Thursday, 3 May 2012

Tardy Fieldfare

What a difference a few days make weather wise. After the weekend's freezing deluge temperatures have risen remarkably and the winds have settled down. After a few showers overnight I arrived at Porth Meudwy on a mild, dry morning, with a slight easterly breeze and some broken strato-cumulus.

Some nice surprises today, nothing rare but as any local patch worker will understand, the arrival of migrants, a greater awareness of resident species and the occasional unusual record is what makes regular visits to any site so rewarding - no matter where you are!  I've had the good fortune to work a great number of areas over the years from sub-urban parks, woods and farmland, upland plantations and moors, rugged mountain rivers and lakes and various stretches of coast and I value the understanding that comes from getting to know a site and it's wildlife intimately more than any other aspect of birding.

First off was a large thrush glimpsed as it flew away from me near Cwrt. Fortunately I relocated this (or another) further down the valley later and confirmed it's identity as it began chacking in typical Fieldfare style from the top of an Ash tree. It's been ages since I've recorded any of the winter thrushes down here.

Small parties of Barn Swallow were slowly drifting across, probably 20 birds in total, followed by a Swift then a vocal Tree Pipit. The Blackcap count came to 13 birds while a Garden Warbler was another year-tick and two Grasshopper Warblers reeled away. A singing Lesser Whitethroat was new in (with another in Aberdaron village later) while a couple of Common Whitethroats were on territory. Phylloscopus warblers seemed to be down with only 17 Chiffchaff and 6 Willow Warblers plus a couple of Goldcrest.

Many resident species were busy singing and Goldfinch seemed to be doing this from virtually every part of the valley with several small parties bouncing around hyper-actively. A cool monotone Stock Dove dropped in (possibly my first site record - hazy memory!), but scarce on the peninsula always. Has anyone else had them here?

Finally, two pairs of Bullfinch were seen plus five Siskin and three Lesser Redpoll passed through.

A flying (non-birding) visit to Pwllheli late afternoon found me connecting with my first singing Reed Warbler of the year on the Cob Pool while a Whimbrel was calling high overhead.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

A Little Tern Action

Great to hear a Common Whitethroat rattling away in the garden this morning plus a trickle of Barn Swallows throughout the area. Car was fixed this afternoon - at last, so sped off towards Porthmadog for provisions and a wild Sterna hunt. Weather was absolutely lovely for a change with warm broken sunshine, cool breeze and a few showers later.

Walking along the Cob, I noticed a half-dozen Northern Wheatears and a few Rock Pipits. A female Merlin whizzed over spooking the waders and gulls. I met another serious local patch obsessive - Elfyn Lewis - and got stuck into some distant tern action. Flocks of Arctic Terns were heading in off the sea to the confluence of the rivers Glaslyn and Dwyryd and dropping down to bathe and roost on the sandbanks. Occasionally groups would fly high up, head inland a bit, then circle back, 'chickening out' of going inland (or sussing out routes for later?). At one point I counted 123 individuals but with distant views and much activity there could have been many more.

I always find it completely mind-blowing to consider the migratory feats of these birds!

To quote Pat Monaghan, writing in the monumental B.T.O. Migration Atlas 

"The Arctic Tern moves on a global scale, performing the most remarkable and extensive migratory journeys undertaken by any bird... It breeds north to higher latitudes than any other tern.... In the non-breeding season it heads south to the Antarctic seas.... involving a return, straight-line journey of 20,000 km"

What a traveller! I also saw a single Little Tern with one flock and Elfyn had another earlier although there was no sign of any of the previous evening's Black Terns.

A flock of 35 Eiders were a surprise in flight way out towards Morfa Harlech (with another group of 21 that might possibly have been different birds?). More regular these days was the spectacle of a male Osprey hunting over the marshes - and our heads - for at least 30 minutes - what great views of a brilliant bird!

At least nine Bar-tailed Godwit included four absolutely stunning brick red summer plumage males while other waders included a few Dunlin and 34 Whimbrel, with several small parties heading inland. Finally, my first Swift of the year headed over - a nice end to a great couple of hours of avian action.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012


Been stressing with car problems for the last few days with unhealthy noises from the engine. Shame as it seems like Bardsey has been enjoying some decent birds (as usual!)... wonder what I've been missing in the valley? Got my mechanic to finally have a look at it today and the diagnosis is not as bad as I thought and was given the all clear to do some limited motoring while I wait for the part to arrive.

Headed to town afternoon and enjoyed a few waders (see my Twitter feed). Whimbrels are cool birds - love the sound they make!

With the weather still feeling ripe for a good grounding of migrants, and the heavy showers easing up, I drove 'down the end' for a couple of hours. Phylloscs were popping out of the hedges all the way to Mynydd Mawr while a party of Northern Wheatears exploded out of the car park on arrival.

The next thing I saw was a soggy female Whinchat. Despite various attempts to digiscope this, the Wheatears and one of the three singing Yellowhammers in the area I eventually gave up as the little blighters would not stay still and the battery died on the camera. Grrrr - what did I say - I hate digiscoping!

An obvious arrival of 28 Wheatears were noted in the small area around the lower car park and heath above St Marys Well, 12 White Wagtails flew east, a Brown Hare bounded along and three House Martin and four Swallow passed over. A Blackcap in the gorse looked out of place while a couple more were in the hedge near Safn Pant with a party of 15 Goldfinch and a few Willow Warblers and Chiffchaff.