Monday, 12 July 2021

Birding Somerset, North Wales & Dorset

As May ended June started with us birding on Dartmoor at Challacombe Farm we had two visits here one with the grandchildren and another in the afternoon on our own. What was strange for us was the Bluebells as we are used to seeing them in woodland here they covered the moor in profusion which looked wonderful.

one of many fields of Bluebells that covered the moor

Bombus lapidarius - Red-tailed Bumblebee

On our walks here we had our Lesser Redpoll with several flying by but never landing in view. We also had our best views of Redstart with a super male which sang from the top of one of the stone walls to one of the sheep paddocks. 

Singing male Redstart Challacombe Farm ©Nick Hull

Singing male Blackbird Callacombe Farm ©Nick Hull

As our holiday with the Grandchildren came to an end the River Warbler turned up on the Somerset Levels at Ham Wall and the lure of this bird was to much. So on the day we were leaving Dartmoor we had a cream tea at Darts Farm and said goodbye to the family and headed for Ham Wall. 

We arrived to a very packed car park but as Jackie can't walk long distances any more the staff directed us to a disabled parking area near to the first viewing area. This was a great help easily halving the distance required to get to the bird.  So off we went along the path to a gathering of birders all very well distanced and behaved.  We found that the bird had been singing very well but had just disappeared into the reed bed. It didn't take long before it reappeared though briefly.  It then took a while before it returned to it's favoured singing perch and gave us fantastic views and sang its little heart out.  I managed to get a few reasonable photographs and a couple of audio recordings of the bird singing.

River Warbler Ham Wall ©Nick Hull
There must be lots of similar photographs going around of this bird with the amount of photographers that were present.  Though very few people were recording it's song and it came to Jackie and myself that the last time we had seen and heard River Warbler was on our honeymoon 25 years ago in Poland.  We also ticked off a few Great White Egret for the year a species that seems to be doing well on the levels.

We were home around two weeks when we headed off to North Wales to do a little birding and to visit Jackie's aunt.

The 19th was our first days birding where we visited a small reserve at Penmaenmawr which was just up the road from our holiday cottage.  It is a small reserve but in the past has been very good for Redstart and flycatchers.  We started well with a Spotted Flycatcher close to where we had parked and our walk through the woodland only added common species and it appeared that the Pied Flycatcher numbers were down on the normal or they had already fledged as we didn't see one.

Spotted Flycatcher - Penmaenmawr ©Nick Hull

After lunch we headed off to Caerhun this is a small church set above the Conwy esturary surrounded by farm fields here we added a few of the commoner species on the estuary such as Curlew, Oystercatcher and many local gulls. We also added Buzzard and Sparrowhawk and I was lucky to see a Hawfinch fly out of a Yew tree in the church yard but unfortunately Jackie wasn't looking the right way and missed it.

On the 20th we visited Holyhead harbour for Black Guillemot and managed to see at least six in the old part of the harbour.
Black Guillemot - Holyhead Harbour © Nick Hull

After Holyhead we headed to South Stack here we managed a brief flyby view of a Chough and we had our first Puffin of the year plus the usual Guillemot, and Razorbill, Kittiwake and other gull species which have colonies on the stack.

On our return to the holiday home we had time to make a visit to Cemlyn Bay tern colony hoping we would be lucky to see Roseate Tern which had been there for a few days but we had timed it wrong and it had flown out to feed, but we had good views of the common and Sandwich Terns which were continuously coming and going to bring in sand eel and small fish to feed their young.

Sandwich Tern leaving Cemlyn colony to go fishing © Nick Hull

Common Tern in a hover Cemlyn Bay © Nick Hull

The next day we visited Bodnant NT gardens and whilst walking the large park area we came across a male Pied Flycatcher which was a bit of a surprise but a very nice addition to our list. The was also a meadow which was allowed to grow unrestricted and was covered in wild native flowers and many Common Spotted Orchids.

Orchid Meadow Bodnant © Nick Hull
On the 22nd we headed off to World's End a grouse moor in the Snowdonia National Park, it's an area we have visited a few time over the years to see Black Grouse but unfortunately this time we failed to see any. Though Jackie did find a couple of Red Grouse and we had several Whinchat and the highlight was a male Merlin that put in an appearance.

The approach up onto World's End with a few local sheep © Nick Hull

Male Whinchat -World's End © Nick Hull

Before we left Wales we visited the Great Orme here we managed to see more Chough but I managed to get a few shots of the now famous Kashmir Goats that live feral on the Orme and at night come down to the town and munch on the flowers and hedges of Llandudno.

Kashmir Goats - Great Orme © Nick Hull

Whilst we were on our last couple of days in Wales news broke that a Melodious Warbler had been found and was singing regularly in and around Tom's Thump a small pine copse at Middlebere. So after arriving home on the Friday we chanced it would stay until the next day and visited Saturday morning. We were not disappointed because as we arrived and joined a couple of local birders that was already watching and listening to the bird we could hear it singing.  It took us a minute or two to locate it with some directions from Gary and Martin and then it was just a case of enjoy the moment.  I managed to get a couple of reasonable shots and an audio recording which brought June to a very nice end with 121 species for the month.

Melodious Warbler - Middlebere © Nick Hull

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