Trip reports

Penmon Point & Aber Falls - 11/05/13

Penmon Point & Aber Falls - 11/05/13
Lighthouse at Penmon Point - Holly Page

Saturday, 11 May 2013

It was as we were driving along the A55 past Conwy that we first started to worry about the weather - the rain was sheeting down and it didn't show any signs of abating. The original plan had been to park at Penmon Priory then walk down to the Point however, given the weather conditions we decided to drive down - we could then at least retreat to the cars if required!

Once we had parked up, everyone donned their full waterproof gear and our 'scopes were set up to view across to Puffin Island. First sightings were of shag and razorbill close in shore, a black guillemot was also seen fishing around the lighthouse. On the island itself we could see the breeding colonies of common guillemots and razorbills. A good sized raft of eider was also present and a few gannets & sandwich terns were spotted flying past. Unfortunately we didn't see any of the species which gave the island its name which was pretty disappointing.

The weather was now showing some signs of getting brighter and the rain actually stopped (albeit for about 15 minutes) so we walked along the cliff top path. Linnet, whitethroat and wheatear were all in evidence although they all seemed to be keeping a bit of a low profile due to the conditions. After a quick stop in the café for an ice cream (well it is supposed to be spring after all!) we drove back up the road and parked at the Priory. We walked a short way up the road in order to scrutinise the nearby woodland. This turned out to be a very good move as we soon spotted two scarce summer visitors - wood warbler & spotted flycatcher. We were all able to get good views of both these birds, the latter living up to its name by doing a considerable amount of fly-catching now the rain had stopped and a brief break in the cloud had allowed the sun to appear. Blackcap, treecreeper and willow warbler were all added to the day list and a great spotted woodpecker was heard but couldn't be located. House martins and swallows all appeared, swooping around the priory buildings.

We made our way back towards Beaumaris, pulling in at a lay-by to overlook the Menai Straits. The tide was in and we spotted a large flock of oystercatchers roosting on the shore above the water line. A red-breasted merganser performed a fly-past and there were also a few shelduck around.

Back onto the mainland we headed for our second destination - the Aber Valley at Abergwyngregyn. We had our lunch in sunshine at the car park before beginning our walk up the valley to the waterfall. Unfortunately the sunshine didn't last - the sky clouded over and the wind picked up considerably. As a consequence, we saw very few birds on our way up, the only real highlight being a garden warbler. At the top we admired the impressive waterfall before spotting raven, peregrine, kestrel & buzzard soaring around the cliffs and scree slopes. Just as we began our walk back down, a familiar song attracted my attention and we soon located a stunning male redstart. We were then treated to an exhibition in sheep herding - the local farmer brought some sheep up in his trailer and let them out, his two sheepdogs rounded them up then drove them up the narrow path along the scree slope and up onto the grassland beyond. It was quite a sight to see as the farmer stayed at the bottom, the dogs purely responding to his whistles and the path they were travelling up seemed so narrow that it didn't even seem passable!

The walk back down was almost as uneventful as the walk up although a cuckoo was calling from the other side of the valley. Try as I might I couldn't locate it though. Crossing over the stream to get back to the car park a dipper was a nice sighting to end the day.

All in all, the weather hadn't dampened our spirits too much, there were enough breaks in the rain to make the showers bearable and even some sunshine in between. A total of 62 species were seen with a further 2 heard.