the farm - 4 Swallow and 3 House Martin. A group of 12 Lesser Redpolls were also in the area. 

This morning Rhys and I visited Uwchmynydd then the valley where we met Eddie.

One of the first species we noticed before sunrise was a large flock of Raven - a minimum of 34 were 'gronking' away over Mynydd Mawr. Presumably these just left a local roost?

Visible migration was good again; totals between 0740-0840 hrs came to: 

Skylark 4
Meadow Pipit 49
Alba wagtail 3
Fieldfare 28
Mistle Thrush 3
Carrion Crow 1
Jackdaw 40
Raven 3
Starling 194
Chaffinch 655 
Brambling 4
Greenfinch 6
Goldfinch 15
Siskin 3
Linnet 25
Redpoll sp 1
Reed Bunting 20 
Yellowhammer 6

A 1w Merlin was chasing the finch flocks for breakfast.

A quick look at Safn Pant revealed a few Blackbirds and 10 Goldcrest while a Wheatear - and a large Fox - were up on Mynydd Mawr, with another Mistle Thrush was feeding at the Ty Newydd campsite. If you're not a local patch worker you may wonder why the excitement about this species - and Goldcrest numbers for that matter - but they are relatively uncommon down here!

A Woodcock was flushed at Pwll Bron-llwyn while a couple of Yellowhammer and a Great Spotted Woodpecker was at Ystolhelyg.

Porth Meudwy was quite simply crawling with Goldcrests today - a couple of years ago they were as scarce as hen's teeth for some reason but this morning we counted a minimum of 36. Unfortunately there were no rare phylloscs - just a Chiffhcaff for accompaniment.

Another Woodcock leaped out of the undergrowth while other bits and pieces included a fine male Ring Ouzel, 18 Blackbird, a couple of Redwing, 6 Song Thrush, 7 Blackcap, 6 Bullfinch, 12 Crossbill heading SW and 3 Brambling. A Stoat was also down by the boat house.

A Merlin was busy terrorising the passerines on the stubble field at Cwrt which held 38 Skylark and a couple of Reed Buntings.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Country Diary

Nice to hear (cheers Steph!) that Mark Cocker of The Guardian newspaper published a Country Diary column about Uwchmynydd yesterday. He was mainly waxing lyrical about the noisy local Choughs - but also managed to enjoy some visible migration!

To be honest it's easy to get a bit blase about these corvids - I've even seen them in the garden at times - but they really are something special. According to the recently published paper 'Rare breeding birds in the UK in 2009' the total UK estimate was between 281-487 pairs, of which there were 222 confirmed breeding pairs of a total of 293 territorial pairs in Wales. The old Vice County of Caernarfonshire supported 74 confirmed breeders of a total 100 recorded pairs - therefore we support a big percentage of the total population.

Many of the local birds are colour-ringed by a dedicated team. I hear stories of boats and ladders entering sea caves and lots of dangling off ropes to reach the nest sites. Thus many of the local birds are wearing jewellery. If I carried my scope more often I might be able to forward a few more records to them.

Anyway, I did zero birding today but was fortunate to encounter a Hummingbird Hawkmoth and a Red Admiral flying around in gale force winds on a walk down to Aberdaron this afternoon; the first hummer - and I suspect the last - that I've seen this year.

Sunday, 16 October 2011


Destination was eventually Mynydd Mawr, Uwchmynydd this morning (after some vehicle problems!). Arrived a little later than planned but immediately the sky was absolutely full of birds, to the extent that it was difficult to know where to look next - never mind noting things down.

The weather was again great; cool, dry and bright with a little cloud inland and a light WSW. Visibility was excellent all the way down to the tip of Pembrokeshire and the coast of Ireland.

Minimum counts (again, the majority of birds heading SW) between 0800-0930 were:

Red-throated Diver - 1 high over the mountain heading south
Golden Plover 1
Woodpigeon 5
Great Spotted Woodpecker 1 circled
Skylark 169 (inc one flock of 149 birds)
Meadow Pipit 56
Tree Pipit  1 (or 2 - more on that later) 
Alba wagtail 3
Redwing 30
Carrion Crow 15
Jackdaw 24
Raven 5
Starling 1304
Chaffinch 840 (big underestimate as huge numbers were calling high overhead but impossible to see)
Brambling 6 - my first of the autumn
Greenfinch 6
Goldfinch 25
Siskin 8
Linnet 21
Redpoll sp 4
Reed Bunting 21

A smart 1w Merlin was seen hunting  the flocks of migrants. After ending the count I wandered down to Pwll Bron-llwyn and back. Several flocks of irrupting tits were working their way along the hedgerows including 3 Coal', 31 (!) Blue' and 4 Great'. Interesting to hear of similar movements on Skomer Island today also.  A Bullfinch was calling at Safn Pant Farm - presumably a migrant. Eleven Chough were also in the area.

After lunch, Porth Meudwy held the same Ring Ouzel and Garden Warbler as yesterday plus a few other bits and pieces including 5 Blackcap, Chiffchaff, 14 Goldcrest, a beautiful Woodcock that crashed into the bracken, 6 or 7 Buzzards, another 1w Merlin and a single Yellowhammer.

I also bumped into Eddie & Sally Urbanski (The Urbanski Birders!) who had found another Garden Warbler nearby in Porth Simdde and a couple of Med Gulls offshore. I was happy enough to finally connect with a Common Gull in the cove - the first I've seen for ages.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Ring Ouzel & Garden Warbler

Worked Porth Meudwy and Cwrt Farm today in fine weather - blue skies and broken cloud with a light easterly.

No sign of any scarce 'phylloscs' but a Garden Warbler was late (thanks Dave!), a different 1w f Ring Ouzel to yesterday's male was at the bottom of the valley and at least 3 Crossbills headed high overhead.

Again, there were good numbers of diurnal migrants on the move: 97 Lapwing, hundreds of Skylark, many Meadow Pipit, 1 Grey Wagtail, the odd alba wagtail, hundreds of Starling, plus many Chaffinch, 1 Greenfinch, 3 Siskin, 12 Linnet, 1 Redpoll spp, 1 Reed Bunting and ca 10 Raven that went over at a great height calling away.

Other thrushes included 12 Blackbird, 7 Song Thrush, 72 Redwing and 63 Fieldfare - many of which were dropping in to rest and feed in the valley before heading off again. Nine each of Blackcap & Goldcrest, and a single Chiffchaff were also present. 

A Painted Lady and 2 Red Admirals were the only butterflies seen while a Grey Seal was close inshore by the cove where Grey Wagtail and Rock Pipit showed well feeding amongst the seaweed on the shoreline.

Cwrt was very quiet with just a single Yellowhammer and 20 Linnet in the remains of the game cover crop by the farm.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Yellow-browed Warblers

I started the day intent on carrying out a visible migration count at Uwchmynydd and was pleased to hear the first Redwings of the year passing over as I set off from Rhiw.

On arrival at Mynydd Mawr, a few Fieldfare could be heard and soon these - and a nice range of other species - were seen overhead. The weather was mild and dull with drizzly showers clearing later and a light SW breeze.

Totals between 0700-0900 hrs (with most birds heading SW) came to: 45 Lapwing, 1 Golden Plover, a Great Spotted Woodpecker - which headed over then circled back, 12 Skylark, 1 Swallow, 49 Meadow Pipit, 1 Grey Wagtail, 8 alba wagtail, 117 Redwing, 285 Fieldfare, 5 Jackdaw, 259 Starling, at least 1,110 Chaffinch, 2 Greenfinch, 14 Goldfinch, 20 Siskin, 63 Linnet, 1 Redpoll and 10 Reed Bunting.

Peter Hall reported a massive arrival of winter thrushes at Llithfaen this morning with approximately 3,000 Fieldfare and 'thousands' of Redwings. 

A grounded Ring Ouzel was located in the area plus 25+ Chough, a Peregrine and 14 Yellowhammer between here and Ystolhelyg while the 'odd amphibian record of the day' goes to a large Toad walking down the road by the mountain.  

Next stop was Porth Meudwy where one of the first birds I encountered was a Yellow-browed Warbler feeding with a mixed tit and warbler flock at the top of the valley before flying off in the direction of Cwrt farm. I never tire of watching these superb phylloscopus warblers that reach the west coast annually in small numbers all the way from Siberia.

Working my way down the valley a male Ring Ouzel was located then I heard another Yellow-browed' calling from the willows below the landslide down from the campsite. Having spent some time waiting for it to appear I continued past and saw it - or another bird - feeding with Goldcrests in a different willow clump. For a moment I had a flashback to Shetland where I had my last multiple inornatus moments. Eddie Urbanski then had the good fortune to turn up and see this bird.

Other bits and pieces on site included 9 Blackbird, 7 Song Thrush, 8 Blackcap, 2 Chiffchaff, 9 Goldcrest, 60 Fieldfare and 4 Bullfinch. Eddie and I headed out towards Solfach and Pen-y-Cil later, which was v.quiet, highlight being a late Lesser Whitethroat at Pwll Cyw.

Also, Dei Rhys Jones reports a pod of ca.12 dolphin spp species feeding off Aberdesach this morning.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Shoreline Stoat

I found one of these mustelids running along the seaweed covered boulder scree at the western end of Porth Neigwl / Hell's Mouth this afternoon at low tide. It was carrying food but views were brief and I was unable to see what it had caught.

In all my 40 odd years I've never seen one actually on the beach - or in this case - way below it in the inter-tidal zone - and winder if any readers might have encountered such behaviour before?

Also, a Grey Phalarope was reported briefly in Pwllheli harbour yesterday afternoon... shortly after I had checked the site and seen very little apart from a 1w Med Gull.

Saturday, 8 October 2011


The weather forecast last night was poor so I opted for a lie-in this morning - mistake! I awoke to a cool westerly and some drizzle - which usually means a few grounded migrants around - so visited Porth Meudwy late morning. Having forgotten my jacket in the rush I endured a couple of cold hours, with a few migrants seen.

An obvious influx of Robins and Blackcap saw at least 15 of each present with a couple of Chiffchaff and 5 Goldcrest. A fine Peregrine and a trickle of 4 Swallows headed over plus 38 Skylark, and a few pipits and finches, including a couple of redpoll spp. Thrush numbers are still low with just 10 Blackbird and 2 Song Thrush... where are all the Redwings & Fieldfares? Despite the cold a Red Admiral was on the wing.

After lunch - and this time suitably dressed - I headed for a wander around Uwchmynydd. Highlight was a terrific1w Merlin perched up by Mynydd Mawr while other bits and pieces included 6 Stonechat, a single Blackcap, 3 Goldcrest and a Yellowhammer near Gwyddel.

Also, some belated news from earlier in the week;

Eddie & Sally Urbanski found a Hooded Crow at Cwrt, Aberdaron on Wednesday with 60 Skylarks and 40 Linnets around the farm while yesterday there were c100 each of Skylark, Linnet and House Sparrow. A local resident informed me of a Hoodie a few weeks ago in the area, presumably the same bird.

Rhys Jones had 4 Red-throated Diver, 2 Med' Gulls, a juv Sabine's Gull, 2 Pomarine', 9 Great' and 7 Arctic Skua past Porth Ysgaden on Thursday while along at Porth Iago Dave Lamacraft scored with a Balearic Shearwater, 3 Leach's Petrel, a Grey Phalarope, 1 Sabine's Gull and 2 Poms - possibly the Ysgaden birds. Great stuff!

Monday, 3 October 2011

Spotted Flycatchers

Checked Porth Meudwy again late morning. A strengthening but mild SW meant most birds had been pushed to the top of the valley. The avian highlight was at least three tardy Spotted Flycatcher which were actively feeding and calling.

Swallows were passing overhead in small numbers (43 in two hours) with a single House Martin and a few other migrants. Warblers comprised; a Lesser Whitethroat, 3 Blackcap, 7 Chiffchaff and 4 Goldcrests while finches included a couple of Redpolls, 34 Godlfinch and 8 Siskin.

A single Water Rail was squealing from the stream side while butterflies included both Red Admiral and a stunning Comma.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Lapland Bunting

Did a visible migration (or 'vis mig') count at Mynydd Mawr, Uwchmynydd this morning and was impressed by the numbers and variety of species as usual.

Conditions were perfect - warm, dry, some high cloud and very light SSW winds, and the sunrise over southern Snowdonia and Cardigan Bay was superb!

Total counts (with all birds heading SW) between 0715-0845 came to:

Grey Heron 1
Meadow Pipit 222
Grey Wagtail 2
Alba wagtail 10
Skylark 4
Raven 25 probably local birds
Jackdaw 11
Chaffinch 1,080
Greenfinch 10
Siskin 8
Linnet 86
Redpoll sp 1
Crossbill 1
Lapland Bunting 1
Reed Bunting 11

The figures above are mostly underestimates as my sound recording equipment was picking up many birds high overhead that I could not see and it was difficult at times to note everything down that I could. A click counter was used for the Chaffinches.

I just love vis migging - a reminder of time spent learning my birds as a keen teenager back in Sheffield. I spent hours staring at bleak moorland reservoirs hoping for something - anything - to fly over.

Rhys arrived and we decided to work around the mountain then make our way back to Porth Meudwy. Birds were still pouring overhead and the Skylarks - which always enjoy a lie in - started to come through in numbers but I had abandoned counting and was concentrating on locating any grounded migrants.

As usual, there was one that got away; this time a Locustella (probably just a Grasshopper Warbler but who knows at this time of year?) that was flushed near the summit then flew away down the precipitous slope.

Other species in the area included 1 Golden Plover, one or two Peregrines, a Wheatear and lots of grounded Meadow Pipits. The Chough flock had increased to an impressive 42 birds.

One of the weirdest sightings was a Magpie carrying a large stick - as in nestbuilding - at Pwll Bron-llwyn! This might explain why we saw no hirundines this morning - have they all headed north again in the balmy weather?!

A quick look in Porth Meudwy was pretty fruitless, with notable species being another Golden Plover over, a Great Spotted Woodpecker - which did impress one visiting Irish birder - single Blackcap and Chiffchaff, 3 Goldcrests and 10 Coal Tits.

Friday, 30 September 2011

Uwchmynydd Migrants

Drove to Uwchmynydd this morning - nearly flattening a leveret on the way - and did my regular circuit around the fields, lanes and maritime heath in lovely hot sunny weather.

Plenty of visible migration was happening with the usual suspects dominating - Chaffinch, Siskin, Starling, Skylark, alba wagtails and hirundines. Two noisy flocks of Crossbill - totalling 16 birds - headed over.

Other species included 3 Wheatear, 12+ migrant Coal Tit plus small numbers of Blue & Great Tit, 2 Chiffchafff, 5 Goldcrest, 29 Linnet and 4 Yellowhammer.

Good to see the local Choughs doing well with 27 over Mynydd Gwyddel and a few more scattered around.

Had brief views of a small Adder on the heath which scuttled into some gorse while a visitor reported a new born Grey Seal pup in Porth Felen.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Clouded Yellow

One of these gorgeous butterflies whizzed past me as I walked down to the beach by Treheli Farm at the west end of Porth Neigwl, Rhiw this afternoon.

Three Mediterranean Gulls were on the shoreline (2 adults and a 1st winter) plus several hundred Herring Gulls while a couple of Chough were over the cliffs.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Migrating Buzzards

Checked Porth Meudwy again this morning hoping for that Brown Flycatcher to appear... as usual it did not, but there were some nice birds around and the weather was superb; hot and dry with blue skies and a fresh southerly breeze.

A superb Whinchat flycatching from the blackthorns near the car park was a valley tick for me.

Other species included a trickle of hirundines, 12 Robin, 12 Blackbird (influx), 1 Song Thrush, 7 Blackcap, 4 Chiffchaff, 7 Goldcrest, 3 Chough (again), 30 Jackdaw over, several small flocks of Chaffinch dropping in, a few alba wagtails, Skylarks and 3 Siskin over plus at least 3 Crossbills calling overhead

The resident Little Owl was again sat sunbathing at the window inside one of the outbuildings at Cwrt farm!

Raptors included Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and an interesting flock of  7 1st winter Common Buzzards that flew east over the bottom of the valley. I had a flashback to a similar passage last autumn when there was a kettle of 20+ birds over Uwchmynydd in similar weather. I wonder if such movements are encountered anywhere else in North Wales e.g. Great Orme or South Stack? 

Had to call into town this afternoon and again checked the harbour. Big tides meant there were acres of mud exposed but a bait collector had flushed some birds. Nevertheless waders comprised: 6 Oystercatcher, 80 Ringed Plover, 1 Knot, 1 Curlew Sandpiper still, 7 Dunlin, 7 Curlew, 43 Redshank, and a Turnstone. A single Sandwich Tern was roosting on one of the buoys while a Kingfisher whistled past.

A Reed Bunting was calling from the Cob Pool which held a few ducks and waders as usual but nothing unusual.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Rhiw Crossbills

I had the pleasure of leading a walk for the Cambrian Ornithological Society today. We met at the east end of Porth Neigwl where a steady passage of Swallows and a few Skylark were moving amongst other common species. With no water on the Llanengan flood plain - and lots of visiting surfers around - we headed over to the other side of the bay and walked through the conifer plantations, regenerating clearfell, fridd and mixed deciduous woodland from Ty'n y Parc around to Plas yn Rhiw.

Highlights here were several mobile groups of Crossbill. We recorded 6 flying over then a flock of 14 birds followed by 9 which were flushed by Ffynnon Saint. I suspect that these were all different birds. A good flock of 40+ Siskin and a single Lesser Redpoll were around the alders by the new ponds at Ty'n y Parc with a nice selection of other typical woodland birds including Long-tailed Tits and Bullfinch. A Green Woodpecker showed well in flight with a Sparrowhawk in hot pursuit while later Nuthatch and Jay were found by the Plas.
After lunch the group visited Pwllheli Harbour. Highlights were Kingfisher, two adult Mediterranean Gulls on the Cob Pool, great views of at least one Peregrine buzzing over the water and a selection of waders including  the Curlew Sandpiper again and 5 Bar-tailed Godwit.

The day's total came to about 60 species. Thanks to all the 12 members and friends for pleasant company and some good birding.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Pwllheli Curlew Sandpiper

After a week of vehicle problems and poor weather I checked town this afternoon. Glorious warm sunshine made it an enjoyable walk and a nice selection of birds were seen.

The tide was low on arrival then incoming rapidly; waders included 43 Oystercatcher, 10 Ringed Plover, a smart Curlew Sandpiper, 8 Bar-tailed Godwit, 17 Curlew, 87 Redshank, 1 Turnstone plus a Snipe on the Cob Pool. The Teal flock had increased to 18 here.

Three Mediterranean Gulls were loafing around the Cob Pool - a 1w and two adults including one yellow colour-ringed bird with black lettering. I am investigating the origins of this individual. Also here were 4 Wigeon and 20 Teal.

A superb Clouded Yellow was over the wildflower filled land opposite the council buildings, the first I've seen in the area for years. 

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Tree Pipit

Had a wander down Porth Meudwy mid-morning; the weather was mild and calm with the cloud lifting and it became a beautiful sunny day.

Good to see some visible migration occurring with a steady passage of hirundines, finches, pipits and wagtails.

Totals for species overflying the valley came to: 5 Skylark, 282 Swallow, 46 House Martin, 1 Tree Pipit, 33 Meadow Pipit, 7 Grey Wagtail, 20 alba wagtails (plus 10 White Wagtail sharing an adjacent field with 2 Wheatear), 23 Linnet and 1 Siskin.

The group of  presumably the same 3 vocal Chough were again by the cove while a total of 11 Raven headed over.

The site also held: 1 Song Thrush, 2 Whitethroat, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 11 Blackcap, 12 Chiffchaff, 9 Goldcrest, 2 Bullfinch, 1 Yellowhammer and a Great Spotted Woodpecker amongst other common species.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Sabine's Gull

Another trip to Porth Ysgaden on Tuesday. Other observers were Dave Lamacraft, Rhys Jones and an unnamed visitor from Kent.

Wind was force WSW 7, dry and mild with broken cloud and sunshine. Visibility was excellent.

Birds logged between 0645-1245 were:

Shelduck 1
Common Scoter 2
Red-breasted Merganser 1
Red-throated Diver 4
Fulmar 33
Sooty Shearwater 5
Manx Shearwater 833
Leach's Petrel 2
Gannet 68
Shag 42 (presumed local movements)
Arctic Skua 4 pale phase adults
Great Skua 7
Mediterranean Gull 1w
Sabine's Gull 1w flew past over the shore at 10:34 hrs
Black-headed Gull 1
Lesser Black-backed Gull 1
Herring Gull 3
Kittiwake 134
Sandwich Tern 212 
Arctic Tern 4
Arctic/Common Tern 1
Guillemot 2
Razorbill 5
Guillemot/Razorbill 118 (vast majority were Razors)
Black Guillemot 2
Bar-tailed Godwit 3
Curlew 3 NE
Whimbrel 1
Dunlin 7
Redshank 1

Also present:

Rock Pipit 1
Grey Wagtail 2
Linnet 12

It was "not quite Ireland" in terms of the species and numbers but highly rewarding - special thanks to the visitor for calling the Sabine's at point blank range as we scoped the horizon!

Monday, 12 September 2011

Leach's Petrel

Another draughty morning with winds gusting to 72 mph in Aberdaron - a Violent Storm according to the Beaufort Scale.

Destination was again Porth Ysgaden. The SW was force 7-8 veering WSW later, dry and mild with broken cloud and sunshine.

Birds logged between 0715-1215 were:

Common Scoter 7
Red-throated Diver 1
Fulmar 2
Sooty Shearwater 1
Manx Shearwater 43
Leach's Petrel 1
Gannet 100
Shag 13
Arctic Skua 1 pale phase adult
Black-headed Gull 7
Herring Gull 29
Kittiwake 70
Sandwich Tern 320 - excellent count
Arctic Tern 1
Arctic/Common Tern 17
Guillemot 5
Razorbill 25
Guillemot/Razorbill 160 (most of which were probably Razors)
Knot 2
Whimbrel 2
Swallow 10
Wheatear 1

Risso's Dolphins - 2 marbled fins seen close in again, heading NE.

These numbers are all well and good but seawatching brings as many questions as figures. How would the counts change by the addition of other observer(s) to connect with other birds? Why so few skuas today - presumably many rest up on the sea before continuing when the winds are too strong? Where are all the Fulmars from earlier in the week, never mind the Sooty Shearwaters? I love how the mix of species - and totals - change with each session.

Highlights were many - from the tiny Leach's struggling into the wind at first light and still heading SW to the flock of Swallows coming in off the sea and heading south to Africa. The diver was the first of the autumn for me, Rhys had one plus two each of Arctic' and Great Skuas here yesterday.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Cob Pool Med Gulls

Passed through town this afternoon and could not resist another look in the harbour. It was mild again, with broken sunshine and a SW gale blowing. Mild enough for a Chiffchaff to be singing from the Sea Buckthorn!

The low tide waders comprised: 17 Oystercatcher, an influx of 108 Ringed Plover, 9 Dunlin, 4 Black-tailed Godwit, 6 Curlew, 33 Redshank, while the lone Greenshank was still stuck in the mud on the Cob Pool. A massive count of 9 Moorhen (!) and 8 Teal were also here.. while the lone Brent Goose was again by the marina.

Four Mediterranean Gulls were roosting on the pool (2 each of 2w and adults). One of the adults was wearing a red ring inscribed with white lettering but was too distant to read. Must take a loaf down next visit to tempt it closer!

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Pwllheli Harbour

Checked the harbour again this afternoon - the tide was low with a variety of waders around; 36 Oystercatcher, 38 Ringed Plover, 7 Knot, 10 Dunlin, single Black-tailed' & Bar-tailed Godwit, 9 Curlew, 70 Redshank, 3 Turnstone and single Snipe & Greenshank on the Cob Pool. The Teal flock had increased to 18 here.

The Brent Goose was still by the marina, while 2 Wheatears, a Whitethroat and 3 Chiffchaff were around the grassland and scrub opposite the council offices. A distant Common/Arctic Tern was seen briefly while gulls included three Meds (1w, 2w and adult) on the pool.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Brent Goose

There was no sign of yesterday's Melodious' in Porth Meudwy this morning although two Lesser Whitethroat were present along with 17 Blackcap, 21 Chiffchaff, 2 Willow Warbler and 8 Goldcrest. 

Had a quick look around Pwllheli Harbour this evening. The tide was coming in rapidly and most of the waders had already flown off to roost elsewhere. A couple of Knot fed along the rapidly diminishing mud in the harbour while the Greenshank was still on the Cob Pool with 82 Redshank and 12 Teal. Three Wheatear were around the site.

An adult Pale-bellied Brent Goose by the marina channel was an unusual find, both for the early date and the location. I've seen Brents along the coast near Llanbedrog in the past but never in town.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Melodious Warbler

With the wind decreasing slightly - and an uncomfortable back and neck ache after stooping over a telescope these last few days seawatching - I decided that a spot of terrestrial birding was in order so headed down to Porth Meudwy mid-morning.

The great thing about this place is the fact that because it curves round and is heavily vegetated no matter the wind direction there will be some shelter for birds and birders!

It was apparent that autumn is here with a few Goldcrests, phylloscs and Robins calling from the car park.

Eventually I found a mixed flock of tits and warblers below the Tir Glyn caravan site, and started pishing to see what popped up. Fortunately, amongst the Chiffchaffs, Great' & Blue Tits that were checking out the strange noises, I glimpsed a Melodious Warbler that appeared briefly in a small hawthorn (grid ref SH158257). Views were brief and poor but I managed to nail the salient features. After just a minute or so the bird dropped into cover and did not reappear in the next 3 hours of trying to relocate it!

Other species present in/over the valley included a Grey Wagtail, 3 alba wagtails, 15 Blackcap, 2 Whitethroat, a Lesser Whitethroat, 13 Chiffchaff, a Willow Warbler, a Spotted Flycatcher, 20 Linnet and 3 Chough down by the slipway.

A single Speckled Wood was the only butterfly noted - while Rhys informs me of 2 Clouded Yellows on the waste land opposite the council offices in Pwllheli. 

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Ysgaden Risso's

With the forecast still good I arranged to meet Rhys Jones for another seawatch.

The morning was brighter; dry, with a force 7 westerly and some broken cloud.

Total counts (all heading SW) between 0715-1055 hrs were:

12 Common Scoter
49 Fulmar
21 Sooty Shearwater - the highest number recorded on site.
262 Manx Shearwater
141 Gannet
9 Shag (presumably local birds)
7 Sanderling
2 Whimbrel
16 Arctic Skua (5 distant dark, 3 pale phase adults, 1 intermediate and 7 gingery immatures)
5 Great Skua
415 Kittiwake
1 GBB Gull
8 Sandwich Tern
7 Common/Arctic Tern
1 Razorbill
1 Guillemot
4 Auk sp

Strangely no Balearic Shearwaters were seen - usually they're guaranteed here.

A single peachy 1st winter Wheatear was hanging around by the shore.

Cetacean interest came in the form of a pod of at least four Risso's Dolphins which were crashing through the surf  relatively close in - superb!

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Porth Ysgaden Seawatching

The howling gale and heavy rain kept me awake most of the night so I decided that Porth Ysgaden might be worth a look. Virtually the first bird from the shelter of the old gable end was a mighty fine Sooty Shearwater at close range. These birds really are not that common around North Wales and always bring a smile.

Fortunately the rain had ceased by the time I arrived although the wind was still blowing a SW gale, decreasing slightly and heading more WSW later when a front with heavy rain had me heading for shelter. 

Total counts (all heading SW) between 0750-1220 hrs were:

1 Teal
1 Common Scoter
12 Fulmar
7 Sooty Shearwater
305 Manx Shearwater
1 Balearic Shearwater
168 Gannet
5 Shag (local birds)
4 Ringed Plover
2 Whimbrel
3 Oystercatcher
4 Arctic Skua (2 distant dark phase, 2 pale phase and a ginger juvenile heading NE)

5 Great Skua
122 Kittiwake
15 Herring Gull
3 LBB Gull
2 GBB Gull
5 Sandwich Tern
8 Common/Arctic Tern
18 Razorbill
4 Guillemot
10 Auk sp

Two Wheatear and 3 White Wagtails fed on the fields.

I've included below a few entries from the start of September for completion.

Sunday, 4th September

Uwchmynydd, 0700-0900 hs.

Calm, dry broken high cloud.

Worked my way around Mynydd Mawr logging the visible migration etc

Highlights were a mixed flock of 17 White Wagtails, 30 Meadow' and 5 Tree Pipits feeding on the sheltered south side of the mountain. It's unusual to see Tree Pipits on the ground here - most simply fly over calling (which another one did). 

A few other migrants included a Grey Wagtail, 15 Chaffinch and a Whimbrel heading south over the Swnt.

Several Chough were around - probably 8 in total. A Peregrine was screaming away manically for ages from the seacliffs but refused to show itself!

Nearby, Rhys, Simon and Jesse had Lesser Whitethroat, several Blackcaps, Garden Warbler, redpoll sp and a Golden Plover in/over Porth Meudwy.

Later I checked Pwllheli again, the tide was even higher and most of the Cob Pool was submerged. Again I wandered the whole area.

Seven Teal fed on the pool, plus a lone juv Shelduck. Waders here comprised single Greenshank, Ruff, Snipe and Dunlin with 2 Knot and 3 Black-tailed Godwits. Four Med' Gulls (3 ad plus a 2nd winter) were commuting between the flock of commoner gulls on the pool and the fields by the school.

A Whimbrel and 87 Redshank were roosting near the marina in the area I call the inner harbour plus 2 Wheatear.  

Friday, 2nd September

I headed into Pwllheli this afternoon and checked the harbour.

The tide was just beginnng to drop so I walked out onto the former 'island', dodging the dog walkers, and checked the marina area, main harbour and Cob Pool.

Three Wheatears were around the boulders on the shore with a Skylark flushed from the long grass.

Waders included 68 Redshank, 17 Oystercatchers, 14 Ringed Plover, 4 Knot, 12 Dunlin, a juvenile Ruff and a Black-tailed Godwit.

The Cob Pool was looking good with a fair amount of mud. This held 6 Teal, an early Wigeon, a Greenshank plus a smart adult Mediterranean Gull amongst the usual Black-headed', LBB's and Herring Gulls.

Thursday 1st September

Enjoyed a couple of hours in the sunshine in Porth Meudwy this morning.

Quite a few passerine migrants around including 2 each of Lesser Whitethroat and Whitethroat, 13 Blackcap, 14 Chiffchaff, a Willow Warbler and 4 Goldcrest. Swallows were on the move with 45 through plus 6 alba wagtails.

Three noisy Chough headed over while a Sparrowhawk was hunting the valley.

Typically, the peace was shattered by news from Bardsey of a Western Bonelli's Warbler caught and ringed on the island!