Rhiw Natural History




Andrew Clarke


September 2006

Saturday 2nd September

The morning’s gale force winds and driving rain eventually cleared and by mid afternoon the sun was out and the Wicklow Mountains were visible so I ventured along the top of Mynydd Penarfynydd for some fresh air.

Raptors were much in evidence with three Kestrel/Cudyll Coch, a Buzzard/Bwncath and Sparrowhawk/Gwalch Glas seen.

I noted a Hummingbird Hawkmoth on Buddleia at Carreg Lefain. Three Brown Hares/Ysgyfarnog showed well near Carreg Lefain Bach, with an adult male Stonechat/Clochdar y Cerrig and a moulting juvenile present nearby, while another couple of Hares fed on the edge of the Pheasant/Ffesant cover crops by Penarfynydd farm. Down at the sewage works two Chiffchaff/Siff-saff and a Common Whitethroat/Llwydfron were busy feeding on insects.

Returning from an unproductive seawatch off the end of the mountain three Little Owls/Tylluan Fach called at dusk near Bryn Tirion.


Sunday 3rd September

A Mackerel fishing trip off Trwyn Talfarach was productive with a dozen caught despite the big seas and spray. A flock of 10 Chough/Bran Goescoch were a nice distraction, 45 Curlew/Gylfinhir dropped down to Porth Llawenan and a couple of family parties of Stonechat were seen in the gorse on the way back up to the farm.


Monday 4th September

A Tree Pipit/Corhedydd y Coed over the house was the first of the autumn.


Tuesday 5th September

Pwllheli Harbour was the destination for a brief spot of birding. The tide was well out and without a telescope views were distant, although I managed to note a selection of waders including a fine Greenshank/Pibydd Coesgwerdd, three Knot/Pibydd yr Aber and two Turnstone/Cwtiad y Traeth amongst the usual Redshank/Pibydd Coesgoch, Curlew and Oystercatchers/Pioden y Môr while I bumped into Eddie & Sally Urbanski who had found four Bar-tailed Godwits/Rhostog Gynffonfrith earlier.


Wednesday 6th September

A brief stroll up onto Creigiau Gwineu produced a fine Green Woodpecker/Cnocell Werdd which I flushed at close range with a Wheatear/Tinwen y Garn also present.

Four Kestrels hovered over the heath and small parties of Swallow/Gwennol and House Martin/Gwennol y Bondo drifted east.  


Thursday 7th September

Another Tree Pipit flew west over the house this morning while a Clouded Yellow was seen further up the lane by Eifion.


Friday 8th September

Aberdaron beach hosted 10 distant alba Wagtails (i.e. Pied’ or White’/Siglen Fraith), a couple of Grey Wagtail/Siglen Lwyd and a good flock of c.60 Linnet/Llinos which were drinking from the Afon Daron.

Porth Meudwy was relatively quiet with a few finches and warblers showing, while four migrant Siskin/Pila Gwyrdd and a Lapwing/Cornchwiglen were overhead, alongside the usual Ravens/Cigfran and a couple of Chough. A Little Owl showed well by the farm at Cwrt.

Hundreds of the migrant day flying Silver Y moths were seen all over the area.


Saturday 9th September

I spent a couple of hours this afternoon at Pwllheli Harbour, and managed to visit just as the tide was dropping – ideal for the waders to drop in.

First look was at the reedbed at the back of the cob pool. The boardwalk has been repaired here and a Water Rail/Rhegen y Dwr squealed from the undergrowth. Otherwise the reeds swayed noisily in the wind and all the rare warblers kept out of sight.

As I got to look at the pool itself a Sparrowhawk/Gwalch Glas flushed the Redshank flock (122) and just four Dunlin/Pibydd y Mawn over to the main harbour so off I went. A fine Whimbrel/Coegylfinir then dropped in here and a Greenshank was located busily fishing in the shallows as they do as I worked my way through the usual small groups of Oystercatchers, Curlew and Ringed Plover.

I had another look at the cob pool and found a superb first-winter Curlew Sandpiper/Pibydd Cambig.

Altogether I noted only 27 species in two hours, making this quite possibly my worst autumn visit here. Still it's a cracking spot and the whole of the harbour and its avian contents are easily viewed at all stages of the tide unlike some of the larger estuaries in Gwynedd.

I dread to think what passes through unnoticed as observer coverage is extremely sparse. There are old site records of such rarities as Lesser Yellowlegs/Melyngoes Bach, Purple Heron/Creyr Porffor, Bearded Tit/Titw Barfog, Iceland Gull/Gwylan yr Arctig, Ring-billed Gull/Gwylan Fodrwybig, Sabine's Gull/Gwylan Sabine, Leach's Petrel/Pedryn Gynffon-Fforchog, Spoonbill/Llwybig etc


Sunday 10th September

I spent most of the day Mackerel fishing near Porth Orion, which is about 2 miles north west of Aberdaron.  I noticed a Grey Seal, 10 Chough, loads of alba and a few Grey Wagtails heading SW and zillions of Silver-Y's... I have never known them in such numbers. Apparently they do breed when they reach these shores so maybe we are witnessing the offspring of the June/July immigration?


A Spotted Flycatcher/Gwybedog Mannog was nearby at Carreg Plas.

I received an interesting report from Rhys Jones of Waunfawr who spent a good morning at Trwyn Cilan.

Eight chough, four ravens and three kestrels were all in view most of the time. Four Wheatears and a smart White Wagtail were nice. A white and yellow leucistic Meadow Pipit/Corhedydd y Waun had me going for a few seconds – strange bird!
The sea was a different story though. Contrary to my expectations there were birds wherever I looked. Many hundreds each of Manx Shearwate/Aderyn-Drycin Manaw, Kittiwake/Gwylan Goesddu and auks with accompanying Gannets/Hugan, Sandwich Terns/Morwennol Bigddu and Fulmars/Aderyn-Drycin y Graig. There was no discernable direction; they all seemed to be commuting between several feeding flocks. Highlights were a juvenile Pomarine Skua/Sgiwen Frech and some Balearic Shearwaters/Aderyn-Drycin Môr y Canoldir in amongst the Manxies. Not sure how many as I had 6 sightings but reckon some of them may have been repeats. There were at least two though - one dark and one very pale. I also found the remains of a predated Storm Petrel/Pedryn Drycin - just the wings attached to a few bones. Also a Clouded Yellow and Hummingbird Hawk Moth amidst the countless Silver-Y moths and craneflies.
Stopped off at Pwllheli on the way back and caught up with the Curlew Sandpiper Andrew found yesterday - very nice – also three Knot there.“


Monday 11th September

Inspired by Rhys's trip to Cilan yesterday I lugged the telescope south of the village to Mynydd Penarfynydd. Initially thick mist cleared to hot sun and a gentle breeze and I found a few rafts of seabirds; feeding groups of gannets, sandwich terns, auks, kittiwake and shearwaters.

Highlight was a fine dark cigar shaped Balearic Shearwater wheeling around with 96 Manxies, a new village bird for me.

Migrant-wise I noted an influx of Robins, 58 Goldfinch, 4 Grey Wagtails, a Tree Pipit, 3 Wheatear and the first movements of Swallows with over 118 south in 4.5 hrs. Many of these were breaking out in sub-song as they slowly drifted over - something I've noticed in years gone by with the initial migrants, unlike the hundreds that whiz past low and silent on those cold October mornings...


Thursday 14th September

I noticed two Chough feeding in the pasture across the road today and managed to read the colour-ring combination (left leg: orange ring over green; right leg: red over silver) on one bird (the other was unringed).

I contacted one of the organisers of the ringing scheme and discovered that this individual was first ringed in the nest on Ynys Enlli in 2000 and had been sighted in Aberdaron, Cilan, Trevor, back to Enlli, again to Cilan then Rhiw since then!

A Barn Owl was heard from the house this evening.


Friday 15th September

The air temperature dropped quite low last night and this morning there were the first signs of Meadow Pipit migration. Unlike many birds these are diurnal migrants. These small ground feeding passerines breed mostly in the uplands of North West Europe and head to milder coastal areas as far south as France, Iberia and North Africa during the colder months of the year. Although I did not conduct any counts birds were calling constantly over the house in the morning, as well as another classic September migrant, the Grey Wagtail - at least six were heard.

A Green Woodpecker, Sparrowhawk, two Chough and a Raven were also noted from the office.


Saturday 16th September

Today dawned dry, sunny and mild and I spent 4 hours birding around the village.

Highlights were 3 Grey Wagtails, 153 Swallow, 19 Skylark, two Wheatear, four Chiffchaff, Peregrine and 72 Goldfinch. A young Weasel/Gwenci was dead on the road by the house.


Sunday 17th September

Another Weasel, this time alive, shot across the drive up to Bryn y Fran this morning. Other interesting birds included two Sandwich Tern off Penarfynydd, two Wheatear, and single Common Whitethroat and Chiffchaff.


Tuesday 19th September

An morning walk up through the village, around to Garth and along the back of Mynydd Gwineu proved to be good for Yellowhammer/Melyn yr Eithin, with a total of 12 seen, mainly around a garden feeding station with eight Collared Dove/Turtur Dorchog in the same area.

Later on Pwllheli hosted a variety of waders in the harbour including two Sanderling and the first eight returning Wigeon/Chiwell of the winter.


Thursday 21st September

A party of 12 Raven over Clip y Gylfinhir were possibly associated with yesterday’s strong winds?


Friday 22nd September

Pwllheli harbour was the venue for a flying visit, where the following main species of interest were: one Little Grebe/Gwyach Fach, five Wigeon, 95 Redshank, 31 Ringed Plover, 28 Dunlin, five Curlew, a Whimbrel, one Common Gull/Gwylan y Gweunydd (first of the winter) and an unidentified hawker dragonfly over the reedbed at the Cob pool.


Saturday 23rd September

An afternoon stroll produced brief views of a Pied Flycatcher/Gwybedog Brith near Ael-y-Bryn. Otherwise it was remarkably quiet bird wise in the village.


Sunday 24th September 

A grey start to the day soon improved rapidly with some beautiful autumnal sunshine.

Plas yn Rhiw hosted the usual selection of woodland birds: Green’ and Great Spotted Woodpecker/Cnocell Fraith Fwyaf, Nuthatch/Delor y Cnau, Treecreeper/Dringwr Bach, Coal Tit/Titw Penddu, Mistle Thrush/Brych y Coed and two Sparrowhawks. A Chiffchaff called by Treheli Farm. It’s good to be down here and not have to worry about the noise of road works now that the work is over. Parties of Rook/Ydfran headed back to the woods after feeding in the pastures around Neigwl.

Flowering ivy hosted a huge number of hoverflies as well as a Small Copper and several Red Admirals. A late Clouded Yellow was by the footpath down to the beach.

Down on the shore enormous piles of seaweed have been deposited after the recent storms (as well as the usual wood and miscellaneous rubbish). A dead seal pup poked out of one pile.

I counted an impressive five1st-winter and one adult Mediterranean Gull/Gwylan Môr y Canoldir with 50+ Black-headed Gulls on the west side of Porth Neigwl at low tide - with hundreds of small gulls distant over towards the east. Also here were a Heron/Creyr Glas and six Sandwich Tern/Morwennol Bigddu.


Monday 25th September

I worked my way around the gardens, heath, farmland and plantation to the south of the village today - my usual route...

Virtually the first birds noted were 2 x 1st winter Mediterranean Gulls heading south over Eifion. Then Blackbirds/Mwyalchen seemed to be everywhere, with 22 in one small area.

A strong passage of Chaffinch/Jbinc, hirundines and Meadow Pipits was noted. I counted a total of 1046 Swallow, 97 House Martin, 301 Meadow Pipits, 14 Skylark/Ehedydd, 70+ Linnet/Llinos and 18 alba wagtails in 4 hours, virtually all heading SE. I'm sure the Swallow count was the tip of the iceberg as I was not just looking upwards - there was a constant stream over Mynydd Penarfynydd.

Small parties of Jackdaw/Jac y Do headed SW - quite unusual here, and both Dunnock/Llwyd y Gwrych and Robin/Robin Goch numbers were up. Three Chiffchaff, a Blackcap/Telor Pen-ddu and increased numbers of Goldcrest were also seen. A fly over Golden Plover/Cwtiad Aur was the first in the village since last autumn.

Finally a fine Whinchat/Crec yr Eithin was on a wall by the house... coupled with the usual Chough, Little Owl etc showing well it was a pleasant excursion.

Tuesday 26th September

Eight Mistle Thrushes flew over the house early morning – visible migrants. Later in the morning I had a brief look in Porth Meudwy, Aberdaron; there was a selection of species present including 3 Bullfinch/Coch y Berllan, 6 Blackcap, 3 Grey Wagtail and 40 Skylark over, while Rhys Jones reported a good flock of 43 Raven over Mynydd Mawr at dawn. These birds appeared to come from the direction of Ynys Enlli – could they have been roosting there?

  Thursday 28th September

A superb Barn Owl hunted the rushy fields at Felin Uchaf, Rhoshirwaun at dusk.

Saturday 30th September

Peregrine, Chough, Raven, Rock Pipit and Grey Wagtail were noted during a fishing trip to Porth Oer. A flock of 46 Alba Wagtails (Pied/White) headed SE over the house prior to dusk, presumably these birds were off to roost somewhere. I called Brett Garner, Gamekeeper for Nanhoron regarding an old record of Short-eared owls from Mynydd Penarfynydd. He informed me that a couple of birds were seen while lamping for foxes a couple of years ago. Still, it’s interesting news. Brett told me that he has encountered a couple of sightings of Green Sandpiper/Pibydd Gwyrdd over the last month at various ponds on the estate and a wandering Red Kite/Barcud in the same area for the day.





Many thanks to Andrew for this section of Rhiw.com

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