Monday, 30 December 2013

Festive photos

Here's some photos I've taken over the Festive Period of December, 
whilst going between Cemaes and St Helens,from North Wales and the North West-ish. 
Below there are shots I've taken of Two barred Crossbill at Broomhead Reservoir just east of the Woodhead Pass. The Buff bellied Pipit, Siberian Chiffchaffs and Northern Wheatear have been showing well at Burton Marsh near the border, along with Simon Hugheston-Roberts! The Hoopoe at Abergele/Pensarn was a good crowd-puller locally and I had this albinistic Pied Wag there to. I took a trip before Christmas to Marshide to see the Baikal Teal with two wings and no rings at a good time of year, that's good enough for me ;-) Finished off with a nice shot of the wonderfull Ruffs that routinely show well at Martin Mere in the winter months.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all of you who contribute and follow WBNW :-)

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Boxing Day bits and bobs

The Hoopoe still at Pensarn today but elusive as often the case, many dog walkers etc in the area today. Two female Scaup offshore here close in and lots of Common Scoter further out. Buff-bellied Pipit still on Dee Estuary, Burton Marsh, also Siberian Chiffchaff reported there, anyone seen this bird? Is it a real one? Hen Harrier, Merlin and Peregrine all here and the late Wheatear still present - worth a visit. More storms tonight so could be more stuff blown into the Cricceth/Black Rock/Porthmadog area? Further away a Brunnich's Guillemot in Dorset, Portland Harbour, worth keeping an eye open for storm driven rarities. We still have space on our Finland/Norway trip in May/June 2014 only a few places left so if you fancy it please get in touch for more details soon. Hope everyone had a happy and peaceful Christmas. Good Birding Alan and Ruth contact

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Nice Saturday afternoon!

A Hoopoe and Buff Bellied Pipit makes for a great Saturday afternoon!
 Abergele's Hoopoe showing nicely between the caravans and the sea wall.

Across the river the BBP was a great record for Cheshire, more below

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Triple Surf

Steve Williams picked up three drake Surf Scoter off Penarn this afternoon. They were close enough to capture a bit of video footage.
Hoopoe reported until 9.40am but the went AWOL
Video of a Surfie in flight here-

Monday, 16 December 2013

Hoopoe still at Pensarn

Here's Barry Barnacal's pic of the Hoopoe from Saturday.  Showing a bit well!  Bird still reported today along Park Cove Caravan Park.


Sunday, 15 December 2013

Eurasian Wigeon - head pattern variation

This Eurasian Wigeon was at Conwy RSPB this afternoon on the causeway. Nice bird showing the extreme end of variation in the green head pattern. 

Friday, 13 December 2013

Yellow-legged Gull Conwy RSPB

One in the roost on the estuary from Conwy RSPB this evening. It was on the bank just south of the castle with mostly Herring Gulls, 2 LBB's and a few GBB's. Apologies for the typical poor pics, it was starting to get dark.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Possible GW Egret at Rhosneigr?

Earlier this week Ian Wright (Rhoscolyn not ex-Arsenal) was on a train from Holyhead when he saw a possible GWE on Rhosneigr Marsh near the Golf course. He thought the shape was right and it seemed to have a pale bill so if you are passing it may be worth checking any egrets on Rhosneigr Saltmarsh.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Don't forget tomorrow night is Bangor Birdgroup's Christmas Quiz!!!

What the headline says ;-)

Xanthochroism in a Robin

When visiting Penhescyn tip near Menai Bridge today, in the bushes by the mini-roundabout,  I saw a pale yellowish/faun bird fly off a barrier into cover. After dumping my stuff and speaking to the gatekeeper I returned to the bush and after a while it revealed itself to be a Robin, with pale sandy/yellowishfeathers on the upper and underparts with the orangey breast and grey behind the eye being the only normal colour. It reminded me of the Rock pipit in Caernarfon a few years back (and more recently at Porthmadog), and Norman's "Desert-like" House Sparrow near Valley, also from about 5 years ago. When these birds fly, you initially think Yellow Canary! Xanthochroism is an abnormal plumage colouration with a surplus of yellow, also called flavism.

Hoopoe still present

The hoopoe was still present this morning among the caravans and on the beach and beach road verges at Pensarn showing very well intermittently. Occasionally it would stay in view for several minutes before a vehicle or dog walkers would flush it back in among the caravans. According to locals the bird has been present in the area for at least 3 weeks and is presumably the earlier Rhyl bird relocating. A couple of records shots.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Minke Whale @ Abergele!

Whilst driving home from St Helens today at 4pm Radio 2 reported on a beached Minke at Abergele! When I got there at 5.10pm in the dark,  it had been eased back into the sea. So check the coast (and beaches) again tomorrow if you can in case it is still around.

Surf Scoters still showing in the sun

It's great weather to pick up the Surf Scoters off Llysfaen Station Road (off the old dual carriage way) between Llanddulas and Old Colwyn.  Bright conditions best but at least 2 drakes are visible with a scope.  Not sure how far out they are but they are a long way! 2km?

They haven't been mentioned on here for a while but 2 have been seen for the past 3 days.  We get complacent!


Sunday, 8 December 2013

Hoopoe near Abergele today, present in area over 2 weeks

There were 3 or 4 independent reports in the last week of November and another one since so it seemed very likely there was a Hoopoe knocking around the west of Abergele.  It had moved on from a friends garden (which had no access) so I didn't put news out widely but P Alderson has seen it this morning in the caravan park west of Pensarn along the road by the sea wall but it is elusive.  He saw it at 11am this morning.  Really late record! poss saturata?  

Not seen it myself yet so hope to get out this arvo!


Cemlyn Bits and Bobs

I had a Red throated Diver and a Great Northern Diver in the bay yesterday late afternoon. Tony White had 2 Red thoats and a Black throat, between Harry Furlongs Buoy and Wylfa in the morning but no sign of the Tree Sparrow he had the week before. The Sparrow had been between Fronddu junction (the road to Hen Borth) and Hen Borth along the road in a mixed finch flock.The east Car park is innaccessable at the mo, as it is full of shingle. The car park at Penrhos CP is also closed due to debris so people are parking in the Toll-house car park. I also had an adult and a 2nd Winter med gull there yesterday afternoon.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Bardsey gets all census data into BTO's BirdTrack

This afternoon I received an email from Andy Musgrove at the BTO HQ in Thetford.

"Thanks to sterling efforts from my colleague Justin, I can now announce that the Bardsey data are fully incorporated into BirdTrack! And they look mighty impressive. Approximately 700,000 records from 15,000 complete lists means that Bardsey alone now represents about 3% of the BirdTrack database...

...Finally, another fun statistic is that loading these records has trebled the number of Chough records in the BirdTrack database in one go! 66% of Chough records are now from the Bardsey Obs dataset."

I was moved!!! Years of work and head scratching to get the data to the BTO and I am now proud to announce that BBFO has become the first Observatory to have ALL its census data and ALL its ringing data digitised and logged at BTO HQ on their systems, making our data sets accessible and usable for conservation purposes on a national scale.

I responded immediately to Andy with this email:

"Andy that is FANTASTIC.

It has been a rather long, drawn out job getting all those records digitised as well as at times being tearful, stressful, and exhausting.

The list of people involved is huge, however, Julia Davies (my Assistant in 2001 and 2002) deserves special thanks as she was the one who originally digitised most of the data, and also Mike Archer and his team of helpers Dale Brown, Daphne Tyne, Joan James, Ruth Edwards and Jude were the main workers at the data checking 'coal face'.

Can I on behalf of the Trustees of BBFO and myself as Warden thank all involved at the BTO and all you guys who sat entering and checking data for such lengthy periods in sometimes uncomfortable conditions in the Obs!!

A tremendous effort all round to get all our ringing data onto IPMR (including all retraps and recoveries!) and now all our Census data onto BirdTrack.

The champagne will be popping tonight on Bardsey!!

And our next task is to get all the other Observatories to do the same!!!

All the very Best


Andy Further responded:

"Thanks Steve

I would indeed second your thanks and congratulations to all the volunteers who did the real hard work of entering and checking data. And those who collected in the first place of course (although that's generally a bit more fun!) Well done all, enjoy your champagne!

Best wishes

Andy Musgrove
Head of Monitoring, British Trust for Ornithology
Address: BTO, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk, UK, IP24 2PU

Well that is a FANTASTIC result, some 15 years in the making and we now have our data all done and dusted. Mike Archer was presented with a gift from the BBRO Trustees in October when he was on the island for his work in the co-ordination of the mammoth task it has been over the past 15 years.

Peter Howlett (one of BBFO's Trustees) wrote a short piece for our Newsletter:

When Mike Archer and Dale Brown left the island on October 12th it brought to a close a remarkable period in the recent history of the Observatory. Mike has spent the past 15 years driving forward the digitisation of the bird log and ringing data. This has been a herculean effort both in his time and the amount of money spent and BBFO owe him and his band of helpers a huge debt of gratitude. Thanks to their efforts Bardsey has become the first Observatory to be able to submit all its archive log and ringing data to the BTO - a remarkable feat! 

As a thank you for all his efforts, Mike was given a small thank you from the Trustees. 

Pete Howlett

Andy did some very quick bits with the Bardsey data and had a look at the difference between Sand Martin records in the 1960s (top chart) and the 2000s (bottom). We can see instantly that there are more Sand Martin Records in March and April in the 200s than there were in the 1960s, prbably due to climatic change.

We are also able to see the number of species recorded per year on bards, as easily as clicking a few buttons on the mouse!!

So having seen the work that has been done on Bardsey, it is time for everyone to get involved. Enter your current sightings and then get out your old notebooks from the loft and get them digitised too. If you are interested in being part of the big picture read on...

About BirdTrack (copied from the BirdTrack web site (c) BTO)

BirdTrack is an exciting project, through a partnership between the BTO, the RSPB, Birdwatch Ireland, the Scottish Ornithologists' Club and the Welsh Ornithological Society, that looks at migration movements and distributions of birds throughout Britain and Ireland. BirdTrack provides facilities for observers to store and manage their own personal records as well as using these to support species conservation at local, regional, national and international scales.

The idea behind BirdTrack is that if you have been out birdwatching anywhere in Britain and Ireland, or simply watching birds in your garden, records of the birds you have seen (or indeed have not seen) can be useful data. Thus the scheme is year-round, and ongoing, and anyone with an interest in birds can contribute. Important results produced by BirdTrack include mapping migration (arrivals and departures) timings and monitoring scarce birds. We know very little about the timing of arrival and departure of winter visitors and this is just one area in which BirdTrack will provide useful information. There are also many scarce birds where we would like to know much more about their populations.
Register now to get started, or read on for more information...
The success of BirdTrack relies on your birdwatching lists. As a contributor you make a note of the birds you see, either out birdwatching or from the office or garden for example, and enter your daily observations on a simple-to-use web page. We need to gather a large number of lists at all times of the year from throughout Britain and Ireland. We prefer complete lists of birds (all species seen and heard) because the proportion of lists with a given species provides a good measure of frequency of occurrence that can be used for population monitoring. Incomplete lists and casual records can also be entered because they too build our understanding of populations, distributions and movements.

The local and national results are available on the website for everyone to look at - you don’t have to be a BirdTrack recorder. Every night the BTO BirdTrack computer will summarise that day's records and produce up-to-date maps and graphs showing the latest in migration, movements and distribution. These include animated maps showing the arrival and departure of migrants and the seasonal movements of birds. For scarce species, such as Hawfinch, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Woodcock and Water Rail, we will be building up a picture of their distribution throughout the year. You can also view and analyse your own records through specially designed features.
We hope that birdwatchers of all abilities will take part in BirdTrack. By encouraging large numbers of volunteers to join in the project we will be able to gather a large amount of unique and fascinating information.
We continue to develop BirdTrack in order to provide extra facilities for birdwatchers to maintain and analyse their own records, and for county societies to be able to do this for records within their areas. With your permission, all of your records will automatically be forwarded to the relevant county recorder.

Recording Migration Patterns
BirdTrack developed from Migration Watch, which ran in the springs of 2002-2004, and incorporates all of the Migration Watch data. Migration Watch was able to record the timing of arrivals and pattern of migratory spread of summer visitors across Britain & Ireland. This was a huge achievement and the power of the Internet made it possible to produce up-to-date daily results. BirdTrack expanded on this to provide a year-round recording package so that we can also study autumn migration (a much bigger challenge) and other movements and distributions. To find out more, read a fascinating article about how BirdTrack data is helping us to understand the effects of climate change on migration timing.
As with Migration Watch we are interested in not just when the first birds arrive or the last ones depart, but we also want to know when the bulk of the population has arrived or departed (whether summer or winter visitors). We can also get interesting information about passage migrants, such as inland wader movements. We can work this out by looking at the proportion of volunteers that have recorded a particular species on a given day.
By using the lists and counts of species submitted by volunteers we can also investigate how birds filter through the country; for example, do they head up the centre of the country or do they disperse west or east in spring time?

Tracking the Conservation Status of Scarce Species
An important aspect of BirdTrack is to provide supplementary information on some of the scarcer species in Britain and Ireland. Many species are monitored well by existing surveys such as the BTO/JNCC/RSPB Breeding Bird Survey and by periodical surveys such as Seabird 2000 and the Nightjar survey. Others are difficult to survey well due to the habitats they occupy, their low breeding density and their secretive nature.
There is a range of species for which birdwatchers could easily and usefully contribute information. We hope to build up an annual picture of their distribution in Britain and Ireland, which would provide an excellent source of information between national Atlas projects. For species such as Hawfinch, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and Woodcock we would like to receive records from throughout the year, whilst some other species are more common but scarce in the breeding season, e.g. Pochard and Dunlin, and so those records are particularly valuable.

Read more about taking part in BirdTrack, or just jump in and register to get started.
BirdTrack is organised by the BTO for the BTO, RSPB, BirdWatch Ireland, SOC and WOS. 
© British Trust for Ornithology, BTO, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk IP24 2PU, Tel: +44 (0)1842 750050
Email: (Britain) / (Ireland)
Registered Charity Number 216652 (England & Wales), SC039193 (Scotland).

Morfa Bychan - good birds an bad pictures

I spent a few hours at Black Rock, Morfa Bychan today. I got decent views of the two surf scoters at high tide from the rock itself. I could just see that one or possibly both had a faint bill pattern and nape patch suggesting that they are 1 w males – as Mike D suggested  having seen them last week. It will be interesting to see how they moult as winter  unfolds. 

 Other birds included a nice velvet close in and 8 Longtails – Elfyn later had 10 of these smart  little ducks.
 At the  southern end of the beach  a Black necked and Slav grebe kept each other company as the tide swept them swiftly downriver and out to sea. Nice to get side by side views of these.  A Great Northern snorkelled the shallows on the far side of the river channel and two little gulls, an adult and first winter flew downstream and joined a small feeding flock of black-heads at the river mouth.

 I was surprised to find a chiffchaff at Carreg Samson. A really striking pale bird with bright silver undersides and pale brown uppers with  a hint of green in the wing, a  bright supercillium as well.

 It reminded me of a Bonelli’s warbler (apart from the strong super and eye-stripe) it called only once – which was how I picked it up. Just a typical chiffchaff call rather than the bullfinch/dunnock  call of  Siberian chiffchaff. I did get some awful pics with my phone (apologies). I also played it recordings of  Siberian and common chiffchaff and it  responded very enthusiastically to both  - as it did to pishing as well! – no help there then. Any comments on this bird gratefully received
Walking back i noticed a a fresh dead porpoise on  the beach  - already showing signs of predation. I did search, but there were no red-faced small white gulls to be seen : (

Monday, 2 December 2013

talk on the Rio Grande, Texas, at BBG this weds.

This Weds Neil Glenn will be talking about birding in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.  19:30 start, doors close 19:20.  Brambell Building, Deiniol Rd, Bangor.
Hopefully see you there.


N Wales news

Took a trip over to Caernarfon on Sat and saw an ad m Black Redstart so I reckon there's two around the Council Offices.  Plenty of birds on the Foryd, love it along there.  Plenty wildfowl.

MD had Firecrest and 5 Chiffchaff at Llanfairfechan SF.  30 Brents and Whooper Swan off Aber yesterday.

GGS still at GBB today close to the mast

2 fem Surfies still off Morfa Bychan/Black Rock yesterday.


Saturday, 30 November 2013

Belated news - Possible Bufflehead at Llanfairfechan shore on thursday 21st November!

Dafydd Ellis had a small duck on the sea at Llanfairfechan on the above date. It was similar to a female goldeneye but it had a white 50p sided bright white patch behind its eye. It had no other white/pale on it's head. It had a small blue-grey duck's-bill, dark head and back. He looked in the books and felt it was definately a female Bufflehead, but after speaking to a few friend's was reassured it was probably an escapee, and wouldn't be accepted as a wild bird - doh!!! So that's why the news is only coming out now.
If you park in the Llanfairfechan promenade car park, walk west past the little boating lake, just past the posh victorian houses on the left it was 15 meters offshore just past the houses. So anywhere along that stretch of the coast or on the Anglesey side may be worth keeping an eye out. Dafydd is a local well known birdwatcher from the Cambrian Ornithological society who's birded in North Wales for many years now.
ps. he also said it didn't look very well, so it may be worth walking the high tide line as well!

Monday, 25 November 2013

Woodcock and Barn Owl

I flushed a Woodcock in the Wygyr Valley, Cemaes on Saturday the 23rd but there was no sign of the Lesser Whitethroat. My wife had a Barn Owl at the top end of Llanerchymedd last monday the 18th Nov.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Just a quickie... say that a female black redstart was a nice surprise for me on the way to Welsh class in Holyhead this afternoon, needless to say that I was late for class!

I called Ken Croft and pointed him in the right direction and he re-found it just minutes later.

It was last seen around the tall flats behind the South Stack pub facing the port.

Hopefully see some of you at Bangor Bird Group tonight and for those of you who haven't been yet, check out for our weekly delights!


Sunday, 17 November 2013

Lesser Whitethroat in Cemaes

I had a few birds today. Whilst making a wildlife pond in the garden there was a bit of vis-mig going on, with a few groups of fieldfares, chaffinches, goldfinches, meadow pipits and a Snipe going over.A cracking male Brambling dropped into a tree on the estate but bird of the day was a Lesser Whitethroat in the Valley by the River Wygyr in the blackthorn scrub at the By-pass end of the Valley.I only saw it through the bins but after checking in the books I think it was just the nominate race. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera and I couldn't relocate it later when I went back. Eddie also had one near Llanbedrog today.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Winter birding

A nice day's birding with Eddie today. Began at Cricieth where a late swallow was hawking over the west prom. The sea was flat calm and visibility near perfect. Common scoter, red throats great crests peppered the sea and also a single sleeping goosander. 4 long tailed duck were visible off Black Rocks beach so that's where we headed. Having arrived, a close in scaup got my attention and as I scoped the scaup, a female surf scoter popped up next to it - result : )
I managed some pretty dire record shots.
The surfie dived frequently with that characteristic half open-winged hop - reminiscent of razorbill and shag (!)
More scanning produced a Great Northern and an adult Little Gull feeding in the river channel. The beach was plastered with many hundreds of birds - mostly oystercatcher and herring gulls but mixed in were over a hundred sanderling, knot, dunlin, a few barwits, and other commoner gulls.
On to Llyn Bach Porthmadog where we dipped the long tailed duck and phalarope but had a brief kingfisher as well as the usual waders and wildfowl. Back to Cricieth where the swallow had been joined by another one. Hope they head south soon!

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Hoopoe at the Spinnies

Rhion Pritchard told me that he'd had an email today off someone who saw a hoopoe in the car park by the shore at the Spinnies pool Aber Ogwen yesterday. It was last seen flying towards Llanfairfechan.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Richard's Pipit and Yellow-legged Gull at Aber Ogwen

'Richard's Pipit at Aber Ogwen in field south of car park found by H Cook. Flew off tho.'

Ros Green, Chris Bridge and I gave it a go about 1 hour after the original sighting, but there was sadly no sign. When giving up and heading back to the car, Ros noticed a gull flock on the sands and me being me, I couldn't leave them unchecked. I hoped for a white-winger, but a quick scan revealed a very chunky, very dark mantled Lesser Black-backed Gull which was possibly intermedius, but not much else.

A second scan and I noticed a striking 1stw LWHG that instantly stood out to me. It was remarkably long winged with very black primaries and black tertials with a very thin pale border (no pale notching). This contrasted to the grey brown mantle and darker brown coverts. It also had a very white headed appearance with a darker smudge on the ear coverts with a black eye and very black bill. The bill was really chunky with an obvious blob tip. I was pretty happy this was a first winter Yellow-legged Gull, but wanted to see it flap. When it did, it revealed a very white rump and only very slight windows in the inner primaries which helped confirm my suspicions.

Consolation for dipping the Richard's Pipit.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Foreign bird guides for sale

Selling off some of my foreign bird guide books as described below with price. They are also placed on Ebay and other sites so it's on a first come first served basis. Postage or pick-up to be arranged. Birds of Jamaica a Photographic Guide by Downer and Sutton £6 Birds of Panama 2nd edition covering also Costa Rica, Nicuagua and Honduras by Ridgly and Gwynne £15 Field Guide to Birds of Hawaii and Tropical Pacific by Pratt, Brunner and Bennett £13 Birdwatching in Eilat by David Yekutiel (bought in Israel, 33 pages covering all aspects of birding in Eilatwith checklist) £4.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Starlings, Corvids and Pipits.....

Starlings were one of the most numerous birds today with 2500 of them scrabbling about on the beach feeding on sand fly lavea
 Some of them like the one below were just fantastic in the bright morning sun.

Some slower shutter-speeds trying to give the impression of the movement and noise of the birds in front of the hide

 Also there was a Darvic-ringed Black-headed Gull on the beach. We await news of the bird's origin.

 About 43 Chough were on the beach, with about 1/2 of them being coulour-ringed too...

 Our resident Hooded Crow, likes to keep a safe distance between it and us!

 A Purple Sandpiper spent a few minutes on the beach

About 35 Rock Pipits were on Solfach, many of them our colour-ringed breeding birds, The one below (although not colour-ringed) looks very green/grey and is boldly marked, quite dingy, with grey outer tail feathers and dark legs and probably a local bird
The bird below is quite a pale individual, has paler legs and paler outer-tail feathers and may well be from the Scandinavian race A.p.littoralis
 A shot of the same bird as above in flight; note the pale outer tail feathers.

A shot of another bird below with pale legs and near white out-tail feathers which lead me to think this too may be of Scandinavian origin.
Another paler looking bird, again maybe from Scandinavia
 Now for Birds from the island - Dark and dingy looking
 Slightly paler, but still nesting on Bardsey
 Typical dull and dirty islander!

 Again dull dark olive grey resident

And then this appeared.....

Standing out among all the dark Rock Pipits was this bird, my initial thoughts were it looked like a Water Pipit, very brown above and when it flew its outer-tail feathers were blindingly white confirming that the bird was indeed a spinoletta
Legs were paler than those of any pipit on the beach.

At times it looked more like a Meadow Pipit than a rock Pipit

Although not white, the bird did have a good flaring supercilium
It lacked any of the dirtiness that is shown by our Rock Pipits

The underside was very clean with brown streaking
On the only occasion it came close, the very pale legs could be seen
and the bill looked brighter than all the Rock Pipits
The Water Pipit top left and a Rock Pipit right

And also selection of Water Pipits to compare from previous years 

November 2009

 October 2003