Friday 15 – Monday 18 June – Anglesey Leaders: Keith Williams and Alastair Fraser

After a pleasant journey spotting numerous Buzzards, several Kestrels, and of course the occasional Red Kite as we entered Wales, we arrived at Gronant near Prestatyn. Here on the beach is a breeding colony of Little Terns but sadly only the day before, due to a severe gale causing a tidal surge, the colony had been devastated. There were plenty of Terns to be seen in the air and an army of volunteers who were repairing the security fences. They reported that there were a few surviving chicks and some of the pairs had started nest building again so hopefully all is not lost. Skylarks were much in evidence on the surroundings dunes and Shelduck, Mallard, Moorhens and Little Egret were seen on the marsh. A Marsh Harrier, not common here, was also spotted. Those lucky enough to have good hearing were entertained by a Grasshopper Warbler. Many orchids were among the flowers blooming. We then continued our journey along the North Wales coast, the Menai Straits and finally to our destination near Holyhead.
We woke to heavy rain on Saturday but dressed for the weather and headed to South Stack. Here a gale was blowing and the foghorn was wailing in the low cloud. We took the path along the edge of the cliff but there was no sign of Choughs. The writer, for one, wished she was wearing lead boots to keep her tethered to the ground. It was not ideal birdwatching weather with rain on spectacles, binoculars and the windows of Elins Tower. Nevertheless, a good bird list soon built up including Gannets, Fulmars, Kittiwakes, Guillemots and Razorbills. Manx Shearwaters were also seen. The first Choughs were seen by those who headed towards the cafe for a comfort stop. We descended the steps towards the lighthouse battling against a wind that felt like a hurricane but were rewarded by the sighting of a Puffin. The rain then started to come down more heavily and we retreated to the cafe for a welcome coffee. Hearing reports of a Snowy Owl on Anglesey we made enquiries about its location and set off to look for it. Amlwch Port proved to be an attractive sheltered spot for birds and birders to eat their lunch. Sadly it was to be a ‘it was here yesterday’ occasion. However, we were rewarded by good sightings of about six Harbour Porpoises just offshore. Our next stop was Cemlyn Bay where there was much activity in the tern colony. It was a good opportunity to sort out identification of Common and Arctic terms as they were here side by side. Sandwich Terns had their own territory and were present in good numbers. Oystercatchers were also breeding there and two Curlew flew over. A female Red-breasted Merganser fished on the pond near the car park. Seals were singing on the rocks towards the Wherries.
The next day started very well with a flyover of about four Choughs before we had left the car park of our accommodation. Holyhead harbour was our next stop where we quickly spotted Black Guillemots. We had excellent views of at least six birds including one in its nest hole in the harbour wall. A male Red-breasted Merganser was seen in the distance and more seals. After a drive to the North East corner of the island via a very attractive Beaumaris and coast road we arrived at Penmon point opposite Puffin Island. Here in lovely weather was a raft of Eider off shore and Cormorants and Shags for us to practice identification. More Harbour Porpoises went by. After lunch we strolled through the sheltered clifftop habitat and soon saw Bullfinches, Rock Pipits and Whitethroat and heard Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Blackcap. We next headed to the South Coast at Malltreath, returning to the wet and windy weather. After an excellent view of a Sparrowhawk with prey we saw a Little Egret, Ravens, Moorhen, Oystercatcher and heard Reed and Sedge Warbler.
On Monday morning we reluctantly left our excellent accommodation at Blackthorn farm and travelled south through lovely scenery. We arrived at the Osprey nest site at Cors Dyfed just as the rain started making viewing through the glass of the treetop hide less than satisfactory. There were big screens showing live footage which were the clearest pictures I have ever seen. Some of our telescopes were set up where there was no glass and good views were had of both adult birds. We ate our lunch in hides by the bird feeders and saw Siskins, Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Coal Tit and brightly coloured Redpoll. A Snipe flew over. We then moved on to Bwylch Nant yr Arian Kite feeding station. Red Kites were already circling overhead waiting for the three o’clock tea time. The attractive lake gave us Tufted Duck and Little Grebe to add to the list. At 15:00 precisely the feeding frenzy started and what a sight it was with around 200 birds gliding in to snatch a morsel of the meat provided. It was an amazing finale to a great weekend. 93 bird species were recorded. Many thanks to Judy for making all the arrangements and to our two leaders and stalwart drivers Alastair and Keith. Thanks also to Jeff for sharing his detailed knowledge of all forms of wildlife. Margaret Gorely