Trying Out Something New Anglesey House Party Anyone Lots of Birds

Red-billed Chough are one of THE birds to see on Anglesey but oh so much more to enjoy!

With the COVID-19 restrictions being gradually relaxed here in Wales we saw the chance to test an idea we have been talking about for some time – an Anglesey House Party along the lines of our always popular Norfolk ones. Self-catering properties open here in Wales and we spotted a lovely looking place on the west coast of the island right on the coast path alongside an estuary. We booked in for four nights to see how it might work as a base for an Anglesey House Party. Well it got off to a great start with two Green Sandpipers and five Greenshank on the estuary right next to the house we even enjoyed these lovely waders from the table as we ate breakfast. The property has a large kitchen, dining, living room which is very well equipped indeed, then two lovely en-suite bedrooms with an adjacent cottage with two more en-suite bedrooms giving us the four bedrooms we would need for our usual house party groups. So the location and property certainly ticked all the boxes but what about the birds?

Anglesey Malltraeth Cob Pool at sunset II 221113

With the backdrop of the mountains of Snowdonia Anglesey is the perfect place to enjoy birds.

We were rather unlucky with the weather, especially for April, with bitter cold near gale force northerly winds for almost the entire stay so very little in the way of migration for example we did not see a single Northern Wheatear the whole time on Anglesey something we would consider impossible in April! But we kept trying and did enjoy over one hundred species of birds an impressive total given the terrible cold weather.

Golden Plover Finland 2017 2

We enjoyed wonderful breeding plumaged Golden Plover such a delight to watch.

At Cemlyn Bay on the north coast we were exposed to the bitter wind and was hard to see with our eyes streaming and the wind shaking our optics so much but we still managed a few birds including our first Common Sandpiper of 2021, small numbers of Sandwich Terns and a gorgeous flock of mostly breeding plumaged Golden Plover at close range. Black Guillemots were in the bay and a steady passage of Gannets battled past the headland in the winds. On the east coast of the island we had hoped for some shelter but there wasn’t any to be had from the northerly wind. At Traeth Dulas we watched more Greenshank wading through the shallow waters and noticed behind a pair of Red-legged Partridge not an easy bird to find here in North Wales. A little bit of excitement then followed when an “odd” looking gull raised hopes it might be a Ring-billed Gull but sadly it was a Common Gull with a huge bill! A good learning experience on just how variable gulls can be.

Streak throated Swallow one

Lovely to see Barn Swallows and Sand Martins back but they must have found it tough in the bitter cold.

At Llyn Alaw, easily the largest lake on the island of Anglesey, we found a good number of Goldeneye still present the bitter wind keeping these winter birds with us. In complete contrast hundreds of Sand Martins were feeding over the Goldeneye with dozens of Barn Swallows amongst them these poor birds must have been thinking why we didn’t stay in Africa? Common Snipe, Reed Bunting and Pochard also enjoyed here but it was so cold we soon headed back to the warmth of the car.

Another lake we visited on two occasions as it was fairly close to base was Llyn Llywenan where a good selection of birds were enjoyed including a beautiful pair of Pintail that fed by “up-ending” in the bay just below us. A drake Goosander was a nice surprise here as they are winter visitors to Anglesey in very small numbers, we also watched Great crested Grebes both displaying and nest building along with singing Willow Warblers, plenty of Sand Martins and Barn Swallows and some very handsome male Reed Buntings. Nearby we had lovely views of a beautiful Red Kite in the sunshine still a rare bird in this area.

RSPB Cors Ddyga is fast becoming THE best year round birdwatching site on Anglesey.

RSPB Cors Ddyga was another wonderful site that we visited twice and both times provided wonderful birds and on the second occasion on our last day we wind had finally dropped and oh so much better conditions for enjoying the birds. We enjoyed lovely views of at least three different Marsh Harriers on this amazing reserve – we would never have guessed just few years ago we would be able to enjoy these raptors regularly on Anglesey but the habitat management here has transformed the area into a bird filled nature reserve. Waders were a real feature too and a Little Ringed Plover was a great addition to our 2021 bird list, a rare bird on Anglesey so even sweeter to watched this yellow-eye-ringed plover feeding on an area of bare mud with a Common Ringed Plover for handy comparison. There were more plovers here with gorgeous Northern Lapwings nesting on the carefully managed fields that also held another flock of Golden Plover many in their superb full breeding plumage of gold, black and white – one advantage of that bitter northerly wind keeping these beauties here.

At Beddmanarch Bay we enjoyed more “winter” birds with hundreds of Pale-bellied Brent Geese feeding close to our view point and it was lovely to hear their soft grunting calls no doubt when the wind turns they will be heading off to Arctic Canada and their breeding grounds. We also watched flocks of Bar-tailed Godwits and Red Knot here more long distant migrants held back by the bitter cold weather. Despite the cold we had the sound scape of singing Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs in the bushes just behind us and Sandwich Terns diving for fish out beyond the geese and waders.

Nearby the Inland Sea produced some quality birds for our growing Anglesey House Party list including a beautiful breeding plumaged Slavonian Grebe looking stunning in the sunshine, another species held back by the unseasonal cold weather. Also here another cracking breeding plumaged bird with an adult Mediterranean Gull on a rock island bossing the Black-headed Gulls. Plenty of wonderful Red-breasted Mergansers here along with Goldeneye and nesting Little Egrets – Anglesey really does have variety!

At another lake we had a lovey surprise when a Bittern began booming from the reeds close to where we were watching the water from! What a fantastic sound – cross between a cow and a fog-horn repeated over and over again! Such a thrill as these super birds were absent from Anglesey for so long but now thanks to habitat management they are making a comeback. As we stood in awe of the booming Bittern we could also hear a Sedge Warbler and at least two Cetti’s Warblers singing and see Pochard and Great Crested Grebes displaying. As we made our way back to the car three Peregrine Falcons tore across the blue sky and battled over the lake! Wow! Just fantastic to see these spectacular of birds fighting in mid-air as a Skylark sang nearby just an amazing experience! The wonderful thing about watching birds it is so unpredictable!

Ring necked Duck close up

Always nice to enjoy a rarity along with all the amazing "Anglesey regulars" during our trip.

At Llyn Maelog, another lake, we again enjoyed the smart drake Ring-necked Duck that has taken up residence with the local Tufted Duck flock. This handsome American duck spends a lot of time underwater but when it is above the surface it is a lovely looking bird. Pochard, Gadwall, Shoveler and Eurasian Teal all here too along with singing Cetti’s Warbler and Willow Warblers making it a great site to enjoy.

On another day we headed over to the south-east corner of Anglesey where we were treated to some great birds despite it being another bitter cold day. At Gallows Point we had great views of Common Eider in the Menai Straits and just to the east more Common Eider were on the sea off Penmon Pool where a late Pink-footed Goose was in the field along with a single Pale-bellied Brent Goose and lots of Meadow Pipits. Down at the point itself we were amazed by the number of Common Eider between the mainland and Puffin Island we counted at least 182 of these wonderful sea-ducks possibly the highest count ever made in North Wales? Along the huge number of Eider we also enjoyed super views of Gannets and Sandwich Terns passing through the narrow straight along with nine Puffins and nine Black Guillemots! To add to this scene we also watched a harbour porpoise and seventy Atlantic grey seals oh and we enjoyed delicious chocolate and orange cake washed down with hot chocolate at the point café.

Puffin July 2017 3

We saved RSPB South Stack until our final morning as the wind was forecast to drop and thankfully it did, at last a day without near gale force bitter cold winds. The day started well with Green Sandpiper and five Greenshank enjoyed as we ate breakfast along with Little Egret, Grey Heron and Common Buzzard. Our stop was at Treaddur Bay where we want to check the high tide roost for a particular bird and we were rewarded with three Purple Sandpipers then it was on to South Stack.

Even before we reached the reserve we enjoyed a lovely view of a pair of Red-billed Chough feeding in a roadside field. No sooner had we arrived two Hooded Crows showed nicely – great start to our visit to this most scenic of reserves. Meadow Pipits were moving west over the cliffs and amongst them Siskins, Goldfinches and Barn Swallows so good to see some visible migration after days of nothing in the bitter cold northerly winds. Walking down towards the lighthouse it was fantastic to see the cliffs so busy with birds literally thousands of Common Guillemots and hundreds of Razorbills here. A few Blacl-legged Kittiwakes were on the fairly calm sea and flying around the cliff faces a species that has declined greatly here. We soon picked out Atlantic Puffins on the sea amongst the Guillemots and Razorbills five of these bright coloured billed birds always such a joy to see. A pair of Chough wheeled around the stacks calling loudly and we watched a lone Manx Shearwater fly north past the lighthouse. Then we spotted two more Puffins on the cliff and watched as they took nest material into a burrow so great to see. A few Gannets were passing offshore and a Rock Pipit whizzed about as Stonechats sat up and showed off a wonderful array of birds at this most beautiful location.

We enjoyed 95 species on this last day of our Anglesey House Party test – what a difference a bit of good weather makes! We also watched a beautiful red squirrel for ages as if fed unconcerned by us looking on. If you would like to join us for an Anglesey House Party do drop us a line and we can put together a wonderful experience for you – we can run tours from one to six guests COVID restrictions allowing. The house party format is all rooms en-suite, breakfast at the house, lunches at local cafes and evening meals at local resturants and pubs with plenty of time to enjoy the birds and great fun. Lots of drinks and snacks are always available throughout at the house so you will not go hungry.

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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