Looking At Waves Can Be Very Rewarding In September Here In North Wales

Gannet in flight ML

Years ago a car load of North Wales birders headed south-west to Cornwall to try and add some bird species to their UK lists in the form of seabirds. Cornwall rightly has a great reputation of turning up great seabirds, a Brown Booby there today, and the intrepid band of Welsh birders headed for a place they had heard so much about, Gwenapp Head near Porthgwarra not so far from Land’s End. This headland is perhaps the most famous place in the UK to look for seabirds and the band were excited to be here and looking for birds. Telescopes were set up, binoculars at the ready and the scanning of the Atlantic Ocean began. Plenty of birds passing and it was not long before the first Cory’s Shearwater was called, and a lifer! Superb. The birds kept coming and the birders were in high spirts indeed. A lady was walking along the coast path that runs along Gwenapp Head and as she approached the group who were intent on looking through their telescopes she plucked up courage and tentatively asked “what are you doing?” Marc Hughes, always a polite lad answered “Sea watching” Ok, it was a short answer but Marc was on another Cory’s Shearwater and didn’t want to lose it. There was a long pause and then the lady asked “Are the waves here particularly interesting?” Brilliant!

So sea-watching love it or loathe it, it can and does produce great birds and great memories! The art of identifying birds as they fly past a headland, often in stormy weather and often moving at high speed, often in poor light, is an acquired taste for sure. But it can be a real thrill, the unpredictable, the challenge and the anticipation all make for great birding…when it goes well. It is a “skill” that needs lots of practice and as one pro golfer once quipped “the more I practice, the luckier I get” and this is so true of sea-watching. The more time you invest at staring at those waves, the more you learn and the more you see.

Great Orme

So this morning the alarm went off at 5.30am and we listened, yes listened, was the wind blowing hard, if so out and get to the headland, if no back to sleep! The wind was banging the windows in their frames so up and out. Luckily we live just minutes from the Great Orme, here at Llandudno, a huge limestone headland that juts out into the Irish Sea so the sea-watching was soon underway. Another advantage of the Great Orme is that it is possible to drive around the headland and park over-looking the sea and stay fairly warm and dry while looking for birds, result.

So did we see any birds today? Well almost the very first bird to pass the Great Orme was a Leach’s Petrel the bird we had hoped to see, fantastic. This small dark sea-bird was making slow progress west low over the water almost fluttering as it went. The North-Westerly wind, just what we hoped for, was not very strong so not a huge number of birds were passing but enough to keep us looking. Two Great Skuas, the bully boys of the seabird world powered past one chasing a Gannet briefly and four Arctic Skuas almost like large falcons effortlessly rode the wind wonderful to see. A single Balearic Shearwater was a real bonus bird, rarely seen from this headland and luckily it was picked up out to the east allowing a great long look at this dusky-bellied shearwater. Just nine Manx Shearwaters past, dozens of Gannets and Kittiwakes along with some 200 Sandwich Terns moved west and amongst these a tiny Little Tern, nine Red-throated Divers, and perhaps best of all a Grey Phalarope that passed close in and gave a good look. Add to this views of Chough, Raven, Rock Pipit, Atlantic grey seals and harbour porpoises it was a good three hours of sea-watching.

We love you to join us on our Birdwatching Trips tours to enjoy amazing birds, wildlife and great fun. We run small group tours and use wonderful lodges and hotels and enjoy great food so we know you will have the best experience. Please see our tours pages for details or email us here…


We would love to have the opportunity to share great birds with you soon!

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