Sunday, 25 January 2015

A Day out in North Wales

Todays episode of Last of the Summer Wine was set in North Wales. We started out at Llanbedr-Y-Cennin in the Conwy valley. The hawfinches were very difficult today, but Ray and Dave managed to catch a glimpse of one, but I had to be content with a distant view of a red kite.

Llanbdr-Y-Cennin church

Next we moved to Old Colwyn, where there were large numbers of scoter showing distantly on the sea. There were perhaps up to 5000 common scoter here today, though they stretched as far as the eye could see and given that there were 20,000 earlier in the week, 5000 is probably a conservative estimate. With them today were at least 20 velvet scoter and three drake surf scoter which were seen together and displaying to what appeared to be a female surfie. A fourth drake surf scoter was on the other side of the flock. The scoter flock on the North Wales coast is always impressive, though a telescope is essential if you want to see anything more than what appears to be a black and distant shadow on the water. However, with the help of the scopes, the bright sunlight today allowed us to pick out even velvet scoter on the water, and we could clearly see the white fleck under the eye of the males. Normally the distance of the flock means that even through the telescope they are only identifiable when in flight, thanks to the white patches on the wing. In this light the surf scoters almost glowed like beacons when you found one, with great big white patches on the front and back of their heads, but they also spent incredible amounts of time under the water, and even when on the surface they often disappeared for long periods in the swell, and it was quite easy to lose them for several minutes at a time.

Also on the water today, two red-throated divers, drake scaup and a few guillemots, but perhaps the most remarkable bird of the day was a distant tern, almost certainly a Sandwich tern. It's not as unlikely as it might seem, there have been 10 records of Sandwich tern in the UK so far this January according to Birdguides.


Looking towards Rainbow Bridge, Old Colwyn.


We ended the day at Conwy RSPB where we spent a lot of time searching for the firecrests which have been present all winter. Unfortunately we couldn't find them, but we did have the unexpected bonus of nine chough flying over.


Conwy RSPB. Is there a more scenic RSPB reserve?


Choughs.



Conwy RSPB


St Helens birders in action.

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