Thursday, 30 August 2012

Rhos Point

A seawatch over high tide this morning at Rhos Point produced a juv long tailed skua, 3 poms, 6 arctic skuas, 2 bonxies, 7 black terns and a red throated diver plus 50+ manxies along with kittiwakes, fulmars, gannets, c300 common scoter, c50 dunlin flybys, and plenty of sandwich terns.

Seawatch surprises!

Seawatching proved good off the Ormes this am with LT Skuas, Balearic Shearwaters and lots of commoner stuff. A Long tailed Duck was a good record. These were slightly eclipsed by news from Co Mayo of a Black Skimmer past The Mullet!!! Alan and Ruth

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Patching pays off - Greenish Warbler!

Got a real adrenaline rush this morning. I met up with Karl Lawson for an early morning jaunt around the limestones. 2 Wheatear, a Swift and Grey Wagtail were a good sign that a few things were on the move. As we reached the hawthorns we were greeted by the sight of Pete Alderson running up the track towards us - he had seen a bright warbler fly over his head and into a bush. We waited for ten minutes with no sight or sound of anything and began to talk about moving on. Suddenly the bright warbler darted out and disappeared low into the next hawthorn - this looked interesting. As we waited a Willow Warbler and Goldrest appeared, but perseverance paid off when the bird in question popped out to the top of the bush- a small bright warbler with a square peaked forehead revealing a cracking supercilium and best of all a nice bright wingbar! A few expletives were heard as Pete and I locked onto it at the same time. A few minutes later the bird was watched again in the base of a bush, revealing the pale above the upper mandible, making the supercilium appear as it it went all around the front of the head - quite distinctive. The bird then played cat and mouse as it crept around in the bushes making its way from bush to bush along the wall, calling just once - a characteristic ' chii-vee'. Over the next few minutes several Willow Warblers, a Chiff-chaff and Goldcrest all moved along the hedgeline, making their way towards the churchyard (birders arriving later reported some Warblers dropping in and disappearing high to the south).
Unfortunately at the time of writing the bird had not been seen again. Fingers crossed it's lurking somewhere.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Dotterel in the Carneddau last Sunday

Late news from Sunday of a juv Dotterel just below the summit of Pen yr Ole Wen, southern Carneddau if anyone fancies a stroll it could be worth visiting any of those rounded summits! Foel Fras, Drum etc.

Surfie in Old Colwyn Scoter flock - amazing spectacle

The other night I had 2000+ Common Scoter pass Rhos Point in an hour. This prompted me to stop at the Hotel 70 degrees layby the afternoon to see if the schoter flock was building up. What I saw amazed me as the sea was black with Scoter and not too far out either (still distant but all features easily viwed through a telescope). The flock starts off Eirias Park and extends eastwards to Llanddulas and is several hundred birds wide. Impossible to guess a number really, but I tried to count in blocks of 100 and reached 15,000 with before I gave up.

A single drake Surf Scoter was reward for searching through the flock, possibly the 1st Welsh August record. 50+ Great Crested Grebes and a single Red throated Diver were also in the flock. Well worth a stop off if you get the chance.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Bank Holiday Bonus - Red backed Shrike

A strange morning on the Orme really, but a memorable one! The first hour was grim with not a passerine in sight. 2 Arctic Skua and a handful of Manx Shearwaters were the only birds of note. Rob Sandham and Kelvin Jones were ringing down in the cemetery so I went and joined them. Not five minutes later, 2 cracking sparrowhawks - a 1st year male and a 2nd year female hit the nets and the next quarter of an hour we were treated to two superb Sparrowhawks in the hand.

After that excitement, Rob pointed out a flycatcher at the back of the cemetery and as we both watched it, it dawned on us that this was no Spotted Flycatcher - it was a cracking juvenile Red-backed Shrike! The bird showed quite well for ten minutes or so before flying over the top of the cemetery and off towards the sheep fields. I managed a few dodgy pics before it disappeared:-

Funnily enough, about an hour later I picked the bird up again, some half a mile from the cemetery, sitting on fence posts in the sheep fields. The local Meadow Pipits soon put pay to that and off it continued west. Best of the rest included the first Yellow Wagtail of the autumn over, Goldcrest and a Grey Wagtail. The R B Shrike is the strangely the first record for the Great Orme, with 3 Woodchats, 3 Great Grey and an Isabelline already on the list. Lesser Grey, Brown, Long-tailed or Masked anyone?

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Dolphins and Med Gull

Two groups of Bottle nosed Dolphins passed Ellins Tower at Lunchtime and I had an adult Med Gull at Penrhos CP car park on the way home.

Great Orme - trickle

Highlight on the Orme this morning was a lovely juvenile Whinchat that sat around the thistles with a Stonechat. 10+ Willow Waeblers were scattered around the headland gorse bushes with a few seen coming in off the sea. 3 Whimbrel called as they flew over and a Little egret flying along the cliffs was a bizarre sight. 2 Whitethroats were behind the cemetery (per Pete Ald).

Wood Sandiper at Dulas

David Wright had a Wood Sand on the Dulas Estuary by the "car park" this morning on the near side of the estuary looking back up the river. Me and Tony twitched it with no joy but there were 11 full grown juv Goosanders, a Greenshank and an adult male and female peregrine sharing a kill, out on the estuary.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Darvic ringed Little Egret

Came across this darvic ringed little egret yesterday on the river Clwyd.
Details as follows:
Left leg: White darvic above knee displaying a letter 'S'
Right leg: Yellow darvic above knee displaying a letter 'U'
Possibly a Porth Penrhyn bird.

Schinzii vs. arctica vs. alpina - Dunlins

This past week has given me a good chance to catch up on Dunlin races both in the field and in the hand. The variation is amazing, both in size, wing length, plumage and bill and leg lengths. I've also made a few mistakes along the way! On my first morning at Ynys-las I locked onto a small, short billed, pale wader which I though 'had to be rare'! I first called it a Baird's, a mistake made in driving rain and windy conditions. I soon realised it wasn't one and had to back track - but what was it? Over the following three / four days I looked at literally thousands of Dunlin - I wish I had done this before seeing that 'odd' bird.

There are three races that occur in Wales - schinzii, arctica and alpina.  All three must pass through Wales at migration times.

The birds I suspected were Calidris alpina schinzii were of average size, had short to medium bills but noticably longer than 'arctica', some buffy rufous plumage in their scapulars and were a bit worn due to their earlier moult. The race schinzii breeds mainly in south east Greenland, Iceland with smaller populations in southern Norway and northern Britain and Ireland - this race mostly winters in west Africa too. I suspect many pass through Wales at this time and are certainly the commonest wader on the east coast at present (per Martin Garner

Many of the birds I saw were strikingly small and short billed - some almost stint like in appearance. They showed extensively black scapulars with pale fringes - more monochrome in appearance and appeared slightly fresher looking due to later their moult pattern. I suspect that these were of the race arctica which breeds in north east Greenland and winters in west Africa passing through Wales briefly on migration.

Thirdly, there is the race alpina which breeds in northern Fennoscandia and western Siberia and some of these spend the autumn and winter in the UK. These have the longest bills of the ones likely to appear in Wales and have a rustiness to their scapulars at this time of year. They should also have more fresh appearance due to later moult. Although they winter in Wales, is mid-August a bit early for them to arrive? As many Sanderling, a few Littkle Stint and even Curlew Sands were in the Dyfi flock, I suspect that alpina also occus here at this time of year.

Coupled with the above, there is also the variation between male and female - males with shorter bills than females, and then variation amongst poulations i.e. runt birds which are known to occur.
I'm no expert on this, just a bit interested. I'd like to thanks to Martin Garner for his advice on Dunlins and the 'odd' wader that I came across. If anyone's got opinions, ideas or observations regarding these races I'd love to hear them. Wouldn't it be great to find a cadidate 'hudsonia' or even a 'sakhalina' Dunlin on a Welsh estuary?
Below are a set of photos of a few of the Dunlins caught with Tony Cross and Paul Leafe on the Dyfi last week. I noted the most 'extreme' bills, weight and size ands took photos of these birds. The presumed 'arctica' are the birds with the smallest measurements, the largest measurements were assigned as presumed 'alpina' and the 'middle of the road noted as probable Schinzii - an extremely crude way of doing it I know, but probably as good a way as any! By the end of the week, I was pretty confident in identifying the most extreme of these birds in the field.

 A presumed arctica Dunlin - short straight bill, black scapulars with pale edging.
 Another 'arctica'? above and below - both look short billed, small and monochrome.
Above -  The dark centered scapulars and pale fringing that one would expect to find on an arctica.
 This bird had the largest bill so is presumably a femlae alpina. It shows quite a bit of rufous tones in the scapulars too.
 Another long billed bird showing rufous tinges in the scapulars. Both this birds weighed more and had longer wings than the average birds - alpina?
Above and below - middle of the road birds. Average bills, average wight and size, sone rufous in the scapulars  and quite worn plumage. I presume these are schinzii
The bird below is a bit puzzling - longish bill, higher than average wight and wing length, but appears quite black and monochrome in the back. There is still some buff / rufous there though so I presume it's either a female schinzii or an alpina.
 Below are a couple of images of the 'odd' Dunlin that was called a Baird's, White-rumped, Western Sand and even a hybrid over a period of 12 hours! It's very small size and pale complexion can be noted from the following photographs. It could be picked out each time from the 1000+ small waders present. I now think it's a small (possible runt) juvenile arctica Dunlin. It's certainly taught me (and a few others) a valuable lesson in the i.d. of calidris waders.

It wasn't just Dunlin races that were on show. I've posted on this forum before regarding northern race Ringed Plovers and the photo below shows this well. On the left hand side of the picture is a small, dark Ringed Plover, almost certainly a northern Scandinavian bird (known as tundrae or more recently psammodrama). The rest are our local hiaticula race birds - being paler and larger. These individuals really stand out.
I just had to add this picture of a dapper juvenile Knot - what a beautiful bird up close. These birds come in four races, with the possibility of two turning up in Wales - canutus wich breeds in Siberia and winters in Africa which could possibly turn up on migration here, and islandica, which breeds in Greenland and NE Canada and winters here in Wales. The bird below is a nice example of the shorter billed islandica. Canutus are long billed and in summer are a deep chestnut plumage with dark chestnut mantle fringes, while iclandica are a medium chestnut plumage with yellowish mantle fringes. One to look out for ;-)

Dyfi Estuary - waders and Terns

I've spent the last week birding around the Dyfi Estuary. There are many birds there at present, especially waders and terns. Amongst the 1000+ small waders each day at the point at Ynyslas were up to 3 Little Stint, 2 Curlew Sandpipers, 50+ Sanderling, 60+ Knot, 5 Whimbrel, 2 Black tailed Godwits, 8 Turnstone, 660+ Ringed Plover and 450+ Dunlin. A 'small' odd Dunlin also got the pulse racing and caused a bit of interest over the weekend.
At nearby Ynys-Hir a Wood Sandpiper showed well on the pools below the carpark, while Green Sandpiper was also on the Dyfi.
Terns were represented by several Black Terns, with a maximum of 4 together, 3 Little Terns, 120+ Common Tern, 30+ Arctic Terns and 500+ Sandwich Terns. During a night time ringing session, a fine Roseate Tern was caught here by Tony Cross and his team. See -
A superb adult Sabine's Gull flew north out of the estuary with 4 Black Terns on Friday - one of those 'special' moments.
Seawatching picked up with 5 Arctic Skuas, Bonxie and a 3 Balearics during the week while Mediterranean Gulls were also on show with a superb flock of 200+ at Llanrhystyd and small groups at various sites around the county.
Tregaron Bog held 3 super Hobby's catching the local dragonfly population, while non-birding highlights included 8 species of Dragonfly, lots of Common Lizards, Bottle-nosed Dolphins, Sunfish and amazing views of Badgers.
Here are some of the picture highlights of the week:-

 As the week wore on, numbers of juvenile waders increased. This super juv Sanderling showed very well.
 Black Terns entertained at the beginning of the week, joinging the large tern flock present on the Dyfi.
 One of three Little Stints present in the flock, all were juvs. Two Curlew Sands were also present.
 Many Dunlin were caught in an all night ringing session with Tony Cross - a good way of studying this species close up.
 This fine Whimbrel was also caught and colour ringed.
 One of three Hobby seen at Tregaron Bog huntinmg dragonflies.
 Common Lizard - over 50 seen sunning themselves on the boardwalk.
 Badgers entertained each night outside the bedroom window!
This small calidris wader caused a headache. It is presumed a small juvenile 'arctica' Dunlin.

Great Orme Goldie

This morning was quiet on the Orme with very few mogrants at all. However, a cracking juvenile Golden Plover was sholwing superbly on the limestones. The bird has been present for around eight days and you virtually have to tread on it before you see it.

The past week (per Rob Sandham and Pete Alderson) has seen 2 juv Whinchat, up to 3 Spotted Flycatchers and good numbers of Willow Warblers moving through. Notable today was an increase of Meadow Pipits with at least two flocks of 40+ present.

Monday, 20 August 2012

A trip up North

Just got back from a little trip up North where we saw some great wildlife.

Just a few pics for you.....

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Mid Wales migration highway!

Wow! What a day. Spent the day around the Dyfi Estuary. Highlights as follows:-
Ynys las- adult Sabine's Gull flying out of the estuary. 4 Black Terns, 4 Little Terns, Arctic Tern, 7 Common Tern, 250+ Sandwich Tern, 2 Arctic Skua, ad. Curlew Sandpiper, 450+ Ringed Plover, 300+ Dunlin, Knot, Greenshank, Whimbrel, 15 Sanderling, 8 Turnstone.
Morfa Bychan- Balearic Shearwater flying south amongst 250+ Manxies.
Aberystwyth - 16 Mediterranean Gulls on the playing fields.
Llanrhystyd- 200+ Mediterranean Gulls off the caravan park. Many coming to bread inc 20+ juveniles!
Sabs Gull from Canada, Black Terns from eastern Europe, Curlew Sand from Siberia, Balearic Shearwater from the Med, Skuas and Waders from Iceland and Scandanavia, Terns on their way to Africa etc............Seems like all routes lead to the Ceredigion coast today. . Isn't migration amazing! 

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Great Orme Warbler Rush

Autumn migration got underway on the Great Orme today with 40-50 Willow Warblers around the headland - great to see. Most bushes held at least one bird with a concentration of 15-20 birds at the bottom of the concrete road. 2 Spotted Flycatchers were along the stone wall while a lovely summer plumaged Golden Plover was in the sheep fields. All these birds arrived overnight as there was not a bird there last night!
Limestone gorse bushes held good numbers of Willow Warblers today

 2 Spotted Flycatchers were on the move
Some Willow Warblers shoed very well feeding out in the low gorse.

A big tern up

Thanks to Marc's message managed to put the moths down this morning and get to Rhos Point to see the partly summer plumaged black tern roosting with 80 or so sandwich terns and a dozen common terns. Seems the black tern was part of an influx in the area with 11 black terns reported around Hilbre yesterday.

A Tern for the better.

An early morning stop off at Rhos Point on the way to the Clwyd this morning came up trumps. While searching through the 70+ Sandwich Terns and 14 Common Tern, I came across a lovel;y partially summer plumaged Black Tern in the early morning light. The bird put on a nice show and was still present at least an hour later when Julian turned up. A Little Egret flying in off the sea here was strange.

Many Terns were also present on the River Clwyd just south of the railway bridge. 350+ Sandwhich Terns were joined by a single Arctic as well as 7 Common Terns. Waders included a fine Greenshank, a Barwit, 6 Common Sandpipers and 4 Turnstones. An adult Mediterranean Gull was amongst the many gulls here too.
At least two of the Sandwich Terns had bright red darvic rings on their left legs and a metal ring on the ringht. I could't make out any lettering on the rings. I wonder where they have come from. It would be interesting to find out.
One of the ringed terns with a small bright red ring on its left leg.

Saturday, 11 August 2012


...well maybe not but that was the best post title I could think of!! Despite dipping the last 7 Pec Sands over the last few years, I finally caught up with the Marshside (Lancs.) bird today.
Weather conditions didn't favour photography as the heat haze was pretty bad:

Very elusive bird but appeared to look like a worn adult to me. When it did show, it gave some good views making the day a little more satisfying!

Land migrants start to trickle through

My first visit of the autumn up the Great Orme this morning produced a meagre tally of 2 Wheatears, Crossbill, 2 Lesser Redpoll, Reed Bunting and 3 Willow warblers. Local breeders included good numbers of Juv Stonechat, Choughs, Peregrine, Kestrels and an impressive 80+ Goldfinches.

Simon H-R. was on Carmel Head and fared a bit better with female a Marsh Harrier, 15 Willow Warblers, Crossbills and Lesser Redpolls.

Stuff's starting to move :-)

RSPB Conwy come on down!

Quick walk around the reserve this morning - lots of birds. Waders were the main interest with 2 Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Turnstone, scarce here, Whimbrel, Black tailed Godwit plus all the regulars. On the lagoons a nice selection of wildfowl including Gadwall, Teal, Pochard and Tufted Duck. Lots of warblers about too with Reed Warbler and Blackcaps showing off really well. Looking forward to being here tomorrow talking about Pledge to Fledge - getting more people to give birdwatching a try. We will be in the hides, either Tal-y-fan or Carneddau hides, from 10am - 4pm. Do pop in and say hello and talk birds and birdwatching. Hope to see you there! Good birding Alan and Ruth

Friday, 10 August 2012

Mynydd Cilan

Nice afternoon out in the hot sun on Mynydd Cilan today. The only birds of note wree two adult med Gulls at the south end of porth Neigwl (Hell's Mouth)I was really looking for dragonflies though and was not dissapointed, Highlight was a cracking male red-veined darter

 Also a few emperors including this egg-laying female
Plenty of distant Manxies on the flat calm sea and  a couple of bottle-nosed dolphin reasonably close. There was a also a pod of very "splashy" dolphins miles out which I suspect were commons.