Sunday, 10 June 2012

Anglesey June 2 - June 9 2012

Saturday June 2
Alarm at 4 a.m. – left home at 4.50 – three hours sleep for me. Importantly, Pam had several more. If I go to  bed earlier than usual, I can’t get to sleep.
Apart from taking us to a dead end when ready to join the A47 (!!), Delia took us trouble free to Menai Bridge. Different route from that to which we are accustomed, via the A 14 and M6 but, it was easier driving and probably faster.
We stopped twice at service areas to stretch our legs and go to the loo before finding heavy traffic on the A56 and A55 along the North Wales coast. We looked at Penryndeudraeth and Llanfairfechan, the Black Scoter site, seeing not a lot apart from Shags, Shelduck and Oystercatchers.
Arriving on Anglesey mid-day, too early to go to our cottage, we drove east through Biwmaris to Penmon Point. The Welsh castles are the only ‘proper’ ones in my eyes. Castellations, moats and splendour, Biwmaris is a fine example, Caernarfon and Conwy are grander.
Penmon lies at the far south east of Anglesey, parking along the verge, overlooking a lighthouse and Puffin Island. We set up our scopes to scan the auk breeding ledges on Puffin Island. The rats have been eradicated and the auk colony is gradually increasing. The usual hordes of Guillemots, fewer Razorbills, on the ledges and flying about/loafing on the sea, a single Puffin floating amongst them. Half a dozen Eider on the rocks, three Kittiwakes passing through.
A drink and a scone at the café ( we wanted to use the loo and only customers could do so, key behind the counter) and time to shop at Menai Bridge’s crowded Waitrose.
The instructions as to how to locate Cerrig y Barcud were meaningless until Pam realised that we’d crossed over on the Suspension bridge, not the Britannia. All became clear and we arrived at our home for the week. Tryfan is the end stone cottage in a row of three, another L shaped group the other side of the entry drive, set in beautifully manicured lawns with flower beds. The cottage is very small but well appointed. Too much so in the case of eating utensils. 12 glasses, 8 dinner plates, 10 mugs and a set of cups and saucers amongst other sundry items. Overkill for 2 !! We had to clear some out to make room for our dry goods. Reasonably sized fridge though, comfortable seating and a lovely bedroom and shower/loo room. It will do us fine.
We watched England beat Belgium 1-0 in a friendly, the final of The Voice and were in bed at 10, ready for an earlyish start in the morning.

Sunday June 3
Not a good omen. We rose at 7 to find a leaden sky and steady rain. Ruth and Alan arrived a few minutes before 8 in what turned out be a very good birdmobile, a Peugeot Insignia. It had a full length sun roof with comfortable and roomy back seats.There were also pull down writing desks on the back of each seat. Very handy for lists.
First stop was Newborough reserve parking area, Great Spotted Woodpecker on the feeders, Coot, Tufted Duck, Greylag and Canada Geese, Little Grebe on the lake, a pair of Gadwall flew in.
We then toured various spots on the west coast, picking up birds as we went, in heavy rain. The birding highlights of a thoroughly enjoyed day, well led, friendly and informative, were:

The delightful Red Squirrel scampering along the road near Newborough, a lovely rich, russet  red – not the pale palaminos of Scotland.
South Stack – we could hardly stand in the extremely strong wind – Choughs, Raven, Razorbill, Guillemot, one Puffin (again), Manx Shearwater, Kittiwake, Fulmar, Stonechat and Wheatear.
Cemlyn Bay – even stronger wind, two visits bracketing a hot drink and piece of cake at the Jam Factory café – Common, Sandwich and Arctic Terns, Red Breasted Merganser, Turnstone, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, summer Sanderling, Redshank and much closer Manx Shearwaters.
The hot chocolate at Penrhos, it was  a very cold day.

How on earth did we manage to add up 77 birds on such a disgusting day? Non stop rain and a roaring wind. A real tribute to Alan and Ruth’s expertise. They were both mortified that, despite several visits, the normally reliable Tysties in Holyhead Harbour did not appear. That’s birding….
Returning to the cottage, they came in for a drink when - very generously - Alan gave me some bird sites on the mainland for the rest of the week. Lovely people and very good birders.

Monday June 4th
A day for nostalgia and fond memories.
I first camped in the Ogwen Valley, at Williams Farm, with the North London Climbing Club. Later, I made several winter visits there – the mini bus was cheaper – with school groups doing their Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. Leaving Borehamwood on Friday night, milk from a machine en route, fish and chips in Betws and tents up in the dark.

 It was worth it for the wonder and awe of London kids emerging from their tents in the morning and seeing where they were. Many of them had never seen mountains before. Now, they were surrounded by them, especially Tryfan, my favourite. I climbed it a couple of times but never jumped across from Adam to Eve, the standing stones at the summit. A yard jump with a steep drop on one side. It’s a proper mountain, as would be painted by a child, pointed at the top and all of it rock, straight up from the green below.

I last stayed there in 1966, with a 9 month old Sara,.her father and Pam, in our frame tent.
In 1965, when Pam and I took a group there, we had a severe gale. Tents blown down, despite our efforts during the night putting stones on pegs. My tent was one of them, the A pole buckled whilst I was holding it, the wind sounded like an express train coming up the valley. Pam and I slept in a pigsty having housed all the boys in the Barn. Two girls slept throughout unaware of the dramas. I spent the following day repairing tents, ours was beyond repair.

Our tent was pitched in the exact spot taken by the one in the foreground
The Ogwen valley hasn’t changed at all. We parked lake side and viewed the slabs where many of our youngsters learnt to climb. I remember one all day rain session when my new jeans dyed my legs and backside blue for some weeks.
The farm is still recognisable but now has showers and a reasonable track to the camping spaces. We used to go to the Pen y Gwryd (the Everest team trained there), taking it in turn to use the washroom.The farm has a name too! Gwern Gof Isaf. Fancy that.

Capel Curig no longer has the climbing equipment shop at one end and a café at the other, of a row of terraced houses. Both were private houses with no advertising outside. I bought my first pair of climbing boots there and had many a bacon egg, beans and chips in the 'cafe'. 
We stopped for a coffee at a new place, Siabod, on the Betws road, before crossing over and taking a walk in the Bryn Engan Woods.  Crossing a lovely river, we soon heard a Wood Warbler’s liquid notes. Then. a Treecreeper made its syncopated way up a nearby tree trunk. We soon located the Wood Warbler, getting wonderful views of it singing constantly, posing on sun-dappled branches before moving to another and continuing its wing and tail quivering serenade. Wonderful views of a Garden Warbler too, singing its liquid, somewhat sibilant notes, wings shivering, above my head.

What a lovely wood.
Returning across the river bridge, a Red Breasted Merganser and its skittering young showed briefly. Attention was soon distracted by a male Redstart preening in riverside bushes. Whilst Pam went off to get my camera, it gave a short song before disappearing out of sight.
Failing to find the entry to a loop road where Alan had told us of Ring Ouzel, the journey back to Caernarfon was a cross country mystery.
After shopping in Morrison’s we drove home intending to access the internet in the Games Room – as promised by the owners. It didn’t work, I think that the router was off and there was no-one to be found. We gave up and left for Newborough Forest car park where there are bird feeders. Many cars to-day but Great Spotted Woodpeckers, a Siskin, Great Tit, Greenfinch and Chaffinches visited the peanuts.
Malltraeth and Cob Pools at low tide produced our first Little Egret, the expected Shelduck, Whitethroat and Wren. I also saw a large flock, 50+, of  wheeling Ringed Plover but they disappeared . So many people and dogs wandering the estuary to-day. Tunnicliffe's house stands in pole position, the place from which he drew so many scenes with birds for his books.
Home for a delicious meal of Welsh Black fillet steak, various salads, garlic and cheese bread, followed by a chocolate tart and extra thick cream, all washed down with a good wine. That’s called breaking the diet with an explosion!

Tuesday June 5
Late starts are not often our birding regime. But….it was more than time for a shower and hair wash.
Conwy RSPB reserve was meant to be the first stop but we missed the turning, we found out why later. The turning and sign only appears on the westward lanes of the A55 ! We were on the eastward side.
Instead we attempted to find an unnamed road recommended by Alan. It wasn’t easy but we found it, in Tal y Bont. What a surprise…the road wound steeply upwards, so narrow that both verges brushed the car, grass growing down the centre. With a bit of luck, there wouldn’t be any traffic. Then we met a car, travelling faster than us, fortunately where the road widened enough. At last a wide bend where we could stop, in the middle of wonderful oak and birch woodland. I walked up the road a little, peered over a gate and had a wonderful view of the valley far below, the river Conwy snaking brownly through to the sea. Wood Warblers trilled,  a Cuckoo called, our first Nuthatch of the trip landed on a gate post and we eventually had bin. views of a pair of Goldcrests.
Pam gathered her vertigo senses and decided to continue ever upward. After a bolted gate with such a strong spring that it needed most of my strength to release it, we stopped again to see a Tree Pipit, a  Redstart led us a merry dance flitting from bush to bush.
The road ended at a parking area, moorland stretching away to mountains, what looked like dam walls across a valley ahead. The other cars here belonged to walkers, a peculiarly late start I thought as they set off across a stile. Whilst we sat and ate a very late breakfast/lunch/mid afternoon tea, a superb male Hen Harrier flew the length of the moor in front of us, paused to hunt and disappeared from view. Thank you Alan.
We only met a couple of vehicles on the way down. Best sighting was a Peregrine swooping across in front of us. Great birds.
Aberconwy Alpine Nursery is a must for me. The plants looked as lovely as always, the owner now a young pony-tailed man. The man we were accustomed to must be dead……didn’t ask!  Two boxes of Alpines in the boot, we set off for –and found – RSPB Conwy. Fantastic gates, the tops decorated with very large, metal, bird cutouts.
After a welcome drink in the café looking over a large pool with Grey Heron, Canadas, Ringed Plover and Shelduck, we walked the trails to three hides. In the rain. The highlights were:
A Great Crested Grebe on its nest, its partner returning to see off a Grey Heron which got too close. David and Goliath.
The colony of Little Egrets in the forest across the other side of the river, a few Grey Herons still occupying some of their nests.
A procession of 18 Canada Goose Goslings, two adults at either end.
Our first Black-tailed Godwit and Lapwing of the trip.
The rain eased enough to leave the Carneddau hide and make it back to the Centre in order to buy a squirrel proof peanut feeder – Minsmere had sold out.
Another lovely day, despite the weather.

Wednesday June 6
The forecasters promised rain for Thursday and Friday so we decided to go south as far as Ynys Hir to-day. It rained……starting as we reached Machynlleth. Stopping when we drove back north, late afternoon,  in Machynlleth again!!  Amazing.
First stop was Tan y Bwlch Nature Reserve, which turned out to be a lay-by, with trails leading vertically up into the forest. Pam ate her breakfast here and we drove on to the Dyfi Osprey Project. Entering via a portakabin, just in time to see – on CCTV screens - the male Osprey Monty, land on the nest bearing a good sized Flounder. 60% of his catch is Mullet, 10% Sea Trout, the rest bits and pieces. The helper in there was very informative. Monty then flew off to a perch, where he spent the next half an hour eating the head and upper body. During this time we had climbed to the hide from which the very distant nest can be viewed. 

Better still, the feeders in front of the hide constantly held Siskin and Lesser Redpoll. 

The birds were wet too.
A Reed Bunting visited briefly as did a Chaffinch and a Great Tit. 

Throughout, it poured down.
We arrived back in the cabin as the male decided to donate the rest of the fish to Nora and the two remaining young. The first born died when a few days old after torrential rain, during which both parents brooding at once, failed to safeguard their young.
It seemed futile to look for Goshawk in the Glandyfi Valley so we went in to Ynys Hir RSPB – despite the Springwatch team being here rather than because. And half term to boot !  Maybe the rain would put families off – not totally it didn’t. The much longed for cuppa was a no go, the food and drinks stall in the car park decamped yesterday. The warden on duty was disappointed too, he was hungry. He’d been seconded from his Red Kites to help out here – in a tent in the car park.
As we walked the trail behind the Centre, the rain fell steadily – but as giant plops onto us from the trees above. We quickly found two nestboxes occupied by Pied Flycatchers feeding their young. The boxes were placed surprisingly low, only about four feet above the ground. Lovely birds, I’d dearly like to photograph one but, the conditions were appalling. Another day……..
Lighter skies towards the west encouraged us to drive on to Ynyslas and the National Nature Reserve where the Dyfi meets the sea. We saw three Choughs  en route - trying not to get too wet.
Deciding that we might as well retreat north and Inigo Jones might still be open – Pam wants to visit – Delia took us off on a completely different route from that which we’d taken south. It meant that we passed the entry to the RSPB Osprey Project, well we didn’t, we took a left turn. We walked over the Tal y Llyn railway bridge – narrow gauge – and then viewed the steam engine and seven carriages pass over the river bridge. Pam's photo.

Another Portakabin and a laughably distant view of an Osprey on its nest, one and a half miles away down the valley! I can see why Alan told us to visit the Dyfi project as ‘it’s nearer’ – and that was three times the distance of the one at Loch Garten.
What a shame that we had so much rain. The roads were dry from Machynlleth north and there was sun in which to admire the stunning scenery and rushing, boulder strewn rivers in their youthful stage. 

Still too much non-native rhododendron around but nothing like as much as last time we were here.

Thursday June 7th
Despite waking to steady rain, we set off birding. Newborough Woods’ feeders were empty and two feeders had disappeared, soggy chaffinches still looking for food.
A stop at Aberffraw to look for Bee orchids, without success. We didn’t try very hard, didn’t want to get soaked too early in the day.
Pam took photos of the ones we could see and will identify later, they look like Marsh sp.

Penrhos for a welcome brunch of double bacon bap and a hot drink, that warmed us up a bit. Would we be successful at Holyhead Port? No…we weren’t, no sign of any Tysties again.

Waw, as we drove to South Stack, it stopped raining. Quickly donning waterproofs and scope, I descended the rough, uneven stone slab steps to the rain slippery muddy cliff edge to view the Auks on their nesting ledges. I did some digiscoping, allowed a very excited family of parents and son to use my scope and added Gannet to the trip list. Manx Shearwaters began to appear too, in twos and threes before a group of 12 sheared through. I could see some Guillemot eggs showing, hope they don’t get cold. 

Egg viewable centre left
The far less numerous Razorbill, they keep well away too.
Choughs announced their presence with their onomatopoeic call but didn’t stop for a photo. Many families were climbing the cliff path to-day, only one Stonechat braved an appearance in the crowd.
Pam visited Elin’s Tower RSPB and we both remembered to photograph the clump of yellow Spathulated Fleawort, this is the only site in the world where they are found. I thought they were Ragwort……

Wind blown and rain drenched  Spatulate Fleawort. Found nowhere else in the world.

Pam took a photo of this plant...What is it? Thistle sp?

Despite the rain teeming down as we left, Pam was able to stop in a gateway so that I could quickly take some shots of feeding Chough. Without a coat, couldn’t stop to put one on, I got wet.

The best of a poor lot....
Another Holyhead Port, Tystie stop, another blank. Where have they gone?
After shopping at an enormous Tesco Extra outside Holyhead, we drove to Fedw Fawr, the Tystie’s original site on Anglesey. It’s reached by a very narrow lane a couple of miles north east of Biwmaris. The sea can be easily viewed from the small grass car parking area. I soon saw a Tystie, called it, and it dived never to be seen again. I tried hard to find another, we both got absolutely soaked, to no avail.
Time for the warmth and comfort of the cottage. Weather forecast is dire for to-morrow, gales and heavy rain.

No comments:

Post a Comment