Saturday, 5 September 2009

Tales From Wales.

Did you miss me? Thought so. We had dreadful weather, If I was superstitious I would say I cursed myself with that Welsh quote before I left. Anyway it provided lots of useful research for a book I'm planning entitled 'The Ultimate Site Guide to Children's Farm Parks and Village Playgrounds of Wales Volume 1'. Had it not been for the single Herring Gull that was present in Cardigan Bay for the whole week to keep me company I may have gone slightly stir crazy. I jest not, whilst birders at locations up and down the west coast were turning up all sort's of goodies such as Baird's Sandpiper & Glossy Ibis the most exciting sighting I had 'in the bay' was a single Manx Shearwater and two separate sightings of Gannet that were obviously completely lost.
With the exception of our visit to South Stack I never saw another birder all week. In fact we came across very few Welsh folk generally apart from the ones working in shops, it was eerily quiet. It did confirm my theory that Noggin the Nog was based upon real life, they're actually all connected with underground tunnels and all those signs for 'Slate Caverns' are actually shopping centres and cinemas they don't want the English to know about in case we decide to stay. Why else would you not put pavements around most of your villages?

After a few days of counting Herring Gull interspersed with the occasional Sandwich Tern, I managed to persuade my wife that a nice walk at South Stack would be the order of the day. After tieing string to the twin two year olds to ensure that we could get them back after they blew away we headed at a 45degree angle along the coast path to the watchpoint. In a healthy westerly the updraft was incredible, and when the rain stopped the view wasn't bad either. The RSPB volunteers were incredibly patient as my children attempted to test the tripod stability at the viewpoint. Looking north out of the window I saw a corvid drop in out of view on the cliff so whilst the kids kept sheltered I wandered up the path. A few steps off the path to peek over and suddenly about ten feet away "Chuuff" and this red billed black head pops from the heather to check me out.
Of course due to the rain the camera was in the backpack and after two more "Chuuffs" it flung itself into the updraft like an avian Tom Cruise and hurtled away dropping like a stone before sweeping around the lower rocks out of sight.

Gone! My birding highlight of the week over in about 18 seconds but worth the 4oo mile, 80quid, 13 hours on the road all the same. So the rest of the wettest week I've ever known was spent in quiet contemplation amongst the childrens playparks and slate caverns of North Wales. Occasionally as I glanced up I would have a chance encounter with a Raven or a Common Buzzard. Brief walks on the beach between showers provided some relief with small mixed parties of Meadow & Rock Pipit foraging in the rocks. There did seem to be some steady Meadow Pipit passage south each day and a trip on the Fairholme Model Railway produced a single Wheatear on the shingle beach near Barmouth, at least until Ivor the engine driver let off the air horn yet again.

Rock Pipit.


The desire for migrants even saw me fruitlessly trying to string this out of place Rock Pipit below into something infinitely more interesting and challenging, all to no avail.

Rock Pipit checking out the Meadow.
On the beach a small party of Turnstone included this one doing what it says on the tin. Not having a huge amount of shingle on the North East coast you don't see this too much except with sea weed. As the wind had dropped you could hear the noise from the stones as they moved along the shingle providing an unexpected soundtrack to the visual experience.

The other observation I made was how much better camouflaged they appear on this type of habitat the orange tones on their upperparts blending perfectly with the colours of the sea weed over here as opposed to the dark & bright greens that seem to dominate locally in Northumberland.
So happy to be back and its September and there was a Cory's past Newbiggin and a Sabs Gull on the pelagic so I'm off to set my alarm and polish my lens, the morning calls.

1 comment:

Andyinblack said...

Alan last week in Oban the same childwise and weatherwise . only saving grace bird wise were Hooded Crows(nice) and an Osprey on Loch Awe . Oh and with your help some unidentifiable Eiders