Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Little Orme Footit January

This January I spent 95% of my birding time on foot from the front door taking part in the Foot it Challenge - http://birdingbyfoot.blogspot.co.uk/ What great fun it was and a real opportunity to discover the Littel Orme and its surrounding area. I usually ignore the Little orme (except on a North Westerly and head to its larger cousing The Great Omre. During the Month of January I clocked up 98 species within a three mile radius of my Penrhyn Bay House. Since January 31st I've also added another three species on the Little Orme - Black throated Diver, Little Auk and a flock of 6 Whooper Swans over, meaning that I've managed 102 species in the small area in the first six weeks of the year! The Great Orme will have a lot to live up to this year. Seals have also been a big part of January and early February with up to 23 Atlantic Grey Seals in Angel Bay at low tide including some gorgeous pups. A Common Seal was also seen by Jonathen Harty in the bay at Penrhyn Bay this week. This is the last day of birding by foot for me. With over 80 miles walked this month from the house, all within a three mile radius of Penrhyn Bay, I feel I've really got to know my local area during January. With just a few days left in January, I've managed to log 97 species within the area.

Yesterday I spent the morning around Glanwydden lane and the stubble fields just to the east of the village. A cracking female Merlin was hunting the Ganol area and rested up in the middle of the field on a muddy mound. After 25+  Common Snipe, a Jack Snipe finally gave itself up from the muddy field as I was slowly trying to approach the perched Merlin. The Ganol held a lovely Little egret and the nearby flooded fields hosted a Black tailed Godwit, drake Shoveler, 100+ Wigeon, 100+ Redshank, 500+ Lapwings, 30+ Common Teal and a nice 3rd year'argentatus' Herring gull with the local Gulls. Still good numbers of winter thrushes too, however the large lark flock seems to have moved on.

Today, I had my first proper seawatch of the year of the Little Orme. Fulmars were moving in numbers with over 150 birds past in 2.5 hours. The first six Gannets of the year flew west while over 40 Red throated Divers were joined by two Great Northern Diver. A single winter plumaged Black Guillemot whizzed past along with 200+ Guillemots and Razorbills, while some 30 Kittiwakes flew out of the bay. High tide produced 100+ Dunlin along the rocks at Rhos Point, 25  Ringed Plover, 100+ Turnstone and 14 Purple Sandpipers. Highlight for me, possibly even the highlight of the month was around eight Red throats calling to each other close in under the Little Orme cliffs. A kind of croaking trumpet call - quite magical on a cold winters day.

Black tailed Godwit - it's second time I've seen this bird in Tech stretch fields this month - a good bird for Penrhyn Bay
Roosting Dunlin - the right hand bird already starting to moult some of its feathers into rusty summer ones.
This Little Egret has been knocking around the Golf course and river Ganol all month.
Distant Merlin in the stubble fields. It doesshow much better than this giving stunning fly bys at times.
Red throated Diver under the cliffs of the Little Orme. There were at least eight birds feeding close in and constantly calling to each other.
These two Purple sands were at Rhos Point, while another flock of 12 were closer to Penrhyn Bay.
The local Peregrines are having a field day with all the waders in the flooded fields. Two birds were keeping a watchful eye from the pylons at Penrhyn Bay.
A gorgeous 'hiaticula' Common Ringed Plover - nice and pale with a big black bib.
Probably being the only place in Wales without snow has its advantages. The walk around the 'inland' part of my Penrhyn Bay 'foot it' patch this morning paid off with loads of new birds in. Until today, I hadn't seen a Fieldfare despite much searching; today they were everywhere!

I bumped into fellow 'foot it' competitor, Julian Hughes who was having a day off from being Conwy RSPB warden and we wandered around the fields at Glanwydden. 100+ Skylarks were new in as were 250+ Fieldfares, 500+ Redwings and loads of Reed Buntings and finches. The finch flock included 2 Brambling. Several Meadow Pipits were also in the fields and 30+ Common Snipe were flushed. A real bonus bird was Golden Plover, certainly arriving due to the weather amongst the hundreds of Lapwings that have arrived over night. Five birds flew in first and another 7 seen later, while Julian had 17 later on! 3 Water Rail were in the small marshy area and another January foot it tick came in the form of 2 Mute Swans. These birds had been present during December but had got AWOL but showed well on the River Ganol today along with 30+ Common Teal, Wigeon, Mallards and several Moorhens.

Julian and I said our goodbyes and went off in separate direction. Within minutes he texted to say he'd got Jay which I need, and I texted back to say I'd got Kestrel, which he needs! Luckily the Jay stayed faithful to the copse Julian found it in and I managed to get it a little while later. A stomp along the woodland edge revealed the hoped for Woodcock, probably a displaced bird from the local woods where shooters were having a morning hunt. Four hours later, 10 miles under the belt and 5 foot it ticks meant a successful morning. That's 93 birds now seen this month on foot from the front door; dare I start thinking of the magic 100?

Several hundred Lapwings in today, possibly up to a thousand. It's been years since I've seen this many around Penrhyn Bay.
Mute Swan above and Shoveler below - both birds that disappeared on me on December 31st but have finally seen sense to make it back to the patch. The Shoveler was seen midweek along Tech stretch, while the 2 Mute Swans were back on the Ganol today.
Here's my patch - Glanwydden fields at Penrhyn Bay. Note the green island with white hills all around. A recipe for lots of birds :-)
I love New Years Day; up early and out the door with everything feeling new. This year I left the car keys behind and set off on foot as the darkness slowly made way to a murky gloom, nine hours and 13 miles later I returned home, shattered but having enjoyed every minute of the day. Despite the brisk breeze the weather was good and it was nice to finally see some sunshine!

I'm sure the festive fireworks from last night's celebrations meant that a few of my 'pinned down' birds had departed - Mute Swans, Shovelers and Coot - all difficult birds in Penrhyn Bay but present over the last few weeks and all there yesterday. However, no sign anywhere today! I can't complain too much though as I managed to log a total of 74 species in the area including the following highlights;

Lapland Bunting - I saw this bird a few weeks ago but haven't seen it since, so I was thrilled that today in showed well as it flew around the middle stubble field between Glanwydden and Rhos on Sea Golf course with some twenty Skylark. If you go and look, take your wellies!

Water Rail - at least 7 birds logged along Glanwydden Lane. Surely a site record.

Purple Sandpiper - 11 logged at Rhos on Sea, 1 at Rhos Point and 1 at Penrhyn Bay.

Brambling - at least one in the stubble fields at Glanwydden.

Other nice January 'local' records included several Grey Wagtails, Kestrel, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Knot, Grey Plover, several Kittiwake, Fulmar, Red throated Diver, several Rock Pipit, Guillemots, Razorbills, Stock Doves and 20+ Reed Buntings.

 The local Purple Sandpipers didn't disappoint showing well along the prom along with 30+ Turnstone, on rocks in front of the house with the Monkey Puzzle Tree in the garden. It was nice to also see one on the Penrhyn Bay breakwater - haven't seen one here for ages.
 A good patch bird - Grey Plover was once a regular bird at Penrhyn Bay but the last 5 or 6 years have seen them become quite scarce.
The reeds at Glanwydden are holding 20+ Reed Bunting at the moment and also contain many Water Rails and several Snipe. Great local birds.

Still several birds to get on the patch over the next month of foot it challenge - jay, peregrine, Red breasted Merg, Woodcock, Owls, Marsh Tit, Chough, Little Grebe, Siskin and Lesser Redpoll all up for grabs and hopefully Shoveler, Mute Swan and Coot will all make a return now the celebrations have calmed down.

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