Trip reports

Group Autumn 2016 Birding Weekend to North Wales

Group Autumn 2016 Birding Weekend to North Wales

Friday, 11 November 2016

Trip Report - Criccieth 21 October - 24 October 2016
Fortunately, we did not have to worry about the weather as the whole of Wales was stuck in the centre of a high pressure system that gave us predominately sunny, dry and clear weather throughout the weekend. An added bonus to the wonderful weather was that we were also treated to spectacular views of the coast and the mountains of Snowdonia.

We started the day on Saturday in the harbour at Porthmadog and, in particular, the area behind the mile long causeway, locally known as the Cob, built just over 200 years ago across the Glaslyn estuary as part of a project to get slate from the huge quarries in Blaenau Ffestiniog, initially by horse and cart and later by train, to the coast for export worldwide by ship. The steam trains of the popular Ffestiniog railway still run along the Cob at the start of their fifteen mile journey to Blaenau Ffestiniog. In this inter-tidal area we got excellent sightings of greylag geese, wigeon, gadwall, teal, red-breasted merganser, little grebe, oystercatcher, lapwing, snipe, black-tailed godwit, curlew, spotted redshank, redshank, greenshank and for a lucky few, kingfisher. It was so clear that through a telescope, you could easily see people on the summit of Snowdon ten miles away as the crow flies!

En route to our next key birding spot we had a brief stop for coffee and did some sea watching at the seaside village of Borth y Gest which still maintains much of its Victorian charm with its neat rows of houses leading down to the sheltered bay featuring a horseshoe shaped promenade of brightly coloured houses.

We next visited the beach at Morfa Bychan (Black Rock Sands) where we planned to sea watch before walking up on to the headland. However, from the beach the only sightings of any significance were noisy, weekend jet skiers who continually swept away any hope of seeing seabirds! Fortunately, when we got up onto the headland the disruption was less and several rafts of common scoter could be easily picked out in the sheltered bay looking towards Criccieth. Other sightings included great crested grebe and long-tailed duck to add to the close sighting we got earlier of a solitary razorbill at Borth y Gest.
Stonechat seemed to be everywhere in the dune and scrub area inland from the beach and most of the group got excellent close-up views of a very obliging goldcrest.

On Sunday we headed approximately 15 miles north from Criccieth to the coast just south of Caernarfon at the southern end of the Menai Straits, a little known and certainly under-watched birding area. We were again treated to wonderful coastal and mountain views together with excellent, undisturbed sea watching at the small seaside resort of Dinas Dinlle and two miles further up the coast alongside Caernarfon airport. Key birds seen were great northern diver, red-throated diver, cormorant, shag, gannet, guillemot plus rock pipit on the shingle beach and a peregrine perched on the airport perimeter fence.

Between the two sea watching points noted above we spent some time looking over what must be one of the RSPB's smallest reserves - Morfa Dinlle, 117 hectares, or two large fields of grazing pasture, protected by a flood defence wall. The reserve which is viewed over a wooden five-barred gate is being developed by the RSPB to encourage breeding lapwing. Apart from lapwing there were also large numbers of golden plover and curlew to be seen.

We stopped at several points around our final birding area, Foryd Bay, an inter-tidal area nearby consisting of mud and sand flats. Key sightings included dark-bellied Brent geese out on the sandbanks, large numbers shelduck, wigeon, little egret, oystercatcher, great black-backed gulls and redshank as well as pintail, gadwall, red-breasted merganser, both black-tailed and bar-tailed godwit, greenshank and a solitary grey plover.

One bird that eluded the group was chough. I had seen two chough in typical acrobatic flight on the cliffs just inland from Black Rock Sands on the Friday and two other members of the group saw them on a repeat visit before returning home on Monday morning. Sadly, as is often the case when bird-watching, they did not oblige on the day.

The Lion Hotel proved to be very welcoming and everyone left feeling well fed and happy after a successful weekend of birding. The final weekend tally for the group was 67 species.

Bird List
mute swan
greylag goose
Canada goose
Brent goose
long-tailed duck
common scoter
red-breasted merganser
great northern diver
red-throated diver
little grebe
great crested grebe
little egret
grey heron
golden plover
grey plover
black-tailed godwit
bar-tailed godwit
spotted redshank
black-headed gull
herring gull
great black-backed gull
common gull
feral pigeon
collared dove
great spotted woodpecker
meadow pipit
rock pipit
pied wagtail
long-tailed tit
carrion crow
house sparrow
67 species
Trip Leader - Alan Brereton