Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Backyard Birding

More high pressure dominating the weather in Rhiw tody. Cold, grey and strangely calm with a milky sun breaking through at times late afternoon, hinting at some warm spring sunshine sometime soon. Bardsey/Ynys Enlli disappearing in and out of the mist... and a few interesting birds around the house.

Flyovers (a mixture of both residents and presumed migrants) included 6 Redwing and a Grey Wagtail to the east, a single Meadow Pipit,  two Red-billed Chough and both Woodcock and Common Snipe at dusk. A Green Woodpecker yaffled from the fields north of me with a calling Yellowhammer in the same area while a Little Owl was vocal from the adjacent cloddiau. Pretty typical peninsula birds but as nice as ever.

Monday, 25 February 2013

I need a Horse

And I'm not talking a Shergar burger. The other day I managed to break even my own enviable record for vehicle breakdowns, hence the consideration of an equine substitute.

Last week I had taken the car to the garage for a new exhaust as there were more temporary welds than pipe left and picked it up on Thursday. Forty minutes later (!), while off on a shopping trip the bloody thing refused to change gear and I was stuck in 4th on the A499. There then followed another garage visit, 24 hours of gearbox behaving, another failure, a lift home form the AA and now major surgery for the beast. Fingers crossed.

So I've been walking and bussing it and seen a few things on the way. Saturday last took me around Aberdaron and Rhoshirwaun then back home. A moulting adult Mediterranean Gull was between the two villages with a vocal Golden Plover and five Common Snipe overhead then a Short-eared Owl again on Mynydd Rhiw during a brief flurry of snow. Today the Pwllheli heronry at Pont Solomon was busy with several birds on nests and some building work occurring. A Lesser Redpoll was over the Cob Pool with a Reed Bunting calling away.

At troubling transport-less times like these I'm glad I'm not a serious UK lister as there are some very nice birds around, from a Pied-billed Grebe in Somerset to a Harlequin Duck in the Outer Hebrides. Although I've tried it, duck twitching is not really my thing. Years ago I met a very keen premiership twitcher who was studying at Bangor University and he mentioned the possibility of sharing a lift (and fuel costs) to a few birds if I required. A breathless phone call from him about a Redhead on a lake in the Midlands followed or was it about a Bufflehead? I forget. Both these web-footed prizes were available over a matter of a few months. Words like 'underwhelmed' came to mind. The general idea was to drop everything and stare at tarmac for hours before hopefully connecting with a couple of dodgy possible escapee wildfowl. Having seen Redhead, Canvasback et al at a private backyard collection in Sheffield years ago I refused the offer of a lift.

Sometime later the next call was regarding a possible car-share to view not one - but two - Harlequins that had turned up somewhere in Scotland. Now he really had my attention and the adrenaline was pumping. I then asked if these real wildfowl were males or females and remember the shock in his voice when I again declined a tick on finding out they were a couple of girls. Give me a stunning drake Harlequin on a winter seawatch past Porth Ysgaden one day! Funnily enough the phone calls ended after this last refusal.

I've kept my listing gearbox in selective mode ever since... essentially it's got to be very special or of great local interest to get me racing around like a headless chicken. The Abersoch Royal Tern from a few years ago springs to mind and ticks both boxes. Roll on the next one...

Monday, 18 February 2013

Short-eared Owls

I was working outside this afternoon, contemplating piles of timber and tools, when out of the corner of my eye I noticed something breaking the horizon by the Wireless Station up on Clip y Gylfinhir, Mynydd Rhiw. It simply 'did not look right', triggering a race across the yard for my binoculars - a sprint known to all ornithologists!

A first glimpse as the bird rounded the hill then my suspicions were confirmed as the Short-eared Owl reappeared, quartering over the young gorse and heather in it's search for food.. A little while later a party of walkers flushed a second bird in the same area. It's always a delight to see these fine birds, which I've encountered regularly on the heathland around the village during the winter months.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Belated Bittern

I've just heard a very convincing report of a Bittern at Cors Geirch last week courtesy of Eddie. His mate was working a JCB on the edge of the marsh and described seeing a "heron sized bird, many shades of brown with a yellowish bill that was standing in a ditch before walking into the reeds". About as convincing a description as it gets! 

Cors Geirch is a great site but access is extremely difficult with just the odd track and footpath crossing it. Even the old bird hide there is completely overgrown. It would be great if CCW improved access - who knows what passes through unnoticed.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Porth Dinllaen Diver

Firstly, apologies for the long delayed blog update. I may as well have hibernated during December and January which seems to be memorable for horrible wet weather, a nasty cold virus and a lack of serious birding apart from lots of garden observations and the odd trip here and there. Check my twitter account for more regular missives from the field.

Anyway, less excuses. Today started well with a fine Brambling at the garden feeding station plus 30+ Chaffinch.

This afternoon I met up with Eddie and had a walk out to Porth Dinllaen in what I can only describe as a WNW gale. Expressions like "sandblasted" came to mind although there's always some protection by one of the holiday cottages to scope the bay. The objective was to check for any storm-driven seabirds sheltering in the amazing natural harbour and we had some success. The highlight was a fine Great Northern Diver which was busy munching crabs in the style of last winter's Surf Scoter. A couple of Red-throated Divers were in the area plus a party of seven Great Crested Grebes which were roosting in a tight group. Many of these birds were moulting into breeding plumage.

Small parties of Guillemots were passing offshore (although no Little Auks were picked out) while two Ravens flew past the headland with one carrying what appeared to be a golf ball!

A small gull roost comprised a couple of hundred each of Common' & Black-headed' with the odd Herring Gull. A handful of Lesser Black-backed Gulls have been passing through Pwllheli in the last few weeks although the harbour has been relatively quiet otherwise. Roll on spring!