Rhiw Natural History

  Rhiw.com

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by

Andrew Clarke

 

July 2006

1st July

Its a beautiful day and Im working outside. Three Ravens, three Chough, a Sparrowhawk and two Linnets are noted over the house.

Another evening stroll and I call to see Mike and Iris Crick at Bryn Hyfryd. Iris reports a family party of Willow or Marsh Tits coming to their well stocked feeding station a few weeks ago. This is most intriguing. These closely related species are difficult to tell apart and are increasingly scarce in Gwynedd. I can vaguely recall old records of Marsh Tits from Plas yn Rhiw but would be interested to hear from anyone else who has recorded them around the area.

Its getting late by the time I make my way along to Graig Fawr but it very warm. The Wicklow Mountains are showing well across the water but Cardigan Bay is rather cloudy in places. I disturb a roosting Raven off the crag here and sit down to rest at dusk by the footpath which overlooks Porth Neigwl.

As I rise to go home Im delighted to see a small bright green light in the grass here a Glow Worm! Walking back up towards the stile to the lane another two were seen. Its several years since Ive seen these absolutely amazing creatures. I know friends whove recorded them over at Porth Meudwy before but this is a Llŷn first for me.

Has anyone else recorded them in the area previously?

Two Barn Owls call as I make my way home.

Thanks to the wonders of the web Im soon sending in my record and learning more with a great site which tells you all you need to know about these jewels of the night and the UK Glow Worm Survey (http://website.lineone.net/~galaxypix/#Counties).

 

2nd July

Another trip to Penarfynydd with neighbour Pete and my daughter Aisha.

A family of Stonechats are calling from the gorse below the farm as we make our way towards the sea.

Quite a few Pollack are caught and Pete lands a couple of decent size Wrasse. The journey back up the hill is a nightmare as its become the hottest day of the year. I did notice a Grayling butterfly amongst a few other species but I must admit that my mind is on cold drinks!

I enjoyed superb views of Barn Owl over the back of the house at dusk. I have friends who are collating information on Barn Owl records and are ringing the young birds so if you know of any breeding pairs or just have general records to contribute do let me know and Ill pass them on.  

 

3rd July

Noted a Painted Lady, two Red Admirals and a Meadow Brown butterfly around the back of the house. Little Owls are still calling regularly in the area.

 

4th July

Gwenllian saw a Brown Hare in the recently cut hay field by Eifion. This field has attracted a couple of hunting Kestrels, and small groups of gulls and crows - no doubt after the voles and beetles etc.

A cacophony of small birds were mobbing a Little Owl by Meillionydd Bach this morning. A Sedge Warbler sang from a ditch by the lane near Rhoshirwaun.

A Reed Bunting was seen near Pen-y-caerau.

5th July

A Golden-ringed Dragonfly was patrolling the lane by Meillionydd Bach.

 

6th July

There was a fine start to the day with blue skies and hot sunshine; a party of 5 Raven drifted over the radar station and two Chough flew south over Ln Las while a Painted Lady butterfly was in the yard. The sunshine was not to last with a bank of sea mist rolling in after lunch and the temperature dropping rapidly.

 

8th July

Several species of butterfly were sheltering in the corner of my bottom field Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Meadow Browns and a Large Skipper - a new species for the site.

Peter Hall has passed on details of a report of a flock of Crossbills (numbers unknown) from Nant Gwrtheyrn, Llithfaen today.

 

9th July

Following yesterdays gale I ventured out after lunch for a walk along the coast to Aberdaron. The wind was still strong but at least it was mild with no rain.

First notable sighting was a male Broad-bodied Chaser dragonfly by the pool at Ysgo farm, with a Skylark singing overhead. A group of at least 8 Chough wheeled over the cliffs by Gallt-y-Mr and a Buzzard flushed a flock of 24 Curlew here, with a couple of Raven also present.

The small valley at Cadlan Isaf has a scattering of trees and bushes along its course (uncommon on the peninsula!) with a Chiffchaff, Mistle Thrush, 2 Linnet and a juvenile Kestrel in the area.

The tide was low as I worked my way along towards Maen Gwenonwy. Here three Grey Seals sheltered in the water and the beach hosted a couple of Oystercatchers and 8 Black-headed Gulls. A Yellowhammer was carrying food, indicting a nest nearby, while several Whitethroats sang in the cliff top scrub the latter species were a feature virtually all the way to Aberdaron.

Offshore two Gannets were coasting west and further out a steady stream of Manx Shearwaters headed in the same direction, with three Common Scoters also noted.

The path along towards Penrhyn Mawr was very overgrown although a couple of ponies were grazing parts of it. I understand that these have been introduced to benefit the local Chough population by creating a mosaic of open areas for feeding. The bracken supported several noisy family parties of Stonechat and Linnet.

Over by Clog Cidwm I almost sat on a Hare dozing in the bracken, while several Skylarks, a Chough and a mixed flock of 30 Linnet and 3 Goldfinch were eating thistle seed heads on the clawdd.

Several Puffins, Cormorant, Shag and Guillemot were visible around Ynys Gwylan Fawr while my presence on the headland disturbed the local Herring Gulls.

After a brief stop in Aberdaron I followed the path up the Afon Daron to the small footbridge north of Morfa Mawr. Here I noticed an Otter dropping (or spraint as they are correctly called) on a large stone in the river here. Although Ive never seen a wild Otter I understand that these animals are widespread in Llŷn, though seldom seen due to their nocturnal habits. I was reminded of a story told by my neighbour Belinda Hughes in Ty Meirion of a large Otter working its way down over one of their fields a few years ago in broad daylight!

Three Yellowhammers sang by the road on the walk home just west of Pen-y-caerau.

 

15th July

Local birder Dave Lamacraft reports a Quail singing at Awelon, Neigwl on the evenings of the 13th & 14th. Apart from the belated report from Anelog/Porth Oer in June and a calling bird on Ynys Mn Ive heard of no others in the region this summer despite the superb weather conditions for this scarce migrant.

There have been regular sightings of the resident Sparrowhawks recently; presumably theyre busy feeding brood of youngsters nearby. As usual the local Swallows are quick to mob them as soon as theyre on the wing and today I counted 43 (including many recently fledged young) chasing the male which did a spectacular dive into the adjacent wood, either to surprise prey or escape the crowd!  

A noisy flock of 13 Chough headed north east over the village.

 

18th July

I awoke to the sound of a Green Woodpecker calling from the nearby fields.

Two Golden-ringed Dragonflies wee seen today over towards Rhoshirwaun one by Meillionydd Bach and the other by Felin Uchaf, where a near albino Hare was present.

 

19th July

Again the Green Woodpecker was yaffling (as its laughing call is known) by the house. A Grey Wagtail overhead was the first for a few months and a lone Swift was also seen.

I was delighted to see a superb male Comma butterfly in the yard today. These are quite spectacular with their ragged wings and rich golden orange colour.

This afternoon a bank of high cloud rolled in from the west and almost immediately a range of birds were on the wing, presumably catching the wind. Within the space of a few minutes I counted four Buzzards (over Mynydd Penarfynydd), three Ravens heading north, five Chough circling the village, a Peregrine and 15 Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

It really was crazy hot this afternoon so I decided to head down to Porth Neigwl for a dip. On the way a group of Rooks were lined up on a fence gasping for air with beaks wide open! Ive seen the odd bird doing this before but never a whole group.

The tide was dropping and there was the usual assemblage of birds present on the rocks at the west side; amongst the Herring and Lesser Black-backed were 15 Great Black-backed, a couple of Black-headed Gulls and c.65 Curlew. At least three Whimbrel were associated with the Curlew flock.

The usual Green Woodpecker and a single Bullfinch called by Bryn Foulk. On the way home a Hummingbird Hawkmoth was by St.Aelrhiws church with 11 Mistle Thrushes nearby.

 

22nd July

Lesser Redpoll flew over the house.

Comma butterfly feeding on bramble flowers in the yard.

 

23rd July

Swallows fledge from the garage.

 

25th July

Another Comma butterfly was near Felin Uchaf and a Little Owl called from a new site (old barn) on the way to Rhoshirwaun, with two Lesser Redpolls flying south over here.

Birds at the west side of Porth Neigwl this evening included a 2nd year Mediterranean Gull, a Whimbrel, Sandwich Tern and 4 Common Sandpipers.

 

26th July

An evening walk to Rhoshirwaun produced 6 Hare sightings.  Two (including one juvenile) Little Owls called by the farm at Meillionydd Bach with another youngster calling by the barn site near Rhoshirwaun. At least three Comma butterflies, amongst a number of other species were seen again favouring the dense hedges and sunny lane by Meillionydd Bach, with a Lesser Whitethroat also present.  Two Yellowhammers were singing near Ty Croes Bach.

A rare Great White Egret was sighted briefly on Ynys Enlli this morning before flying off SW, reminding me that its common cousin the Little Egret has been reported over at the east end of Porth Neigwl last week.

 

27th July

This evening I walked from Porth Ysgo back along home via Penarfynydd farm. Down at the coast small numbers of Gannets were visible through the binoculars plunge-diving miles offshore, presumably into shoals of Mackerel. A few flocks of Manx Shearwaters headed west towards the large breeding colony (16,000+ pairs) on Ynys Enlli. An amazing spectacle awaits any observer who ventures over to Mynydd Mawr at Uwchmynydd at dusk in late summer as thousands of these birds make their way towards the island and gather in huge rafts before returning to their nesting burrows at night in order to avoid predators. A true avian spectacle! Some birds from Welsh colonies are known to make feeding trips over several days as far as the rich waters of the Bay of Biscay, although most feed closer to home.  

A couple of Oystercatchers and small flocks of Black-headed Gulls and Curlews are noted inshore. Two Grey Wagtails fly over calling, then three Linnets. Carpets of stunted Wild Carrot are in peak flower on the cliff slopes while the various grasses are now bleached and golden catching the evening sun. Two Yellowhammers sing near the bottom of Porth Ysgo with at least another cracking sulphur yellow male in Nant y Gadwen.

On the way home I count an amazing total of 15 Brown Hares, including 11 together in a recently cut silage field by the plantation at Penarfynydd farm. I recall John Ty Croes telling me hed seen over 30 one night back in late winter in the area. Ive never been anywhere with such a high density of hares as Rhiw. Are they this common throughout the whole of the peninsula?  

 

31st July 2006

Two Green Woodpeckers spent the morning in the field around Ln Las.

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Many thanks to Andrew for this section of Rhiw.com

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