Rhiw Natural History




Andrew Clarke


May 2007

Please note that from this month onwards I will be translating this column into Welsh – it will shortly be available on www.rhiw.com.


Wednesday 2nd May

A walk around Pwllheli Harbour and Lôn Cob Bach this afternoon, and I noted two Whimbrel, two Sedge Warbler and one Reed Warbler.

Conwy birder Geoff Gibbs is the local co-ordinator for the British Trust for Ornithology, who by developing links between their paid staff and keen volunteers undertake masses of work monitoring our birdlife and developing conservation programmes for threatened species.

Today he conducted a survey of Porth Neigwl searching for breeding Ringed Plovers as part of the Trust’s ‘Little Ringed & Ringed Plover Breeding Survey 2007’. Unfortunately he only found one plover, but a nice flock of waders in a field at the Pen Cilan end included: 37 Whimbrel and 10 Bar-tailed Godwit, nearly all in stunning breeding plumage.

Geoff is always seeking help with local surveys such as this and can be contacted via email or telephone on 01248 681936 if you are interested in keeping a few notes of what you see when out birdwatching that can be used for conservation.


Friday 3rd May

The beautiful warm weather continued and a brief walk around Mynydd y Graig was needed. Viewing conditions were perfect with a light easterly wind, calm
seas, blue skies and perfect visibility.

Scanning the sea was rewarded with a pod of five Bottle-nose Dolphins off Porth Neigwl. First seen fairly close inshore off the west end of the bay they eventually drifted off east towards Cilan Head.

They appeared to be feeding, swimming as a close group surfacing regularly - although there were no acrobatics this time, as I've seen previously in this area.

I understand from local birders, fishermen, wildlife cruise operators etc that there is a small resident population of this species around the Lleyn Peninsula... not just the famous dolphins further south in
Cardigan Bay. No doubt there is some interaction between the groups.

Further along the way a fine Hooded Crow (the Irish equivalent of our Carrion Crow and quite a scarce bird in Gwynedd) was perched near Graig Fawr.


Monday 7th May

Eddie Urbanski found a Spoonbill in Pwllheli Harbour today – a great local record; the bird was seen the following day also.


Thursday 10th May

A Lesser Whitethroat was singing from the hedgerows north of Felin Uchaf, Rhoshirwaun this afternoon.

An Otter has been reported this week showing well in the day by an angler in Pwllheli Harbour.


Sunday 13th May

The first two Swifts of the year drifted over Mynydd y Graig this morning.

My walk took me down to the sea cliffs at Bytilith, where a single Harbour Porpoise was feeding offshore with a group of Gannets and gulls in attendance.

I was intrigued to find a freshly dead Manx Shearwater on the cliff top here. Nearby there were many ‘Rabbit’ burrows; ‘Manxies’ are ground nesters that utilise these holes (or dig their own) to raise their families.

There have been occasional reports of this species breeding on the mainland cliffs of Anglesey and Gwynedd, although there have been no confirmed records for several decades. Further investigation is required.

Walking east the first broods of Stonechat were demanding food from their parents in the gorse and bracken.

I was pleased to find an old Otter spraint (dropping) at the secluded pool south of Graig Ddu. Nearby a stunning Early Purple Orchid was in full flower, always great to see and another true sign of spring.

Further along the coast a pair of Ravens called excitedly near the woods at Garth, presumably they have a nest nearby.

Andrew Spottiswood reports the following sightings from the north coast of Lleyn.

Aber Geirch to Porth Towyn:

13 Sedge Warblers

1 Grasshopper Warbler at Aber Geirch

21+ Whimbrel

1 Dunlin around the waterfalls

1 Manx Shearwater



Wednesday 16th May

Today the weather was truly grotty with strong winds and low cloud enveloping the village. I was delighted to find a cracking male Redstart sheltering on my back doorstep this afternoon – a bizarre place for this grounded migrant to shelter!


Thursday 17th May

Awoke this morning feeling ill – mega tired, blocked sinuses etc. It was time for a spot of sea air so the walk to Porth Ysgo was required.

The lanes on the way down rang with the song of Sedge Warbler and Common Whitethroat and the air was thick with the scent of Hawthorn, Cow Parsley, Red Campion and Bluebells.

Large White and a couple of Orange Tips flitted about in Nant y Gadwen which hosted a wide selection of typical heath land birds, including a particularly bedraggled Kestrel in heavy wing moult.  Red Admiral and Peacock butterflies were sheltering by the beach where a party of territorial Oystercatchers made the usual noise and a Grey Seal bobbed offshore.

Four Rock Pipits were camouflaged on the boulders at Porth Llawenan and a pair of Chough fed in an adjacent field.

Arriving home I felt human again – Mother Nature had made me feel better again!


Saturday 19th May

A pair of Swallows are re-building the old nest in my garage.


Sunday 20th May

A Nightingale was found today over on Bardsey/Enlli.


Tuesday 22nd May

An evening walk produced no less than 15 Hares scattered in the fields to the south and west of the village.

Five Spotted Flycatchers were reported today in Porth Meudwy, Aberdaron.


Thursday 24th May

A male Subalpine Warbler was trapped, ringed and released on Bardsey today.


Saturday 26th May

An afternoon’s fishing was in order following reports of good numbers of Mackerel around Pen Llŷn. On the way down to Trwyn Talfarach I found my first Spotted Flycatcher of the autumn on the edge of the plantation.

My efforts were rewarded by ten Mackerel (kept) and half a dozen small Pollack (returned) and I dropped a few off at various neighbour’s houses on the way home.

Also, I saw two adult Bottle-nose Dolphins briefly, both heading east.

Earlier in the day there was a report of a 'large pod of dolphins' heading through the Bardsey Sound/Swnt Enlli, between Bardsey Island/Ynys Enlli and the mainland.

I thought some of you might find the following story and photographs on a local angling forum of interest - dolphins meet kayaks (Cardigan Bay)…



Sunday 27th May

A fine leveret blocked the road near Salfur as I returned with friends from Aberdaron this evening.


Monday 28th May

This morning I travelled down to Felin Uchaf for their Open Day.

The place was a hive of activity with demonstrations of woodland crafts, storytelling, puppet making, cob building, organic gardening and a fine selection of refreshments! They have achieved so much in such a short period of time and the centre is developing each time I visit.

I just missed a Weasel which appeared with a small mammal in mouth by the vegetable beds.

On the walk home a superb Lesser Whitethroat sang near Meillionydd Mawr and I was the centre of attention for a Willow Warbler which for several minutes kept flying straight at me, hovering inches from my head and calling repeatedly. Most bizarre; in over 30 years of serious birding I have never known such behaviour.

A Small Copper sheltered from the cold northerly wind by Capel Pisgah.


Tuesday 29th May

A family party of six Raven drifted north over the house this morning.

The Subalpine Warbler was still singing away in the observatory garden on Bardsey. Lucky birders!

With the persistent wind - a real feature of this month – dropping, I took an evening walk out onto Mynydd Penarfynydd. The visibility was excellent with the mountains of Ireland clear cut against the horizon, the peaks of Snowdonia and Cambrian mountains crisp all the way down to the Pembrokeshire coast.

Hares were showing very well again, with ten counted (including eight together in the field east of the Penarfynydd plantation).

A superb Barn Owl hunted the fields between Ty’n Llidiart and Eifion, and the sky only really began to darken around ten thirty.

Nights like this certainly make up for those months of hibernation in the short days of winter!



Wednesday 30th May

The weather was pretty bad with a gale force south-westerly bringing in some heavy rain showers. Birders over on Enlli logged both Pomarine’ and Arctic Skuas past the island.

Llandudno birder Marc Hughes reports the following from a four day visit to the area:

“I found a party of 14 Common Crossbill over Uwchmynydd Headland this morning, while other migrants in the area included Cuckoo, many Sedge Warbler, 2 Lesser Whitethroats and an 'eastern type' race Jackdaw. Two Black Guillemots were at the bottom of Porth Meudwy, while several hundred Manx Shearwater were offshore.

It was nice to see several Red legged Partridge, Yellowhammers, Green Woodpecker and Little Owls in the area, while over 40 Chough were in the vicinity.

In Pwllheli Harbour there were up to six Whimbrel and a single Bar-tailed Godwit.”


Thursday 31st May

I spent the morning birding around my usual patch on the south side of the village. Highlights were nine Yellowhammers, six Chough, and a party of seven Ravens (all mobbing a Common Buzzard simultaneously!).

Butterflies included a couple of Small Heath and a Small Copper.

Later the wind dropped and I had an hours walk along to Carreg Lefain with the sun dropping into the sea to the north west – a beautiful evening.

Again, some stunning Bottle-nose Dolphins were seen, with at least three feeding distantly along the tide race in Porth Llawenan.

While many people are inside watching the B.B.C.’s Springwatch (admittedly great) programme the real stuff is happening on our doorstep! 


Many thanks to Andrew for this section of Rhiw.com


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