Rhiw Natural History




Andrew Clarke


January 2007

Tuesday 2nd January

My usual walk around Mynydd y Graig produced a Woodcock/Cyffylog zooming past in the dusk by Syntir.


Thursday 11th January

I spent the late afternoon wandering along the storm beach near me at Porth Ysgo, working my way through the detritus on the tide line - as you do.

No rare bird corpses were located (I could not see them for the bloody plastic rubbish!), however on starting the ascent up the steps at dusk a spectacularly grotty grey brown female/immature Black Redstart/Tingoch Du was located on a boulder. Does this species win the awards for the worst looking scarce bird? - no, I just remembered the males are cracking!

A Chough/Brn Goesgoch called overhead and I attracted a party of 4 Ravens/Cigfran by "gronking" manically at them in the gloom - nosey birds. They always investigate if you make the same weird noises as they do, however it can be a bit embarrassing if a dog walker is following the footpath behind you and catches you doing it. Gronk-gronk!

Even more bizarrely was a Marsh Marigold/Melyn y Gors in flower in the stream on the way down Nant-y-Gadwen. I usually think of these as a 'Herald of Spring' flower and have fond memories of them carpeting wet woodland in April... NOT JANUARY! After Daffodils/Cenhinen Bedr out a fortnight ago and a Ceanothus (May flowering shrub) in bloom yesterday in Pwllheli I have to ask what is going on with our climate???

I enjoyed wonderful views of the local Barn Owl/Tylluan Wen on the way home. It came straight towards me along the lane and hovered a few metres in front of me before heading off. I'm sure it's getting used to me as it's done the same in my back field a few times.


Friday 12th January

The rare bird website Birdguides is reporting the Black Redstart/Tingoch Du as still present today.


Saturday 13th January

I was dragged out this afternoon by my mate Eddie who was keen to see the grotstart so we dodged the showers and made our way down to Ysgo. After stumbling about for half an hour all we saw was a Rock Pipit/Corhedydd y Graig and loads of foam flying through the air. I wish the weather forecasters would change their tune for once this winter!


Monday 15th January

A Woodcock/Cyffylog flew over the road by Bwlch as I left the village at dusk.

Snowdrops/Lili Wen Fach and Crocus/Saffrwm are out in the front garden.


Tuesday 16th January

Amazingly, it was possible to walk out of the door without having to lean into the wind! There was a hint of spring in the air as I walked around the fields by the house where Primroses/Brallu were in flower on the cloddiau, a Brown Hare/Ysgyfarnog was flushed, a Song Thrush/Bronfraith sang and a flock of 15 Meadow Pipit/Corhedydd y Waun were looking settled in the rough pasture.


Wednesday 17th January

Walking around Mynydd y Graig another Brown Hare/Ysgyfarnog scampered off near Graig Fawr.


Thursday 18th January

A pre-dusk walk down to Rhuol was in order, and despite the showers a few things were seen. The (still) rolling waves of Porth Neigwl did not hold the expected gull roost, just a pair of Great Black-backed Gull/Gwylan Gefnddu Fwyaf and a couple of Shag/Mulfran Werdd fishing close inshore. A Green Woodpecker/Cnocell Werdd called from Plas yn Rhiw (as they do on every visit to this site) and the Hazel/Collen catkins were the first I have noticed this year. A party of 12 Long-tailed Tit/Titw Cynffon-hir by the derelict building on the shore had a supporting cast of a couple of Goldcrest/Dryw Eurben.

I got home to another power cut - its time to get a wind turbine!


Friday 19th January

Walking over towards Rhoshirwaun a party of 35 Redwing/Coch Dan-aden were seen by Felin Uchaf. These winter thrushes have been very scarce this year. No doubt a cold snap will bring them over from the continent in good numbers.


Saturday 20th January

Last night the tiles were again rattled by some serious storm force winds. I was relieved to find that these had abated to gale force by the time I woke. It was time for some serious hedge trimming so I set to on a section of gorse in one of the fields. The flock of Meadow Pipits/Corhedydd y Waun were still present while overhead the usual Kestrel/Cudyll y Gwynt and Raven/Cigfran were seen. Two Woodcock/Cyffylog flew over at dusk.


Sunday 21st January

Today I walked the section of coast between Porth Ysgo back east to Porth Llawenan, on the look out for waders and other seabirds, as a volunteer for the British Trust for Ornithologys Non-estuarine Coastal Waterbird Survey.

This is one of many surveys that BTO organise and the results are used to establish the status and distribution of our resident and migratory bird populations and how this relates to factors such as climate change, habitat loss, pollution, agricultural intensification etc. I would recommend any birder out there to have a go at such surveys if you have the time as it adds a real value to your birding.

Unfortunately, I hardly saw any of the hoped for wading birds (well they say that negative results are as valuable as positive!) just three Oystercatcher/Pioden y Mr, a Cormorant/Mulfran and a flock of Black-headed Gulls/Gwylan Ben-ddu.  Still, a couple of Chough/Brn Goescoch were seen while three Buzzards/Bwncath were engaged in some serious territorial type dispute over Penarfynydd, chasing each other around the sky.

I was most impressed by the remnants of the Porth Ysgo pier which is actually below Porth Alwm - which once shipped the manganese out of the village; a few weathered posts and huge rusting winches and other lengths of iron are scattered around the massive boulders here. Thanks to the web I dont actually need to take a camera down there one day (and this photo might be new to the webmaster here as well!). It must have been a serious bit of engineering to build this structure.


Monday 22nd January

This morning there was a distinct change in the weather with a cold wind blowing from the north-east. I wandered out and one of the first birds I saw was a Grey Heron/Creyr Glas heading high overhead towards the tip of the peninsula. As the feeding areas freeze over on inland waters these are one of the first species to head for milder coastal areas wheres theres always a few things to eat in the rock pools.

I walked up through the village then dropped down past Pen-y-Poncyn along the muddy path down to Syntir. There was a fair covering of snow on the mountains from the distant peaks of the Moelwyns all the way round to Yr Eifl. Very few birds were seen on the heath around past Pen yr Ogof to Graig Fawr, just a few Meadow Pipits/Corhedydd y Waun, a pair of Raven/Cigfran and a Robin/Robin Coch! On reaching Graig Fawr a fine immature Stonechat/Clochdar y Cerrig was sheltering out of the wind. On reaching the house a party of five Siskin/Pila Gwyrdd flew east.

I spent most of the afternoon clearing some old straggly Gorse/Eithin along the fence line in one of the top fields. I found a patch of Primroses/Briallu that were almost finished flowering while the first Bluebell/Bwtsias y Gg bulbs were pushing through the thick carpet of old spiky leaves. The day cleared up nicely with blue skies and the sun sparkling off the water. The cold wind was bearable once I got into the work. While sawing away at a particularly thick stem I heard a noise behind and glanced back to see a pristine Barn Owl/Tylluan Wen drop into the rough grass just five metres away. Incredibly, the bird just sat there, concentrating on whatever juicy morsel it had lined up for tea, and then turned, noticed me and flew off. It's not often that one gets the opportunity to see such a beautiful bird in daylight. 


Tuesday 23rd

The usual walk around Mynydd y Graig was quiet, highlights being four Yellowhammer/Bras Melyn flying over at dusk and a party of four Shag/Mulfran Werdd fishing in Porth Neigwl.


Wednesday 24th

The big news this morning is of a strange green light seen zooming over the peninsula (and other parts of Wales) around dawn. It seems to have been a meteorite - read further here (be warned this is a very strange website found by googling for the story I am not a regular visitor to such sites!).

It would be interesting to know what effect these natural phenomena have on wildlife. Ill always remember sitting on a hill above Llangollen a few years ago waiting for an eclipse of the sun to take place and seeing a superb Osprey/Gwalch y Pysgod descend out of the blue sky as it darkened, obviously confused!

Again, the destination before dusk was Mynydd y Graig or rather the footpath around this stunning place. The immature Stonechat/Clochdar y Cerrig was still present on the eastern slopes with at least eight Wren/Dryw counted - possibly an influx due to the cold weather.


Thursday 25th

This afternoon I headed up and over Mynydd Rhiw, catching a glorious sunset and excellent views all the way across to Ireland and down to Pembrokeshire.

A huge flock of Starling/Drudwen swirled distantly over Abersoch, as immortalised in the recent Carling lager Starling television advert!

The peninsula seemed to have small smoky fires burning in almost ever direction people were obviously busy clearing patches of gorse or tidying their gardens now that the rain has eased for a few days (just remember to compost what you can and leave a few piles of sticks for the hibernating Hedgehog/Draenog and other wildlife!).

The common was virtually devoid of birdlife, although as I reached the Ordnance Survey trig point at dusk, a Woodcock/Cyffylog up from my feet. Darkness fell quickly and the distant lighthouses of South Stack and The Skerries off Ynys Mn were clearly visible, reminding me of the night I spent anchored at the latter site a few summers ago surrounded by the screaming cries of the tern/Morwennol colony.

The biting north-easterly reminded me that summer is a way off yet as I made my way down the footpath towards the Botwnnog road and back home. Another Woodcock/Cyffylog flew over in the gloom while a Tawny Owl/Tylluan Frech hooted from the fine woods by Plas yn Rhiw.


Friday 26th

Mike Crick reports a party of 10 Yellowhammer/ Bras Melyn in his garden at Bryn Hyfryd.


Saturday 27th

A Stoat/Gwenci crept along the cloddiau by the back garden today with a Green Woodpecker/Cnocell Werdd calling in the distance. The field by the house still holds a flock of 20 Meadow Pipit/Corhedydd y Waun and the usual Kestrel/Cudyll Coch.


Monday 29th January

I surveyed a section of the coast between Porth Cadlan and Penrhyn Mawr today, a continuation of the N.E.W.S. survey. Although few of the target species were seen there were plenty of other interesting sightings.

Starting off from home the walk down to the coast was cool with a blanket of high grey cloud and a cold northerly wind. A small flock of Black-headed Gulls/Gwylan Benddu in the pasture below Salfur held a find moulting adult Mediterranean Gull/Gwylan Mr y Canoldir - a good start. Despite the temperature, several birds were singing with Song Thrush/Bron Fraith, Blackbird/Mwyalchen, Great Tit/Titw Mawr and Robin/Robin Coch all staking their territories.

A flock of 35 Curlew/Gylfinhir lifted off the fields near Porth Ysgo and headed east.

Eventually I reached the footpath above Maen Gwenonwy and decided to follow the old overgrown path down to check the causeway to the island. As I did so the clouds rolled back and the sun came out. Dropping out of the wind it was positively warm and the Coconut-like scent of Gorse/Eithin was on the wind fantastic! A single Oystercatcher/Pioden y Mr screamed from the rocks with a Razorbill/Llurs offshore. Several lobstermen were out checking their pots and the gulls were checking them.

This was the first time on the shore here for me great round boulders lie everywhere at the foot of some huge slabs of twisted volcanic rocks. I noticed an iron ring and a winch and wondered who had kept their boats here in the past.  I may have to check out the fishing marks later on in the year. 

Continuing uphill a fine Hare/Sgwarnog scurried off through the gorse while a pair of Raven/Cigfran circled overhead. Later, one bird was seen trying to balance a stick in its bill then flew off towards an old nest site. The first of several Rock Pipits/Corhedydd y Graig were seen as well as a couple of Stonechat/Clochdar y Cerrig.

There was much sign of Badger/Mochyn Daear activity along the cliff top, with areas of broken turf (where they search for worms and other invertebrates) and great clumps of hair caught at the bottom of the fences. Several Chough/Bran Goesgoch were seen, riding the breeze, then a superb Peregrine/Hebog.

Reaching the headland opposite Ynysoedd Gwylan I found a sheltered spot for some lunch and a Small Tortoiseshell/Ir Fach Amryliw butterfly whizzed past! Ive seen the odd one very early in the Spring but did not expect one today.

Heading back up the road via Penrhyn Mawr several plants were in flower with my first Dandelion/Dant y Llew and Lesser Celandine/Llygad Ebrill of the year alongside Tormentil/Tresgl y Moch and Pink Campion/Blodyn Neidr, which seem to flower year round in this area.

Five distant lumps in a field by Tyn Lon Fawr proved through binoculars to be a party of Hares/Sgwarnog. It was odd to see them sat out just loafing and browsing.


Wednesday 31st January 2007

This afternoon I continued the shorebird survey, aiming to walk the section of coast in Rhiw between Trwyn Talfarach and heading around towards the west side of Porth Neigwl.

This is a particularly dangerous bit of the coast in places with areas of loose scree and steep cliffs; not being a fan of heights I worked my way along very carefully.

Starting off by Porth Llawenan there was a flock of 44 Curlew/Gylfinhir on the adjacent pasture. Offshore I counted 100 Black-headed Gulls/Gwylan Benddu and two Common Gulls/Gwylan y Gweunydd.

Walking the survey area, the most interesting sightings were three Turnstone/Cwtiad y Traeth (a true rocky shore bird if ever there was one), a single Oystercatcher/Pioden y Mr and two Razorbill/Llurs fishing offshore.

The cliffs at Bytilith hosted 24 Fulmar/Aderyn-Drycin y Graig on their breeding ledges with one pair on an old Raven nest. A couple of Chough/Brn Goesgoch called overhead while offshore a Grey Seal/Morlo Llwyd bobbed about.

Again, there were many signs of Badger/Mochyn Daear activity with a number of latrine pits, excavated turf and broken Bluebell/Bwtsias y Gg bulbs (a favourite food item). Seeing these bulbs reminded me that in days long gone the whole of this heath once supported extensive deciduous woodland, these flowers being a remnant species from that time or so called ancient woodland indicator species.

Yellowhammer/Bras Melyn, Song Thrush/Bronfraith and two Rock Pipits/Corhedydd y Graig were noted in this area, and as the light faded I flushed another Woodcock/Cyffylog on the way home.


Many thanks to Andrew for this section of Rhiw.com


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