Sunday, 17 April 2016

Birds and Bryophytes in North Wales

I was at the Great Orme for 7:30 this morning in the hope of picking up a migrant or two. Unfortunately the weather was far from ideal, with a brisk north-easterly making it feel cold and very uncomfortable. The birds seemed to agree and there were few about. However I did manage to get onto a ring ouzel thanks to a friendly local birder and also three wheatears. Choughs were everywhere, I counted at least 10 birds, and great to see them doing so well on the Great Orme these days.

With migrant passerines at a premium, I decided to spend the rest of my time looking through the scoter flock off the north end of the Orme, where I knew that there had been velvet and surf scoters seen recently with an impressive 10,000 common scoter. Looking through such a distant flock required the scope to be on 60x magnification and with a north easterly wind coming in off the sea and straight into my face it wasn't going to be easy, but eventually I managed to find a reasonably sheltered spot where I was able to hunker down and have a good look through the flock with minimum discomfort and minimum scope shake.

However uncomfortable and difficult it might be, watching a distant feeding flock of scoter is one of the great birding experiences in my opinion, they're just an awesome spectacle. Sometimes the whole flock flies 100m like a giant shadow over the water, before dropping down, and then the back birds take up again and fly to the front, and they keep repeating this, almost as if none of them want to be at the back. Occasionally while I watched the wind dropped for a few moments and the scope stopped shaking and if this happened to coincide with a few thousand birds in flight, it offered me the best opportunity to pick out velvet and surf scoter, the velvets with their white secondaries standing out for miles, whilst the surf scoter looked like a giant coot in flight.

Then I had to leave. I was on my way to Pensychnant nature reserve near Conwy, for a bryophyte workshop run by CIEEM. This was a much more sheltered location and in the afternoon even felt vaguely warm. A bonus here was a recently arrived pied flycatcher.

Year: 200 (Ring ouzel, velvet scoter, chough, pied flycatcher). So that's 200 up for the year. This time last year I was on 184, and in 2014 (my best ever year) I was on 201.

Nice to get a photo of a chough with no rings on!

Ring ouzel.

Part of the scoter flock. This is the ultimate scope job! I scanned the sea three times with my binoculars and even though I knew that they were there, I didn't notice the flock of 10,000 scoter! Only when they all flew and I could see what looked like a shadow moving over the water did I realise where they were.

I was pleased to find this beautiful rue-leaved saxifrage Saxifraga tridactylites growing on the limestone pavement. 

Looking over the Conwy estuary towards Pensychnant, with the snow covered mountains of Snowdonia behind.


Eurhynchium striatum

Isothecium myosuroides

Metzgeria fruticulosa

Plagiochila aspleniodes

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