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3 Days in Wales

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Old Wednesday 6th November 2019, 14:51   #1
Original PaulE
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Location: Hurstpierpoint West Sussex
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3 Days in Wales

Trip to Wales 2nd to the 5th of November 2019

The true story of our short break to Wales

With a few days of holiday leave left to use up we decided a short trip to Wales was in order, an ideal opportunity to see family and plug a few holes in my woeful year list, on the birding front Dipper and Chough the main targets.
We left on Saturday morning with dire weather forecasts of storms and heavy rain, however as luck would have it we stayed ahead of the wind and although it hammered it down along the M42 the rain pretty much held off for the whole of our break. Bird wise the drive was uneventful good numbers of Red Kite along the M40 and saw nine Red Kites from the Welsh Border to our destination near Dolgellau. First stop was the Poptyír Dref bakery where we added Honey Buns to our cake list!!
Once we had said hello to me Dad and stowed our gear, we headed out looking for Dippers, alas the rivers all seemed in Heavy Spate and even Tan Y Gros where we always get them was Dipper less!! Giving up we headed to Llanelltyd cemetery to look for Hawfinch, dipped again, but lots of birds about with plenty of thrushes and finches in the berry laden Yew trees, also an entertaining Nuthatch and great views of Cader Idris being enveloped in a blanket of cloud.

Day 2
The weather forecast suggested north would be wise, so we headed up to Anglesey. At South Stack we were greeted by an angry looking Stonechat, we headed towards the tower, it became obvious we had lucked in to a great Vis Mig day with flock after flock of Meadow Pipits, Chaffinches and smaller Finches possibly Siskins and Linnets flying over our heads and straight out to Sea, this went on periodically for the 3hr duration of our visit with an average flock size between 30 to 50 birds had to be a few thousand go through , although a knowledgeable local birder did say that sometimes the flocks circled around so may have seen several of the flocks more than once!! He also said heíd had a Richardís Pipit and a couple of Lapland Buntings earlier in the week, but no luck for us on that front although my call identification is so bad that had they gone over I probably wouldnít have noticed anyway!!There were also hundreds of Starlings moving about as well although not sure if they were Vis-Miging on just local birds milling about. A couple of Raven flew over, a couple of Peregrines had a scrap, another much larger Peregrine attacked a Crow which managed to escape minus a few feathers. We had heard a couple of Choughs and had the briefest of view of one, was about to give up when we heard the distinctive call and 2 birds appeared circled around then dropped down to feed on the cliff to the right of the visitor tower where they gave good if distant views.
Satisfied we decided to take the Local Guyís advice and headed to RSPB Cors Ddyga where a couple of Hen Harriers had been seen the day before, this was a new reserve for me very nice although very waterlogged ,another birder present said he had seen 3 Marsh Harriers and some Pinkfoot Geese but no Hen Harriers. Guess what? We couldnít find any of them!! But a nice walk around, more Stonechats, quite a few Reed Buntings, Goldfinch lots of Wildfowl, distant Buzzards and Kites the sun came out and with it a huge insect flush suddenly the sky was full of Starlings from horizon to horizon must have been thousands of them gorging on the insect bonanza, not something you would necessarily expect in November!! Apparently, this is a relatively new reserve which is improving all the time with Bitterns and Marsh Harrier in the summer, good work the RSPB!
Well with time moving on ,I finally gave in and we headed to Beaumaris, Castle time, now regular readers will know Iím not a great fan of architecture especially when it impacts on birding time but the better half is a bit of a culture vulture so it has to be done, £7.50 each wasnít to bad to get in and it had a moat and I was allowed on the battlements so got good views ,(lots of Starlings hawking insects here as well) though was a bit disappointed to learn it had never been finished or even used as a castle!!! Itís like medieval castle builders were just basically winding me up!!
We had lunch in the car overlooking the water, a Great Crested Grebe was feeding right in front and some Gulls were milling about, then we had a Shag!! Which flew by followed by a Cormorant.
We finished the day at my Dads, partners house where we enjoyed a very tasty Roast Dinner and a Syrup pudding, must mention here the homemade Barra Brith ,Ginger Cake and Blueberry Muffins all supplied by Glenys to keep us going on our adventures!!Cheers Glenys.

Day 3
With yesterdays successes we decided to head South ,first stop RSPB Ynrs-Hir a lovely reserve, although a bit quiet today, couldnít find yesterdays reported Hen Harrier (what a Surprise) or any White-fronted Geese, but plenty of birds about the highlight being a Male Bullfinch that wouldnít pose, several Great Spots, Nuthatches and other woodland birds, a large flock of Long-tailed Tits seemed loads of these about wherever we went, several Mistle Thrushes and all the usual wildfowl you would expect, also a late Chiffchaff was seen.
We decided to head up to Bwich Nant yr Arian forest center, to watch the feeding of the Kites, we were a bit early so had lunch in the excellent visitor center, a very tasty Jacket Potato with Chilli and a large slice of Carrot Cake for pud, delicious!
We headed down to the viewpoint ,was pleased to see a flotilla of Goosander on the lake about 12 birds which I surmised to be an adult pair and their offspring ,only one of which was a male, getting his adult plumage, he was getting an awful lot of grief of his dad? Think he will be driven away pretty soon, they gave excellent views quite the tamest I have encountered. The first Kites were appearing in the sky now ,with numbers building up, I positioned myself at the point of the viewpoint and waited, soon a couple of ladies arrived with a wheelbarrow of food, looking over my shoulder I could now see large numbers of kites circling in the sky a scan around showed hundreds of birds awaiting the feast, several crows were in the pines and a couple of Buzzards appeared, a small group of Mallards and the Goosanders headed towards the bank nearest the food pile, the ladies scattered the food around the feeding area and disappeared out of sight, slowly the kites got lower in the sky , a couple of the crows flew down to the grass and edged towards the food, the tension was building, minutes past, Kites got lower and lower, the waiting went on, suddenly one dived down, Carnage, Kites diving in from all angles Crows getting bowled over right and center, as soon as a Kite grabbed a bit of grub it was set upon by its mates food everywhere bits dropping in the lake, Goosanders scrabbling to get to the bits before they were picked up by the Kites, grabbing a bit then disappearing under the water as the Kites talons ripped through the air where they had been , a frustrated Great Black-backed Gull trying to grab some bits but far to slow against the nimble Kites and Goosanders, though it eventually got a feed! The whirling maelstrom continued with Kites diving in everywhere, a Buzzard bravely flew down, landed next to the food pile defiantly screaming at the kites only to be bowled over by the next Red wave driving through, amazing sights and sounds as the birds whirled around our heads, blooming difficult to get pics of em. (Hundreds of pics taken in the ĺ of an hour we were present, most blurred or bits of bird cut off but got a few good uns.) As the situation calmed a little the Mallards made their move sneaking up to the pile to have a nibble!
The feeding of the Kites is strange one, obviously needed to establish the birds as they were brought back from the edge of extinction, it doesnít seem natural now, concentrating huge numbers of predators in such a small area? Although that said the visitor center feeders were full of small birds. I believe the argument is that farmers have been banned from leaving their dead animals on the hillside as they used to so the feeding replaces this lost food source which is fair enough and you canít deny the spectacle it is magnificent and I recommend even my non-birding friends to go at least once if they are in the area.
Well after Kitemegedon we decided to call in a Ynyslas to look for the reported Velvet Scoters ( didnít hold out much hope following our recent form in dipping reported birds) We got to the car park and set me scope up, walked up onto bank and began to scan, hundreds of bloody Scoters spread out in a loose flock across the sea, with a sigh I set about trying to find the Velvets, a task made more difficult by the fact the birds kept diving and also whole groups disappearing in the dips between the swell. I set about the task, Scoter after Scoter in the scope mostly Males to start with although the thickest separate part of the flock was mostly Female, the birds were quite active chasing each other about, rearing up and diving and was very enjoyable working my way through them, suddenly some birds appeared with white in em!! Nope a small flock of Tufties in with the Scoter, next a pair of Pintail appeared, a Red-throated Diver was active towards the rear of the flock and another flew through, despite the lack of wind the surf here was magnificent and several Surfers were enjoying the waves. I was about to give up the search and watch the sunset when in the last flock I surveyed, ironically right out in front and almost certainly the first group I looked at ,there they were 2 Velvet Scoters as reported, great scope views obtained although the pics are obviously very poor as was at great distance and Iím not even that sure I was taking pics of the right group of birds!! Though I think you can make out the Velvets in one of the pics!!
And thatís about it, with the weather deteriorating on the Tuesday we simply headed on home. A very enjoyable couple of days break, didnít see all what we wanted but what we did see was awesome.

Think this trip will be remembered for the behaviour observed rather than individual birds, from the Vis-Mig at South Stack, the insect guzzling hordes of Starlings, got to be some great murmurations in the area this year with the huge number of birds present, the opportunistic Goosanders nicking the food from the talons of the Red Kite, the Red Kite frenzy and the squabbling Common Scoter there has been some great action seen!

As usual many thanks to my awesome better half, Margie for putting up with me, only one cemetery and no sewage works and we did see a castle and actually went in Hurrah!!! Also thanks to Dad and his partner Glenys for the hospitality and the food and also to the makers of Honey Buns youíre doing a great job!!

Some Pictures including some Red Kite shots at the link below, unfortunately due to the fact that the pics were taken on different devices and I haven't changed my camera from BST they are not really in the Chronological order I hoped though I have hopefully sorted them out correctly!, there are a few Castle Pics but most are birds.

For those Hardcore Red Kite fans some more pics can be seen at the link below

warning only click if you really really like Red Kites :)

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Old Wednesday 6th November 2019, 17:09   #2
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Lovely photos as always Paul :t The weather has been pretty grim around here for a while. Dippers werenít present on our local river on Saturday either.

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Old Wednesday 6th November 2019, 18:05   #3
Original PaulE
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Originally Posted by ClarkWGriswold View Post
Lovely photos as always Paul :t The weather has been pretty grim around here for a while. Dippers werenít present on our local river on Saturday either.

Thanks Rich
Yes tried a couple of the local spots where we usually find Dippers but the rivers were very swollen. I hypothisised that they may have gone up the smaller streams now larger due to floods. But I was only guessing.
Was a successful trip apart from that!
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