Sunday, 29 January 2012

Conwy RSPB 29/1

2 Firecrest's still at the far end of the reserve this morning. They are together in the brambles by the railway track. 'Littoralis' Rock Pipit yesterday on the estuary.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Find your own Surf Scoter!

Ever keen as I am to increase the length of the only list that counts - the 'self-found' one - I've been undertaking a bit of google research to see what new horizons might open up with a bit of appropriate technology and sheer animal cunning. If we can tick the hordes of migrants at lighthouse attractions and new garden birds by spreading our peanuts around why not try something different?

So, next time you Conwy listers get your asses out of the comfy Conwy RSPB coffe shop and come winter seawatching around these bleak windswept shores watch out for strange things in the sea. These guys and their novel techniques could bring new meaning to the word pelagic...

Thinking of you again Steve - was worried you might be tempted to paddle out to the windfarms in that leaky canoe in the quest for another distant grainy image of scared scoter. Reckon you could re-write the seaduck section of the Birds of Anglesey, with a few of these beauties, all from the comfort of the brackish waters of the Cemlyn lagoon .

Montgomeryshire Magic!

Had a cracking day in Montomeryshire with local birder Paul Leafe today. Highlight included finding 3 Tundra Bean Geese at Dolydd Hafren LNR while 2 lovely Mealy Redpolls at Welshpool Flash came a close second. The Great Grey Shrike at Hafren Forest showed superbly while the day finished with superb views of a male Goshawk chasing some 30,000 Starlings (including an albino bird!) before they went to roost. Other birds included 23 Whooper Swans at Aberhasefp, 4 Red Grouse, 3 Green Sandpipers, Marsh Tit, Dipper, 40+ Tree Sparrow, 40+ Yellowhapper, Woodcock, 3 Crossbill, 3 Brambling and 2 Red Kite. Thanks to Iolo Williams for the pictures of the 3 Bean Geese; he caught up with them at nearby Caerhowel an hour later. The other photos are of the superb starling flock at Staylittle which attracted a male Goshawk and 2 Sparrowhawks, the Great Grey Shrike at Hafren Forest and photos of Mealy Redpoll which was taken at Welshpool Flash near the lesiure centre. More pics here by Paul -

Great Grey Shrike footage -
Goshawk with Starlings -

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Day on Pen Llyn

I was working in the Pwllheli area today so made the most of lunchtime and caught up with Rhys' Surf Scoter, which was still catching crabs close inshore at Porthdinllaen. Initially it was opposite the Ty Coch Inn with a Great Crested Grebe but as the tide went out it moved slightly south further into the bay.

On the way back some top gen from Eddie resulted in an adult Iceland Gull flying straight over the car just east of Rhydyclafdy. The bird was floating about in the wind, sometimes with a Buzzard for company, and dropping down occasionally to pick worms up off the fields - shame I only had a compact camera with me!

While checking Pwllheli harbour I came across this interesting gull. Clearly it's a Herring and the primary markings and pale upperparts would suggest argenteus (fourth winter?), but the intense dark streaking on the head and neck and blotchy nape and breast really stood out and made me think of smithsonianus (dare I say it!). It appeared to be the same size as the 40 other Herrings it was with. Any thoughts/comments would be much appreciated.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Surf Scoter Porthdinllaen

A nice surprise at Porthdinllaen this afternoon. The 1st winter female was fishing about 50 m out catching and gulping down one crab after the other and even ate a bit of seagrass. Pictures were dissappointing as the bird kept diving. It was a very brown bird with a white belly and a mottled breast. The head shape was surprisingly variable and sometimes recalled velvet scoter when she raised her forehead feathers.

At other times more like a classic surf with a "slicked back hair" continuing the line of the chunky bill over the flat-top head.
The wings were kept partially open when diving - a bit like an auk and the the tail was splayed reavaling a fan of ragged thin feathers with gaps between them
You calling me a tuftie?
crab salad

Siberian Chiffchaff-Conwy RSPB

Found this yesterday near the Carneddau hide. Still present today in the same Willows, showing very well at times. It calls like a typical 'tristis'. Marc H popped down earlier and heard it. Sorry the pictures aren't very good. Also found a fiver in the carpark, brilliant! Comments welcome.

Surf Scoter- Porthdinllaen

Just back from seeing the Surf Scoter at Nefyn. Excellent views even from the car park at the Lifeboat station at Porth D. Hopefully the bird will stay around until the weather improves and we will get some photos of it. well done to RJ for finding it this afternoon.

More Whitefront photos

I saw these European Whitefronts in Norfolk in December. The Greenland bird was at Hen Borth Cemlyn a few winters back with some Pinks. The latter bird had a huge orangey bill, looks a bigger bird and had loads of black on its belly.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Sibe Chiff at RSPB Conwy

one seen well and heard calling several times by the Carneddau Hide.  Could do with a pic if anyone fancies having a go.  Also male Firecrest still at dusk near bridge pool then went to roost in usual clump by gate into paddock on perimeter track.


Grilling white-fronts

It's not too often that birders in North Wales get the chance to see White-fronted Geese close to home, and even less so at close range, so I seized the opportunity to grill a small group in Cleveland while up there with Marc and Rob on Saturday during a brief break from the gulls on Martin Garner's informative gull ID workshop. The group included 10 European/Russian birds and 1 Greenland bird feeding very close to the road, giving an excellent chance to compare the two forms together.

First-winter Greenland White-front on the left - easy enough to pick out with that orange conk but even with its head down the slightly darker upperparts and neck made it possible to sort it from the Euro birds

This was an interesting first-winter bird, with an orange base to the culmen but pink tip and lower mandible and otherwise appearing to fit Euro. The orange tone on the beak seemed slightly paler than on the Greenland bird that was present.

Great to compare adults and first winters at close quarters. Note the extensive black barring on the underparts of the left hand bird - not sure if that's a reliable sign of older age or gender, or just down to individual variation...

Northern Long tailed Tits in West Yorks

After only getting distant views of these in Finland 10 years ago I was made up to get these photos yesterday at Luddenden Dean, West Yorks. Fantastic Little birds.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Out and about, Conwy coast Jan 21st - Putting learning into practice!

I've had a great day today, looking at mirrors, tongues, scapulars, tertials and lots of primary counting! Thousands of gulls along the coast between Rhyl and Abergele. Tried hard to get to know our local 'argenteus' properly in all plumages. At least three cracking 'argentatus' birds seen amongst them, 2 adult and a juvenile bird ( one adult at Abergele recylcling centre and two on Pensarn beach). Although scarce, perhaps they are more regular than we think here in North Wales. Yesterday in Teeside, it was very striking how many, if not most, of their Herrings were northern type birds, very different looking from our coastal 'seagulls'. A 1st winter Lesser black backed Gull was also at Abergele dump.
The most 'intersting' bird seen today was a possible 'heinei' Common Gull, with a dark mantled 2nd winter bird that was showing brown in the tertails and had a broken black tail band. In flight it was quite striking. It was in fields near the recycling centre - certainly a candidate. I need to learn more about this race.

Other birds today included the superb Black throated Diver on Rhyl Marine lake, fishing alongside the crab catching Great Northern Diver. Unfortunately it was reported to have flown off a few minutes after I left at around 10am. Water Rail was showing well at Pentre Mawr Park, Abergele with one drake each of Shoveler, Gadwall and Pochard on on the lake here and a lone female Goldeneye on the business park lake.

Great picture of the BTD by Pete Wood.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Saving Turkey's Birds

Just back from a great day out with Rob and Chris in Teeside, where we went on one of Martin Garner's Gull Days - Iceland Gull, Med Gulls, loads of superb 'argentatus' Herring Gulls, drake Ring necked Duck, Marsh Harrier, Greenland and European White fronted Geese. Loads of good learning too. While there we met Cumbria's Tristan Reid; a self confessed gull junkie and also of fame.

Tristan is raising money to try and save some of Turkey's most well known birds and to do this he is having 20 of Turkey's most famous birds tatooed on his arms. The project is called 'Giving my right arm!' If you would like to help Tristan in his quest to raise this money, you can help by visiting -
What a great cause.

Black Throated Diver, Rhyl

The Great Northern Diver is now joined by a rather lovely looking Black Throated Diver! Seems to look like a first winter bird! Excellent record for Denbighshire, did go back later this afternoon for a quick scan but couldn't see it but i'm sure it's still there

Friday, 20 January 2012

Norfolk delivers all...

Norfolk is one of those great places, and many birders can relate it to a past experience of a mega rareity. I went with The Biggest Twitch a couple of weeks ago to for 3 days with a aim to try and pick up as many birds as possible.
After an early start, we soon found ourselves (5 hours later) charging towards a hide at Cley Marshes for a very rare American species. The bird was a Western Sandpiper, not too dissimilar to our well-known Dunlin. He soon locked onto this very special bird feeding with a flock of Dunlin (just to try and confuse us). It wasn’t too bad; the star bird was noticeably smaller and a lot fresher looking, appearing paler. We also picked up Wigeon, Teal, Golden Plover, Ruff, Brent Geese, Bearded Tit, Pintail and Avocet.

If interested in the Western Sandpiper, images from the trip here:

This took us into the afternoon, where on our way to the next site, Alan spotted a Rough Legged Buzzard sitting proudly on show from the roadside. These birds are generally a lot paler in colour than the more well-known Common Buzzard and appear more Eagle-like than anything. We soaked up the views and moved on to Holken. For anyone who knows this place well, this is a real Goose fest, with thousands upon thousands of mainly Pink footed Geese. We also picked up a handful of White Fronted Geese and a couple of Barnacles there. Grey Partridge, a bird of real decline showed very well, as did the Marsh Harriers floating over the marshes. We then moved on to our last site of the day where we witnessed a raptor show with peregrines, Sparrowhawks, Hen and Marsh harriers flying across over the marshes.

The second day took us to Titchwell, another early start and we were down at the beach seawatching. Bar and Black Tailed Godwits, Grey Plover, Knot and Turnstones were all on show. A couple of passing Red-Throated Divers showed well along with 3 lovely Long-Tailed Ducks. Backtracking into the reserve, we caught up with Common Snipe, Tufted Duck, Little Egrets, Spotted Redshank and a young drake Scaup. Alan, with his excellent i.d nailed a Mediterranean Gull in flight and we were also blessed with fantastic views of Water Rail. There was also another special bird at the reserve: an Cours Arctic Redpoll which gave amazing views from the overhead birch trees. These were accompanied by their more familiar Lesser Redpoll which are browner in colour.

Moving on at the speed of light with no time to lose, we took off to Buckenham Marshes whereby another mega rareity was spending its winter. It was a Lesser White Fronted Goose typically from Russia! This one was proving a lot more difficult to track down. The goose was supposed to be ‘hanging around’ with the Taiga Bean Geese which were a lot easier to see. After a good 45 minutes, the hope was fading until a guy who was watching nearby called it… now when I say we saw the bird, we were incredibly jammy as the bird literally came straight up out of one ditch and walked straight down into another… gone, all within a space of 10 seconds. Okay, no time to waste, let’s go! We weren’t going to get any better views.
The next bird to get was a Ring Necked Duck showing well from a lake a few miles from the goose site and this was followed by 6 Common Cranes and a Yellowhammer at Hickling broad NWT to end the day off nicely.

The next day was spent at Wolferton Triangle where a splendid male Golden Pheasant but on a fantastic display. It waltzed across the road without a care in the world, it hardly stirred when a speeding car zoomed past it. Amazing! Soon after, we were rewarding with brilliant views of Barn Owl on the side of the road on the way back to the hotel for breakfast. We were staying at Hunstanton so after breakfast we decided to seawatch from the cliff. Fulmars cruised past while on the sea, Red Breasted Mergansers, Common Scoter, Eider, Razorbill and 4 Velvet Scooters showed off nicely.

After a nice view of a Short Eared Owl, we thought we’d leave Norfolk for some quality time at Stirtloe Sewage Works. What was the attraction? Well, 7 smew and a Ferruginous Duck of course! These birds showed amazingly on a nearby lake. These were also joined by a cracking Yellow Legged Gull, Treecreeper and a Green Woodpecker also on site.
This marked a fantastic end to a mind blowing trip to Norfolk. Our trip total was just short of 130 birds which also made a great start to our yearlists.


Many Thanks to Alan and Ruth (The Biggest Twitch)

Images of Western Sandpiper, Arctic Redpoll, Rough-Legged Buzzard, Golden Pheasant and other specialities from the trip, please visit

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Smew still present

The Y Fforyd redhead smew was still present today, showing well on the incoming tide this afternoon. Two greenshank, spot red, 20 brent geese and 50 golden plover were best of the rest. Earlier on Anglesey a black guillemot was in Holyhead harbour, 2 slav grebes off Penrhos Coastal Park while a pink foot goose was among the greylags and canadas at Llyn Coron and a ringtail hen harrier was nearby over the dunes. Spot red and greenshank plus 40+ golden plover were at Maltraeth.

Cetti's Conwy RSPB

Heard a short blast of Cetti's on Friday by the Tal-y-fan hide. Will M had it again yesterday evening by the coffee shop. Hopefully, it hangs around. The 2 Firecrests were still around yesterday, one singing.

The GN Diver is still at Rhyl today too, per Will.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

'Kumlein's Gull' update

Martin's photographs and opinion on the bird can now be found on his web-site. All interesting stuff and food for thought.

Hopefully we will be able to test out the 'features' noted on other Iceland type Gulls over the coming months.

Black redstart, Llandudno

A female black redstart has been present yesterday and today at least in Llandudno on hotel rooftops around the pier area. Yesterday it was seen by the Grand Hotel and this afternoon it was frequenting rooftops on several hotels on Hill Terrace, I first came across it on the roof of the Hafod y Mor hotel before flying across the road and landing on a railing a few feet infront of me (no camera!). It then spent five minutes or so on several other hotel rooftops before disappearing. Hopefully it will hang around for a while.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Get a good look at Big Dave Owen!

Get a good look at Big Dave Owen. Just like Owen Roberts is getting here! He will be talking to us at Bangor Birdgroup this wednesday. Doors open 7 - 7.30. Brambell building, Deiniol Road.

He will be talking about his Year Listing in 2011, the Twitchers perspective.

Hopefully see you there. All welcome.

Fforyd Smew Twitch photos!

The redhead Smew was showing really well at Fforyd Bay yesterday until it was unknowingly flushed (not too far thankfully) by people paddling on surfboards! The little-uns got it on their lists as well! It had a white patch that was especially visible on it's left hand side in its lore/forecrown area. It was most visible when it raised its crest, otherwise it was quite minimal. I wonder if this white patch is a feature of females or is it a juvenile male?

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Ringed Brents feedback

Some of the Brents at Beddmanarch were read by KC before Christmas included:

Right=Red K, L= Blue L ringed 05.08.07 on Axel Heiburg Island, N Canada.  Its a returning bird resighted in Iceland, Foryd Bay and Beddmanarch

Right=Red K, L= Blue I ringed 05.08.07 as above

Right=Yell I, L=Yell T ringed at Wexford Slobs 13.02.08 resighted in Iceland, Dublin and N Ireland.

Right=White C, L=White 2 ringed in Dundrum Ireland 09.01.08 resighted in Iceland, Strangford Lough-N Ireland and new in from there to Holyhead.

Right=Red J, L=Blue C ringed 05.08.07 Axel Heiburg Island only resighted Strangford Lough and Beddmanarch

Right=White D, L=White P ringed 09.01.06 at Strangford, N Ireland resighted Iceland, and interestingly from Isle of Lewis April 2010.

Keep on looking through the birds especially over incomming and falling tide and send info to EURING or Graham McElwaine with multiple records at:
Oh and checkout Axel Heiburg Island on google earth!

One of the Brents at Beddmanarch that has been ringed - it's not one of Ken's combinations though!

A juvenile Pale-bellied Brent - not the belly collour and the lack of white neck collar.

Part of the flock at Beddmanarch Bay. It's well worth looking out for ringed birds amongst this lot and those on the Foryd as they've travelled a long way to be here!

Catching up

Finally managed to get over for the Kumlien's Gull this afternoon, which was showing well on the tideline at Pont Llyfni. While there Choughs were very evident and one flew past very close. 2 Goosander (pr) flew south down the beach. The redhead Smew was showing from the hide at Foryd Bach at high tide. A check at Madryn as the sun set revealed a large number of waders including 223 Knot, 5 Sanderling, 2 Barwit and a lone Greenshank. There were also 100's of Lapwing, Curlew and Wigeon on the saltmarsh.

Surf Scoters - extreme range birding!

The two Surf Scoters were again showing off beach house road ableit distantly! It was a case of extreme birding at times, however those who got there during the morning went home at least happy to have seen the two distant blobs (twitch above). Five Velvet Scoter were also amongst the thousands and thousands of Common Scoters here. Nearby at Pensarn, a cracking drake Eider was just offshore and another 2 Velvet Scoters were off here. A superb flock of 180+ Sanderlings were whizzing around the beach too. The 11 Snow Buntings and Great Northern Diver were also showing well at Rhyl. Several lovely 'argentatus' Herrings again showed well at Abergele Recycling centre, surely this site will pull in a few more white-wingers before the end of the winter. Lastly a Short eared Owl put on a good show at Kinmel Bay in the fading light.

Elswhere, the Kunmlein's was seen again at Pont llyfni

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Along the coast

Brilliant day guiding along the N Wales coast today in lovely sunshine. Dawn at Rhyl marine lake and the Great northern Diver was seen at once, what about those pics from Martin Garner?!

Across the road 12 Snow Buntings were showing well by the logs, plenty of Sanderling on the beach.

River Clwyd held Goosander inc some cracking drakes.

At Pensarn masses of Common Scoter, should have spent more time on them!

Conwy valley provided woodland birds and Peregrine but no luck with Hawfinch.

Llanfairfechan and a flat calm sea - 3 Slavonian Grebes, RT Divers, Kittiwake, Eider and another Peregrine. 8 Sanderling were good to see here with a flock of Knot.

At Foryd Bay the redhead Smew was showing well off Bonc Cottage. A Barnacle Goose flew in calling, plenty of Brents and Pintail.

Pont Llyffni and great views of Dipper under bridge. On the beach a Grey Phalarope flew in and landed right by the Kumlien's Gull! GN Diver offshore here.

Finished the day at RSPB Conwy adding a good number of day ticks.

A great day looking forward to more tomoz.

Alan and Ruth

Rhyl Great Northern Diver - still present

Martin Garner has very kindly sent me these pictures he took of the Great Northern Diver on the Marine Lake during his visit to North wales this week. The bird is still present today.
Adrian Foster alerted me a few weeks ago to the fact that the Diver flattens the bump on its forehead, just before it dives. It's quite obvious as you watch it. I presume it's streamlining itself as it does it in preperation for the dive therefore I presume it is feathers that are lowered and not 'a bulbous knob' on the forehead which I always thought it had. I (and Adian I'm sure) would be interested in hearing of any scientific reason for this. any takers?
It's an amazing experience watching the bird feed - at times you can hear it crunch the crab's shell. It also seems to dive with the crab in its beak - anyone know why does it do this?

If these are the quality fo Martin's picures, I can't wait to see the ones of the Kumlein's Gull!

Harlech Glaucous.

Continuing the good run of white-winged gulls in North Wales, this beast was patrolling the tide-line at Harlech Beach this morning. One of only five gulls present here first thing. It is a different individual to the one that was present on the Glaslyn nearby a couple of weeks back. It is probably a 1st Winter bird although the eye is pale. Any comments would be appreciated. A distinctive gap in the left wing should help identify it if it turns up elswhere in North Wales.