Saturday, 31 March 2012

5th Surf Scoter!

After scoring with a drake Surf Scoter this morning and 6 fine Velvets in flight at midday, this evening I joined Paul from the West Midlands at Hotel 70 degrees layby and we were rewarded (after much searching) with a fine drake Surf Scoter. No big news there, until a 'female' was noted tagging along with it. As I turned the scope up to x60 for a better view, I realised that the bird didn't have the two white cheek patches as expected, but instead had a faded white nape patch that stood out nicely in the low evening sun. The brown plumage coupled with the off-white nape all pointed to a 1st year drake - a new bird and the 5th of the winter! Result!

A single drake 'Velvet' Scoter in the flock could have been last night's interesting bird and gives hope that it's still be around. Interestingly, Julian Wheldrake and two visting birders had a single 'orange billed' Velvet last Monday in the flock.
Paul had two Eider past while Frank Duff had a Long tailed Duck early afternoon. A single Sandwich Tern was at Rhos Point and was still present mid-evening.

Moore Moore Moore!

Took a trip to Moore and actually managed to catch up with a bird that has eluded me all my life... Lesser Spotted Woodpecker! Found it myself in Birch wood whilst looking for Willow Tits! Not that I found the Willow Tits, but the LSW was much welcomed!

Managed to get a couple of snaps of the LSW and the Ring Ouzel and the Spoonbill at Parkgate: please take a look:

Friday, 30 March 2012

Old Colwyn Scoter flock - be aware!!!!!

An hour at the scoter flock late afternoon was very rewarding with the birds much closer than I've seen before. From the old Hotel 70degrees layby the four Surf Scoters were soon picked up and showed well - 3 drakes and a female. Several Velvet Scoters were also present with at least ten seen in flight and a few picked up on the sea. I picked up one bird that was immediately interesting. I'm posting it here so that those of you who are on site over the weekend can have a good look for it and have it on your radar.

The 'Velvet' type bird flew in to the front of the flock on its own, a nice drake. As it landed the immediate feature was a big white area around the eye, like a crescent shape extending towards the back of the head. The 'white patch' certainly seemed a lot larger than the other Velvets around, most of which I couldn't even make the white on the face at that range.

The other feature that worried me was the bill - the colour of the 'end half' seemed an orangy colour, although at times it even looked pinkinsh - even at this range. Although distant, the bird seemed to have a dark buldge at the top of the bill, tapering towards the end and looking long. The rest of the bird was like a typical drake Velvet.

At this stage I'm certainly not claiming a mega, however my pulse did race as I watched the bird and I talked to Alan, Steve Williams and Chris on the phone while on site and they confirmed that the features seemed good for a 'white winged' type Scoter. I enclose a quick sketch of what I saw that I drew immediately after watching the bird for 10 minutes or so. Sorry for the quality.

Fingers crossed the birds are as close tomorrow and hopefully with some good light we can either nail it as a mega or confirm it as a bright looking Velvet - however, with 30,000 Common Scoter out there it will take some re-finding. If you're along the North Wales coast over the next week or so, the scoter flock is well worth searching through - at worst you'll get multiple Surfies, Velvets, Long tailed Duck, Scaup and the amazing spectacle of 30,000+ Common Scoter!

Osprey-Conwy RSPB

Had one flying north up the estuary and over the castle 16:30.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Who Saw the Malltraeth Great White Egret?

Does anyone know who saw the Egret at the weekend as I could do with a description of it if poss?

Spotshank at Cemlyn and Llangefni Whoopers

I bumped into Derek Evans tonight who had been to Cemlyn. He had seen a Spotshank and an Adult Med on the lagoon at Cemlyn. He had also had a few Willow Warblers at Llyn Llewenan last night. Near Llangefni there were still about 35 Whooper Swans last Thursday. They dropped to 20 on Monday and I could only see 5 today. They obviously moved off North during this period of nice weather.

Mealies on Bardsey

A quiet morning was brightened up with the trapping of two Common Redpolls this morning. A flock of six birds was trapped and contained two pale birds with big white wing bars, pale rumps and very little colour on the breast.

Sea Duck Heaven - Old Colwyn.

A meeting in Old Colwyn meant I had a little bit of time to bird before and during lunch today. On a arrival on the Orme, my first 'Orme' Willow Warbler of the year was in full song (above). More bits and pieces on the Orme blog.

Lunchtime I had a quick look from the layby at Old Colwyn, the one just before where the Hotel 70degrees use to be. Good views from here and a great height as everything is visible despite a swell. The light as good and Surf Scoters were soon picked up - 3 drakes together and a female. The three drakes are certainly on heat and were constantly stalking the poor lady - a sort of Surfie follow my leader with the duck at the front. Other notable ducks amongst the 10,000 Common Scoter included a fine female Long tailed Duck, a drake Scaup and up to six Velvet Scoters (may have been 12 or the same group of 6 moving about). If you haven't been up there yet, you must - what a spectacle, and one which wont be around from much longer I would think.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012


Spotted this down at Conwy Marina and mulled it over a pint of guiness and thought it had nordic potensh? Comments welcome.
Also saw these yesterday enjoying the sunshine.  Some scouse tourist saw me taking the picture and said "Ay dare, izdat a dead cchrow dare mate".  I said "no its a Jackdaw having a sunbathe", and he just looked at me. The other Jackdaw just arched over like it had done its back in, ya know like when your dad pulled his back lifting slabs in the garden. 

Mealy Magic - Great Orme today.

This morning saw a big increase in the number of Redpolls over. I managed to tempt some 50+ birds down into the hawthorns with the iPhone, with many more passing overhead. Amazingly just 2 Siskins were involved in the movement; a huge reduction. The bird above appeared with one group - paler than accompanying Lessers, nice white rump with white tramlines up the back, a white disk around the cheek, white vent and undertail coverts with a few dark streaks, much less buffiness on the whole, all just about visible in the one picture I managed to grab of it before in continued North West - surely a Mealy? Another was caught on Hilbre today - not a million miles away as the crow flies - pics of that one here -
All the other bits and bobs on the Great Orme blog - including a bird even rarer than Mealy Redpoll on the limestones! You'll be surprised :-)

Malltraeth Glossy Ibis Photo

Grahame Morgan from Holyhead kindly forwarded me this photo he got of the Glossy Ibis at Malltraeth RSPB earlier this week. It flew from the reserve towards Llangefni but wasn't seen again.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Tit from t' pit!

Imagine the title in a Yorkshire accent. Well Bardsey joined in the out of season Coal Tit arrivals today, with a single bird trapped and ringed at the Observatory. Also a Lap Bunt, a good scattering of Goldcrests, Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps, and a few Willow Warblers. See more on

Bae Caernarfon - diving

The last gasp of a very disappointing winter of diver counting ended on a high this morning. Numbers have remained low from November and only rose to a disappointing 18 Great Northerns by last week.

Conditions this morning were perfect, with a mirrored sea, no wind or swell and best of all, very little heat distortion. It started well with 144 Red-Throats off Dinas Dinlle. At Pontllyfni I flushed a Water Rail across the ditch where it uncharacteristically landed, stopped and turned to have a good look at me before disappearing into the scrub. At the river mouth I was glad to find the Iceland Gull which I have seen distantly a few times recently. Having been confidently reporting it as a 2nd winter I had a good look at it and noticed the dark iris. Looked more like a 1st winter. Oh well, If I can't sort out my Iceland ageing this winter , I never will! Of course it flushed and flew a mile out to sea before I got any decent pictures. Other birds on the estuary included 47 brents and a single Knot - a site tick : )

There was a scattering of Great Northerns and later at Aberdesach scanning produced a distant raft of 22 great Northerns. I’ve been wondering all winter where they’ve been. Perhaps they favoured another site? It was reassuring to find they’re still here but stay way off-shore, only visible in perfect conditions, like today. Also, all the birds I saw that stretched up and flapped - scoter-style looked like plucked chickens – with stumpy wings and no primaries. I only really got a handle on this last winter and am now fairly confident that the increased numbers we get here in late Feb and March congregate here to moult before migrating back to Iceland , Greenland and maybe even Canada.

Anyway, the morning’s total was 193 red-throats, a new record for me for the site and 33 Great Northerns – Less than half last year’s record but still reassuring after the low counts this winter – maybe I need to buy a boat?

As usual, I moved on to Trefor, where I could still see the big raft of Great Northerns although no new ones – as I said, conditions were good : )

Highlight at Trefor though was a pod of Bottle-nosed dolphins that were pootling around. They came in within 100m and although not in the mood for acrobatics one showed some interesting behaviour including logging on the surface, travelling on/in the surface looking very shark-like and even sinking and rising vertically like a subrmarine. There were 8 or 9 but the best was a mother with a calf which I managed to video-scope, badly.

Give me Moore

Finally caught up with a lesser spotted woodpecker for the first time in a few years during a trip over to Moore nature reserve. We heard the bird calling several times during the morning but it took nearly four hours before finally getting on to it at a favoured spot near the car park. Investigated a couple of trees for several minutes before flying off. Nearly made it a hat-trick seeing greater spot but only heard a greenie. Blackcap and plenty of chiffs present but dipped willow tit. Several brimstone butterflies on the wing.
Lousy pic follows but at least I've seen one again!

Osprey best so far today....

Osprey flew north over River Clwyd this pm

Two drake Surf Scoters still Old Colwyn - have feeling some double counting yday, seems no one saw five surfs at any one time, they were mobile when we were there yday!

Female Surf still Morfa Nefyn

Iceland Gull Aberdesach this am also over 30 GN Diver - nice!

Heading into the uplands again tomoz for more guiding see our website for recent reports, some brilliant birding!

Alan and Ruth

Monday, 26 March 2012

GOBO in the making

There's no doubt the G.Orme would be worthy of an obs.  One day maybe!  On Sunday, the first mist-netting for many a year, (probably since the very early 90s when Dr Stuart Thomas did so with demo's for the local YOC down by the reservoir).  Those were the days.

Anyway to kick things off 2 M Thrush, 2 S Thrush, 2 Chiffchaff, a Goldcrest and Chaffinch were ringed.  The beauty of course is that everything is passing through the site.  Hopefully much more to follow: 

Game on!!

Had a fantastic day down at World's end at the weekend and managed to catch up with the superb Black Grouse. Other birds included, Red Grouse, Green Woodpecker, Great Grey Shrike and later on a Black Redstart on the Orme! Take a look at for a full report, photos and details on the day!

Black Grouse at World's end

Iceland Gulls Conwy RSPB

Found 2 this evening at the reserve. My pic of the adult is rubbish but the 1st summer? bird above showed much better. The birds seem to be moving between the deep lagoon and a field being plowed behing the black cat roundabout somewhere. Grilled both for Kumlien's, but failed. Tonnes of Gulls around today.

Lots of Conwy news - 5 Surf Scoters, 2 Iceland Gulls and migrants!

Rob Hughes is at present watching two Iceland Gulls on the deep lagoon at Conwy RSPB - an adult and a younger bird. Earlier an amazing 5 Surf Scoters were reported off Old Colwyn; 4 drakes and a female. Wow! Even earlier on the Great Orme, a female Black Redstart and 2 Ring Ouzels (male and female) were on the Great Orme amongst a scattering of migrants. The Redwing below was one of three on the limestone pavements showing well - look Scandinavian to me. More Orme bits and pieces on the blog.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Carmel Head Sunday 25th March 2012

The female Black Redstart at Ynys y Fydlyn beach.

Redlegs were calling everywhere on the way to Carmel Head this morning.

Buzzard taking off.

I had a group of 7 and 5 Crossbills moving over. (Four plus a goldfinch shown here). 100+ Redpolls including a very pale one (no photos sadly), that'll teach me to not take my walkman and speaker with me! I know, so 1980's! 250+ Siskins and .......

a flock of 14 Magpies went north off the Head but turned right to follow the coast instead of heading to the Isle off Man! I love vis-mig.

L5, for info on Choughs contact Adrienne Stratford at the RSPB.

A grey seal "spouting" prior to a dive.

3 pairs of Stonechats were in the area. BTO Cymru are doing breeding chat surveys (incl. Wheatears) this year. Any info, contact Kelvin in Bangor. Tony White had 2 Ring Ouzels at the NT Car Park yesterday.

A Stoat was checking all the Rabbit burrows for a bite to eat. It kept appearing out of different burrows. It reminded me of that game "Whack-a-mole"! I never knew which hole it would pop out of next!

Misty Wylfa dawn.

Had a fab few hours after dawn doing a "final year" survey for the North Wales Atlas at Carmel Head. If you think you can help contact your local BTO reps! I never knew Ornithology could be so much fun!!!!

Criccieth corvids.

There were a couple of cool crows enjoying the unseasonal sun at Criccieth today. The Nordic Jackdaw that has been present here for a while seems to be paired up and showed well around the hotel roofs and adjacent fields on the West Shore.

Whilst in the afternoon, this smart Hooded Crow was enjoying a stroll along the Prom:


Hot news - and site tick - from Catbird Ken aka Anglesey Birdman via Twitter... Muscovy on the rocks below Ellin's Tower yesterday - awesome... I thought my two large race Canada Geese at Aberdaron beach were good - this is something else.

Someone please tell 'Plastic Steve' Culley if he's not been already to go pap the hell out of it - I want prints!!


Black Redstart & Hooded Crow at Uwchmynydd

Plus some interesting visible migration. Did anyone else have Coal Tits in truly weird places this morning?

All the totals are over at

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Short-eared Owl

In off the sea at the Gun Site, Great Orme 16:15 this afternoon. Picture only a mother could love!!!

Orme and Madryn

It was good to see so many familiar faces on the Orme this morning and the male Black Redstart was certainly much appreciated, although rather flighty as it fed along the stone wall - sometimes squabbling with the Mipits and Wheatears.

Plenty of other migrants kept us on our toes including a lone Golden Plover that circled the limestones calling before heading back north, Siskins, Redpolls, Goldcrests and it was strange to hear Chiffchaffs singing from the Gorse.

I headed over to Morfa Madryn later in the afternoon in the hope of relocating the Glossy Ibis seen this morning. No sign of that, but the Lapwings were certainly in full Spring mode and a pair of Barnacle Geese were the first I've seen here - aptly associating with a motley assortment of Greylags, Canadas and hybrids! A smart Peacock butterfly was also my first of the Spring.

Cuba - Part 1 - Matanzas to San Diego de los Banos

Just returned from two weeks in Cuba. Here is a link to the first part of our trip report written by Dave B.
A couple of my pics below. Cuban Black Hawk, Cuban Emerald, Cuban Pygmy Owl and the Tody.

Male Black Redstart adds brightness to the sunshine!

Lots of birds on the move today including the stunning birds above. Siskins, Goldcrests, Rodpolls, Chiffchaffs, Golden Plover, Coal Tit and good numbers of early spring migrants on the move. For more pictures and detailed account of numbers visit the Orme blog - Click here -

Sunny morning on the Great Orme

A beautiful male Black Redstart and a male Ring Ouzel on the Great Orme this morning. Marc may have pics later...

Alan and Ruth

Friday, 23 March 2012

Wheatears, Jack Snipe and vis mig

Had my first three Wheatears at Uwchmynydd this afternoon (about a week later than I usually see them) plus a few other bits n pieces including a patch tick - more on the blog at

Male Ring Ouzel - they've arrived!

Following a report of a male Ouzel in the Nant Ffrancon yesterday, I was hoping for one on the Orme this morning. It didn't disappoint. Just as I was leaving a cracking male burst out of the gorse at the north end, circling the car park and disappearing down the western side- result. 3 Wheatears and a few other migrants too. If your interested in Chaffinch, Robin and Blackbird numbers passing through, check out the Great Orme blog -

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Ring for a chat

I think the Orme had a bit of Stonechat passage last weekend.  There were around 9 pairs which fueled lots of agression, chasing a perching in odd spots like in trees.  I watched at least two pairs displaying, the male turning away from the female while doing some mesmerizing tail wagging with dropped wings revealing the white side patches.  There were some whacky calls too with some mimicry thrown in i think. 

Chough were very vocal
 So today Chris and I had chance to try spring trapping but there were few migrants.  Despite this a beautiful near adult male Stonechat obliged as did a cracking male Wheatear, one of only 2 up there today. 

 Other migrants included Golden Plover heard, dozens of goldcrests, 100s Siskin over, Peregrine and Sand Martin.  There was oddly up to 20 magpie moving around, surely passing through:
It looks like the small birds have benefitted from a mild winter going by the amount of crests through. 

Cemlyn 22nd March

At Cemlyn tonight there were 5 Med Gulls. 2 adults, 2 2nd summer birds and a first summer bird. Otherwise it was pretty quiet.

Green sands, Wrexham

3 green sands on Borras Pool, near Wrexham this evening.
This is the largest group I've seen in the Wrexham area.

Malltraeth Cob

I popped over to Malltraeth Cob in my lunch hour today. It was very pleasant as it was warm with no wind. Skylarks and Chiffchaffs were singing and there were plenty waders around. They included 10 Blackwits on the pool, a Spotshank with the Redshanks and a fly-over Greenshank. Pity I had to go back to work!