Last week I was fortunate enough to have to undertake a breeding bird survey on the north coast of Anglesey, and on the morning of the survey, the weather was glorious, with hardly a cloud in the sky, with just a light northerly wind. I had a two-hour breeding bird survey (BBS) transect to complete, plus two hours of VP observation over the sea. As you can imagine, it was a real chore...not!
I like Anglesey, and I like Wales, a lot in fact, but I always seem drawn to either the Celtic kingdom to the north of me, or the one to the west across the Irish Sea, rather than the Celtic kingdom to the south, and I don't know why really. As soon as I crossed the border in to Wales, I felt that warm fuzzy feeling that I get when I cross the border in to Scotland, or alight from the ferry in Ireland.
I have probably mentioned this before, but if I ever get a spare minute or two, I spend some time researching my family tree. Fairly recently, to help with this, I had a DNA test done to estimate my ethnicity and the results were surprising and not surprising at the same time. I knew I was of Irish origin of course, having an Irish mother and lots of Irish family, so any Irish ethnicity in my DNA wouldn't be a surprise. The results came back, and my ethnicity estimate was 32% Scottish, 16% Irish and 52% Northwest England and the Isle of Man. So, I like to think that I have some Celtic blood coursing through my veins that makes some of these places feel like home. A rather romanticised view perhaps, but it's one that I like.
Walking around the coastal headland there was lots of Thrift in flower, and I have to say that it is probably one of my favourite flowers. In addition to the Thrift there was Scarlet Pimpernel, Red Valerian, Bird's-foot Trefoil and Ox-eye Daisy to name but a few. I was also accompanied by the continuous song of Rock Pipits, as there always seemed to be a bird singing, with that fantastic song-flight, whenever I stopped. I recorded six Rock Pipits, including four singing birds.
I didn't record too many other passerines other than ten Swallows, a singing Chiffchaff, five Willow Warblers (including two singing and one carrying food), a singing Whitethroat, four Siskins and nine Linnets.
Being in Anglesey I had one eye open for Choughs, but I didn't see or hear any, but I did have a Raven, which is probably my favourite Corvid.
I found a good location for my VP watchpoint on a nice stretch of headland, and had a rather pleasant two hours watching the comings and goings of all the local sea birds. However, one bird was a surprise, that I picked up on the sea directly below me and just offshore. Earlier, I had been watching a Shag fishing off the rocks, and later out of the corner of my eye I saw a bird just offshore and I thought it was the Shag back again, until I had a look, and could see that it was a Brent Goose! Not rare by any stretch of the imagination, but not a bird I would have expected off a rocky headland in late May!
I had the usual suspects on and above the sea, and this included a male Common Scoter, six Fulmars, 22 Gannets, two Shags, three Cormorants, twelve Kittiwakes, 283 Herring Gulls, six Sandwich Terns, four Common Terns, eight Arctic Terns, 30 Guillemots, five Razorbills and 54 Auk sp. Like I said, a pleasant two hours!
At weekend, Alice and I were checking boxes again. As per our usual routine, we checked our Pied Flycatcher boxes in Bowland first, and we were bitterly disappointed to discover that yet another female Pied Flycatcher had been predated out of one our boxes, leading to a failed breeding attempt. Out of just seven boxes with Pied Flycatchers, that's five that have been predated so far! We did manage to lift and ring the female off the nest out of one of the two remaining boxes.
We ringed four broods of Blue Tits; a nine, seven, six and a four, and a brood of six Great Tits, before heading downhill to our friend's farm on the Fylde. Here we ringed a brood of five and nine Blue Tits, and hopefully next weekend we will have two broods of Tree Sparrows to ring.
I ran my garden moth trap over weekend and caught just six moths of six species; Brimstone, Heart and Dart, Light-brown Apple Moth, Garden Carpet, Flame Shoulder and Shuttle-shaped Dart.
Gail and I were working, for our sins, very early on Bank Holiday Monday, as we completed a BBS on the Wirral side of the Mersey. We set off just as the sun was rising into azure blue skies, but as we neared the Mersey, we were greeted with full cloud cover, and it was a tad cool. I won't go into great detail, but some of the highlights were a singing Whitethroat, six Blackcaps, seven Chiffchaffs, two Song Thrushes, seven Willow Warblers, a Goldcrest, a singing Garden Warbler, two Bullfinches, two Great Spotted Woodpeckers, a Jay, a Buzzard, a Swift and eleven House Martins. So, you could say, a bit of a warbler 'fest'!
I've got surveys to do locally, on the Humber and in Bowland this week, before we complete the last checks of our boxes next weekend. I'll keep you posted.