Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Ringed Plovers galore for my last days visit to the wonderful north Wales coast

Today was my last morning before returning home.........be warned, this is a loooooong blog post.........
I had a few spare hours this morning before catching my train back home. I took Buster (my cousin's dog) out for a quick walk along Rhyl prom, and to have a recce to see what birds were about. The tide was not long out so there were plenty of shingly pool areas attracting all sorts of waders. Buster was duly taken back home after a mad run about, and I grabbed my camera and bins and got back out there.
I had already had a couple of fantastic days with stunning close ups views of Sanderling and Turnstones, plus a 'lifer' in the form of two very flighty Snow Buntings. I'd also seen distant Oystercatchers, various gulls, Cormorants and at Kimnel Bay I'd spotted a very distant flying flock of Ringed Plovers.
The rock pools left behind when the tide goes out along Rhyl prom is a magnet for Ringed Plovers, and they didn't fail me today.
I'm sorry. I am a city girl. Birds like Sanderling and Ringed Plover at close view, really do excite me. The only views I get of them where I live are zero for the Sanderling and only distant nesting shots of the RP's when they settle on the shingle islands at the London Wetland Centre.
So today, after Sundays success with the Sanderlings, Mondays success with the Snow Buntings, it was Tuesdays success with the Ringed Plovers.
All of my photos were taken looking over the sea wall so as not to disturb the birds. There were lots of adults about in almost complete full breeding plumage, a few still in non-breeding plumage, quite a few of last years juveniles and a bit of adult courtship display going on.
As it's my blog, I wont apologise for the numerous photos.
Today, just like the last two days, was great.
So stand by for a complete Ringed Plover overload.....






It was hard to say how many birds I saw. I concentrated on just three 'sections' of the beach (if you imagine each section divided either side by the break waters). There must have been at least 20 birds per section, with the odd one flying off to another section or flying in. So I'd be happy, and probably generous, if I said I saw 60 Ringed Plovers this morning, and I only went as far as the Golf Clubhouse. I was hoping to get to Prestatyn Dunes and the scrub behind it for some Stonechats, but I just got so immersed in the RP's, I ran out of time.
The Sanderlings were way out hovering on the sea edge but I did capture a distant flight shot of a nice sized flock of them going past....
Of course the dependable Turnstones were moving around turning stones.....

and then it was the turn of the Oystercatchers.
I had seen them distantly both Sunday and Monday, but today by laying my body as flat across the sea wall as I could (therefore not creating a huge silhouette) I managed some half decent shots of birds that crept nearer and nearer.
I also attracted the attention of several dogs and their owners along the prom........
Five such individual owners patiently waited until I'd finished taking photos and had levered myself back up in to a 'standing' position before asking what I was doing. Once I pointed out the birds I was photographing they bombarded me with so much information about where else to go in north Wales that I had to write it down. I now know where to go to see Sand Lizards (that would be another 'lifer' for me), best place for Choughs (yet anther 'lifer'), a great place for scenic waterfall photos, a great butterfly hotspot and a local estuary so full of waders I wouldn't know where to point my camera first.
This really high-lighted one of the reasons why I love coming to Rhyl. Everyone is so friendly, and I'm not just talking about my family and the friends that I've already made up here.
Every visit here, I am gobsmacked by the amount of people who smile at you whilst you're walking down the prom, who greet you and who ask what you're doing with genuine interest. Yesterday two lovely old ladies went out of their way to ensure I got on the right bus back to my cousins from Rhyl bus station after I got a bit confused and stood at the wrong stop for 20 minutes. On Sunday a lovely old gent came up to me and asked if I knew by his description what bird was visiting his coastal garden (we narrowed it down to either a Song Thrush or a Meadow Pipit, given the location and description and by me showing him a few photos of said birds). And as per my blog post yesterday this extension of friendliness was also confirmed by the Facebook group I joined a few months ago (North Wales bird and wildlife sightings) whose members helped me so much by describing in detail where to find the Snow Buntings, that I found them within ten minutes of arriving.
North Wales hospitality. You cannot beat it.
I'm a city girl. In my town you don't make eye contact let alone exchange pleasantries.
Getting back on the 'bird' track, here are my Oystercatcher captures from this morning. None are 10 out of 10, but my blog isn't about posting fantastic photos, my blogs are about my memories and moments. And having Oystercatchers near enough to almost touch made today twice as good.....


Last, but not least, we cannot overlook the gulls.
They are a somewhat 'tetchy' subject in Rhyl, especially in the town centre where some species do swoop down and snatch food from your hands, nest in some really awkward places and are probably classed as much as a 'pest' as the Ring-necked Parakeets are in my own home area.
But at the end of the day, no matter what, any problems they cause are often down to us humans in the first place.
Feed one gull, it will remember and come back for more and often with family members in tow.
Let one gull nest on your roof, and it will come back the following year.
Build over a habitat that was once a feeding area for gulls and other birds (gulls don't just fish, they have a great 'worming' technique too on sodden grass) and the gulls aren't clever enough to realise their feeding area has gone. They'll come back. They'll see bowls of dog or cat food left out. They'll try that and like it. And they'll keep on coming back. They'll see easy pickings in black bin bags left out, and they'll come back. They may not be intelligent enough to fly to new grounds when buildings spring up where they once fed, but they are intelligent enough to take advantage of urbanisation.
Gulls are only a pest because of us.
Don't feed them. Don't leave out plastic bags containing food waste. If they do nest on your roof, it is still an offence (often with a fine) for you to destroy it so deter them before nesting season. Make nesting areas inaccessible. Put up fake birds like Herons or Owls.
Whatever you do though, don't blame the gulls.
On a final note here are a couple I spotted today. I'm not good with gull id but I know my basics.
The one below is a Common Gull, but it is actually not that common any more. Latest figures from the BTO show this bird is in decline.
I always think of it as the 'prettiest' of all the gulls, and its highly unlikely it would be one of these that was causing any problems in any towns. They are quite shy birds....

In comparison is the large Herring Gull below. Note the different coloured legs. I wish I'd got a photo of it along side a Common for size comparison if nothing else.
These are big birds, and these are the 'pests' of Rhyl town centre....

and below is one of last years juveniles....
Most gulls go through changes from chick to adult that can take up to five years but are so 'bird talk' confusing that I just refer to them as chicks, young, juveniles, teenagers and adults. I haven't quite grasped the concept of gull aging id yet.
But to end my blog from my short stay, I can only thank the people that have made it so good on this visit....
 My lovely north Wales family and friends who understand and know me so well....but who entertained me these last three nights, provided me with a comfortable bed, and ensured I was watered and fed (David, Joe, Aimee, Jack, Buster, Karen, Dave, Melissa, Michael, Harrison, Brandon, Keith, Paula, Steve and Wendy - and all three cats - much cat cuddles x)
And a big 'thanks' to the NWBAWS facebook group who helped me so much over the last couple of months.
Next visit.....?
Hmmmmm, could be June....

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