Rhiw Natural History




Andrew Clarke


August 2006

1st August 2006

Four Chough flew SW over Lôn Las.


3rd August


A Green Woodpecker called near the house.


4th August


I managed to get a couple of hours at Pwllheli Harbour where the highlights were:


Grey Heron                  2

Shelduck                      16

Greenshank                  1

Redshank                     64

Black-tailed Godwit 1

Whimbrel                     1

Dunlin                           10

Ringed Plover               10

Oystercatcher               68

Curlew                         8

Sanderling                    1


Lepidoptera included a Speckled Wood by the cob pool, two Graylings and a Hummingbird Hawkmoth on the spit opposite the council buildings.


Back home a Green Woodpecker was very vocal and a juvenile Little Owl was perched on the edge of the road.


5th August


A flock of 70 Curlew fed in the pasture above Porth Llawenan – always a good spot for them. Yet another Clouded Yellow fed on Fleabane on the cliffs here.


Back home a ‘charm’ of seven Goldfinch were seen.


6th August


A Green Woodpecker called frequently from the clawdd below Rhiwlas, presumably enjoying the abundant ant colonies in this area.


9th August


An afternoon stroll down Porth Meudwy was rather quiet for birds, with the most notable sightings being a Yellowhammer feeding young near the bottom of the valley and two each of Blackcap and Bullfinch.


Insects showed well, with loads of bees etc on the Knapweed; butterfly records included two Painted Lady, Wall Brown, Large White, Small White and Ringlet. A Four-spot Chaser dragonfly was seen.


A superb Clouded Yellow butterfly was by the coastal path back to Aberdaron.


11th August


A Common Sandpiper and two Rock Pipits showed well in Porth Llawenan.


12th August


A strong northerly wind had me hoping for some interesting seabirds off Penarfynydd but the stream of Manx Shearwaters, Sandwich Terns and Gannets were rather distant. Closer inshore a juvenile Sandwich Tern screamed for food from an accompanying adult, four Shag were feeding, a Raven ‘cronked’ overhead and a male Kestrel remained motionless in the wind.   


A Curlew fed by Porth Ysgo and a Common Sandpiper called nearby, possible disturbed by the four canoeists camping on the beach at Porth Llawenan.


Mike Crick reported a Hummingbird Hawkmoth on geraniums in his garden, with another seen by Carreg Lefain at the end of June. It has been a remarkable year for this normally scarce migrant species.


14th August


I met John Jones of Ty Croes Mawr, and had a long chat regarding the birds he remembered as a youth in the village… long gone species such as Grey Partridges and Corncrakes. Both of these ground nesting species were adversely affected by the change from hay making to silage production (with the earlier cutting regimes) and the general intensification of farming, while the migrant Corncrake has also been suffering from the effects of drought in its wintering habitat in sub-Saharan Africa.


Grey Partridge is now very scarce in Gwynedd with the odd record, and a similar situation occurs on Anglesey/Ynys Môn. Apparently the species has been released for shooting in recent years at Aberdaron but the population have not increased in numbers as the abundant local Red-legged Partridge have.


I remember speaking to an old villager years ago (before I moved here) who used to curse the sound of the Rhiw Corncrakes as they kept him awake at night!  This species became very scarce in the country from the 1970’s with sporadic breeding attempts thereafter and became extinct in Wales in 1992 when the last recorded pair bred on Anglesey in 1994.


On the positive side the odd calling bird has been recorded from Ynys Enlli in recent years and habitat management in places such as the Outer Hebrides has stabilised and even reversed the declining population. Let’s hope that in time we may again hear the bird in the area.


For the definitive story on these and other Welsh birds see the superb but now sadly out of date avifauna:


Lovegrove, R., Williams, G. & Williams, I.T. 1994. Birds in Wales. T. & A.D. Poyser


and the recent update:


Green, J. 2002. Birds in Wales 1992-2000. Welsh Ornithological Society/Cymdeithas Adaryddol Cymru.


On the positive side John’s game cover crops have been supporting good numbers of species of conservation concern such as Linnet and Yellowhammer (as well as the Pheasants and Red-legged Partridge), and following support from RSPB he has extended the areas and sown seed mixtures to attract the aforementioned species this year. This is a great example of shooting and conservation working side by side and I am looking forward to checking the plots for interesting species over the following months.


16th August


I enjoyed an evening walk down to Porth Ysgo. Seven Hares fed in various fields, a noisy young Buzzard called by Penarfynydd, the odd Stonechat, Yellowhammer and Chough were seen and a superb Barn Owl was flushed in Nant y Gadwen.


18th August


Birds off Trwyn Talfarach included six Sandwich Terns, 12 Gannet with four Chough and a Rock Pipit nearby.


20th August


I made my way down to Trwyn Talfarach for some fishing, recording a Whinchat, two Wheatears and seven Stonechat on the heath. A Grey Heron flew SW along the coast with two Sandwich Terns offshore. Eight Chough drifted over the mountain with two each of Buzzard and Raven, while three Little Owls and two Barn Owls called on the way back. 


Also seen were a Slow Worm, three Hares and a Badger. Great stuff!


22nd August


A flock of 18 Goldfinch were over Lôn Las.


28th August


A Goldcrest in the back garden was the first for a long time.


Tony & Gwenllian saw a Clouded Yellow at Pen y Cil, Uwchmynydd.


29th August


A Kestrel spooked thirty Linnets in one of the game cover plots by Ty Croes Mawr, the first decent flock of the autumn.


A party of three Choughs fed on the sheep pasture below Penarfynydd farm and I had good views of one bird sporting a set of colour rings. These are placed on the chicks in the nests by a team of dedicated researchers who have been monitoring the small Welsh population of this rare member of the crow family for many years and have ringed hundreds of these fabulous birds.


Colour ringing enables birders to identify individuals by their unique combinations so that they can be tracked in the field and individual life histories recorded; for example feeding or roosting areas can be identified, the productivity of breeding birds can be assessed and the longevity of individuals established, thus facilitating informed conservation measures such as habitat management in key areas.


Sightings from casual observers are much appreciated, so anyone seeing a colour-ringed bird is asked to telephone the details (i.e. colour and position of pair of rings on each leg, grid reference, number etc) to Adrienne Stratford, the co-ordinator of the project on 01286 831468.


Feedback is very prompt and I learnt that the bird I had seen was from a brood ringed this year on Ynys Enlli. This is the first re-sighting of any of the nine young ringed on the island this year.


Many thanks to Andrew for this section of Rhiw.com

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