Trip reports

Ouzel doozie and Cuckoo a choo

Ouzel doozie and Cuckoo a choo
Cuckoo & M Pipit- N Prendergast

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Ellen loved their times at Aber. She loved to walk upon the beach and gaze across the strait towards Llanfaes. She loved to follow the shallow, meandering river that flowed through a deeply wooded glen, and she loved to watch for that flash of silver amidst the trees ahead, anticipating her first glimpse of the surging waterfall that splashed over a sheer cliff in a narrow ribbon of white water, the Whiteshell River... From the Princes of Gwynedd - S Penman

Last Saturday was one of those birding days out not to be forgotten, for all the right reasons and not just because we had gone to Wales and for once the weather was glorious. Our trip up the Aber mountain was to look for specialist mountain and woodland bird and I'm pleased to say we were not disappointed.
The remarkable weather saw the troops out in numbers and we were lucky to get a parking space, but our early start had paid off.
The river meanders by the car park, what a start, twas an omen perhaps of good things to come. Bobbity, bob, dipper, back and forth to its nest, zipping under the bridge were we stood...wonderful.
Happily we set off alongside the path that runs along the river, the Afon Rhaedr Fawr. Woodland, shrubs and grassy glades either side. We were aiming for the Aber waterfall; here the River Afon Goch plunges about 120 feet over a sill of rock, a view worth the trip alone.
Eyes to the skies, it wasn't long before we were treated to aerial cat fight between that exquisite fork tailed prince of the hills a red kite and a more familiar common buzzard ..mew!
Next a captivating fierce goshawk rising high over the woodland- a much better sighting than the previous week at Lake Vyrnwy, noticeably paler, short broad wings and a long tail, (natures adaptation to allow the hawk to manoeuvre through the trees). Later sightings of sparrowhawk and kestrel completed the raptors for the day.

The path to the falls is a stunning place, bluebells carpeted the glades, hawthorn blossom gleamed white and smelt divine. A quiet place for a picnic or ponder or for some a happy home...ponies roamed in the dappled shade.
The stream babbled and rippled, birdsong hung in the air...chiff chaff, willow warbler, blackcap, song thrush, great, blue and long tailed tit, goldcrest to name a few, many binoculars hunted them down.
A streak of red led us to another target, a resplendent redstart, darting from tree to fence post and back, fine views for all. A gt spotted a woodpecker briefly kekked his way through the woods.

A male pied flycatcher obligingly sitting on a branch, his female close by. One never tires of admiring this bird, so striking and only here for a few months of the year.

Arriving at the plunge pool, the waters flowed a little faster over the rocky bottom; here a crafty grey wagtail plundered the riverbed.
Cuckoo calling high over the rocky cliff face, but where? all eyes trained above, a luring call and then a stroke of luck, a flight from tree to rock and back, then settled on the craggy top 'the gowk' our harbinger of spring.

Stomachs rumbled, we strolled back to the car park picnic tables, what a great morning.

After lunch we travelled a short distance to access an open hilly area in the valley of the Afon Anafo. An even smaller car park and some tight spatial awareness parking.

Stonechats were the kings and queens of the scrub with occasional meadow pipit accompaniment, but what we were looking for was an upland elusive bird, a blackbird with a twist... the ring ouzel with its white breast-band and yellow circled eye.

Another spectacular valley, a green vista, scree slopes, ancient stone ruins with the Anafo flowing through it. We purposefully trod along the path, the wind more blustery on the higher ground. What's that...another cuckoo calling!? Sure enough, as if our path was tracked a cuckoo sat on a stone wall below, being mobbed by meadow pipits; hey... they may have been mum and dad!

Second cuckoo interlude over we decided to stop a while and spread out along the path, giving ourselves the best opportunity to scan the slopes, it worked, after ten minutes success Chris found our bird, feverishly foraging for grubs high on the slopes above. A great bird to end our trip, a lifer tick for many.