Thursday, 31 January 2013

January, a GREAT START to 2013

 Well been awhile since I put a post up, so I thought that a quick report of January was due as Ive had a brilliant start to 2013.
 Started the month on the 2nd,visited the usual starting at Holyhead Breakwater,Bedmanerch bay, Valley Lakes,Rhosneigr,Llyn Coron,Malltraeth and Newborough. All the usual suspects but some highlights which included : Red Throated Diver, Guillemot and Razorbill Holyhead harbour, Slavonian Grebe and Great Northern Divers in Bed. Bay,Long Tailed Duck at Valley Lakes, Merlin and  Peregrine at Aberffraw.
 The 3rd  was a visit to Valley Lakes  on the way home from work after which the report came in of a single Waxwing just down the road in Min Y Mor road so it was back out and sure enough what a beauty! it showed really well and managed to run off a few pics too,Bonus!
 The 4th was a lovely sighting of a Barn Owl hunting on the grass verges by Engedi on my way to work.The 5th brought me another 5 for the list in the form of Goosander and Scaup at the brickwork pools, rhyl, followed by Sanderling, Common Scoter and Snow Buntings at Kimmel Bay.
 The 6th was a visit to rspb Conwy where i managed another 2 in the form of a gorgeous Firecrest and a fleeting flight view of one of the Bitterns which where present.
 The 9th was a visit upto the Brenig with Dave and Charlie! Another great day with another 5 for the list beginning with fantastic views of the Great Grey Shrike, Bullfinch, a personal first for me in the form of a Willow Tit, Fieldfare and 2 Red Grouse.
 The 12th was WEBS count day on the Alaw Estury which brought me Green Shank, Hen Harrier,Red Legged Partridge and 2 Stock Doves.
 The 13th was another visit to rspb Conwy which ave me the additions of Whooper Swan, Black tailed Godwit, Lesser Redpole and Siskin.
 The 20th whilst walking the dogs over the mountain i managed to get the addition of a Stonechat and then on the 24th a Woodcock was flushed in the cae glas area in Holyhead.
  The 26th was a day out with my other mates Dave and Karl from Holyhead we visited the Spinnies, Morfa Aber and Conwy rspb. Highlights where the additions of Eider and Reed Bunting at the Spinnies followed with 2 lovely Dippers in the river which runs through the mudflats at Morfa Aber.
  The 27th was a quick visit to conwy rspb whilst i was in the area and this gave me a great addition of a Short Eared Owl which was sheltered in the scrub on the estury side of the lagoon.
  The 29th gave me a personnal first after a text from Ken Croft in the form of a lovely Little Gull at Bed Bay in Horendous! weather, but was worth getting soaked through lol.
  To finish off the month I visited Dave in Denbigh again ,on route I managed the addition of a Fulmar and then the both of us followed up on an invite from a chance meeting whilst at conwy rspb and we visited a farm on the Denbigh Moors which proved to be one of the best days birding for me personally as we where spoilt rotten not just by teas and biscuits but FANTASTIC views of various birds but the main reason for us visiting where the TREE SPARROWS ! 10 in all they where fantastic and so too where the Bramblings which we watched from the comfort of the living room FANTASTIC!! We finished off the day at a VERY VERY ROUGH AND WILD Kimmel Bay and this threw up the first Gannets of the year.
  So there we have it my first month of 2013 some brilliant birds, more than i thought i would ever get in January and a great start to the Year with the months total of  125 :-)
 Some pics from January

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Oystercatcher Colour-ringing Project - North Wales

In coordination with Bangor University and the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), a colour-ringing project has been set up on Oystercatchers in the Lavan Sands area. The aim of the project is to observe longevity, site-faithfulness, juvenile feeding dispersal e.g. fields rather than sands etc as well as a mark and recapture technique of counting the how many birds are in an estimated flock size. Several counts like these will be sufficient to estimate the population size of the important wintering population of this impressive pied-wader.
The rings are as shown above: Green ring with a white engraving and an orange ring above.

If you are to come across any birds, whether it be a full ring code, partial ring code, or just a count of ringed birds in an estimated flock, please email: oystercatchers 'at'

Foot It to Rhos-on-Sea

Prompted by a tweet from Julian Weldrick that the pair of Eiders were off Rhos Point late morning, I headed off from Penrhyn Bay for a couple of hours.  Despite the strong wind, it was worth it.

The rock bund nearest to Penrhyn Bay had a nice roost of a dozen Grey Plovers and a few Dunlins, but no Purple Sandpiper. A larger group of Dunlins were feeding with 15 Ringed Plovers along the beach near the Golf Club, and so I walked as far as I'm allowed (by the rules of Foot It, not by the restraining order), to the end of Church Drive in Rhos. This is half a mile short of the Eiderfest that is Rhos Point, but I was hoping they'd drift west as the tide receded.

With waves crashing against the rock armour, the few birds I could see gave fleeting views, then dived. This was going to be hard.  For 20 minutes, a few auks, Shags and the occasional Cormorant were as exciting as it got. Things looked up a lot when a Black-throated Diver flew past, dropping into the waves and lost from view. Then, in a blissful few minutes, the two Eiders drifted right in front of me. I took my eyes from my scope to enter it in BirdTrack and realised that a Purple Sandpiper had landed on top of a rock just metres away. Almost immediately, it ran over the seawall, not to be seen again. Back in the crashing waves, with hundreds of Kittiwakes and the occasional Gannet flying west, a huge Great Northern Diver landed on the sea and preened for a few moments before diving.

Yesterday, by the way, there were 20+ Red-throated Divers off the end of the Little Orme, some of them close in, wailing to each other. Well worth a visit once the wind drops.

One day of January to go, and I'm two past my target of 85. I'm happy with that, even though I know that with a bit more effort earlier in the month, I could have got more (as Marc has amply demonstrated in almost the same area). The other plus is that I just noticed that I've now entered more than 10,000 records into BirdTrack.

For those who want it, there's a longer version of this on the FootIt blog

Monday, 28 January 2013

River Clwyd

Despite the howling gales yesterday, I braved the Clwyd to try and boost my January total in my slightly adapted version of 'car it', then footit! Managing to miss the Black Throated Diver and the WF Geese and now the Ruff, I stumbled across a cool Jack Snipe that flushed along with a couple of Common Snipe.
100+ Golden Plover present on the East side of the Clwyd in Fields with plenty of Fieldfares and Redwings. This was followed by a cracking Female Merlin and 2 Pink Footed Geese amongst the flock of Greylags on the West bank. Skylark and Meadow Pipit numbers increased greatly over the cold spell as did the number of Dunlin on the Marine Lake exceeding 250. Small numbers of Ringed Plover were also present. From the beach, 120 Sanderling were present along with a great Gull roost, nothing special amongst them, not even a dodgy hybrid! Snow Buntings still about though.
A seawatch yesterday produced 2-3 RTD's and a very good candidate for GND (but at a distance, very difficult to nail) along with a good passage of close Common Scoter and Great Crested Grebes.
Bar-Tailed Godwit always worth mentioning, with a couple of Little Egrets, and ducks were up to with 8 Goldeneye, 3 Gooseander, plenty of Teal, Mallards, 6 Little Grebe and the drake Scaup.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Local goodies and first sewatch of the year - Penrhyn Bay

This is the last day of birding by foot for me. With over 80 miles walked this month from the house, all within a three mile radius of Penrhyn Bay, I feel I've really got to know my local area during January. With just a few days left in January, I've managed to log 97 species within the area.

Yesterday I spent the morning around Glanwydden lane and the stubble fields just to the east of the village. A cracking female Merlin was hunting the Ganol area and rested up in the middle of the field on a muddy mound. After 25+  Common Snipe, a Jack Snipe finally gave itself up from the muddy field as I was slowly trying to approach the perched Merlin. The Ganol held a lovely Little egret and the nearby flooded fields hosted a Black tailed Godwit, drake Shoveler, 100+ Wigeon, 100+ Redshank, 500+ Lapwings, 30+ Common Teal and a nice 3rd year'argentatus' Herring gull with the local Gulls. Still good numbers of winter thrushes too, however the large lark flock seems to have moved on.

Today, I had my first proper seawatch of the year of the Little Orme. Fulmars were moving in numbers with over 150 birds past in 2.5 hours. The first six Gannets of the year flew west while over 40 Red throated Divers were joined by two Great Northern Diver. A single winter plumaged Black Guillemot whizzed past along with 200+ Guillemots and Razorbills, while some 30 Kittiwakes flew out of the bay. High tide produced 100+ Dunlin along the rocks at Rhos Point, 25  Ringed Plover, 100+ Turnstone and 14 Purple Sandpipers. Highlight for me, possibly even the highlight of the month was around eight Red throats calling to each other close in under the Little Orme cliffs. A kind of croaking trumpet call - quite magical on a cold winters day.

Black tailed Godwit - it's second time I've seen this bird in Tech stretch fields this month - a good bird for Penrhyn Bay
Roosting Dunlin - the right hand bird already starting to moult some of its feathers into rusty summer ones.
This Little Egret has been knocking around the Golf course and river Ganol all month.
Distant Merlin in the stubble fields. It doesshow much better than this giving stunning fly bys at times.
Red throated Diver under the cliffs of the Little Orme. There were at least eight birds feeding close in and constantly calling to each other.
These two Purple sands were at Rhos Point, while another flock of 12 were closer to Penrhyn Bay.
The local Peregrines are having a field day with all the waders in the flooded fields. Two birds were keeping a watchful eye from the pylons at Penrhyn Bay.
A gorgeous 'hiaticula' Common Ringed Plover - nice and pale with a big black bib.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Svalbard comes to Bangor

Local Birder Dewi Edwards will be talking to Bangor Birdgroup next wednesday on the wildlife of Svalbard. Incase you weren't thinking of coming here's a taster of what you will be missing out on! All welcome, see you there!

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Birding Frontiers visits Rhyl and scores!

As those of you who were there heard, Martin Garner has a secial affinity with the town of Rhyl. As he explained on Monday night during his excellent 'Pushing the Boundaries' tour, as well as memories of visiting the beach with his 'hanky on the head' Grandad, one of his finest birding moments of 2012 was watching the Marine Lake Great Northern Diver devouring the local crabs. I'm sure his opinion of the place gained further reputation when both he and his tour companion, Tormod Amudsen jammed in on a fantastic Black throated Diver on the River Clwyd! He has kindly sent me two photos of the bird here as well as a Waxwing seen during his visit.
We look forward to Martin's next visit, not just to enjoy another talk, but to look forward to the White-billed Diver that will obviously appear at Rhyl beach during that time. Thanks Martin.....

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Llanfairfechan Black Scoter 2003-2007

Following the Morfa Bychan Scoter, a fair point regarding the Llanfairfechan bird has risen. Did anyone actually see it well enough to rule out an aberrant Common scoter or a hybrid?
The Lancs Jenny Brown Point bird was seen at extremely close quarters and was a definite American Black Scoter - was this the Llanfair bird? It turned up a month after the llanfair bird finally disappeared.

I hope Alan Lewis, Steve Young or Andrew Lawson don't mind me using their old photos (contact me and give me a telling off if you do) of the Llanfairfechan bird. Can anyone say with any certainty that this is a Black Scoter? Did anyone see it better than this? I remember the Llanfair bird having a different structure and profile and it even seemed to sit higher in the water than all the other Common Scoter
There are some interesting birds here -

The Bulbjerg, Denmark 14/08/2011 bird looks no differernt to the Morfa Bychan bird to me, while the bill on the presumed 1st year male West Branch Forest Preserve April 1,2008 bird has no bulge at all in the culmen.

The Stag Rock, Bamburgh 14/04/2011 bird shows how I remember the structure of the Llanfair bird; the way it appeares higher in the water and looks slightly butcher.

Very informative bird Chris and well done for calling it. We've certainly all learnt from it. One things ofr sure, it'll take a very very brave birder to call a Black scoter amongst the Llanddulas flock in the future!

Photographing Goosanders

Just incase any of you aren't aware Llyn Padarn is a great place to see and photograph Goosanders up close. As you head South East into Llanberis just before Electric Mountain there is Parking and a play area on the side of the lake. On monday there were 5 drakes and 2 ducks with Mallards coming for bread! I was flying through and literally only had a few minutes to fire off a few shots (see above). I'm sure if you put in a little more time you could get some really great shots.

The Morfa Bychan Scoter

As many of you may have already heard, the 'Black Scoter' that I reported from Morfa Bychan last Wednesday is now considered to be an aberrant Common Scoter with an extensive yellow bill (or possibly a hybrid of some sort).  After seeing the bird in the field on Sunday Reg raised some concerns about the bill structure and head profile, and after sending him some of my photos this morning, we agreed that we had both seen the same bird.

While strikingly bright, the bill appears to have too much yellow for Black Scoter, extending towards the bill tip and actually looking paler nearer the tip when it should be black.  The basal swelling also isn't as pronounced as on Black, although this appears to vary between individuals (see: for a less distinctive bulge), the combined profile and pattern of yellow on the bill don't add up for Black Scoter, which always seems to show a very clean-cut and sharply contrasting edge to the front and sides of the bulge.  Looking at the bird head-on, while the yellow extends up the bill there doesn't appear to be an even bulge on either side either.  The head profile is also not correct for Black (not being rounded enough) and the neck too long, both more in fitting with Common Scoter.

Note the extensive yellow/orange in profile, but the bulge isn't as distinctively obvious and appears to give a more triangular profile, rather than stopping abruptly on the culmen with a more vertical front edge.  While appearing to be an adult the bird doesn't appear to have a basal knob as would be expected for Common Scoter at this age.  However, 2cy birds can generally lack this so perhaps it isn't quite a full adult yet.  The photo below seems to show some paleness in the flanks, which may support this.

Seen head-on the yellow extends too far down the bill and doesn't have a clean-cut edge as Black should have.  It also doesn't have that glowing 'beacon' effect that the even edges of the flatter bulge on Black Scoter give.
 The head profile should be more rounded for Black Scoter.

I'm still not certain as to whether it's an abnormal Common Scoter or a hybrid and would be very grateful to hear from anyone with experience of these.
Rob Hughes told me about a similar bird he found on Fair Isle (presumed to be a hybrid) and more details on Common x Black intergrades can be seen here: 
There is also an interesting paper in BB about an adult male Common Scoter on Southport Marine Lake in 1979, which had an almost wholly yellow bill.

Thanks to everyone for their comments (and kind words!) and sincere apologies to those who travelled to see it expecting a Black Scoter.  This is at least a very useful bird to learn from if nothing else (especially considering more distant birds) and it's certainly pushed up my learning curve.

Cheers and good birding,


More Jackdaw photos

2 still present in my garden this afternoon.