Monday, 2 July 2018

A good day at Cemlyn yesterday

I spent a few hours over at Cemlyn yesterday morning, and these are the photos I took whilst I was there. Sandwich Terns are doing well so far this year considering the colony deserted early last summer. 

Arctic Tern

Numbers were low initially at 300 pairs, but they have risen recently to over 1200 birds, which is fantastic news. Good views of Common & Arctic Terns (small numbers of each nesting) and a single Roseate Tern has been showing up sometimes. Passage waders are often around and a Black Guillemot is usually in the bay.

Sandwich tern

                            Check out the latest updates on the Cemlyn Wardens Facebook page.
Walks with a Warden: This year's wardens are Tim and Tarik. At least one of them is usually to be found                                 on the shingle ridge and will fill you in about the latest sightings. 


Hummingbird Hawk-moth

On Sundays at 2pm one of them will be leading a guided walk, starting from the West car park. This is every Sunday up to 22nd July. No booking needed, just turn up. Donation to NWWT would be welcome.

Ruby tailed Wasp

Little Egret

Sandwich terns

Sandwich tern

Anglesey and beyond: Early July update

Anglesey and beyond: Early July update

As we go into July a Quail has been heard singing on the 1st and 2nd near Cemlyn at Hen Borth in the Wheat fields. One of the first signs of Autumn is the first wave of waders that breed in the high Arctic starting to head back South. On the first of July between the Inland Sea and the Alaw Estuary there were 4 Common Sandpipers, 3 Greenshanks, 5 Bar tailed Godwits, 6 Black tailed Godwits and 26 Mediterranean Gulls near the Anchorage. A Cuckoo was seen in Trearddur Bay on the 1st July. A Hobby flew in off the Sea at Cemlyn on the 30th June which is a great record for this site.
Spring and Summer is a great time for wildlife locally. After a slow start at Cemlyn the Sandwich terns started to settle and although numbers are down on previous years there were still over 300 pairs nesting which appear to have risen to over 1200 birds as we've gone into July, plus Common and Arctic terns so there's still plenty to see and photograph. Roseate's have been seen on several occasions with 2 on the 26th June and a single the following day. Also, if you pop onto the ridge the Wardens Tim and Tarik will give you the latest up-to-date information. Two fine breeding plumaged Ruffs were a welcome sight on the lagoon at the start of June. Further afield 2 Hooded Crows were between South Stack and the Range and a single bird was at Carmel Head throughout May.
In June there was a few dozen Eiders around Puffin Island with the peak count being 32 on the 17th June. The female King Eider that over wintered at Aberdyfi was a bit further north on the 19th June. It had been photographed at Criccieth in early June. However it was also reported on the Alaw estuary on the North Anglesey coast on the 10th June by a visiting birder. It. couldn't be relocated that day or the next, but a female Common Scoter was an unusual record at the Alaw Estuary on the 11th June

This year there was quite an influx of Rose coloured Starlings into the UK.
One was at the Plantation at South Stack on the 4th June, another was at Aberffraw on the 2nd June and a pair were at Trearddur bay on the 27th May.
A Honey Buzzard drifted over Cemlyn on the 30th May, it then headed over to Wylfa before drifting over Cemaes windmill and football pitch before following the pylons to Rhogoch and away.
Other less scarce Raptors seen moving through the area included Red Kites passing over Llanerchymedd on the 5th May, over Llangefni then Benllech on the 19th May, 1 Bryngwran 4th June,1 Cors Goch 18th June, 4 Alaw estuary 24th June, 1 Cemaes 24th June, 2 Inland Sea 24th June, 2 Cemlyn Jam Factory, 26th June, 2 Benllech 25th June and 1 was over Llanfechell on the 27th June. An Osprey was photographed on the estuary at Malltraeth on the Newborough forest side on the 17th June

Photo by Daniel Owen

However on Anglesey, bird of the month was surely the female Snowy Owl that appeared along the coastal footpath between Amlwch Port and Point Lynas on the 15th June. It showed well all afternoon but was last seen that evening flying North towards Bull bay Golf course. It is thought to be the same bird that was in Pembrokeshire and the Isles of Scilly earlier on in the year.
This followed on from another exceptional record, 2 Orcas lingered off South Stack for two hours, the previous weekend on the 9th June. What an amazing sight for the lucky observers who were at South Stack that day!

On the 28th May A Marsh warbler , a rare relative of the Reed Warbler from further East in Europe popped into the marshy field near Cemlyn at Cafnan. It's probably best know for its song as it is great at mimicking other birds. We heard it copy the calls of Quail and Rosefinch, birds commoner in Eastern Europe during it's brief stay. Although there was a Rosefinch seen at Soldier's Point Holyhead briefly on the 15th May.

Wading birds of note included 2 Curlew Sandpipers at Dulas at the end of May, a Little Stint was on the Alaw estuary on the 26th May, a Wood Sandpiper was at Malltraeth RSPB on the 23rd but the most striking waders we had visiting our area this Spring were Dotterel.
There was a very confiding beautiful bird on the 10th May on the Range at South Stack and a further 3 birds had previously passed through that site on the 30th April. They nest on the mountain tops in Scotland and Scandinavia and spend the winter in the Atlas mountains of North Africa.
Offshore a pair of Pomarine Skuas passed the Range on the 16th May.

Yellow wagtails of various races passed through the Cemlyn area in May. A male Grey headed Yellow Wagtail from Scandinavia was seen on the 18th May after a fine male Black headed Yellow Wagtail had visited Hen Borth Briefly on the 6th May. The chap who spotted this bird from Eastern Europe also had an Arctic Iceland Gull from Greenland nearby on the same day. I saw the Iceland gull again on the 8th May flying over Cemaes Bay out to sea.

If you have any interesting sightings post them on twitter on the  Anglesey bird news twitter page @AngBirdNews, alternatively email me at or phone  01407 710542 ,  all the best Steve Culley.


Friday, 18 May 2018

Cemlyn, Anglesey and beyond

After a slow start Cemlyn is starting to pick up. I had a cracking summer plumaged Golden Plover and Sanderling yesterday, but more importantly the colony is starting to come to life. After predation problems last year a predator fence went up earlier this year and seems to be working- fingers crossed. The Black headed Gulls are breeding and more importantly the Sandwich terns are back on territory and getting down to breed. So it was good photo opportunities all round yesterday with Sandwich, Common and Arctic terns whizzing past my head to the background noise of the  Sandwich terns, great to hear at Cemlyn as you know Summer is on its way!
Recent records have included the following. 2 Pomarine Skuas passed the Range at South Stack on the 16th May. A Rosefinch was at Soldiers Point, South Stack briefly on the 15 th and 4 Snow Geese (1 white and 3 Blue phase) were reported briefly by the wardens at Cemlyn on the same date. A female Yellow wagtail was at Cemlyn on the 12th. On the 10th of May a cracking female Dotterel showed well on the Range at South Stack and 2 pure Hooded Crows were new in in nearby, in freshly tilled fields with Carrion Crows, White Wagtails and Wheatears. I had an Emperor Moth emerge on the 9th May. An Iceland gull flew over Cemaes Bay on the 8th May, possibly the bird seen nearby in Hen Borth on the 6th. Also on the 6th Matt Hazelton hit lucky with a cracking Black headed Wagtail at Hen Borth, a bird from Eastern Europe or beyond. He was the lucky single observer but got a nice photo of the bird. The long term escaped Golden Eagle was seen over Tregaron Bog on the 6th, so its worth keeping your eye open for that if your'e down in mid Wales. I had a Hooded Crow at Carmel head on the 6th May. On the 5th 3 Dotterel were on Foel Fras, Osprey, Marsh Harrier and Swift were at Cemlyn, and a Red Kite was between Llanerchymedd and Carmel. A drake Garganey was at Conwy on the 2nd and 3 Dotterel were on the Range at South Stack on the 30th April. Also if you are down in mid Wales, a trip to Aberaeron for the Leucistic Herring Gull is worth while, it's a cracking looking bird!

Friday, 6 April 2018

Scarce and Rare Birds in North Wales - new book

2nd print run now available as the first one sold out.  This has allowed a few corrections to be made along with additional photographs and new inside cover sketch of the Black Lark by Richard Thewlis.
it costs £16:99 local pick up or £19.99 inc p+p
320+ pages, full colour, 100+ rarity photos and more.
10% sales goes towards Bardsey BFO.
Please contact me on or @rsitsme on Twitter to order.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Welsh Red Kites at Champions of the Flyway 2018

Last week after months of planning and fundraising the Leica Welsh Red Kites (Alan, Arfon, Marc and Glam Birder) returned home from Champions of the Flyway 2018 in Eilat, dusty-eyed, shattered after several long days birding, travelling and little rest but adrenalized by so many highlights and humbling company. One huge team all coming together to help our migratory birds. Now a chance to reflect after six days of non-stop birding- too busy even to keep notes on the go.  

Champions of the Flyway is a Bird race where teams from all over the world gather to record as many species as possible within 24hrs and in a defined area of the Negev desert and around Eilat. Three prizes are awarded annually to the teams which raise the most money (The Guardians of the Flyway), see the most birds (The Champions), and raise the most Awareness (The Knights).

Here’s how it went for us:

We arrived in Tel Aviv and rushed across to the Dead Sea to join a trip to see Nubian Nightjar and Desert Tawny Owl.  Very slow car hire desks and Tel Aviv traffic meant we were late and missed out on the Nightjar but joined the trip at the site for the Tawny Owl which showed despite a huge partying scout camp nearby.  Onwards to Eilat to check-in a sleep before waking to a new country and new birds.  We stayed local and got our bearings, birding the IBRCE, canal, beach and venturing north towards K19 and K20 getting our only Greater Sand Plover and meetinf up with the Yorkshire Terriers.   We saw some breathtaking raptor migration including 1000s Steppe Buzzard, 10s Steppe Eagle and Lesser Kestrel.  We got back to the opening evening in the hotel in Eilat which was great for meeting everyone involved.  It was especially good to see how much local educational work was being done with youngsters both in Israel and Palestine.  See for more on that great work.
                                                  Welsh Kites meet Yorkshire Terriers! 
The next day the World Youth Birders kindly let us tag along on a trip to the north of the race area to recce some sites starting off with dawn at the Macqueen’s Bustard site at Nitzana adding Cream-coloured Courser and Southern Grey Shrike.  Just down the road at Ezuz we had flyover Crowned and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse with close views of Pallid Harrier, Little Owl, Hoopoe, Desert Lark, Desert Scrub Warbler, Merlin, Wryneck, and Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler. A short drive round to Nitzana Sewage works gave good views of more Crowned Sandgrouse and a few water birds.  We headed to Yeroham Lake for Syrian Woodpecker, Great Tit, Grey Wagtail, then Sde Boker and Mitzpe Ramon where we had great views of Desert Finch, then stopped for a stroll in the crater for 3 Sinai Rosefinch and an Eastern Orphean Warbler.  Last stop was Ovda Plain for larks and Wheatears where we struggled a bit but added Mourning and Desert Wheatears then time had run out- we needed to get back for the opening dinner at the IBRCE in an hour’s time!  Racing back we just about made it for the evening which was well spent finding out about the other teams involved and some great al fresco food.
                                               Celebrating Sinai Rosefinch with the Champs!

Race-day-eve was spent at a slightly slower pace where we checked out Holland Park, IBRCE, K19, 20, Yotvata before going for the information swap at the IBRCE and up to K19 for Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse at dusk before heading to bed at 8pm for 3 ½hrs rest and then back to IBRCE for 23:45 and the start at 00:00!  Those teams choosing midnight and the IBRCE congregated as the countdown took place and we raced around the hides picking up a few species on call and silhouette.  Back to the car and driving north we stopped at Kibutz to listen for Scops and Long-eared Owl then on to Nitzana for dawn where many teams were waiting for the Macqueen’s at sunrise as Crested Larks serenaded the new day.  Bustard and Courser ticked we drove the short distance to Ezuz adding Blue Rock Thrush, Little Owl, Merlin, Streaked Scrub Warbler, Blackcap, Bar-tailed Lark, fly-over Desert Finch and Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler.  We went round to the sewage tanks at Nitzana and a flock of Black-bellied Sandgrouse flew around and landed briefly whilst we added Pallid, Common and Alpine Swift, Eastern Olivaceous  and Reed Warbler, Purple Swamphen and waterbirds.  Onwards to Yeroham for Syrian Woodpecker, Nightingale, Collared Flycatcher then we dashed to the lake as 2 Whiskered Terns were joined by a Common Tern.  At Kibutz in Mitzpe Ramon we added Serin, Blackbird and flyover Long-legged Buzzard.

We were on 103 species at 11:00 and we had to decide where next.  We didn’t really have time to do Ovda and then all the sites down the highway to Eilat so we decided to miss out Ovda and headed for Yotvata, K20, 19, the crop fields and then the IBRCE and Eilat.  News broke of a White-tailed Plover at IBRCE salt pan but we were too late by the time we got there.  K20 had all the waders, both Flamingos, Pochard, Water Pipit, and a few other bits.  We got Bimaculated Larks in the crop fields and then moved down to IBRCE for more waders Little Tern and Citrine Wagtail.  We tried the beach and got White-eyed Gull and Sandwich Tern, then back to K19 for dusk were we were treated to Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse, Osprey, Collared Pratincoles zipping past with the roosting flock of hirrundines and even an Egyptian Nightjar fluttering over the tank and over our heads.  We tried the fields for the Pharaoh Eagle Owl but couldn’t find it.  That was about it for us, exhausted but still buzzing we headed to the IBRCE for the closing gathering and got our record sheets in before retiring for a sleep.

                        Marc was out the next day early (he can’t sit still or sleep for too long) birding Ofira park then we headed to the Sheeba Hotel for the race breakfast and awards.  We were delighted to be awarded the “Knights of the Flyway” accolade for raising awareness of this year’s campaign which is going towards helping Birdlife partners in Serbia (Bird Protection and Study Society of Serbia) and Croatia (Biom). The project aims to protect critically important passages in the eastern and western Mediterranean Flyways as well as the Adriatic Flyway.

The Leica Welsh Red Kites, the first team from Wales to compete, were overwhelmed with their supporters who helped them raise £10,400+ which would have been an event record but those darn snappy Yorkshire Terriers (Mark, Darren, Jono, Richard) had other ideas this year and raised a mighty £21,000!). Well done chaps. A bar-raising effort and arguably they were on for the Knights award too. Your approach and pre-race mission was admirable and unprecedented.  The World Youth Birders (John, James, Toni and Jean-Michel
) won The Champions title with a species total of 187, a competition record! Congratulations to you all.  Award ceremony done meant time for more birding.  We ambled through Holland Park but news broke of the White tailed Plover at K20 so we raced there and looked for the tell-tale crowd of onlookers but there wasn’t one.  Then from nowhere the bird appeared alongside the car allowing some amazing but brief views as it took off high to the south.  3 Broad-billed Sandpipers were also on the tanks but then news filtered of the Black Bush Robin up at Hai Bar animal park near Yotvata just 15 mins up the road so we hot-wheeled up there and were soon watching the bird zipping around the bushes in all its black and white finery.  We celebrated with an ice-cream with the Besh Birders!

                     White-tailed Lapwing phone-binned with iphone and Leica Noctivids

The thoughts of a shower and a nice meal out were thwarted by another visit to the Lichenstein’s which got us the best views yet and then another attempt at the Pharaoh Eagle Owl which we narrowly missed before retiring for a sleep before an early start on the road back to Tel Aviv for our flight home.  

Thanks to Leica for the loan of some top optics kit in the form of APO-Televid 65 scope with Gitzo Traveler tripod and Noctovid 8x42 Bins, which were well and truly put to the test and all lived up to expectations.  See product info:  

We truly hope to be back at COTF and see you all again soon. Thank you all especially the organizers and the folk at IBRCE: I know I’ve missed many out but Jonathan, Yoav, Dan, Itai, Noam, Anat and Ikram you are a top team. Keep up the amazing work.

Thank you again to all of our supporters.