Saturday, 27 April 2013

Greenland Wheatears

With some seriously black clouds promising heavy rain overnight - and the chance of a major fall - I hit Uwchmyndd shortly after dawn. Sure enough, the ornithological Gods had spoken and the Mynydd Mawr area was jumping with birds.

The most obvious species today was Northern Wheatear; with a very conservative figure of 83 feeding all over the hill and pasture. Most appeared to be big peachy Greenland-race birds. Small numbers were seen throughout the day in virtually every field in the Aberdaron area, indicating a significant regional arrival.

Offshore, a few Gannets and auks were passing through the Swnt, while overhead a trickle of hirundines and finches headed north and east. These comprised 1 Sand Martin, 5 Barn Swallow and 18 House Martin with 17 Chaffinch, 36 Goldfinch, 3 Siskin, 24 Linnet and 5 Lesser Redpoll.
Other bits and pieces included 5 Pied Wagtails, a Willow Warbler, Common Whitethroat and one of the resident psychedelically bright male Yellowhammers. If these Yellow Buntings were rare I would travel a long way to see one! Talking of rares, the Subalpine Warbler was located quickly, feeding low in the cut gorse on the hill affording excellent views to a steady stream of admirers.

Meanwhile, a single Greylag Goose flew north - good local year tick. If any readers suggest I have gone mad, then just get yourself a local patch, visit it regularly... and you will understand the relative importance of all species!  

A singing Lesser Whitethroat, plus a few phylloscs and Blackcaps, made the walk down Porth Meudwy worthwhile.

It would have been rude to pass the Aberdaron Woodchat without a quick look as it had been reported earlier in the day. Unfortunately, a couple of over-enthusiastic twitchers had walked down into the field for better views and pushed it away. Having suggested that it was better to keep the local farmer happy by keeping on the public rights of way, and to give the bird some space they both graciously agreed to retrace their steps. I saw a few photographers pushing the bird along the roadside fence in the week and think it's worth reminding people that great views can be obtained as it works it's feeding circuit by simply staying at your vehicle.

The shrike was not seen in the time I was present, although two Brown Hares in an adjacent field were some consolation.

As well as the Wheatear fall, residents, migrants and year-ticks it was great to meet a few old and new birding acquaintances today.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Scarce Migrants

Busy with computer problems lately, hence another tardy update. So first some old news.

I returned for another grilling of the Subalpine Warbler and eventually caught up with the Woodchat last Sunday when the rain finally eased and the sun came out in the afternoon.

I had the pleasure of meeting up with several birders on site including Steve Culley, Martin Jones, Eddie, Phil Belman, Austin Morley and Scott Reid. 

Phil has kindly forwarded the following image of the warbler lurking in the gorse.

Scott was good enough to send the shrike photo. What a cracking bird!

Thanks to both of you and please note the images are copyright the photogrpahers.

Five Lesser Redpoll and 15 Goldfinch showed at point blank range on the feeders from the excellent little conservatory cafe at the Ty Newydd Caravan & Campsite at Uwchmynydd. The tea and fruit cake were pretty good too - well worth calling in!

Tuesday produced my first Tree Pipit, Swift and Grasshopper Warbler of the year at Uwchmynydd, several lovely Yellowhammers and a female/immature Merlin amongst other birds.

Today dawned rather moist and became increasingly so until early afternoon when the rain moved through and conditions eased. The Subalp was feeding actively at Mynydd Mawr with four Common Whitethroat and 13 Willow Warblers part of a mini-fall dotted around the walls and hillside.

Hirundines comprised 18 Barn Swallow, 20 House Martin and 3 Swifts. The passage of Goldfinches was still evident with another 10 north and 11 Siskins.

Some idiot has burnt a fairly large chunk of the mountain overnight (probably an acre or so) with the gorse still smouldering and a few distressed looking Stonechats and Meadow Pipits dotted about with 8 Greenland Wheatears.

On the positive side, it was good to locate a pod of 18+ Harbour Porpoise feeding in the Bardsey Sound. Porps are virtually guaranteed here but it's the largest number I've encountered for a long time - the figure above is probably an underestimate as they were popping up all over the place.

A quick check of the fence lines resulted in me locating the Woodchat again at Aberdaron early evening, ranging the fields south of the road.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Aberdaron Woodchat

Well yet again an influx of birders produces the goods. A visiting Subalp twitcher discovered a male Woodchat Shrike on roadside wires on the way out of Aberdaron today. Bird was by the main B4413 road at Hendre until mid-evening at SH184277.

I've been busy out of the area and had my phone switched off all day so was pleasantly surprised to hear about it later. Unfortunately, after dealing with my other commitments I didn't manage to arrive at the site until the sun was getting low and presume the bird had gone to roost but hope it will be around tomorrow.

Have to wonder if anyone managed to get any photos of the beast?  

Subalpine Warbler

Well this blog seems to have been deep frozen like some of the awful weather we have had the last few months but after a warm Spring afternoon (and some encouragement from a few readers ) it is slowly defrosting. Friday's good local patch find is more inspiration to get the blog rolling again....

I'd started the morning with a wander around Mynydd Mawr, noting a few good birds - mostly diurnal migrants - passing through A steady passage of hirundines was apparent: 40+ Barn Swallow, 27 House Martin and 8 Sand Martin A constant trickle of Meadow Pipits, the odd alba wagtail, 5 Chaffinch, 25 Goldfinch, 4 Siskin and 11 Linnet all powered north The highest numbers of Northern Wheatear so far this year (36) were scattered around the heath, including several peachy Greenland race birds and there was a handful of Willow Warblers in odd places.

Systematic counting was put on hold around midday when I noticed a small bird that seemed to flash blue drop into a small bramble patch alongside the big square field by the lower car park. Having waited 5 minutes for it to reappear I walked up to the brambles (all of 2m square) and found a Dunnock popping out. Oh well, my mistake? Surely "it" was smaller than the offending accentor, and a spot of pishing was in order. At which point a superb Subalpine Warbler poked it's head out then flew along the fence line. Bingo! After years of records virtually every year from a certain small island only a couple of miles away it was good to connect with this lovely Sylvia on the mainland.

The bird showed extremely well all afternoon, feeding actively, flycatching and dozing off at times, and a small band of admirers turned up. Good to see you guys. The plumage, calls and song seem to point towards it being an adult male of the western race, S.c.cantillans. (Edit - it's a 2nd calendar year male). There's a series of nice images by Phil Bellman over at this website.