Monday, 2 April 2018

A Welsh week on Anglesey

The Safari had a busy week with family duties but did have the chance to stop off at Marshside RSPB to have a half hour look to see if there was anything about. There were plenty of Wigeon and Black Tailed Godwits but on the whole there wasn't too much about. The water levels with all the rain and melting snow were a bit on the high side. The other side of the reserve gave us a walk down to Nels Hide from where the Scaup were nowhere to be seen. Several flights Pink Footed Geese left the freshwater marsh flying low over our head over to the salt water marsh as we walked down to the hide. 
We were asked if we'd seen the Avocets, which we hadn't but as we were being told there were a few about two flew past the window (123, PYLC #101)
They joined a small group of others doing their best to shelter from the ferociously cold wind behind a low island. There's precious little shelter when conditions are bad here.
The left hand bird is Yellow flagged but we couldn't read the code
With nothing else on show, the Scaup were reported from a different area of the reserve we didn't have had time to visit, we had to call it a day.
The following day we took the big camera on Monty's early morning walk along the cliffs and had the success we hoped for with just one Wheatear (PYLC #102) briefly on the lower rocks.
Then we hit the road down to the lovely and sunny island of Anglesey off the north coast of Wales.
As we always do on a road trip we tallied up Buzzards versus Kestrels along the way with the result in favour of Buzzards yet again 5:1 but second dead Kestrel on the side of the road too. Other roadkill wildlife included a single Badger and what looked seriously like a Polecat.
Once we'd unpacked at our temporary Base Camp we hit the beach where we soon found a Grey Seal bottling on the flat sea. Also out there was  a nice variety of birds, several Shags (124) fished offshore while on the beach there were a few Sanderlings, Ringed Plovers and a Dunlin or two scattered among them. Out to sea we found five Great Crested Grebes and watched what turned out to be the first, of only two, Sandwich Tern (125) of the week fly past. A pair of Red Breasted Mergansers split up, the male flying inland and landing on a small creek behind the beach. Several auks were too far out to be able to identify but that didn't matter too much as there would be plenty of opportunities to catch up with them at close quarters later in the week.
Saturday morning out with Monty brought us overflying Ravens, distant drumming Great Spotted Woodpeckers and Sparrowhawk that looked like it was on a migratory mission. A trip up to the gorgeous little inlet of Porth Eilian later in the morning had us watching more Shags and a Black Guillemot (126) while Monty had a swim but they were both always a little too distant for decent pics.
On the drive out just up the hill in the village a Red Squirrel scampered along the roadside towards gardens bedecked with feeders. Great to see one, Anglesey is a superb conservation success story for this enigmatic species and we didn't see any at all when we were here four years ago. The drive back to Base Camp also gave us our first dead Hedgehog on the road of the year, that one hadn't survived long after coming out of hibernation.
After tea a final sprint round the beach with Monty brought a bit of a surprise in the form of a flock of Pale Bellied Brent Geese (127, PYLC #103) we hadn't brought the camera so only had our phone to get some pics with and were doing quite well sneaking up on them slowly but surely inching closer until the Monster came charging up behind us and flushed them, they seemed far more wary of dogs than people.
A duff pic but never mind we'd get them with the big lens in the morning.
On Saturday evening we were joined by LCV and his family so on Sunday we planned a big family excursion to the RSPB South Stack reserve and Lighthouse. Reports earlier had shown thousands of guillemots etc back on the nesting cliffs and even more exciting a Snowy Owl had been on the mountain behind the cliffs for much of Saturday.
The morning walk before setting off had us listening to our first Chiffchaff (128) of the year in the cottage's garden and the Brent Geese were on the beach again but we didn't have the camera, two Razorbills (129) were close in too.
South Stack gave us awesome views of a flock of at least 15 Choughs with lots of calling and aerobatic display going on but not photo opportunities, they kept dipping over the edge of the cliffs or flipping up over the skyline and out of sight before we could raise the camera. A Kittiwake (130) cruised the cliff edge below us but again was out of sight before we could get a pic, astonishingly this was the only one we saw all week. The Guillemot nesting cliffs were deserted. It seems the bad weather of the Beast from the East mk2 had sent all the cliffs' residents back out to sea and from Ellin's Tower viewing point they were indeed empty apart from a few pairs of Herring Gulls and Fulmars (131, PYLC #104) - All very worrying, hopefully the huddled masses will return before too long and have a good breeding season. our look for Puffins in 'Puffin Gully' was unsuccessful too, although we learned later in the week that the first Puffin to be seen there this year wasn't until the following day. Despite hordes of birders out on the trail of the Snowy Owl there was no news of that either.
Overexposed Fulmars
While the kids had a run down the million steps to the lighthouse we stayed up top and watched a Meadow Pipit poke about the rocks by the track.
There were very few small birds about giving a hint that there had been no recent migrants on the move. A camera-shy Stonechat on the walk back to the car was best of the rest and more than likely a local bird.
A stop at Porth Eilian before going back to Base Camp gave us more Shags (PYLC #105) and a couple of duff Black Guillemot pics (PYLC #106)
At Penmon Head the next day LCV soon picked up a Harbour Porpoise fishing a few hundred yards offshore. There were plenty of birds but all distant. All the auks missing from the cliffs at South Stack seemed to be here. Lots of Guillemots (132) and Razorbills (PYLC #107)
Some Shags floated close by giving us the chance to better our earlier PYLC pic.
The flock of Eiders weren't so obliging.
LCV picked up a couple of Puffins (133) loafing, appropriately, just off Puffin Island, so far to far for a pic, then he found another half dozen or so a couple of hundred yards further back.
While having tea and a bun in the tea-rooms with the family a Sand Martin (134) flew over us and eagle-eyed LCV picked up the second Sandwich Tern of the week out in the straits. 
Playing ball with Monty a Rock Pipit flew past us and landed close by but by the time we'd gone for the camera it was long gone too.
Tuesday was a wash out with rain and we'd come down with a bug too.
Wednesday saw us feeling a bit better so we headed out across the island to see if we could find some Red Squirrels in the forest at Newborough. We'd only got as far as the first village off the main road before seeing one on the side of the road again. Which was good as the woods were very quite and notably devoid of squirrels, in fact notably devoid of almost all wildlife apart from a smattering of Great Tits and Blackbirds and a soaring Buzzard that was a bit too high for our little lens.
Back at our beach Monty had a good time as we successfully failed to get any pics of the Brent Geese again.
Our last day had us photographing a pair of Red Legged Partridges (PYLC #108) through the kitchen window which we spotted while doing the last of the washing up. We've counted it on our challenge list but as per usual we don't add these multi-millions released for shooting without so much as a by-your-leave to our regular year list.
Then we had a lovely surprise, we went to throw the last  remnants of a loaf out on the lawn for the Carrion Crows when we spotted this little chap snuffling his way through the short grass.
Once back at Base Camp we were able to have a look at the Stealth Cam's captures. After seeing a Hedgehog in the flesh we weren't surprised to see one had triggered the camera and possibly a different one as it looks a bit bigger, the daytime one appearing to be only just large enough to have survived hibernation.
Monty found a Fox turd to roll in in the garden on his way back from his walk one morning yuk, yuk and double yuk!!! So again it wasn't a surprise to see the camera had been tripped by one.
But we didn't expect to see this 'orrible and frightening beast staring at us. Could it be the fabled Welsh Yeti?
So all in all a rather mixed week but great to share the best two days of weather and health with the kids.
As a bit off an aside to the safari we were given the loan of a snazzy all-wheel drive motor for the week. A plug-in hybrid Mitsusushi Outlander - a rather comfortable car to drive with all bells and whistles - or at least all lights and things that go ping. We've never known a car to make so many noises in the cabin!
There's a bit of rigmarole to turn it on, the computer systems like all computer systems need to fire up; no turning the key rev the engine and you have to wait for the 'ready' notice on the dash but it doesn't take that long, it's not going to delay your journey...
We weren't given the plug-in lead so couldn't charge it up overnight from the house electricity so had to use the engine to charge the battery. There are three modes, electric motor travel, electric motor travel while the engine charges the battery and helps if necessary and save the battery for eg fast or hilly driving where the engine does all the work, all can be switched at any time by the push of a button on the centre console.
Due to the nature of the terrain and distances we were traveling we normally used the charge the battery mode, then either using the charge or saving it dependiong on where we were and how far there was to travel. For nipping down to the beach with Monty or round to the local village shop electric mode was great. This vehicle is a 2017 model and only has about 20 miles of electric power depending on the terrain, great for a short daily commute - the owner can get to work 5 days a week without using any petrol and can charge it up at work if necessary (rarely). The current year model has been given a big mileage boost to 40 miles on a fully charged battery.
At high speed on the motorway legs totally on petrol it didn't fare very well at all only giving us about 25mpg, hardly surprising with 2.4l engine and a 2 tonne car with the aerodynamics of a brick. Adding on the time in electric mode the total mpg for the trip was bumped up to 30mpg so a reasonable saving. The electric mode came into its own in a stretch of serious motorway congestion, the half hour or more delay used no petrol at all as we inched forward, in our old Disco we'd have been watching the fuel gauge plummet and getting twitchy if it dropped below a quarter. Also very convenient in the traffic jam was the Auto-hold (foot)brake.
We didn't get the opportunity to use the Super All Wheel Control 4x4 system although did note that the manual warned you not to go off road on to mud or sand in case you got stuck (not surprising given the tread pattern on the standard tyres) and the suspension could be damaged by rough tracks - a bit different to the Land Rover manuals which show you how to get the best out of the 4x4 system on your vehicle.
The dash has more lights than the average Boeing 747 and we're certain we didn't see them all! Slightly disconcerting are the pinging and orange flashing BRAKE BRAKE BRAKE warnings when there's no obvious danger, the sensors having picked up a passing leaf or something blowing in the wind, or worse come on AFTER you've taken evasive action eg on narrow streets avoiding on-coming traffic.
To be fair though we think all this super-technology is all part of the trials in the run-up to driverless cars...and we really like the reversing camera how on earth did we ever park before??? Great for making sure you just within an inch of the double yellow lines!
Would we dash out an buy one, no. Will our next car have some of the technologies this one has - yes but it'll be much older so they'll be a lot simpler. Can we wait for driverless cars - NO - - they'll be perfect for going to the pub!

Where to next? Back to more familiar territories this week, will there be nay migrants to find - that weather is still very wintry rather than springy!

In the meantime let us know who's scampering along the roadsides in your outback

1 comment:

cliff said...

Well your weather certainly looks better than me & Jane had in Cumbria the previous week. Some fine sightings there & Monty looks like he literally had a ball.

25 mpg - i'll stick with my deisel for now.