Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Wood Lark Dip

There was a young man called Marc
Who went out and found a Wood Lark
(on my patch!)
He told me, I twitched it, then sadly I dipped it
So now I'm gonna punch his face off....


But (gggggggrrrrrrrr), it is a teeny weeny bit gripping when a One Man Bird Observatory turns up and finds stuff that I should have!

The fact that Mr Hughes was actually out looking (rather than limping around in recovery mode after a particularly spine-bending yoga class the night before while contemplating a day of meaningless toil) probably helps to explain his good fortune. Plus the fact that he's a bloody good birder. Nice find - they're a scarce Welsh migrant - and it could have been a lot worse (think Calandra worse).

The bird was seen in flight between the Ty Newydd Campsite and the end cattle grid onto Mynydd Mawr then landed in the weedy field adjacent to the lower car park but was not relocated. Having dashed along (all of 17 minutes on the road) I discovered that there were loads of birds on the move - Starlings, Jackdaws, hundreds of Chaffinches, Reed Buntings, Siskins and a few Brambling and began kicking myself for not getting out earlier.

So never mind, lesson learned and to be honest I don't really need Wood Lark on the patch - having heard one over Mynydd Mawr a few years ago that pitched down on Bardsey 20 minutes later. I was still stuck in the wires from my Sennheiser when I received the news from the island, having managed to pull the microphone lead out from my MiniDisc while simultaneously attempting to hit the record button and fit my headphones - becoming hopelessly entangled while trying to reconnect. Fortunately my Anglo-Saxon expletives were not recorded at the time. I tend to keep the record button on these days...

Fortunately, the interloper will be heading off back to the Great Orme soon - leaving the hardcore Lleyn Birder(s) to soldier on, probably counting Jackdaws... PS he also had at least two Firecrests in Porth Meudwy.

Good for him...;-)

Monday, 29 October 2012

Merlin, Firecrest & Jay

First off, apologies for the lack of updates. I simply have not got round to it! Any readers left?

It's been a truly beautiful autumn morning. The weather was dry, calm and cool with the sun slowly breaking through a veil of cloud over the bulk of Cadair Idris, making for a  nice start to the day.

My attention turned once more to migrant counting at Uwchmynydd and a fine Merlin dashed across the road on arrival. Unfortunately, after an hour I gave up disappointed with low numbers of birds on the move. Click on the image below for the details:

Good to bump into Marc Hughes aka MarcBuzzard (and definitely worth a follow on Twitter) who joined me for a while and then had a wander around the area, finding a Woodcock near Ty Newydd Campsite.

Selected species in Porth Meudwy included: Great Spotted Woodpecker, 28 Blackbird, a Fieldfare, 10 Redwing, one Mistle Thrush, two Blackcap and three Chiffchaff. A flyover migrant Jay was being pressured by the local Crows to continue. A couple of Brambling called overhead while Marc picked up a Lapland Bunting on the move with a flock of Skylarks.

Finally, a brilliant male Firecrest ( a new bird or is t the same one hanging around?) was found just below the Tir Glyn campsite.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Aerial Plovers

I could watch Golden Plover flocks all day, especially when they take to the wing. This is when they're transformed from the shy, slow moving waders of open grassland and moors to sky dancers; often circling endlessly across the sky back and forwards from horizon to horizon. Whenever I see them - and even more so when I hear them - I'm taken back to wilder landscapes than the farmland that dominates so much of the peninsula.

From searching for golden-spangled breeding birds on long hot May days, across upland bogs white with Cottongrass, high above the Derwent Valley in Derbyshire's lovely Peak District, to watching resting flocks of autumn migrants on Unst - the most northerly of the Shetland Isles - they've always been a delight to encounter. A flock of c.100 circling the Llanengan floods late afternoon today were as captivating as ever.

A single adult Mediterranean Gull, 47 Teal, 16 Wigeon and 60 Curlew were virtually the only other birds present but the Goldies stole the show.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012


It's been a rather cold, dull and wet day but a fine Redwing calling over the house - my first this autumn - was a good start.

Later, I had a message from Steve Stansfield reporting a Citrine Wagtail on Bardsey - first for the island, and probably another one to add to my 'flown over the house' list...

Anyway, this is a bit of a late post, but the avian excitement yesterday on the mainland was probably just a statistically significant Jackdaw movement ;-p as witnessed by yours truly at Mynydd Mawr. I see by using the 'Migration Pattern' page of Trektellen that there were some big numbers moving in Europe. If you're as fascinated by migration as me and have never had a play with this remarkable database then get on the case (or throw your binoculars away). Full count from yesterday below:

With a relatively uneventful session on the hill I called into Porth Meudwy for a quick look on my way home. First surprise was a group of eight Mistle Thrushes by the car park, my highest count here, as was a flock of 17 Magpies (presumably a post-roost group).

Other selected species included; two Grey Wagtail, six Blackbird, 13 Robin, 10 Blackcap, three Chiffchaff, 17 Goldcrest, a single Coal Tit, a flock of 10 Red-billed Chough over to the east, Lesser Redpoll, Bullfinch, Reed Bunting and a flyover Common Snipe. 

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Continental Jays?

I set the alarm for another unearthly hour and was rewarded by a brilliant starscape and silver moon on waking. The ritual of breakfast, gathering food, flask, optics etc was quickly over and I was out on the road again, heading west. After some very heavy showers the morning dawned dry and cold with the wind in the northwest and expectations high.

Visible migration was again on the agenda but sadly the results were a little disappointing - click the Trektellen screengrab below for full details:

The two Jays were seen by an unknown birder who I met in Porth Meudwy after completing the count where I was pleased to see another couple of these smart corvids - presumably they're Continental birds as big numbers are presently being reported from both sides of the North Sea.

With the sun hitting the top of the valley after a cold night plenty of birds were busy flycatching and eating the blackberries, haws and elderberries. Blackcaps were most evident with 19 logged plus a total of three Chiffchaff. I was fortunate enough to refind both the Yellow-browed Warbler and the male Firecrest and was able to view both from the same location at one point (in the bottom section of the valley in the willows by the stream). By this time the sun was really warming the place up and it tuned out to be a gorgeous day.

Overhead, hirundines were passing through with 19 Barn Swallow and 25 House Martin. While watching these a group of Common Buzzads were located very high up in the clouds (two adults and four 1st years - presumably also on the move).

The usual suspects were around the valley including twenty Robins, two Blackbirds and a single Song Thrush were also seen. Where are all the Redwings and Fieldfares? Very late arriving this year. Small groups of Chaffinch were again dropping in, a Lesser Redpoll buzzed overhead and a few more Skylarks headed over. A couple of Coal Tits could also have been migrants as they were the first I've seen here for a while.

After bumping into Eddie again I was relieved when he connected with the Yellow-browed' before we had a drive around Uwchmynydd, checking Pwll Cyw (quiet apart from a few Goldcrests, Chiffchaff and a nearby Northern Wheatear) and Ystolhelyg. A nice Red Kite was a bonus bird drifting overhead. After dropping him back in the valley an Adder slithered across the track as I departed.

On reaching home received a message that a probable Richard's Pipit was at Porth Colomon today (no further details) and a Firecrest was at the crossroads by Ffynnon Saint just west of Aberdaron. This was still showing late afternoon.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Leaf Warblers

Fooled by a bad weather forecast I was up later than planned to a cold, mostly grey but dry morning. I reckoned that a quick look in the valley would be a good idea and arrived mid-morning.

Immediately it was obvious that there were a few more migrants around than yesterday with several thrushes exploding out of the dense cover and several pulses of Barn Swallows moving NE, totalling 141 birds.

A fine Peregrine (always a delight to see) zoomed over, spooking a flock of Herring Gulls. Then I finally connected with what has been a site 'bogey bird' for a very long time as I heard then saw a stonking male Firecrest make it's way quickly down the valley. I've seen and found several of these lovely 'crests in various parts of North Wales over the years (even in my old garden) but, despite many historical records, I'd never actually seen one in Porth Meudwy. I was here with Jesse Wilkinson once who called one just yards from me but as I reached him the bloody thing disappeared (same thing happened with a Barred Warbler a few years ago). So, finally I connected (and I take back all the malicious rumours I have spread about the veracity of some of the historical accounts)!

Total counts of selected species (for those who are interested) were: 15 Robin, five Blackbird, six Song Thrush, six Blackcap, three Chiffchaff, 17 Goldcrest, 7 Blue Tit (not quite Falsterbo but I had to include this for Eddie who's only interested in common birds), a few Chaff', Gold' & Bullfinch plus a couple of Siskin.

I was chatting at the cove with Idwal, one of the local lobsterfishermen, about various things he'd seen during a lifetime at sea locally (Sunfish , balls of Herring, countless dolphins etc) when he mentioned a turtle (presumed Leatherback') that he saw powering through the Bardsey Sound some 40 years ago. As he put it "I told no one then, as we did not know about turtles in the area... and I thought I might get locked up in a small room!". He was not insane - what a lucky chap!

Anyway, the Urbanski Birder then arrived at record speed after my text about the Firecrest and we proceeded to work our way back up the track. While checking various things out I noticed a small green warbler - Yellow-browed! Another great bird. Unfortunately, I could not get Eddie on to it as the thing dropped into cover and failed to re-emerge in the next half hour. This was the 7th or 8th one of these cracking little Sibes that I've (co-)found in the valley over the years but I've a special affection for them and every one is a total delight to see and hear. Four hours after arriving I set off home a happy birder... 

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Bird of the Day

Here's a screenshot from the amazing Trektellen website detailing the species I counted at Mynydd Mawr this morning. Apologies if the text is a little small (simply click on the image for a full screen version).

Anyway, as can be seen there was some fantastic passage - at several points I simply did not know where to look as the sky was full of birds.

Although I saw no rare or scarce birds today (although a brief blast of probable Lapland Bunting was just too distant to confirm) it really was worth the early start. Bird of the day was a single vocal Rook that headed purposefully out over the Irish Sea towards Ynys Enlli and beyond! The great thing about vis migging here is that best is yet to come as numbers of migrants increase steadily as the autumn progresses.

After walking up and around the mountain (noting a few Chough, Northern Wheatear and more Mipits) I worked my way back down along the road. Another Grey Wagtail, a Barn Swallow and Yellowhammer were by Pwll Bron-llwyn at Llanllawen, the small pool and willows at Ystolhelyg were heaving with Goldcrests (12+) then the valley beckoned.

As I arrived at Porth Meudwy I bumped into Eddie again and we spent the rest of the afternoon walking down, along the coast to Porth Simdde then back along past Cwrt, before doing the valley again! It felt promising but despite a thorough examination of the cake there was no icing on it so to speak.

A party of 15 Barn Swallows zipped overhead, a couple of Rock Pipits were by the cove,19 Robin, four Blackbird, three Song Thrush, three Blackcap, three Chiffchaff and eight Goldcrest were in the valley with three Bullfinch but, surprisingly, little else.

Porth Simdde held a few more Blackbirds and four Blackcap while a couple more Wheatears were on one of the ploughed fields at Cwrt where the Little Owl was again sunning itself at the window inside one of the outbuildings! With a couple of Yellow-browed Warblers seen on Enlli and one ringed at Penygroeslon today and a change in the weather, with the rain beating down as I write this things seem promising for a decent arrival in the next few days. Fingers crossed...