Friday, 20 July 2012

Angelsey day 1

And so the Angelsey holiday starts. It started quite warm, but not regularly sunny and slightly breezy. Ideal conditions then, according to my dad to go to South Stack RSPB, Angelseys top nature reserve. When we arrived it had certainly brightened up a bit, but still not full on sunshine. We spent about 10mins in the cafe, before I left my family to enjoy their cuppa and I went off to go and hopefully see some wildlife. I set off down the stairs from the top car park down to the lighthouse. If you know anything about angelsey birdwatching then you would know that South Stack is well known for its choughs. It seemed almost guaranteed that I would see one, though I knew from experience that it was not always like that.
  As descended the short but slightly overgrown staircase towards the light and the first bird I saw of the day was a small wren singing from the top of a bramble stem.

When I reached the bottom of the stairs and reached the edge of the cliff overlooking the main lighthouse I saw my first choughs. They were some way away climbing up a rock face, and hidden from view for most of their foray. Luckily I managed a few photos and then looked out for any closer or other birds.

I was thrilled to see my first ever chough. the other birds on the cliffs were guillemots and razorbills. Of course, choughs are not the only speciality of South Stack, and another is the Silver-Studded Blue Butterfly, which is probably rarer than the choughs, though it does just look like another blue butterfly. Need less to say, I was well on the lookout for one. I had no joy on the cliff top, but one chap I spoke to said that he had seen them on the heathland on the other side of the road away from the cliffs, so I left to go and see if I could see any up there.
  I walked up to the heath, but was lost not long after. I wandered around many paths looking for the butterflies but in vain. However, I eventually found a concrete path, and following this path led me straight to them. At first I was dubious, after all, all blue butterflies with the exception of holly blue look the same, so I began to wonder if these were actually common blues, but eventually I decided that they were probably silver studded when there began to be loads of them. At one point I had around 5 in front of me. It was wonderful to be surrounded by so many rare, pretty and first time butterflies, and they were a treat to see. I ended up taking loads of photos, so that eventually they were more that record shots. It was curious that they all seemed to within 10 meters of path, before there were none, and none after neither. But where they were, there were loads.

-Silver Studded Blue
So I left the moors absolutely buzzing with two awesome new species and it was not even lunchtime. Now I decided to go back to the cliff top moors and see what was around up there and hopefully see more choughs at closer quarters. But instead of walking along the cliff top path, I decided to walk through the heathland path to see what heathland insects and birds were around.
  I was rewarded with close encounters with a stonechat which clearly had a nest somewhere around because the adults both had something in their beak when I saw them. I got great views of both the male and the female.

-Female Stonechat

-Male Stonechat
Further along the path and I added another cracking new species to my ever growing list for the site. And it was a more curious animal. They were big green beetles called rose chaffers, which were really obvious when they sat on the white flowers gathering the pollen, and that's the only place where I saw them. I was impressed by them to say the least but there only seemed to be one on each white flower, though a plant with two flowers would have two quite close to each other.

-Rose Chaffer
I reached the end of the heathland path and arrived at the lower car park. I set off down the alternative path towards the cliff edge for the way back and to see if I could see any choughs. When I reached the cliff face I immediately saw a group of around 5 choughs flying about, some playing in the wind, some rooting in the cliff side, where there were grassy bits. They were great to watch, and when the wind picked up they would fly up to where i was standing and fly alongside me. Luckily, I had carried the scope all the way round the reserve for no reason, until now, and I was able to get great views of the choughs as they rooted in the cliff side.

But there were not only choughs on the corvid front. As I was watching the choughs, a pair of ravens flew over, giving me another great species to the list for the day. They moved off pretty quick, further up the coast, but they were still great to see.

the ravens were just fly-bys though so my attention quickly returned to the choughs, that were flying to and fro across where I was standing, allowing me to get great views of them up close.

Sadly though I then got a text telling me that lunch was at the car, so that it was time, for the present, to leave my chough watching point and head back to the car. This time I walked back along the cliff edge, rather than through the moors, to see what birds were around in this bit. I saw a kestrel hunting over the moors and a pied wagtail on the cliff edge. 


-Pied Wagtail
When I reached the lighthouse I spotted a meadow pipit with a caterpillar in its beak in the scrub, it was perched out in the open and was not very shy, I took a few photos, but left pretty quick, in case I was putting it off its nest which it seemed to have.

-Meadow Pipitwalking back up to the car park involved going up a path through the heath and on the way I found some more lovely rose chaffers, that allowed me to get some more photos. It was quite difficult to tell what was beetle head and what was flower, their heads were so covered in pollen.

-Rose ChafferAfter lunch I headed back to where the choughs had been and was delighted to see that there were still plenty of them there. The wind had picked up considerably, so they choughs were flying higher than they had been before and so were flying above me rather than on a par with me. It also meant that they were landing on the cliff ledge next to the path. On the way there I saw a pair only about a meter away from me, rooting in the dirt on the sea side of the path. I was cautious to try and take a photo, but to draw my camera up might spook them. They didn't even flinch until the camera snapped, and then they were gone in a flash, but it was still a great view to have had.

There were other birds that I could see from my vantage point though, including linnet and stonechat that were looking for insects of the top of the cliff.

-StonechatMy mum and dad joined me at my vantage point, and after they had looked at the choughs, my dad said that he would quite like to see the butterflies, so I took him to where they were. The weather had deteriorated since I was there, so I didn't know what to expect but we found a few, and so I took some more photos.

-Silver Studded Blue 
We continued to explore the moors for a bit to see if we could find anything else. From our vantage point above the reserve, we could see a large flock of choughs moving off onto the neighbouring farmland.

We found a stile that would lead us on a short path back to the visitor centre. We were just about to go through the stile when I spotted a common darter dragonfly land of the gorse nearby. I couldn't believe it, as there was very little fresh water nearby, though there was a lake over the hill, when I had looked there before there was nothing on it except for a herring gull. The dragonfly appeared to be trying to oviposit on the gorse, which is not a good idea, though it probably wasn't, though what it was doing is beyond me.

-Common DarterWe headed back down to the view point to see what seabirds where around since they were something I had overlooked due to the wealth of none seabirds around. There were plenty of auks and the odd gannet flying past, plus rafts of auks on the sea. One guillemot had a fish in its mouth that made it look like a white beak stripe. There were also the odd chough that flew past, giving us another great view of these birds.



-Auk raft-Guillemots and razorbills
when we turned back to go up the stairs to the car park, I saw the meadow pipit again, further away from me than last time, but still a great view of a bird you can't normally get close to.

-Meadow PipitAfter that we left South Stack, and it left me very impressed. after all I had seen loads of unusual wildlife, and felt great for doing so.
  The afternoon then fell way short. We couldn't decide what to do, so after a walk round holyhead, we decided to go to the holyhead brakwater country park, and it had a lake. Nothing really happened there, I walked round the lake while my family stayed i the car. The only thing I saw was is funnel web spider.

After our rather pointless hour not knowing what to do it holyhead we went to a beach at Rosneiger, which is a town on the west coast of angelsey, but quite a way from holyhead. The beach we went to was further down from the town, hence there was quite a bit of wildlife.
  When we pulled up we had to go through the dunes to get to the beach. On the beach there were quite a few black headed gulls, and at the front, hiding amongst them there was a sandwhich tern. The gulls all scattered as we got closer, but the tern was more reluctant to fly than the gulls, so I was able to get a photo of it without the gulls in the way.

-Sandwhich ternThere were quite a few waders on the beach too, besides your usual oystercatchers. But most of them were flybys that we didn't really get a good view of.



-Juv Starling (Not a wader!)

-CurlewThere were quite a few rockpools on the beach, so we took the opportunity to go rockpooling, or at least my dad and brother did, I just walked along the rocks to see what I could find. I saw quite a few fish in the pools with out catching them, but my dad and brother also caught some great fish, so below is a compilation of all the fish that I saw and they caught that afternoon.

-Stickleback or wrasse

-Massive shannys

-Shanny in my dads Hand

-ShannyBut it was not just the fish. There were also some awesome spider crabs in some of the bigger pools that we were able to fish out and have a closer look at.

-Spider CrabOn the way back to the car I found some lovely purple orchids in the dunes, though I don't know what kind they are. I know that they fit into the category and not common spotted, which adds to their interest.

-Orchid Sp.
So our first day on Angelsey comes to an end. Its been an incredible first day, and I have seen loads of awesome species including 3 that were new, and a new bird, which is something of a rarity these days.

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