Sunday, 15 September 2013

A Woman Spurned....

As you can probably guess from my 'hilarious' title, we have just returned from the inaugural migration festival at the iconic birding location of Spurn - a first time visit for Steffi, and one that every birder should make at least once in the autumn.

A series of talks, walks and workshops had been laid on to help people get the most out of the weekend, and whilst we spent the majority of the time doing our own thing, the sheer amount of birders in the area meant that not much got through unseen and that news of sightings spread quickly, allowing folk to get onto most species picked up. However, saying that, we did manage to miss both wrynecks and common rosefinch, being about as far away from their locations as is possible when they were showing, and having to listen to that time honoured classic refrain of  'not been seen for about an hour' whenever we did get to the spot. That aside, we had a great weekend and saw plenty of birds. Waders, in particular, were very impressive in both variety and number. 19 species, including little stint, ruff, bar tailed godwit, spotted redshank, whimbrel and green sandpiper were seen alongside fantastic numbers of grey and golden plover, dunlin, redshank, greenshank and knot. Particularly impressive was seeing plenty of godwit and knot still in summer plumage.



Out at sea manx and sooty shearwaters were noted, with great and arctic skuas harassing the sandwich and common terns amongst the common scoters, gannets and red throated divers.
Yellow wagtails were abundant, a showy red backed shrike kept the punters happy and 2 passing marsh harriers entertained the crowds enjoying the unusually hot and sunny weather. Numbers of commoner migrants like whitethroat, whinchat, wheatear, willow, sedge and reed warbler showed well, whilst observing ringing demonstrations featuring linnets, tree sparrows and meadow pipits proved interesting.


A highlight for us, and a first for Steffi, was flushing a corncrake from a grassy bank at Sammys Point - we passed the news on and it later appeared in the days report so presumably others got onto it later. 3 late swifts overhead as we were packing up to leave completed the checklist for the weekend which numbered 87 species. Great fun, and a firm date in our calendar from now on.


Monday, 9 September 2013

Summer Sightings

As its been well over a month since our last post, firstly an apology for our tardiness. A busy month of receiving house guests and trips away for the odd concert combined with the countdown to leaving the cabin and moving house has resulted in our lack of postings, so heres a quick catch up of the highlights encountered in August.
As is customary this time of year, birds take a bit of a back seat and our attention is drawn to other wildlife, particularly butterflies and dragonflies. On a walk on the 9th from Tal-y-Bont to Borth we had 12 species of butterfly, including wall brown, common blue, large skipper, gatekeeper and small copper. A family of stonechat, some passing manx shearwaters and recently fledged reed bunting were the only noteworthy birds.


On the 11th we headed off to Broadwater, where the star of the show was a fishing osprey. On the lagoon around 40 goosander had gathered, and our first arctic skuas of the autumn were heading north following the few sandwich terns.


A trip back up north following a Martha Wainwright concert in mid month allowed us to retrace an old favourite walk of ours from Hornby to Wray over Roeburndale, on which redstarts featured, along with a showy kingfisher, numerous meadow pipits and a green sandpiper down by the Wenning.


Back home a good showing of odonata on the 20th at Llyn Glanmerin included an ovipositing brown hawker along with southern hawkers and lots of emerald damselfly. A couple of feeding spotted flycatchers were a welcome bonus.



Towards the end of the month reports of a showy spotted crake had us heading out to Ynys-hir, where we had excellent views of this normally shy critter, and indeed as I write it is still around and we have now seen it a couple of times. One last treat - for me anyway - came when I stepped out onto the deck one evening for some fresh air and a tawny owl flew in and landed on top of the bird feeder, turned to stare at me for 4 or 5 seconds before silently swooping off down the field.

We have also been keeping an eye on the moths attracted to our outside light and on 3/9 we discovered - much to our delight - a nationally scarce species: Cloaked Carpet. Record sent off to county recorder and was confirmed.

Friday, 2 August 2013

How I met your moth-er

On the return journey of yet another bureaucratic and money-draining trip to the German consulate in Liverpool we stopped at RSPB reserve at Burton Mere Marsh. At first everything was quiet as it was midday and we thought we would not be able to see much. But then things started picking up as we spotted a couple of black-tailed godwit from one of the hides and a smaller wader running passed them which turned out to be a spotted redshank. Soon after a fox scared everything up and we had about a dozen godwit and five spotted redshank (just about visible on the photo). Three feeding snipe also made an appearance as well as a hunting female marsh harrier. After this spectacle we walked to the other end of the reserve where we were able to catch up with five yellow wagtail (one female with her youngsters) which were chased off by a woodpigeon not long after we got our bins on them. The insects also put on a good show with abundant brown hawkers hunting over the meadows and at least nine butterfly species present including common blue, small copper and larger skipper.


Last night Dave came up with a brilliant idea to utilize the half-finished moth trap: We filled it with egg boxes, put a white sheet underneath the outside light and set the trap on a chair in front the sheet. We didn't expect much but this morning we were delighted to find plenty of moths inside the trap, on the cabin wall, in the nearby vegetation and one on Dave's coat! Just imagine how many moths we could get with a proper trap on a warm summer's evening. Of the ones that didn't escape and that we were able to identify we had 19 species and a total of 36 moths!! Oh the fun we had! Here is our list:

Small Phoenix (6), Common or Buff Footman (5), Clouded Border (1), Black Arches (2), Antler Moth (2, bottom right), Barred Straw (1), Dark Arches (1, bottom left), Green Carper (1), Rosy Footman (3), Brimstone Moth (1), Small fan-footed Wave (3), Large Emerald (1), Lesser Common Rustic (1), Chinese Character (1), Willow Beauty (1), Gold Spot (1, top left), Engrailed (2), Double Square Spot (1), July Highflyer (2, top right)



Tuesday, 30 July 2013

The green green grass (snake) of home....

Yesterday dawned dry, warm and bright so we grabbed a quick brekkie, stuck a load in the washer, and jumped in the car and headed out to the Ynyslas area for a day of wader spotting. Calling in at Glyndwr pool first, all looked quiet with just 3 lapwing amongst the honking canada geese, despite a good coverage of muddy fringes to the rapidly declining water level. After 15 minutes or so alone green sandpiper flew in and promptly went into deep cover.Deciding to try elsewhere, a quick peek over the embankment on the Leri brought us face to face with 3 stunning black-tailed godwits, looking lovely with their brick red plumage glowing in the sunlight.


A quick visit to the beach car park at Ynyslas gave us good views of roosting sandwich terns amongst the gulls, and a large mixed flock of dunlin, sanderling and ringed plover. However, with the sun being out the place was starting to fill up with families and dog walkers, and worst of all, jet ski enthusiasts, so we went on to pastures new. Trying the pools at Ynys-hir seemed like a good idea, and indeed they were. Apart from great views of more green sandpipers, a real treat was in store for us when a gorgeous wood sandpiper appeared from behind a clump of rushes and began to feed, and chase off the green sands, right in front of us. Job done. Before heading back home, a quick stroll around the new boardwalk looking for dragonflies seemed to be the thing to do, and we were rewarded with close up views of black darters and a female southern hawker, who was busy ovipositing in the damp vegetation around the edge of a ditch. Having decided that we had done pretty well, we cut through the woodland to get back to the car park, and got a shock when I almost trod on a superb grass snake; quite easily the largest I've seen in years, at least 3 foot long. To finish things off, we also came across what we believe is a caterpillar of the elephant hawkmoth.


A couple of things from today to round things off - a check this evening on the spotted flycatcher nest after last nights heavy rain storm proved positive, with both youngsters looking healthy and close to fledging. Its exposed position has had us constantly checking on their well being, but so far they have escaped the attentions of any predators and thunderous downpours. Also, on the way back from said nest check, we had a new tick for the garden with this beaut of a slow-worm, which appreciated my delicate handling so much he crapped all over my palm - a small price to pay for a photo opp!

Sunday, 28 July 2013

lepidoptera days

Another update on our recent activities and I'm afraid this time the reason behind our recent lack of posts is sheer laziness. So what have we been up to?

About two weeks ago a morning spent in Aberystwyth at Tanybwlch beach and Pendinas revealed the breeding success of many species such as sedge warbler, wheatear (at least 8 juveniles on the beach) and chough of which a family of five was moving around the area searching for the best feeding spots. On the beach I spotted a mediterranean gull amongst about 80 black-headed gulls and a few bottlenose dolphins were showing well again near the harbour.



A few days later we decided to spend an afternoon in the sand dunes north of Aberdyfi. Noteworthy on the bird front were only the passing manx shearwaters and gannets ( not high in numbers compared to the Borth feeding frenzy). Our focus was therefore directed on the butterflies and moths.The highlight and butterfly tick for me was a beautiful grayling (photo) that we found sunning itself on exposed sand. We also spotted large skipper (photo), ringlet, meadow brown, tortoiseshell, common blue and small, large and green-veined white. Also of interest were an abundance of freshly emerged and mating six-spot burnet moths and Dave discovered two garden tigers which are not well-camouflaged in the dunes at all.



These days waders are beginning to build up in numbers again. We were lucky to have great close-up views of a green sandpiper at Llyn Coed y Dinas (near Welshpool) and soon after found three of them at Ynys-hir feeding on the mud fringes in front of Saltings Hide. Also at Ynys-hir (from Domenlas) were about 40 dunlin, 20 redshank and one curlew.
We also have good news on the local front: Our predated spotted flycatchers built a new nest and are currently feeding their chicks; we were able to see at least two gapes when we discovered the nest which is made out of moss and placed on a rock outcrop. A few days ago we had a buzzard visiting the garden - much to the dislike of our blackbirds. And finally, on a local walk along the Dyfi near Pennal we heard a grasshopper warbler reeling in the middle of the afternoon on 23/07. A very optimistic bird inspired by the gorgeous weather to go for another brood? Also on the walk we had a few golden ringed dragonflies and numerous gatekeepers.


Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Manxie mayhem

After witnessing yesterdays seabird spectacular, I couldn't resist another visit to Borth today - luckily it coincided with a local survey, so Steffi came along as she'd missed it on Monday. We weren't disappointed. Hopefully these photos can convey some of the excitement of standing at the waters edge on a deserted beach, with the sun on your back and a frenzy of feeding activity going on right in front of you. If not, then I suggest you make the effort to see it for yourself.


Once again great views of the local, and very unshy, otter as it fed in the surf around the groynes opposite the railway station, and 25 dunlin looked resplendent in the sunshine at the point.

Afterwards we headed once again to Cors Fochno as it seemed ideal for dragon/butterflies. More of the same with the addition of large red damselfly, plus I got good close up views of large heath, and on the bird front a low flying goshawk carrying prey was a bonus. Before we had even left the house this morning we came across this poplar hawkmoth that had decided to use my boot as a good place to spend the day - we moved him to a more suitable spot before heading out.