Saturday, 24 April 2010

North Wales Coast - 23th April 2010

I spent an absolutely stunning day in North West Wales coast with my mum and dad. After visiting accommodation at Bangor University, we visited South Stack to get some specialist seabirds. Amazingly, this was the first time I had left Lancashire to do some birdwatching all year except for a brief trip to Moore NR, Cheshire.
Arriving on site, I saw straight away many hundreds of Guillemot and quickly picked out a pair of Razorbill (yeartick). Also on the first cliff face, I picked up Fulmar (Year tick) and a calling Chough (yeartick) flew over, both of which were wonderful to watch as I love them both, especially the Fulmar (one of my favourite birds)
I was hoping to catch some birds flying past on the sea e.g. Divers etc, so I began scanning the mill pond of an Irish Sea. I spotted a fin briefly poking out of the sea a long long way out, so I stopped scanning. Several pairs of Bottle Nosed Dolphin popped out of the water every so often and it was obvious that there was a large pod of migrating dolphin. I estimated that there were over 50 Bottle Nosed Dolphin in 1 pod...fantastic!
Whilst viewing the dolphins swimming south, I spotted a bird with stiff wings and it was soon obvious that I was watching my first Manx Shearwater of the year.
I managed one more year tick on site, which was one of the more iconic and colourful birds of British Cliff faces - Puffin.

Heading back from South Stack, I had a quick check of Holyhead Harbour for Divers/Auks/Grebes etc. I managed to see 8 Black Guillemot and 2 Shag - Superb!

Final Stop of the day was Llanfairfechan front where I was able to do a spot of late afternoon seawatching on a mill pond. I quickly picked up many Red Breasted Merganser, Razorbill, Common Scoter and several small groups of Red Throated Diver. I payed a great deal of attention to the divers in different stages of moult from winter-summer plumage. I then was drawn in by a diver with particularly striking plumage. It was a 'stonking' Black Throated Diver (year tick) in breeding plumage! I had only ever seen a fly by bird in non-breeding plumage, so this was a real treat! On such a high from this bird, I continued scanning to see what else I could pick up. i spotted 3 Great Crested Grebe quite close by with 1 bird still in winter plumage. This struck me as odd given the time of year, so I stuck with the bird. I suddenly started picking up interesting characteristics on the bird: I saw that it was significantly smaller than the other 2 when stretched out, as well as the light and dark feathering not being especially contrasting, in fact the head marking were very smokey. It was beginning to dawn on me that I was actually watching a non breeding plumage adult Red Necked Grebe (yeartick)! After speaking to Bill Aspin, I put the news out and headed off back to Preston with another wonderful birding day under my 2010 birding belt! I will be leaving Lancashire more at this rate ;)

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