Sunday, 15 March 2020

North Wales, Anglesey & Holy Island

Hi everyone,

Jackie and I ventured off to North Wales, we had booked to stay at a Warners hotel at Bodelwyddan Castle as it was convenient to be able to visit Jackie's Aunt who lives in Llandudno and good access to a few birding sites and the coast.  I have to say the service we had and the food was excellent and the lodge we stayed in was comfortable and all one needed for a holiday I should say it is an adults only hotel.

We arrived late afternoon on the Monday so our first day for birding was Tuesday and we decided that a trip to Holy Island and South Stack would get us, with a little luck, Black Guillemot and Chough and perhaps a Rose-coloured Starling which seems to have taken up residence in a small village.

We headed off to Holyhead harbour it's a good location for Black Guillemot and other sea birds.  When we arrived we managed with a little luck to find a small parking area that overlooked the harbour and almost immediately I saw a Black Guillemot diving and feeding in the harbour.  I grabbed the camera and went to the edge of the shore in the hope it would come close enough to get a decent shot but didn't really have any luck, as you can see it is in summer plumage.
Black Guillemot - Holyhead Harbour © Nick Hull
From here it was on to South Stack our target here was to have lunch at the RSPB centre and to see Chough.  Well, the seeing of Chough went ok we saw nine flying over The Range which headed off out of sight.  The lunch didn't happen at the centre as it appears the RSPB are having it refurbished and had the builders in, we presume it will be completed for the breeding season.
Chough flying over South Stack Holy Island Wales
So we snacked and had a cuppa hoping the Chough would reappear but no such luck and the wind was increasing. Our next location was the small village of Llanfaethu as a first winter Rose-coloured Starling or as some now call them Rosy Starling had taken up residence with the local Starlings.  Instructions on the bird news said the bird could be found on the feeders in the garden behind the post box.  We parked up just a few metres down the road from the post box and walked back up the road.  We hadn't gone twenty metres and I could see the bird perched in a tree preening. It gave great close views and enable me to get some ok photographs.
Rose-coloured Starling - Llanfaethu, Anglesey Wales
It was a pretty scruffy individual and was obviously starting it's moult and it just shows if you see a pale bird in a winter flock of Starling take a closer look it's probably a Rose-coloured Starling.

On Wednesday we visited Jackie's aunt it was extremely windy day we had a drive up to the cafe on the Great Orme and saw one or two Fulmar which had returned to the cliffs to get ready for the new breeding season.  Unfortunately due to a cliff fall we couldn't travel all the way around so headed back to Jackie's aunts apartment for tea & coffee.  Whilst there I noticed a flight of Chough four birds which flew along the cliff top of the Great Orme and on around out of sight.

Thursday was going to be our last full day and we wanted to see if we could see Black Grouse so we had breakfast as early as we could and headed out to the World's End an area of grouse moor where we have been successful in the past.  We had a little difficulty finding the right area but once we had found the correct road we drove up onto the moor and slowly worked our way across the top.  Around halfway across I spotted something at the edge of the heather and juncus, stopping and getting the bins onto it, it revealed itself as a Red Grouse.
Head of the Red Grouse © Nick Hull
Over the next thirty minutes or so we had several calling and managed to locate around six individuals scattered over the moor.
Red Grouse returning out into the open © Nick Hull
Shortly after we saw a Black Grouse fly across and then land disappearing into long heather, a little  while after another flew across and kept going.  We moved down the road and I had a look over a rise and as I did Jackie saw another Black Grouse fly towards us, I was looking in the wrong direction. Jackie was shouting at me but the wind was taking her voice away, oddly I panned back to the left and caught sight of a Black Grouse just landing in the heather some 150m away Jackie's bird. I saw another distant bird but Jackie came away with the best view of us both.
Black Grouse - Archive photograph
We left happy with what we had seen and lunch at the Rhug Estate Organic Farm, Shop & Cafe which was very nice and well worth a visit if your ever passing.  After lunch we headed to Conwy RSPB reserve, here we managed to dodge the rain but not the wind but we managed to get around three of the reserves hides and saw many of the resident species, the highlight here was a pair of Goosander that flew in whilst we were there and gave us some pretty good views.
pair Goosander - Conwy RSPB © Nick Hull
The Goosander were a very nice end to our week in North Wales and it will be nice to return in the late spring to be able to catch up with some of the areas breeding species.