Once again, Suzanne and I headed over to North Wales and her parents’ place at the weekend. I’d negotiated a day’s birding, balancing a day of building flatpack furniture, shopping and various other jobs and errands – and with the forecast favouring Saturday, and a decent bird making a timely appearance over on the Lleyn peninsula, it was an easy decision about where and when to go.
So, Saturday morning dawned to see me emerging from the luxurious Auberge Mondeo at the end of the road at Uwchmynydd… and presenting me with a pretty damn fine view back into North Wales in one direction, as the sun rose:
… and over the channel to Bardsey island in the opposite direction.
The bird in question was a singing male Western Subalpine Warbler – a smart little thing, and had it been in the south-east there would undoubtedly have been a number of people looking for it. However, this was a remote spot in NW Wales, so there was one chap heading off to do some survey work, and me. Excellent! From the word go, there were plenty of migrants about, predominantly Wheatears (up to 30 of these), but quite a few Meadow Pipits and smaller numbers of alba Wagtails moving north as well. On the ground, a few Willow Warblers were obvious, but it took me a couple of loops around the area that the Subalp had been favouring before it appeared…. flying right round me and straight into a bare gorse bush in front. Happy days… they don’t come much better than this!
I ended up spending getting on for eight hours on site in the end, wandering around various other areas and looking for migrants, then periodically returning to the Subalp, and chatting to the tiny number of other birders – no more than a dozen in the whole time. The bird was wonderfully confiding at times, and allowed a close approach (given a bit of care and fieldcraft), so I took plenty of photos. Here’s a few of the better ones…
I never quite got the killer shot I wanted, what with a fast-moving bird in dense vegetation, and unhelpfully strong sunlight most of the day. But they’ll do for the time being, plenty good enough to remember a stunning bird in a glorious location.
Other migrants included a typically elusive Grasshopper Warbler, which appeared right next to the Subalp a couple of times before vanishing without trace, and a now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t male Whinchat which must have headed on straight through. Residents were well represented, too, with a couple of pairs of Chough, and numerous pairs of Stonechat:
Once I eventually tore myself away, the drive back to Chirk was broken unexpectedly quickly just beyond Aberdaron, where a birder I’d met earlier was waving frantically beside the road… and with good cause, since he’d just found this on the telephone wires:
A Woodchat Shrike… pretty smart! Ten minutes earlier, and it could’ve been nestling on my self-found list. But hey-ho, still another very smart bird, albeit one to make me wonder what else had made landfall in the area, and gone undetected.
After the shrike had gone missing, I returned to the route home, and finished up with a final scenic stop in the edge of Snowdonia. Here, a couple of newly arrived male Redstarts were chasing each other around a meadow, Willow Warblers and Nuthatches sang all around, and once again, there were no people. No dog walkers. No noise. No litter. Sure as heck beats birding in some other places I could mention…