I have asked Ken Croft, my friend and now guiding colleague, to write up his birding year so far.
“My year started off in Birmingham, seeing the New Year in with my brother and his family.
An early morning move saw me in Shrewsbury where I joined Pat and Enid for a New Year’s Day birdrace around Shropshire. We visited Venus Pool, Ellesmere, Wood Lane, Colemere, Moretown and Abbey Wood. The highlights included 4 Green Sandpipers, Yellowhammers and Reed Buntings at Venus Pool. Goosanders at Atcham, where the water level was up to the top of the arches on the bridge and all the surrounding fields were flooded. A personal high was when we saw a Green Woodpecker feeding on the ground at Wood Lane, Siskin and Lesser Redpoll where also here. We finished the day near High Ercall and in some large stubble fields we found 3 Corn Buntings, Skylarks and 80+ Stock Doves. The next morning we returned to Abbey Wood to search for a bird we had failed to see yesterday, Marsh Tit. Within an hour we had found three, feeding close to the path as we walked through the woodland, Jay, Nuthatch, Great Spotted Woodpecker and 7 Red-legged Partridges were also found here. That afternoon Mediterranean Gull and Pale-bellied Brent Goose joined the list as I returned home to Anglesey.
Next morning, time to re-acquaint myself with the local birds after two weeks away from home. Starting off at South Stack I found 1500 Guillemots back on the ledges and a spectacular sight of 32 Ravens displaying, tumbling, diving and soaring over the cliffs near Ellin’s Tower. After seeing a Great Northern Diver in Holyhead Harbour I went on to Valley Wetlands and was pleased to see that the Long-tailed Duck was still present. Whilst watching this bird I met up with Grahame Morgan from Holyhead and Trevor Williams from Caernarfon. Little did we know at the time but an hour or so later we were to meet again after Trevor found a Waxwing in Holyhead, Wow! What a great start to the New Year.
The pace continued the next morning with Water Rail and Grey Wagtail at Soldier’s Point. Driving out towards Aberffraw I found a large roadside finch flock in stubble. Mainly Linnets plus Chaffinch’s and Skylark’s with a Merlin and a male Hen Harrier in attendance. I went on to Llyn Coron, where another male Hen Harrier was quartering the area. I finished the day at Malltraeth, where 2 male Hen Harriers came in to roost in the saltmarsh alongside Newborough Forest.
The Waxwing was still present in Holyhead on the 5th. This was the first day that Kathy and me started our ‘foot-it’ challenge. This challenge is an attempt to see as many species as you can in the month of January by birding on foot to and from your home, walking as far as you like. We decided to limit ourselves to cover the area from Holyhead Harbour down to Penrhos CP and estimated that we would see 70 species.
The morning of the 6th saw Chiffchaff and Stonechat at Soldier’s Point before Kathy and me headed off to Malltraeth to lead a winter walk with Naturebites. Spotted Redshank was located from the bridge on the outskirts of the village, then a variety of woodland species on the feeders near Llyn Parc Mawr. The highlight of the day was seeing 5 Red Squirrels scampering up and down the trees Wow! Moving out to the edge of the forest to view the salt-marsh and we were treated to the sight of a Peregrine chasing off a Merlin!
I saw the Holyhead Waxwing for the last time on the 7th. The ‘foot-it’ challenge continued a pace with additions such as Greenshank, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Long-tailed Tit and Goldcrest. I ventured out on the 9th to the Cefni Reservoir and my reward was a sub-adult male Scaup. On to Lligwy Bay but no sign of the Black-throated Diver seen here yesterday by David Wright, I had to settle for 26 Red-throated Divers, a Great Northern Diver, 5 Black Guillemots, 2 Sanderling and 5 Fulmars, the latter two being new for the year. A walk along the coast at Moelfre produced another 11 Red-throated Divers and 2 Great Northern Divers plus a close group of 15 Common Scoter. A Bullfinch brightened the walk at Soldiers Point where 3 Mediterranean Gulls were feeding off the Point.
Kathy’s dad Pete came to stay and a day out on the 11th saw the three of us returning to the Cefni Reservoir. Thankfully the Scaup was still present, a ‘lifer’ for both Kathy and Pete, my reward was for Pete to find me a Kingfisher! Treecreeper and Jay were also seen here. Onwards to find Yellowhammers near Brynteg, then another vain attempt to find the Black-throated Diver. The next day me and Pete went out and found 17 Purple Sandpipers in Trearddur Bay, a male Ruddy Duck and the Long-tailed Duck on Llyn Penrhyn and 4 Dark-bellied Brent geese amongst some 200 Pale-bellies in Beddmanarch Bay.
On the 13th I joined Ian Wright to lead a North Wales Wildlife Trust field trip to the Alaw Estuary. Attended by some 20 people, we all enjoyed the regular waders and wildfowl that this top estuary had to offer plus the added bonus of a group of 10 Whooper Swans arriving from the north. As the tide came in we moved over to Beddmanarch Bay where 2 Mediterranean gulls were found amongst the Black-headed Gulls, one Slavonian Grebe was out in the bay and then a huge surprise when a Velvet Scoter flew in and landed briefly before flying on over to the Inland Sea. That evening another Naturebites Winter Walk took us to Llyn Maelog, Rhosneigr to enjoy the spectacular Starling roost.
Back on my patch the next day I found a Little Owl and a Woodcock in the Breakwater CP. Our next ‘foot-it’ outing on the 15th gave us a Reed Bunting, a tit flock including Long-tailed Tits, Coal tit, Goldcrest and a Chiffchaff. Little Egret, Slavonian Grebe and Mediterranean Gull were all seen as darkness began to fall a Water Rail creeping through the wet woodland floor. We also saw our first Snowdrops of the year.
We awoke on the 18th to a covering of a foot of snow and for the next 3 days our only option was to ‘foot-it’! We ploughed through the snow to find Redwing and Fieldfare joining Snipe and a Woodcock feeding on the seaweed covered beach. As the snow slowly began to clear on the 21st I walked down to Soldiers Point and some nice surprises here with 3 Skylarks, Snipe, Lapwing and with a small group of Linnets I found a Twite!, my first here since 2008. Two Water Rails also showed well now that most of their cover had been flattened by the snow.
The following morning 100’s of Redwing and many Song Thrush’s were feeding on the grassy slopes along NewryBeach as the snow thawed. Reed Bunting was another fine addition to my patch list. A trip to Llyn Coron on the 24th, where amongst the large numbers of Teal and Wigeon I found 2 male Scaup and 8 Goosander. At Llyn Penrhyn the Long-tailed Duck had been joined by 3 Scaup. On the 27th another Naturebites winter walk, this time along the coastal path at Moelfre, where we saw many Guillemots and Razorbills along with Black Guillemots and a Great Northern Diver. On my way home I saw 28 Whooper Swans in fields between Llangefni and Llanerchymydd.
Strong winds at the end of the month made birding difficult but it did have its rewards with my first Gannets of the year off the Breakwater CP on the 28th, followed by 2 adult Little Gulls in Beddmanarch Bay the next day. On the 30th a one hour sea-watch off the Breakwater CP produced 372 Fulmars flying west. Later that day Razorbill, Goldeneye and Kittiwake took our ‘foot-it’ total through the target figure of 70 species. The last day of the month saw 222 Kittiwakes, 2 Red-throated Divers and a Little Gull passing the Breakwater CP. 6 Black Guillemots in Holyhead Harbour and our final ‘foot-it’ outing adding Little Gull and Red-throated Diver to give us a very pleasing 73 species.
Thanks to Ken for his January review – it just goes to show that there is plenty of bird-life to be seen on Anglesey no matter what the time of year!
A special thumbs up to my Dad for spotting us a Kingfisher (he has a knack of finding these guys!).
If you would like to join us for a birding day out then please see the tours section of our website and get in touch.