Wednesday, 29 May 2013

ringed Little Owls

Managed to site a couple of boxes in known Little Owl habitat and they've taken to them nicely; one with 3 chicks.  Need to check the others yet and checking a new site at the weekend but let me know if you know of anyothers or access to any locally and I can sort a box out.
The female on eggs a few days ago- a couple of field mice in the box too in a larder.  The female is quite docile at the nest and again whilst ringing today although not going by those eyes!  They'd burn a hole through you.

Back in the nestbox straight away and hope to visit again to ring the chicks a week or so.  Thanks to the landowners and BTO Cymru.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Up close and personal with Dotterel

I was up with the sunrise this morning on the Great Orme - stunning! Almost immediately after arriving I stumbled upon a point blank range Dotterel on the limestones. It was still there at 9.45am at least and looked settled.

A fine female type Common Redpoll flew into the hawthorns, part of a movement of 70+ Lesser Redpoll (of which a few others could have been Common too). Three Stock Dove were a patch year tick for me, which Great Spotted Woodpecker, Tree Pipit, a few Siskins and 10 Wheatears were also migrants.

 This fine male Dotterel was quite a late migrant for the Orme with most passing through in April and early May. I almost stood on it before I spotted it and then enjoyed lying in the grass while it ran around me.
 Redpolls on the move today, mostly nice Lessers like this one. However, one fine Common Redpoll alighted briefly in the Hawthorns revelaing all the features needed to clinch it.
 The Orme Berry (Cotoneaster Cambricus)- the only place in the world to find this rare plant. I found a few this morning whilst mooching around.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Male Indigo Bunting on Anglesey

Once more a mega-bird has been recorded by some back-yard birdwatchers.
This bird was photographed in a back garden near Llansadwrn on monday evening. It was present from 7 - 8pm when this photo was taken. This is a cropped record shot, taken through a window of the bird on a bird-table which is a few feet away (taken by the observers). The bird was looked for and not seen on Tuesday and Wednesday.Although it looks quite greeny in this photograph, the observers described it as a bright-blue finch! It appears to be in good condition in this photo and didn't have any rings on it's legs. Indigo Buntings are found in captivity in the UK and Western Europe, but the last time I checked they were retailing at around £400 a pair, so I presume from this that they are far from common in aviculture.
They are long distant migrants migrating from North America to Central America/The Carribean and Northern South America for the Winter. So this bird has good credentials for a trans-Atlantic vagrant, presumably in the Autumn, which is now moving north from wherever it had spent the winter. It's a massive find for the couple who spotted it,  well done! It's just a shame it didn't hang around long enough for any birders to see it!

Monday, 20 May 2013

North Wales Bird Race, May 19th 2013 - 139 species

Chris Jones, Henry Cook a.k.a. Henerz and I delayed our annual birdrace by 24 hours for two reasons; the weather forecast was much better for Sunday and the fact that a Dusky Thrush turned up in Kent and the aforementioned two needed to tick it!

As official total and list keeper, I know Henerz is writing a detailed report on the day, however in the meantime I thought I'd post a quick overview of the highlights of the day. 

Highlights - For pure birding spectacle, the Black Grouse event at World's End was stunning with at least 8 male Black Grouse seen with several lecking on the side of the road and watched from the car was a very close second place in the day's highlight league table. First place for me was my first roding Woodcock for over 25 years, in exactly the same place as my first. In the fading light at the end of a long hard day's birding, the grunts and clicks of a Woodock overhead will remain with me for a very long time - what a way to finish.
Find highlights included a fine drake Garganey on the flooded field just north of Shotwick Boating Lake was an unexpected bonus while equally surprising was a stunning full summer plumaged Black Tern feeding off AberOgwen with Common and Arctic Terns.

Conwy RSPB 3.30am - Water Rail, Reed and Sedge Warbler
World's End - Amazing views of lecking Black Grouse by the road, Red Grouse, Whinchat and Cuckoos
Shotwick Boating Lake - drake Garganey, Avocet, Black tailed godwit, Teal, Arctic Tern and 2 Yellow Wagtails
Gronant - 20+ Little Terns, Common Scoter
River Clwyd - Common Gull and Whimbrel
Bodeelwyddan - Lesser Whitethroat
Llanddulas - Dipper and Mandarin Duck
Conwy RSPB - Little Ringed Plover and Red Kite
Llanbedr y Cennin - 4 Hawfinch and Yellowhammer
Llanfairfechan - 6 Red throated Divers, Common Terns and Peregrine 
Cemlyn - Knot, Mediterranean Gull and Turnstone
Holyhead and South Stack - Black Guillemot, Puffin, Chough, Manx Shearwater and Rock Pipit
Valley Lakes - Pochard and Cetti's Warbler
AberOgwen - summer plumaged Black Tern, 15+ Eider, 10+ Goosander and 4 Bar tailed Godwits
Nant Ffrancon - Twite and Ring Ouzel
Gwydir Forest 10pm - Tawny Owl and roding Woodcock.

Missed nightmares - Nuthatch and Sparrowhawk!

Great fun and some amazing birds. For anyone not tried bird racing - give it a go. It seems to be a bit of a dying past time with less people doing it. What a great way to spend 24 hours in beautiful (and on occasions not so beautiful) places, seeing and finding some great birds, great banter and laughs, highs and lows and a chance to boost the year list.

Oh.. and we managed 139 species, still six short of beating our record. Anyone out there up for the challenge?

 Absolutely stunning - give me moments like this over travelling 10 hours in a car to see a far flung lost migrant anyday!
 Below - Chris and Henerz in the beautiful Nant Ffrancon Valley grinning after just nailing singing Twite and a nice male Ring Ouzel in Snowdonia's spectacular countryside.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Great Orme Harrier

A ringtail Hen Harrier was the highlight this morning on the Orme. The bird appeared over the reservoir area from the SW and continued on gaining height to the NE, disappearing to view over the wind turbines. The first I've seen here for over two years. A Spotted Flycatcher was at the back of the cemetery and Pete Alderson had a male Whinchat below the summit.
Migrants this week have included Yellow Wagtails, up to four different Whinchats, max counts of 7 Tree Sparrow and a few Sedge Warblers amongst the usual migrants.
The feathers below were found and look like the sad end to a poor migrating Wheatear.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret doing what they do best, hanging around Cattle.

I was very lucky to see this bird a few days ago at Llanfachraeth, Anglesey.

More at

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Northern-type Eider, North Uist

I ventured north recently for our friend's wedding near Inverness.  We decided to make the most of the long Bank Holiday weekend and took a trip west across Skye and onto North Uist.  It was at the back of my mind to keep an eye out for 'Northern' (borealis) Eiders but I was surprised to find one such candidate in virtually the first group I checked (in a small bay just north of Balranald RSPB).

The features that immediately stood out were the small white 'sails', a sure sign of Northern genes.  These appeared to be darker-tipped on their undersides (presumably indicative of a sub-adult bird) and were more prominently raised when the bird was chasing the nearby females around.  The bill was orangey-green (more orange towards the base), not quite the 'classic' borealis bright orange-yellow (you might recall an Eider with a bright orange bill that appeared at Rhos around this time of year for a couple of years running, but it never showed any sails).  I also noticed that the green patches on the nape were paler than on the other drake Common Eiders (not sure if this is a recorded feature of Borealis or not?).  The lateral crown stripe was brown (not white) and I assume that this also points to the bird being sub-adult.  It was displaying with the other Common Eiders (although they seemed to take quite a bit of offence to it!) and it appeared to be slightly larger/bulkier in comparison to the other drakes.

I hope the photos are of interest - with a resident group of Eiders in our area it's well worth keeping an eye open for these types turning up amongst them in the future.

Cheers and good birding!


Negative News

No sign of the Cattle Egret on Anglesey today.
Much reduced numbers of Arctic Terns roosting at Cemlyn tonight and no sign of the Roseatte Tern either.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Anglesey Day Trip 14th May 2013

Sometimes things just fall into place, usually not but just sometimes............ Yesterday was one of those days smile

Looking at the weather & having a day off I decided to head over to Anglesey for a day out & to meet up again with ex-Manchester birder Norman Rowbotham again, now a core member of the Anglesey Birding fraternity. Arriving pretty early I met up with Norman at Penrhos CP and soon we were scanning Beddmanarch Bay. Late Bar-tailed Godwits, a Grey Plover, several Dunlin & Ringed Plovers and two Arctic Terns with the Sandwich Terns were all picked out as well as a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers.

We then headed down to a woodland where I was told Red Squirrels still thrive. No luck with them but soon we had up to 8 Crossbills and I picked out a first for the year for Norman in the shape of a Spotted Flycatcher, soon seeing a second bird nearby. Red Admirals were everywhere and we also had Green-veined, Small & Large Whites on the wing.

Next stop was a pop into the harbour to see the 4 new nextboxes that have been put up for Black Guillemots and 2 of the aforementioned auks loafing about nearby. Then we visited South Stack RSPB where at least 5 Puffins were seen - 2 in & out of seperate nest burrows & 3 on the sea. Chough were overhead, A Raven was close in the roadside fields and a pair of Stonechats showed well too. At sea a couple of Gannets glided past joining the Kittiwakes, Fulmars, Razorbills & Guillemots just offshore.

Back to Penrhos CP for lunch but that was brought to an end by a text about a Cattle Egret nearby biggrin

Back in the car, on my own now, I headed up the A5025 to Llanfachraeth and parked but no birders were about - strange! Walking the paths I bumped into rarity-finder extraordinair Ken Croft & later local birder Grahame Morgan. As there was no sign of the egret in the field in which it had been seen we went for a wander. After tring every farm field to the west and about 1.5hrs later we glanced down into fields to the east & there it was, a superb Cattle Egret, we had relocated it wink We then watched it for the next half hour, I put the news out on RBA pagers too with the new location and folk started to arrive. I luckily got a few decent piccies and then said my farewells. The bird is still preesent today at an approx grid ref of SH316832 where we left it!!

To be 10mins away when a rarity breaks is fantastic, always read about it happening to others but never me - well now it has & it was great smile 

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Great Orme migrants and some local breeding Mandarins

Two lovely Whinchats were the highlight of this morning's walk around the Great orme limestones. A handsome male and a night pale female. The male was in the field by the gully with 10+ Wheatears and the female was in the field above the churchyard. A single Tree Pipit was also by the gully on the stone wall. Three Black Guillemots have been showing each day to the east of the lighthouse below the cliffs.

Today's female Whinchat - this bird was new in today.

This tidy male Whinchat has been showing for a few days now, feeding with Wheatears in the sheep fields by the gulley.

Tree Pipits are usually flyovers or flushed from the ground on the Orme. This showy bird rested on the stone wall on the limestones.

Three Black Guillemots have been showing below the cliffs amongst the hundreds of commener Auks. I presume the two right hand birds are males and they are busily following a smaller bird with less white on the wings - I presume this is the female?

After a tip off from Adrian Foster, I went looking for the Mandarin Ducks he had seen on the River Dulas earlier in the week. There has been a chequered history of this species here with sporadic sightings over the past decade or so and an intriguing report of a female with eight duckling from several years ago. Despite looking before, I've never seen them here ....until today.

Three birds flew out of some trees alongside the river and showed on the River bank some 1 mile inland from Llanddulas village/ They were extremely wary and soon moved off downstream when they clocked my approaching. Three Dippers and a Garden Warbler also present.

Dotterel on The Range this afternoon

Here's a copy of an email I received today from Jan Owens of Aberrffraw

Hi Steve

Thought you might like to know that we had an excellent sighting of 4 dotterel this afternoon on the Range. They were in the heather/grass at the eastern end, grid ref 223796.

Best wishes

Ken tried for them with no joy but they may still be around.

Cattle Egret at Llanfachraeth

After relatively distant views on my way home from work, it showed much closer when I went back this evening at the side of the main road! Speaking to the farmer he said it was very tame and had been there for four or five days.

Cattle Egret Anglesey

A Cattle Egret found north of Llanfachraeth today by visiting birder Mashuq Ahmed, nice one Mush! The bird was mobile but thanks to some determined searching by Ken Croft we had good views this pm. Details on Birdline North West 09068 700249. Alan and Ruth

Monday, 13 May 2013


The adult Roseate Tern was showing well on the right end of the main island looking from the bridge this evening. No sign of the wood sand on the flooded fields.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Cemlyn & Hen Borth 12th May

An early morning session around Cemlyn & Hen Borth, prior to the onset of the rain, produced a couple of Purple Sands off Cemlyn, my 1st swift of the year over the sea and 2x late Brent Geese on the beach at Hen Borth. The highlight though was a calling Wood Sand watched flying low over Cemlyn at 8am heading towards Hen Borth.

Wood Sandpiper

Found a Wood Sandpiper this morning on flooded fields between Cemlyn and Hen Borth.  Managed a digi-photo for the record and a few local birders managed to catch up with the bird.  Flooded fields pulled in a Greenshank and up to 5 Dunlin as well.

Skuas and Terns

I had a quick look off Black Rock Sands beach early morning and was rewarded with a  nice Pomarine Skua and an Arctic chasing Terns.  
On then to Cricieth which was very quiet with only an Arctic Skua bobbing on the water, so I moved west again to Penychain.  A walk through the scrub here produced plenty of whitethroats, wheatears and a Whimbrel  on the new golf course being developed there, but little else. Things improved as I settled down on the headland to seawatch. I quickly found a distant roseate tern in amongst  a flock of comic terns and also an Arctic Skua, dark phase adult this time, harassing the terns. There were plenty of Gannets Manxies and a Guillemots as well as 3 red-thorated divers  and a couple of porpoise. After half an hour or so I picked up the roseate again but this time very close - only juts off the rocks  fishing with  5 sandwich terns. It remained here giving fantastic views until I left an hour later when the rain set it. There was a hint of a pink flush on the breast and the call was very distinctive - a short phik! - not really di-syllabic as described in Collins. A  very smart bird and only the second I think I've found locally away from breeding sites.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Mad 5 minutes on the Orme!

This morning was blustery, cold and quiet for the first three hours of light. A lone Swift and 2 Black Guillemots were the highlights and I wish I'd stayed in bed. I returned to the car and grabbed my flask for a final five minutes sat on the picnic tables at the north end. Rain was in the air and the wind increased even further. Suddenly four Redpolls battled their way against the wind, flying in off the sea straight in front of me....lesser, lesser, lesser..... Common! A cracking large, pale bird with nice pale cheeks and white rump and tramlines. As I lifter my camera, they lifted into the air and away they went with the wind. Almost immediately a Yellow Wagtail started calling from behind me and a quick scan revealed two cracking male birds, perhaps the two that were seen last weekend and on and off during the week. As I enjoyed cracking views I became aware of a crest calling from the northern most gorse bush. The pulse quickened as thoughts turned to my first Firecrest of the year. A few seconds later this was confirmed as a super little jewel of a bird performed well in the, by now, driving rain. As I watched a strange moment when a Grey Heron flew in off the sea, struggling against the wind before landing on the limestones. I've seen them fly over before, but this was the first I'd seen land on the pavements!

Friday, 10 May 2013

Exceptional Skua passage - Criccieth today!

Amazing numbers of Skuas off Criccieth today. The annual spring passage combined with a strong south-westerly produced an incredible 27 Long tailed Skuas in one flock and 65+ Pomarine Skuas though out the day. Smaller numbers of Great and Actic Skuas on show too! Unbelievable and what a spectacle!

Black Stork seen Thursday!

Following the sighting by the A55 near Aber a Black Stork was seen yesterday near Ruthin! Where has it been inbetween and how did no one see it?! Amazing that such a huge and distinctive bird can go missing - what else are we missing? So eyes to the skies and hope we can relocate this brilliant bird. The Black Stork will be looked for today around Ruthin. Updates on Birdline North West as always 09068 700249. Alan and Ruth

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Roseate Returns to Cemlyn 9/5/13

Despite the atrocious weather today, quite a few interesting birds arrived at Cemlyn. There was a large arrival of at least 700 'Commic' terns, 95% Arctic, including a single Roseate Tern roosting tonight. They all made a spectacular sight flocking over the lagoon in the strong winds. A female Redstart was a new arrival, a small arrival of Whitethroat was seen. Waders included 90 Dunlin, 26 Ringed Plover, 36 Turnstone, 10 Whimbrel and a Greenshank. Other species seen in the last few days include Ruff, Black and Bar Tailed Godwits, Purple Sandpiper, Sanderling, Golden Plover, Snipe and Common Sandpiper. A dark bellied Bent Goose looked rather lost on the lagoon today.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Fair Isle Odd/Interesting Swallow

Any ideas? I had this bird come off the sea on Fair Isle this morning. Seems to look like a bird that hatched this year. Could it be an abbarent Swallow or perhaps a Swallow/Sand Martin hybrid. It has pretty bright pinkish legs. In the last picture the face shows a peachy wash but it was actually white. No red as in a typical Swallow. The brown head is really interesting. Any thoughts would be very welcome.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Carmel head 4th & 5th May

A generally quiet weekend spent birding NW Anglesey, was more than made up by  a trip of 4 Dotterel found on Carmel head on the 4th May, with 7 there the following day.

Subalpine Central!!

Having been thoroughly gripped by Andy C's Subalp on Uwchmynydd last month, today we got one back. Icky Steve found a female Subalpine Warbler this morning, 1/2 hour after I left the island!!

The bird was very obliging and spent the morning near Plas Withy. This is the 30th Subslp for Bardsey. The 12th in the paddy six years! This includes a pair that attempted to breed in 2010.

Penmon Wagtails

after a brief visit to Penmon point this morning I stopped off at the small pond in the field as you approach Penmon.  The pond does have the reputation of throwing up something good.  and today was not the exception. Whimbrel, Wheatear(14+)  White Wagtail and Yellow Wagtail (flava and flavissima),  The blue headed was in and out of the various gullies and ditches in the field but it did pop up for a couple of record shots.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Nice looking Redpolls?!

Steve Stansfield, Bardsey Bird Obs warden sent me these cracking pictures of a Redpoll that was caught on the Island on Friday. The bird below is the same as the left hand bird in the 2nd photo. Big and pale - surely northern genes?