2018 The Big Year – A brief summary of the first six months of the year.

A long-awaited installment from Ken’s big year…

My year started with me birding mostly in the Midlands, seeing many species that are nowadays difficult to find in my home county of Anglesey such as, grey partridge, green woodpecker, willow tit, marsh tit and tree sparrow. I had a short break in Norfolk with Pete James (Kathy’s dad) in January and visited Islay for the first time in February, again with Pete and good friend Roger Ranson. Highlights in the first two months included, American wigeon in Leicestershire, penduline tit in Gloucestershire, king eider in Ceredigion, spotted sandpiper in Nottinghamshire plus thousands of barnacle and white-fronted geese, golden and white-tailed eagles on Islay.

A green woodpecker, although this photo was taken later in the year at Minsmere


During March I birded closer to home in North Wales and enjoyed some magic days watching black and red grouse above Llangollen, saw my first lesser spotted woodpecker for many years plus the regular wintering great grey shrike in Clocaenog forest. Back on Anglesey migrants began to arrive with my first chiffchaff on12 th March and wheatear three days later, meanwhile bitterns were ‘booming’ at Valley Wetlands and later at Cors Ddyga with marsh harriers also present at both sites. In April a visit to East Anglia produced marvellous views of bitterns and bearded tits in Suffolk, woodlark and stone curlew in
Norfolk and cranes and corn buntings in Cambridgeshire. During this trip a glossy ibis at Upton Warren in Worcestershire and an American bittern near Lowestoft in Suffolk were also seen. Whilst having breakfast in Birmingham on 22nd April I received a text from Marc Hughes, two hours later I was at RSPB Conwy looking at a drake ring-necked duck that he had found there this morning, I was coming home anyway, honest!

Ring-necked duck at RSPB Conwy


At the end of the month I spent a few days in Skegness with Kathy who was attending the AGM of Sea Watch Foundation at nearby Gibraltor Point. We enjoyed a host of good birds including a dotterel at a very wet and windy Frampton Marsh, a red-rumped swallow was glimpsed briefly at Gibraltor Point before Kathy went in to the AGM, thankfully it was still present and performed well for her later in the day. Another visit to Frampton the next day and another red-rumped swallow, this one in the same field of view with our first swift of the year. After taking Kathy back to Aberystwyth on 30th April she sent me on my way down to South Wales and that evening was spent watching a green heron in Pembrokeshire.

Green heron in Pembrokeshire


One of the highlights of early May was seeing 3 young long-eared owls on the outskirts of Holyhead found by Andrew Clarke and I believe the first proven breeding record on Anglesey since the 1970’s. A lifelong ambition was achieved on 21 st May on another visit to Norfolk when I saw my first swallowtail butterfly at Strumpshaw Fen . It RSPB was a good trip birdwise also with nightjar, turtle dove, Dartford warbler,red-backed shrike and Montagu’s harrier. Back home on Anglesey on the evening of 27th May I  saw 2 adult rose-coloured starlings in Trearddur Bay and next day a marsh warbler near Cemlyn. On 29th May I join Robin, Marc and Chris (North Wales birders) and we head east to Yorkshire and book in to Spurn Bird Observatory. A misty, murky day as we rise at 5am but Spurn does not disappoint us, golden oriole, short-eared owl, marsh warbler and a ‘reeling’ savi’s warbler. We also managed to fit in a trip to Flamborough Head at midday to see a temmincks stint.

Bittern at Minsmere


June started with another adult rose-coloured starling, this one whilst I was doing my breeding bird survey at South Stack. A text from Ian Hawkins (RSPB warden) on 15th June had me heading to the north coast of Anglesey, his son Sam whilst with a work party pulling ragwort had found a snowy owl near the coastal path. An hour or so later after a 20min walk west from Point Lynas and I have relocated the owl near Amlwch Port. A couple of roseate terns at Cemlyn and the Ospreys at Glaslyn brought the first half of the year to a close.

At the end of 6 months I had visited over 40 counties and seen a total of 240 species of bird and also 22 species of butterfly and 18 mammals.


Ken will be providing a review of the whole year soon!!

About nature.bites.admin

Kathy is a wildlife enthusiast who loves nothing more than to inspire people about nature. She is the Trust Development Officer for the West Wales Rivers Trust, a researcher at Aden Productions and offers guided wildlife tours on Anglesey with the amazing Ken Croft. Outside of work, Kathy arranges Anglesey Marine Week in order to promote engagement in conservation. Please see the 'Wildlife Tours' page of the website for more details of how to join a tour.

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