A storm overnight on the 18th had trees and power lines down. It was a long hard drive back from Norfolk to Long Eaton as I was feeling very unwell. I dropped Pete off at home and made my way back to Birmingham. An early departure the next morning at 0620hrs to try and avoid some of the traffic around the city, I head straight home to Holyhead and my sick-bed. I emerge on the 22nd to do my WeBs count and on the way back call in to Trearddur Bay and find a couple of purple sandpipers at their usual high-tide roost. My thoughts of a relaxing afternoon are shattered by a text from David Wright (the summer warden at the tern colony at Cemlyn for as long as anyone can remember). He had also been out doing his WeBs count and had found a black-throated diver at Llyn Llygerian, a little watched body of water a couple of miles inland of Cemlyn. This being such a difficult species to catch up with in North Wales I could not resist the temptation to go and have a ‘shuffty’, nice bird!
The Black-throated Diver at Llyn Llygerian.
Photo by Ken Croft (who’s been a lent a camera for his Big Year by his niece Donna!).
Resting up again the next day, but a nice sunny morning on the 24th tempts me to make an early visit to the Breakwater Country Park in Holyhead and I am duly rewarded when I flush a woodcock! A drive out to Pentraeth and I join the countless dog-walkers, as I approach the saltmarsh dogs are running everywhere and so are the snipe, I count 10 jack snipe and 84 common snipe in an amazing explosion of birds. No sign of any yellowhammer at their usual winter stronghold, sadly this species is fast disappearing from Anglesey. My final stop today is at the sewage works at Bodfford, an old-fashioned filter-bed much loved by the birds, a flock of long-tailed tits are soon joined by goldcrests, grey and pied wagtails, chiffchaff and a stunning firecrest!
A lot of birding on foot on the 25th as I walk out from Holyhead along the coast into BeddmanarchBay and Penrhos Coastal Park. On my walk I encounter 5 great northern divers, 4 red-throated divers, 35 great created grebes, a Slavonian grebe, 4 black guillemots and 2 common guillemots plus 5 kittiwake. This last species was my only addition to the year total and was also my 100th species seen on Anglesey this year.
Mediterranean gull was also present at Beddmanarch Bay. Photo: Ken Croft.
An early morning visit to South Stack on 26th and during an hour searching for cetaceans (none seen) I counted 13 red-throated divers flying north. Some 20 odd fulmar were back on the cliffs between here and North Stack and when a peregrine appears I celebrate another landmark, this is my 150th species for the year.
Later on a stroll over The Range finds quite a few meadow pipits, one or two skylark plus 7 redwing and 5 fieldfare, unusual to see these last two species here in January, are birds moving back north already?
I spend the evening at Malltraeth Marsh but a couple of JCB’s doing maintenance work is probably the reason so few birds are found but I do see a ‘ringtail’ hen harrier and a female marsh harrier hunting over the reed-beds. I venture off Anglesey on the 30th to visit The Spinnies just east of Bangor, stopping on route to find 2 dippers on the river Ogwen. A good count of 55 great crested grebes are offshore and amongst the many waders roosting at high-tide I find 4 greenshank and a spotted redshank.
My first proper attempt at a sea-watch on the 31st and I walk out across The Range in a bitterly cold wnw wind and with little cover out there I had to give up after an hour in the bone-chilling wind. My reward was a single fulmar, 2 gannet, 7 kittiwake, 8 common scoter and 54 guillemots.
One month into my ‘Big Year’ and I have visited 18 different counties in the UK and have seen a total of 152 species.