Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Sunday 1st January 2012 - North Wales

The start of another year, and in fact 2012 marks my 30th annversary since I went on my first YOC trip to Westport. We decided to mark New Years Day with a trip out. We could have joined all the other New Year Day listers and followed everyone round Staffs, but as we hadn't seen the majority of these New Year Day listers since ...er..last Jan 1st, we headed out of the county and into North Wales. And a super day was had. It was a full Clayhead gathering, with PJ, Lucky CJW and GAS all managing to get up for 0630hrs despite getting to bed after midnight! I was more sensible and was safely tucked up in bed by half ten. I felt that a good early night was better preparation for the trip than singing one line of Auld Lang Syne and mumbling thru the rest!

First stop of the day was in Rhyl at the Marine Lake. We arrived at first light, and fortunately the torrential rain that accompanied us all the journey up had stopped, and we were able to get out of the car. The adult Great Northern Diver was only the 5th bird of the year seen, and we enjoyed distant views of it silhouetted in the gloom as it dived frequently before swimming behind the island out of view. What a good start. We also added a few other year ticks such as Magpie, Carrion Crow and Black-headed Gull. Don't you just love year listing!

Next stop was the beach! It was only a few minutes drive to Horton's Nose, Kinmel Bay where the SNOW BUNTINGS were. We had to stay in the car while it rained, but we eventually headed out and thru the dunes. It was quite breezy, but luckily it was a warm wind, or else birding today would have been most unpleasant. We soon found the flock of eleven Snow Buntings, but they were most flighty in the wind and they never settled long enough to take any photo's. I did manage a group shot of the boys on the beach tho.

New Years Day on the beach at Rhyl - simply perfect.

It then started to rain again. We had planned to go and see the HAWFINCHES and then onto CONWY for the FIRECRESTS, but we knew we stood no chance with either bird in the rain. We altered our schedule, and headed for Anglesey. As we drove along the A55, the torrential rain turned even heavier, and on Anglesey we were met by bouncing rain, lightening and a water spout! (We did point out to Lucky that it was in fact a chimney). But again, by the time we arrived at South Stack, it had stopped. But boy was in blowing a gale.

GAS and Lucky trying to stand up at South Stack looking for Guillemots!

The lighthouse at South Stack

We stopped to check the reservoir on the way up to South Stack, seeing several Gadwall, Teal, Tufted Duck and a Goldeneye, plus we had a fly over Hooded Crow hybrid. We soon found two Chough, several Ravens and two Peregrines performed overhead. There were quite a few Guillemots already flying onto the cliff face, plus quite a large raft offshore.

Two Chough at South Stack (picture by PJ).

So with no time to waste, we headed down to the harbour for the long staying BLACK-THROATED DIVER. We searched and searched but we just couldn't find it. We had two Black Guillemots (a s/pl and a w/pl), several Shag and R B Merganser, but we had to admit defeat with the BTD. Next stop was Beddmanarch Bay/Penrhos Coastal Nature Reserve where Lucky found a Slavonian Grebe mid channel, I added House Sparrow to my year list, plus a few other waders (Turnstone & Grey Plover). We visited the Inland Sea next, seeing the Pale-bellied Brent Geese, Lucky was on form again with a highly elusive Great Northern Diver (dived and never saw it again type)plus Little Egret, many Goldeneye etc.

As we walked back to the car, we met up with three other birders, who told us they had just been watching the BTD in the harbour. We hurtled back, parked further down this time by the marina, and we were soon watching the Black-throated Diver. I also managed to find a Little Grebe.

(Sorry about the lack of photo's by the way. Bit windy, bit distant, thank goodness PJ got the Chough pics!)

It was time for everyone to have their midday nap now, so I drove us back onto the mainland. First stop was at Llanfairfechan. The sea was quite empty here, and it took us ages to find a solitary Red-throated Diver. Other than that we only saw two G C Grebes and three R B Mergansers.

And so to the final stop of the day - Rhos-on-Sea for the Purps. This is the place where the waders show extremely well, and we all attempted to get Steve Seal standard shots. We only found two Purps this time, but they showed quite well as they roosted with the Turnstones. We also added Gannet, Common Scoter and Eider to our list, resulting in a magnificant 71 species seen by the group for the day. Infact, it was such a good score that only those who saw more birds than us today bettered our total.

Shot of a Purp with the Turnstones (by PJ)
And four shots by me just to pad the blog out a bit