Gale Force Winds And Huge Tides On Birdwatching Trips Tour 11 March 2020

Turnstone Salthouse 2016 1

Turnstones are real globe trotters having been recorded on all seven continents!

A look back to March 2020 - We picked up Doug and Eddie from their Llandudno hotel at 9am, they had requested a little latter start than usual and as a custom day no problem. The previous evening we had met up with the guys and made a plan for the day, so we headed for Anglesey. It was bright but a gale force wind was blowing, not ideal for seeing birds but always best to stick to plan A. Buzzard and Red Kite livened the drive and as we neared our first stop a pair of displaying Stock Doves was a nice surprise. At Red Wharf Bay we could barely stand up in the gale, seeing with eyes streaming and unable to hold binoculars steady was a real challenge! We had hoped to see the Snow Bunting that we had enjoyed here recently but sadly no sign of this beautiful winter visitor, probably sheltering somewhere. We had close views of Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Turnstone and a flighty Rock Pipit. The local dog was totally unconcerned by the wind and repeatedly chased sticks up and down the beach.

Greenshank feeding

Love the way Greenshank rush around through the water as though late for an important date!

At nearby Benllech the wind was making the sea very choppy and making holding telescopes steady near impossible. But we stuck at it and did enjoy some birds! A breeding plumaged Red-throated Diver was lovely to see along with half a dozen others still in winter dress. Four Black Guillemots were great to see; Doug and Eddie live far inland in mid-Wales so these seabirds were just what they had hoped to see. Small flocks of Common Scoter were dotted about in the bay along with plenty of Shags and two Common Guillemots. A few Kittiwakes were over the choppy sea and a gang of Great Crested Grebes were close to the headland on the south side of the bay. Two Grey Wagtails were on the roof tops behind us. Moving further north to Cemlyn, the gale even stronger if anything, we decided to park on the east side of the lagoon as the west car park can flood on big tides, one was due soon. We struggled along the shingle ridge battling the wind and watched a Greenshank, Little Egret and a flock of Wigeon on the more sheltered south side of the lagoon. A stunning adult breeding plumaged Mediterranean Gull flew really close to us looking ghostly in the sunshine. Two Long-tailed Ducks were out on the choppy water and with persistence we all enjoyed good views of these dapper little sea-ducks, scarce visitors to North Wales. A few Meadow Pipits and Chaffinches were making their way west, crazy trying to migrate in this gale!

Do love Mediterranean Gulls and even more so in full breeding plumage, stunning.

We had a big shock as we headed back to the car, the water level had risen dramatically and the road we had driven in on was now submerged under a lot of water! We were amazed that so much water could come in so quickly, we were stuck. Luckily it was lunch time so sandwiches and coffee were enjoyed as we watched gulls being swept past by the gale. Lunch done Alan checked on the water level, actually higher than before lunch, not good! There were three other cars trapped here too and two ladies came back one, a white van, got in and drove off through the flood! We watched expecting their van to die in the deep water but it ploughed on and out the other side, wow! Well if they could do it surely we could? Deep breath, engage low-gear and pray! With us all repeatedly saying “hold your nerve, just don’t stop” the waters rose all around us but we kept moving and with a massive sigh of relief we reached the other side of the flood.

This young Rose-coloured Starling was a new bird for Eddie and it showed off very well indeed.

A few minutes later and we were all watching the Rose-coloured Starling, a lifer for Eddie and one he thought he might miss when we were cut off! This rarity showed off preening in a bare tree in a sheltered spot in the sunshine just a few minutes drive from Cemlyn. We could not have asked for better views, just wonderful.

Moving on again we checked the flooded field at Valley and enjoyed super close views of Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall and Shoveler and four Curlew along with three Redshank and our first Coots of the day. At Beddmanarch Bay we were again exposed to the full force of the gale but still enjoyed some great birds. Lovely close views of Pale-bellied Brent Geese, Knot, Black Guillemot, Great Crested Grebe and Shag all seen.

Always a thrill to get a good look at a Water Rail such wonderful birds.

We decided to try a change of tactic and headed back to the mainland in the hope of finding some shelter. At Aber Ogwen the hide gave us that shelter and we could scan the adjacent estuary and pool without eyes streaming and optics shaking. We added a lot of new birds here, on the pool side we had a super view of a Water Rail and enjoyed views of woodland species all new for the day including Siskin, Nuthatch, Treecreeper and Coal Tit. On the estuary side we watched masses of waders including three Greenshanks and a wonderful huge flock of Knot. Lots of Goldeneye and Great Crested Grebes out in the fairly sheltered channel and two Kittiwakes resting on the sea here were very unusual at this site. A viewpoint overlooking RSPB Conwy we enjoyed plenty wildfowl and waders and our first Little Grebes of the day. Then just time for a quick visit to the Great Orme back in Llandudno and we almost at once saw a pair of Chough on the cliff above us as we got out of the car! Super views of these red-billed corvids and they repeatedly called their lovely “cheeow!” calls. Fulmars were also on the ledges of the limestone cliffs just above us, always lovely to watch. On the choppy sea we picked out Razorbills, Common Guillemots and a single Black Guillemot. Further around the headland three Stonechats showed off before we dropped Doug and Eddie back at their hotel. The gale had made birding pretty tough but we still enjoyed an impressive 84 species! And a huge thanks to Doug and Eddie for the lovely company and good spirits throughout the day. Looking forward to their next visit in the Spring.

Red-billed Chough a wonderful addition to any day birdwatching such super birds!

Of course a wonderful way to see more birds is to join one of our Birdwatching Trips and learn a lot about the birds you are enjoying too. We have tours suitable for all from beginners to experienced birders that are seeking particular species. Just drop us a line here and we can arrange a perfect custom tour for you!

We look forward to enjoying wonderful birds with you as soon as it is safe.

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