Monday, 12 March 2012

Chiffchaffs and Choughs

Inspired by the settled weather I focused on 'the patch' today, starting with a few hours around Mynydd Mawr, Uwchmynydd. Despite the cool cloudy morning it was dead calm and the swirling waters of the Swnt were as beautiful as ever. A few gulls and auks were passing through plus a single Harbour Porpoise.

Wandering up and around the mountain a few alba wagtails, Chaffinch and Siskins (totallt 10) were noted on migration while a couple of Yellowhammers and Linnet were singing from the gorse. Between 4-6 Chough were showing well including two of colour-ringed birds. A couple of visiting birders reported the long-staying Surf Scoter still at Porth Dinllaen this morning plus they encountered a flock of 13 Brent Geese there last night - a good record for the peninsula.

Porth Meudwy felt positively spring-like with a vocal flycatching Chiffchaff near the car park and hordes of honey bees around the willow catkins plus the odd Bumblee sp zooming about these and the first Primroses of the year. Various birds were marking out territory inc two pairs of Goldcrest while a kettle of eight Buzzards were overhead.

One of the highlight of today was finding a beautiful Long-tailed Tit nest in a dense bramble patch. The adults were finishing off the building work with a spot of interior decorating - in the form of loads of feathers which are used to line this lichenous dome. I've read the remarkable statistics about the number of cobwebs, lichen, moss and feathers involved in the construction of these amazing residences and I've only seen a few in the past so was well pleased to witness this. It seemed very early - checking BWP it states that they breed from late March so probably not that remarkable.

I had the pleasure of bumping into Eddie the Urbanski birder and located another singing Chiffchaff before departing to check Aberdaron beach. A Peacock butterfly whizzed past while the loafing gulls held no surprises and the bay was dead.

Next stop was a Little Owl site (scored) on the way to the minor road overlooking Cors Geirch near Rhyd-y-clafdy. Eddie confidently predicted both Stock Dove and Green Woodpecker and after a long wait in the broken sunshine he delivered with a calling Yaffle and at least four Stock Doves including a brief singing bird.

Whilst driving home late afternoon I encountered a huge gathering of Ravens at Saithbont near Botwnnog. At least 51 were in and around the sheep pasture here before some headed off north, presumably to roost. With many local birds already busy nest building, and, according to Derek Ratcliffe's superb monograph The Raven, virtually all on eggs by 24 March throughout the U.K. it is interesting to speculate that these are presumably non-breeding flocks (Ravens don't start breeding until at least two years old and most are probably older).  There's always plenty of Ravens around Saithbont and what draws them here in particular is yet another mystery of nature.

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