Wednesday, 27 November 2013

23rd - 24th - Slightly disappointing weekend with some nice surprises.

So the plan for last weekend was to have a ringing session on both Saturday and Sunday morning, with a lamping session on Saturday night also. As per usual though, plans change. I have to say my ringing career so far has really tested my ability to be flexible!

So the decision to go ringing with Zac on Saturday morning wasn't made until about 8pm on Friday night (after a Thai Boxing session), when Steve rang to say we'd be doing a mist netting session on Sunday morning. So Chris and I woke up early on Saturday morning and went with Zac to set up his nets. It was, all in all, a very relaxed session with lots of banter, a good catch up and a handful of birds, including Goldcrest, Robin, Blue Tit and Great Tit.

This was followed by a beautiful walk around the Morfa Madryn reserve near Llanfairfechan.

Crazy cloud formations - not vapour trails!
Reflected in the flat calm tidal pool and salt marsh

We then discovered a little stream we'd never properly examined, and Zac reliably informed us that he'd seen dipper on it. Of course, being dipper obsessed, we had to investigate. We spent the rest of the early afternoon poking around the stretch between the sea and the A55 (a surprisingly short stretch, but with a lot to investigate). The three of us then returned to Bangor for some food (Mike's Bites again), and rest, before the next stage of the day.

Chris and Zac happy after food and inspecting the menu for the next meal.

At about 6ish we heard from Steve that we couldn't net at his winter site as the owners were too busy. This was disappointing, but no ones fault, so there was nothing to be done about it. We then began to get ready for a lamping session but decided that neither of us had the strength to go after a busy week, and a look at the weather. Clear skies and no wind, with a half moon, are not conducive to sneaking up on Woodcock. We therefore had a much needed night off !!

Sunday morning was a lie in and some uni work, then we headed off the investigate the rest of the river we had searched the previous day. We got more than a little bit distracted along the way, as a stop at the harbour for some chips proved how easy it would be to hand catch the black headed gulls that are around.

Close encounters of the amusing kind
Fierce competition for the next chip
Just open the roof and let them in
The hand of God - well...for a gull anyway

Without the right permission, we couldn't and wouldn't catch any gulls on this occasion, but it certainly would be a piece of cake when someone does want to / lets us have a go.

We then headed back towards Llanfairfechan to look at the river and discovered a beautiful wonderland! Sandwiched between the A55 and Llanfairfechan road, there is a little slice of tranquil heaven that I'm certain most locals don't know exists. We found lots of signs of dipper activity and roosting spots along with possible perching spots for kingfisher, as well as large Mustelid scats (likely Mink).

We bumped into a local photographer who informed us that he'd never seen dipper there (probably due to his friendly dog) but the field signs suggested otherwise, so we were hopeful of finding them!

We had a short return to Bangor to change clothes, grab the lamping stuff and organise where to meet Alex Jones for dinner and then lamping, and it was back out into the night to check if there was a dipper on the river. A short walk later, going all the way under the A55, and with one welly full of mud and water (I misjudged the solidity of the bank), we found a stunning male roosting under the bridge (pictured above). Ringed, sexed, aged, winged and weighed and safely back on his perch, we headed back to the car and on to Llandudno Junction to meet Alex.

We had a quick meal and then headed to Chris' woodcocking site nearby. Unfortunately, despite woodcock being seen in large numbers at other sites, this site still only had 2 or 3 birds visible. We covered the entire site over the next few hours but this was as close as we got to one:

Poo in a hollow in the ground - Alex Jones picture

Despite the disappointment of another night of failed lamping, it was still an enjoyable night. I got to within 10ft of a gorgeous fox (probably vixen, judging by size) and we somehow managed to flush a heron out of a tree (guess we weren't being as stealthy as planned). It's quite something to see one of these enormous birds appear out of a tree in the dark and head off into the night.

So yet again, it was a long weekend with broken sleep and much fun. Although it didn't go quite to plan, we still got one good mist netting session, a stunning walk, discovered a new river, assessed the potential to ring gulls in the harbour, found a new dipper and saw a fox and heron at close range.

This week has been all about uni work (though Monday was spent in bed as I was ill) but it's back to birding at the weekend. SCAN (wader netting) session on Saturday, and a full day birding around Anglesey on Sunday to introduce some of the new Bangor Uni Birding Group members to beginners bird ID and local birding hotspots. Fingers crossed for some good weather!

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