Sunday, 8 January 2012

Arctic Gulls

This morning dawn broke calmish and murky. A thick mizzle soon came down and everything became a bit moist. The lens cloth was soon in action as I began by checking Llanengan (virtually bird-free), Abersoch (fog bound and even worse) and then on to Pwllheli.

Reaching Pont Solomon a quick perusal of the traditional heronry saw a big pile of freshly plucked sticks on one of the renovated nests and a soggy adult roosting above it. So no eggs yet but it won't be long hopefully.

A couple of Little Egrets continued the heron theme - feeding in the harbour, and I managed to catch the tide just as it began to drop. The wader tribe comprised: 13 Oystercatcher, 10 Ringed Plover, 3 Knot, 215 Dunlin, 3 Bar-tailed Godwit, 2 Curlew and 47 Redshank. Otherwise, there was little to report although any sensible bird would have been keeping it's head down out of the precipitation.

Calling at Aberdesach the conditions began to improve and the hills of Yr Eifl began to emerge from the clouds. Three Great Northern Divers fished here plus a few distant Red-throated Divers and a handful of Mergansers.

I'd heard reports of an Iceland Gull at Pontllyfni but intended to continue further up the coast as time was limited. Imagine my surprise as I had split second distant view of what might have been a 1w Glaucous in a gull flock as I drove past. Finding a safe parking space I scanned back but the bird was gone inland... 

Next stop was Foryd Bay. Scanning from the hide at the south end produced a nice selection of waders (n.b. Greenshank), wildfowl (big flocks of Wigeon, the odd Goldeneye and a smart flock of 105 Pintail) then the target bird - a female/1w Smew that was feeding in close association with a Merganser (synchronised dives) in the main channel.

I then spoke to Rhys Jones who informed me of three different white-winged gulls between Pontllyfni and Dinas Dinlle yesterday so I rapidly changed my plans and headed back to meet him. Both Dipper and Grey Wagtail were on the river by the bridge as we headed down to the beach. Here big numbers of gulls, plus a few more Great Northerns' and pair of Goosander were seen.

The gulls were skittish - flushing at great distance but eventually, with the help of Reg Thorpe, we managed to relocate all three of the Arctic gulls; a smart adult and a lovely 1w Iceland and a very pale 1w type Glaucous. There's photos and more details here and here. Ten Chough dropped in to feed by the beach briefly as I crossed the river (wellies advisable) and headed back to the car.

Later I did a spot of hunter gathering in Tesco Bangor and as the store closed and the cars rapidly dissappeared they were replaced by a pre-roost gathering of 46 Pied Wagtails spread across the tarmac. A nice end to a good day.

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