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Post Info TOPIC: Holy Island, Anglesey

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The sun shone brightly over Silver Bay as I started my customary circuit, with Monty, at 06:30 on Saturday. Although I found nothing new, after a week spent around Manchester and Stockport, it was wonderful to open the door to the sound of Whitethroat, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler, to watch Sandwich Terns fishing in the bay, and to see Meadow Pipit, Rock Pipit, Stonechat, Skylark and Linnet settled to breed around the headland.

The wind must have been in the wrong quarter, as I would have expected to see passing Manx Shearwater by this time of the year: I saw neither this species nor Gannet throughout the weekend. In fact, the wind had picked up by the time I got back home, and the chill edge to it made it a day to keep moving.

A twelve mile cycle circuit brought little excitement. A Whimbrel was on the top end of the Cymyran Strait near to Valley flood gates, and there were several Sedge Warblers and a Reed Bunting north of Rhoscolyn.

Cors Erddreiniog, an SSSI, is Angleseys largest fen, and I have long planned a visit. A report of Great White Egret during the preceding week, made Saturday afternoon seem the ideal opportunity. In the end I spent longer trying to locate the entrance to the site than I did actually walking it. It was warmer here than it had been on the coast, but the wind still played a part in keeping birds down. Meadow Pipit, Reed Warbler and Reed Bunting were the only sightings in the reed beds, and the pool held only Tufted Duck and Coot. There were more butterflies on the wing than I have seen elsewhere this year (mainly Peacock and Orange Tip) and also some early dragonflies, but no sign of an egret.

During the half time break in the FA Cup final, I walked down to the beach with Monty. Low tide exposes an area of small boulders, and as I walked to within ten yards of these I spotted a flock of small waders huddled in low among them. I retreated and quickly identified them as Sanderling, 35 in a variety of winter and transitional plumages. This is quite a regular occurrence in May, but is by no means frequent. They are often accompanied by Dunlin and Ringed Plover, but this group was unmixed. Of all the passage events that unfold around the island,I find this the most exciting. I returned to collect my camera and managed several shots as they moved around the beach. When I returned at 9pm there was no sign of them.

I now have three BBS squares to count, each in a different county, and Sunday was the appointed day for the early visit to my Anglesey square SH3785. It has never been counted before, and so was not delivered to me with pre-mapped transects. An earlier reconnaissance visit had suggested a N->S transect on the western side, but the intrusion of Llyn Alaw, Angleseys largest body of inland water, ruled out a parallel transect to the east, so I planned on a three section W-> E. The first transect followed a road, and I wondered whether passing traffic would disrupt the survey. Perhaps unsurprisingly, at 07:30 on a Sunday morning, I did not see a single vehicle in 45 minutes. The second transect, though shorter, offered a greater variety of habitat, including views over a sheltered inlet of the reservoir. The total species count was 35, not bad for a BBS survey, highlights included Lesser Whitethroat (plus four other warbler species), flyover Whimbrel, Oystercatcher, Little and Great Crested Grebes.

I continued from here to Cemlyn for a walk over the headland via Tyn Llan and Hen Borth. Once again, the wind dominated proceedings. There were a few passage birds still on the sheep fields, including seven Wheatear, four White Wagtails and two Whimbrel. The dwindling wader collection was represented by seven Ringed Plover and two Turnstone at Cemlyn and a Sanderling at Hen Borth. Sandwich Tern is still the dominant tern species.

Early afternoon, I cycled around the southern edge of the Inland Sea and then on to the mouth of the Alaw estuary. I had been told that singles of Brent Goose and Little Egret can still be seen at the first of these sites, but I could see only Shelduck, gulls and a pair of Red-breasted Merganser as I scanned from the road. The tide was high at the Alaw, and had cleared all waders from the shore. The small group that had sheltered on offshore rocks included four Curlew and three Bar-tailed Godwit. A pair of Chough was feeding on the turf at Rhoscolyn, near Bwa Du. Two Lesser Redpoll flew over on the approach road to Silver Bay.

On my final visit to Silver Bay beach, I found another group of nine Sanderling in the seaweed at the eastern edge of the beach. A flock of 18 Arctic Terns passed overhead, heading north.


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This is a late report for the bank holiday weekend just passed. Hopefully, it may be of use to anyone planning a visit to Anglesey this weekend.

The pace of spring migration is beginning to slow and a return to Silver Bay after a six day absence found little marked difference. Whitethroat numbers have increased, I saw at least six there on Saturday morning, and the first Sedge Warbler is back on the headland, but there was nothing else new. The weather had regressed, and the cold blustery wind that was a constant feature of the long weekend probably slowed things down.

Whimbrel are still easy to find I came across one every time I went out, though the peak count was just seven on the headland near Silver Bay on Monday afternoon. I also saw them at the Inland Sea and on The Range. They have the most eclectic habitat taste of all waders, being just as likely to turn up on the beach, the rocks, sheep fields, headland, estuary, or flying overhead. A few Lesser Redpoll are still on the move, and I noted single Common Sandpipers on the Inland Sea on Sunday, and at Cemlyn the following day.

There are still signs of winter. A Great Northern Diver was dining on crabs in Beddmanarch Bay on Saturday morning; half a dozen Bar-tailed Godwit fed with Curlew on the shore; there are still three Brent Geese on the salt marsh alongside the Inland Sea; a drake Wigeon was at Llyn Penrhyn.

I took a cycle tour of the immediate area on Sunday afternoon. An unusually showy Lesser Whitethroat was singing from the top of a hawthorn at the entrance to Valley flood gates, and I counted at least ten Sedge Warblers in various places. The most spectacular exhibition was the hirundines over Llyn Penrhyn: 80% of them were Sand Martins, probably involving 300+ birds, 50 of which balanced precariously on reed tops. Swallows formed the great majority of the remainder, and there were no Swifts. Llyn Llywenan, near Bodedern, offered a similar proportion, though on a smaller scale.

Sandwich Terns have been present at the Inland Sea for a month now, often resting on the small rocky islands near the tip of Ynys Leurad. It was good to see that two weary Common Terns had joined them on Saturday afternoon.

The pace of birding had been slow over the weekend, but things picked up on Bank Holiday Monday with news of a good find on The Range the previous day. Showing customary fieldcraft, I closely studied the southern end of the site, before spotting a few men with scopes in the distance. One of these birders proved to be Norman, who kindly relocated a beautiful female Dotterel in an area of spring squill. There were still single figures of Wheatear around and lots of Skylarks, but the cold wind was keeping birds down.
Continuing with Norman, we stopped briefly at South Stack, where flocks of auks have now built up on the sea. Morning is still the best time to visit, as the birds are still a little unsettled and can be disturbed by inconsiderate marine recreational activity. It was good to see my first Puffin of the year, on the water with several hundreds of Razorbill and Guillemot. Raven, Chough and Fulmar were also present.

Our next stop was Cemlyn, some way outside my normal patch, tempted by good reports from the previous day. There were several birders assembled there. In an area of flaky internet connection, meeting other birders is a good opportunity to find out whats about; conversely it can also be an opportunity to find out what youve missed. We met the warden, Dave Wright, on the way down the lane. He cheerfully told us that it had been a really good morning six Barnacle Geese had been on the island in the lagoon, while larophiles had been treated to Glaucous Gull and Iceland Gull side-by-side on the sea. However, he added, they had all flown off. A Turtle Dove seen by one birder near Amlwch had not been relocated, and there had been so sign either of the previous days Roseate Tern.

Despite these disappointments, it was good to see that so many Arctic and Common Terns had returned since the previous week (c100 and c50 respectively). We also heard Lesser Whitethroat and saw a Common Sandpiper and two pairs of Red-breasted Merganser. As always, it was easy to find a few adult Med Gulls in the Black-headed Gull colony. Three White Wagtails were in the sheep field on the lane to Tyn LLan, and several Sand Martins hawked over the roadside pool.

Worse was to come. Fifteen minutes after I had arrived home my phone received a text telling me that a Golden Oriole had been located near the lane to Tyn Llan, Cemlyn. Having left my phone in the car, I didnt notice the text until roughly an hour after it had arrived, 45 minutes later I was back at Cemlyn, where the first man I met had seen the bird 20 minutes earlier. It was about ten yards from where I had parked my car in the morning! Holyhead birder Graeme was on site somewhere I recognised his car. A quick call gave me useful information, but not of the type that I wanted to hear. He had just watched it fly out of sight. He had taken some pretty good photos, which showed the bird to be either a bright female or a young male definitely a different bird to the one seen in this area last year.

I later found that five Yellow Wagtails, including a blue-headed bird, had been found in the Tyn Llan sheep fields later in the day.


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Hi Nigel,
Two great reports on Holy Island Nigel. Going to Anglesey myself in a couple of weeks. Silver bay is not an area I know so your information will come in handy.

Cheers Dave Phillips.

D J Phillips

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Whitethroats had returned to Silver Bay since last weekend: one singing from brambles just beyond the end of the garden was the first thing I heard as I went out at 07:00 on Saturday morning; there were three more along the track down to the beach. There were still plenty of Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs singing, and I had heard a Grasshopper Warbler reeling near the boatyard at dusk on Friday, though there was no sign of it for the remainder of the weekend. Sedge Warbler made its first appearance on Sunday afternoon. Fourteen Whimbrel were on the beach.

My first outing of the day was to Holyhead, where a pair of Garganey had been reported in a flooded field on South Stack Road. Having missed a drake at Llyn Penrhyn the previous week, I was very keen to connect with these, and they duly obliged, offering excellent views from the roadside. Remarkably, this was the same small body of water that provided Green-winged Teal the previous week, also found by local legend Ken Croft. Two pairs of Teal were present, so too Heron, Sedge Warbler, Kestrel, a hybrid Carrion / Hooded Crow, and three birders (a big flock in these parts).

I spent the rest of the morning with former Manchester birder, Norman Rowbotham. Auks have started to return to the ledges at South Stack, but are not yet settled. On a brief scan from the steps down to the lighthouse we found mixed groups of a couple of hundred Guillemot and Razorbill on the sea; Kittiwake and Fulmar were also present in low numbers, and a couple of Chough passed overhead.

We had no luck with Dotterel on The Range (Penrhosfeilw) still a little early, though there were plenty of bright Wheatears in bright sunshine. Offshore, I picked up my first Manxies of the year (roughly eight), and a couple of Gannets.

At Penrhos Coastal Park, there was a Great Northern Diver still in Beddmanarch Bay, along with a Black Guillemot. Six Brent Geese are lingering on the marsh alongside the Inland Sea. A small group of summer-plumaged Dunlin was mobile. Small waders were not abundant over the weekend, but 10 Ringed Plover and a Dunlin at Silver Bay on Sunday morning was a good count for the time of year.

On the deserted beach at Silver Bay in the early afternoon, Whimbrel numbers had increased to 17, and the flock had been joined by two Curlew. Four White Wagtails were the first I have seen here in spring since 2011, this had increased to 17 by the following afternoon. A Snipe on the headland was unexpected so late in the spring. Stonechat, Meadow Pipit, Skylark and Linnet have all settled to breed here.

A brief cycle circuit of Rhoscolyn produced four Sedge Warblers and a Lesser Whitethroat (I have six in the area so far this year).
I drove to Cemlyn and walked to Hen Felin, via Tyn Llan, and then back along the coast. Once again, there were plenty of White Wagtails, and four Whimbrel, on the grassy slopes. A summer-plumaged male Turnstone was on the beach. The tern colony still comprised Sandwich only. Three pairs of Med Gulls were in the Black-headed colony. Two Bar-tailed Godwits were feeding in the lagoon.

A pair of flyover Gadwall was a garden tick in the evening.

Species count for the weekend: c85


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I was lucky enough to share six days of Easter sunshine with Anglesey and its birds between the evening of Tuesday 15th April and the following Bank Holiday Monday. My base was Silver Bay, one of two south-facing bays at Rhoscolyn, on Holy Island. This is where I now do most of my birding. These notes were originally put together for the Anglesey recorder, so please forgive the level of detail.

Warblers started to arrive at Silver Bay back in March, but the number and variety has grown considerably. Willow Warbler (first two back on 30th March) were up to at least ten, while Chiffchaff numbers were eight plus. Blackcap is singing from the plantation, though two of the commoner residents (Common Whitethroat and Sedge Warbler) have yet to return. I did see each of these species (three of the former, four of the latter) along the edge of Llyn Penrhyn on 18th April, and had singles in other parts of Rhoscolyn.

I fared particularly well with Lesser Whitethroat, which seems to have returned earlier than Common this year. First up was a bird singing at the entrance to Tyddyn-y-Cob (Valley flood gates) on 16th April. This was followed by one on the road down to Silver Bay on 19th, one at Cae Barcdy (Lon Ty Main) on 20th, and finally my first ever on the Silver Bay patch, 50 yards from my door, on 21st. While I was searching for the last of these, a Grasshopper Warbler started reeling in the next field, though I failed to see this, I caught up with another Gropper on the track up to the rock arches in Rhoscolyn later the same day. Last of the warblers was a singing Cettis at Llyn Cerrig Bach on Sunday 20th.

Other summer residents are back in good numbers. Sandwich Terns (two) appeared in Silver Bay on 6th April, numbers last week peaked at five on 17th. These birds seem to come down the Cymyran Strait from the Inland Sea, where double figures can be found loafing on the small islands. Hirundines are back too. I had my first House Martins (2) on the road down to Silver Bay as I arrived on the Tuesday evening, three more were over the old Valley police station the next day, with one prospecting a nest site. My first Silver Bay Swallow was seen on 30th March, and they were seen daily over the week. Sand Martins have been surprisingly abundant on passage. Two passed through on 29th March, and they were seen almost daily last week, with a peak of eight on the 17th. My first Cuckoo sang briefly from somewhere near Bodior on the 19th.

There was a strong passage of other common passerines. A flock of six Collared Doves on the 17th was the biggest that I have seen here, but eight Stock Doves which headed south towards the plantation, before turning back on 21st was a bigger surprise. Meadow Pipits breed on the headland, but counts of 30 on 16th and 19th obviously involved passage. Wheatear are normally abundant on the same headland, but a single on 29th March has been my only sighting this year, though further along the coast towards Borthwen, much higher numbers were achieved (14 on the 17th and 15+ on the 19th), I also counted double figures on The Range on the 21st. My only White Wagtails were two, in a horse field on the road from Trearddur Bay to Porth Dafarch. The main interest of some light finch movement was Lesser Redpolls, which were the dominant species in a mixed flock of c15, with Siskins, in the plantation on 16th, four passed overhead on 19th, while a single bird was at a neighbours feeder the previous day. Passage over the sea was in short evidence a group of c10 Gannets off The Range on 17th were my only ones of the year so far.

Spring wader passage was led by Whimbrel. There was a group of eight on the beach on Tuesday evening (15th), odd birds on the 19th and 20th, culminating in nine on the beach, with two Curlew, early on the 21st and a group of six overhead in the afternoon. Common Sandpipers began to appear on 19th, with a single on the shore at the Inland Sea, two at Llyn Penrhyn on 20th, one on the rocks at Silver Bay early on the 21st and another by Four Mile Bridge later in the morning. The only Ringed Plovers seen were a single at Silver Bay on 18th and c10 at Cemlyn on 20th in a small mixed flock with c10 summer-plumaged Dunlin, a winter-plumaged Sanderling and c15 Turnstones. A Black Guillemot was also in Cemlyn Bay and at least three summer-plumaged Med Gulls were in the Black-headed Gull colony.

Wintering waders were down to a handful, with two Curlew at Silver Bay on several days and a maximum of three Redshank at Valley floodgates on 17th.

Highlights of the regular resident birds at Silver Bay included pairs of Stonechat, Linnet and Skylark on the headland, plus a pair of Rock Pipits on the clifftop. A Peregrine passed on 16th, two pairs of Red-breasted Merganser were close offshore on the 21st and a Razorbill was on the sea on the same day. A male Reed Bunting was seen on the track to the arches.

Final remnants of winter were a male Wigeon on Llyn Penrhyn (17th and 20th), a female Goldeneye at the same site on the 18th and two Great Northern Divers on the Inland Sea on the 21st.

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