Greetings blog followers and apologies for the delay in updating.
As I get older the back end of winter seems to drag on ever more, almost to the point where I think it will never be over... especially grey, damp ones like the latter (give me a snow bound, frosty one any day) and the birding is generally unexciting... then all of a sudden the birds are clearing their throats and displaying like crazy, the lambs are frolicking and the Lesser Celandines are brightening up the slowly greening hedge bottoms reminding me that I'll be complaining about the heat haze and midges soon enough.
To be honest I've not done a huge amount of birding lately and the little I've seen has been unremarkable; a trip to Anglesey resulted in a Whooper Swan at Llyn Rhos-ddu, Peregrine and Pintails at Malltraeth etc... Chough and Ravens in Rhiw... hardly earth-shattering news but still very nice.
One highlight of the last few weeks was a day long workshop where Martin Garner (of the Birding Frontiers blog and book fame) gave us an advanced gull ID workshop - both in the classroom at Conwy RSPB reserve and at various sites along the coast. Despite the lack of large gull action - and dodgy weather - a good day was had; the undoubted highlight was watching tens of thousands of mostly Common Scoter, but also a few Velvets and at least two drake Surf Scoter and a few flocks of Red-throated Divers off Pensarn, a truly incredible sight as the birds were flushed by one of the Rhyl Flats wind farm service boats. Marc Hughes has done a fine write-up over at the 'We Bird North Wales' forum.
Yesterday took me to Pwllheli where I did the WeBS Count a day early. Not a lot to report with many wintering species moving off to their breeding areas. Wader numbers were down ( inc 36 Redshank, 8 Bar-tailed Godwits and c25 Dunlin) although I would have been happier if the probable Whimbrel that flew off had called to confirm it's identity or or given me a better look at it. Duck numbers well also down (28 Wigeon and 13 Teal), although gulls are still moving through with a few hundred Herring' and 39 Lesser Black-backed.
Pont Solomon was rewarding as ever with six adult Grey Herons cackling away and indulging in a bit of prancing around the nests, giving excellent views to the small group of admirers. The wealth of wildlife right in the middle of Pwllheli always amazes me and whenever I turn up at this roadside heronry with optics the passing locals always queue up for a look through the scope and enquire how "their birds" are doing and/or give me an update on what's been happening.
With settled weather - at last - the destination this morning was Black Rock Sands, Morfa Bychan. I reckoned that the best time to visit would be around high tide (mid-morning) as the hordes of seaduck would be close inshore.
I parked up by the new holiday chalets near the top of Graig Ddu and got comfortable on the rock. Although there was a dirty great lump of cloud enveloping the mountains visibility was not too bad with some broken sunshine out to the SW and flat calm seas.
Unfortunately, the first thing I noticed on the water was a jet-ski, then another... plus a small RIB boat... then some water ski-ers... as I sat there cussing to myself a micro-light drowned out my expletives, while the beach was strewn with cars, dogs and people. Not good. Yes, I made a mental note to self: best not to visit here on a Sunday monring at dude o'clock!
Fortunately, some seaduck action was available, albeit with a certain degree of eyestrain and the trusty old Swarovski scope zoomed up to the max; the flotilla of birds were several kilometres away, mostly out towards Harlech. Highlight was a cracking drake Long-tailed Duck with at least three Eiders (a female and two immature males) mixed in the mass of 490+ Common Scoter. It was great to watch some parties of scoter displaying - the males flicked their heads back and jerked their necks skywards followed by a bit of tail waggling and a quick attempt to moonwalk across the water - hilarious! A few Great Grested Grebes and Red-throated Divers were also scattered across the bay.
Rhys popped by later after finishing his WeBS count on the Glaslyn and picked up another flyby female Long-tailed Duck plus a Harbour Porpoise - allegedly - as I failed to see it.
I headed back towards home, calling in at Afonwen where the sea was remarkably quiet apart from a flock of 24 Red-breasted Mergansers then Pwllheli, where the harbour was full of a similar selection of birds to yesterday i.e.mostly common stuff - Wigeon, waders and common gulls but the blast of sunshine and a Skylark singing it's heart out was most welcome.