Tuesday, 10 February 2015

7th February 2015 - Laughing Gull in Cheshire

With a lingering LAUGHING GULL on the Wirral peninsular and plenty of other decent birds to see, our destination was an easy decision for a change. Following a quick check of Westport, we headed up to our nearest seaside, New Brighton. As we parked up, the first person we saw was Nick Pom, the county recorder. We strolled on to the beach on a gorgeous sunny morning, and we were soon watching the 1w Laughing Gull feeding on the groyne, showing on and off as it walked in between the rocks. There was a Purple Sandpiper also present. It wasn't too long before it flew off and headed towards the marine lake. Everyone on the beach made the short walk and there was the Laughing Gull sat on it's favoured pontoon. A few photo's later and the job was done. So nice to see quite a few birders on site including quite a few big listers; no doubt catching up again with a good bird just on our doorstep and one that doesn't turn up very often. And CJW inches his way towards the @NGBirders200 Club. 

Laughing Gull at New Brighton

Its a few years since my last Laughing Gull. That was in 2006 and was part of the big influx of Laughing Gulls that occurred that winter. This bird showed nicely as well, in Porthmadog though, not New Brighton.


We had briefly seen Richard and John Sutton on the beach, and Richard kindly texted me to say the nearby SNOW BUNTINGS were showing well. We drove to the other end of the promenade and walked towards the small crowd we could see in the distance. Upon our arrival, we discovered that the two SNOW BUNTINGS had just flown down towards where the man was metal detecting. Unfortunately, this was about a mile further down the beach. We all set off walking. First to drop out was GAS and he sat on the first stone he could find. Then after ten metres, CJW stopped, and that just left the Bionic Man to jog the rest of the way on my own. It only took me a minute to walk down but there was no sign of any BUNTINGS. I sprinted back to the gasping CJW and we headed back, resigned to another big dip. Then we noticed GAS was standing in a crowd. There were the two Snow Buntings feeding in exactly the same place as before.

 Snow Buntings at New Brighton

It was now nearly 11:00hrs and news was flooding in. The SURF SCOTERS were again off Old Colwyn, and the LONG-EARED OWL was again at BMW. We decided to go for owl first. It was quite a walk round to the old Inner Marsh Farm hide, but we soon joined a small crowd gathered in the bushes staring at the Long-eared Owl. There was a nice RSPB lady on duty with a telescope and the owl sat about ten metres away in a bush. Unfortunately, despite wearing a nice RSPB jacket, she couldn't find the owl in the scope. In the end a kind gentleman set the scope up for her. Bless her hey.

 Long-eared Owl at Burton Mere Wetlands RSPB

We drove along the North Welsh coast and stopped by the Rainbow Bridge at Old Colwyn. There were plenty of Scoter offshore, but they were all fairly distant. The sun had disappeared now, and all the duck were just grey silhouettes. 

We headed inland and down the A5, past Bethesda and stopped in the Nant Ffrancon Valley. There were a few birders already on site, and eventually we had five Ring Ouzels feeding on an outcrop. A most unexpected winter bird.

  Wintering Ring Ouzels in the Nant Ffrancon Valley

 Stunning scenary

 Unfortunately CJW had forgotten his specs and was struggling to read texts all day long

We had a quick glance from the promenade at Llanfairfechan, seeing two Slavonian Grebes, and then we headed back towards the Wirral and Parkgate. We saw the large wintering swan flock at Shotwick Fields, and there was just enough light at Parkgate to see two Peregrines and a ringtail Hen Harrier.