A Three Lifer Day

Last Monday evening I was laid in the bath and struggling to decide where to go birding the next day. The usual Marlborough Downs or Water Park trip or maybe to the South Coast. In a moment of madness I went left-field and plumped for the Elegant Tern on Anglesey. This would mean a really early start so I needed to get out the bath, get my stuff ready and go to bed. Unfortunately in my haste to get on I manged to slip while getting out of the bath and fell heavily onto my leftside. With some obvious damage to the rib area the trip to Wales was already cancelled. After some poor quality sleep I made an early morning visit to the hospital to be told i had torn an intercostal muscle and either bruised or mayb a little worse for the ribs. Fast forward to Thursday morning and I was sore but okay so managed to book Friday off for another go at the trip to Anglesey. I woke a little before the 01:30 alarm and was on the road before two. I had been wondering if there was anywhere I could stop en-route and came up with Black Grouse near to Worlds End which is not far from Wrexham and only a short diversion from my route. Thanks to directions from Ian I was up on the moors as it was getting light and had soon found a lek of ten grouse. I enjoyed about fifteen minutes of watching and listening to them from the car enjoying the spectacle and the solitude. Travelling on along the road I was saddened to see that even up here they suffered from fly-tipping with two separate lots dumped just off of the road.

Then it was a lovely drive trough Snowdonia and onto the North Wales Expressway and across the Britannia bridge onto Anglesey. The Elegant Tern seemed to have settled into a pattern of flying out to sea early morning before returning to the colony a couple of hours later. Because of this I headed first to Holyhead and then South Stack. At the harbour in Holyhead I soon found Black Guillemot with one on the water and another flying out to sea. Turning onto the road to South Stack a field of cows also had thirteen Cough who were busy feeding on the insects on and around the cow pats. Not a bad bird to reach two hundred for the year with. At South Stack a short walk down to the cliff edge was rewarded with the sight of thousands of Guillemots along with Razorbills, Fulmar, Kittiwake and gulls. A short scan of the sea soon found a couple of Puffins amongst the other Auks.

I could quite happily have sat here for a couple of hours watching the avian activity but really needed to get over to Cemlyn bay and the Terns. After a couple of quick stops in Holyhead, a bakery for me and petrol for the car I was on my way. The car park at Cemlyn was fairly empty and getting out of the car I could immediately both hear and smell the Terns. Walking out onto the shingle ridge the sight and sound of the masses of Terns was impressive. I made my way along to the small group of birders and photographers. From the amount of optics and cameras aimed at the colony it looked as if I had got my timing spot on. And so I had as the Elegant tern was quite active, flying around with a small fish in its beak and regularly landing and presenting it to any Sandwich Ten that was close by. It was also displaying, strutting around and thowing its head back and up. Often all that could be seen was the large orange beak moving up and down amongst the vegetation. After watching it for a few minutes I started to check out the other terns. With plenty of young around and birds constantly flying in with food breeding seems to be going well. It was good to see Arctic Terns so well, usually they are some distance away over some reservoir or lake. I had a chat with the warden asking the Roseate Terns were still around. He said he believed so and showed me their favoured area. I moved along a bit to the east and started to pick through the birds, not an easy task with the constant comings and goings. After a few minutes and a couple of false alarms I found a likely candidate for what would be my third lifer of the day. After a good look and some checking of the Collins I was confident that it was a Roseate. Then the moment of truth as a couple of other birders joined me asking what I was looking at. I told them, got them onto the bird and then waited for their judgement, it was quite a relief when they both agreed with me.

It was by now time to move on and I set off for the headland to do a bit of seawatching. Stopping to check out a couple of small birds I went to use my scope and the focus knob sheared. A quick look showed there was nothing to be done to fix it so a decision had to be made. I have been intending getting a new scope for a while and had even decided which one and from where. Question was should I carry on birding with just binoculars or head for home and hope to make it to Worcester before the Birders Store closed. A quick phone call confirmed the scope I wanted was in stock and the sat-nav indicated I would be able to get there at around four. Decision made I headed off, typically for a Friday there was a lot of traffic and my arrival time was steadily moving away from four. Just before LLangollen they were top-dressing the road and a convoy system was in operation. It took almost twenty minutes to clear the work so I made a call to the shop to check if they would be okay if I didn’t arrive until close to five. They said they were so I kept going for it. I finally arrived in Worcester at five to five which was cutting it a bit fine for my liking. Anyway I was in time and was soon the owner of a new scope, tripod and carry pack. Then it was over to my Son’s house for a cup of tea before heading homewards. After stopping for pie andchips and negotiating a couple of road closures I finally arrived home at half-past nine having travelled five hundred and twenty miles to get three lifers and three other year ticks

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