Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Wales III

28th June, 2013                                                                      
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Part of the stay in Snowdonia involved two days with the tour leader in North Wales known as Gareth Jones. This was the second day, and only a "half day" tour consisting of about 5 hours starting from around 8am.

With yet more misses on the goosanders and pied flycatchers, the morning was quite quiet. It was generally devoid of bird life all over, perhaps a reference to the damp, wet and soggy weather which was not especially satisfying to any terrestrial creature other than a snail.

The ring ouzel quarry location with the Welsh name was covered in a heavy layer of fog. There are many old stories of people becoming lost in the mist on the moors, and the setting was certainly of the same league. Though the atmosphere was unique, it did not really help in the search for the target bird and probably would not help if we did manage to encounter it. There was no ring ouzel to be heard, but this mist wren did not find the lack of visibility to be a hindrance and continued singing.

Make it blurry and it could be a ring ouzel. The mist wren is an endangered and unique species
of the quarries and cliffs of Wales and Scotland.  When the mist and fog lifts all traces of the bird vanishes and
 only  regular wrens are found in their place.
It could easily be coral or seaweed. But its not. Its a parsley fern,
an exclusively alpine species found in few other places in the UK.
Do the ghosts of Cŵn Annwn haunt this place in the fog? Maybe
the Hound of the Baskervilles?

Retiring further back down the mountains we checked for yellowhammers in a secretish field.
A yellowhammer showed well at a certain location in a fielded area and sat within 2 metres without rest. It was still there when we moved on. The yellow bunting as it could be called is a declining species all over the UK, particularly so in Wales. Since I had seen many I probably didn't appreciate it as much as a local Welsh birder would have, but it is a different subspecies than that found in southern England. The subspecies here is E. c. caliginosa, a subspecies found over Wales, Ireland, Scotland and northern England. Though widespread and not endemic to Wales, it is still nothing to shrug about. Its a pretty bird to look at too.

Lesser Redpoll.
That female lesserpoll probably sucked all of your feeling and awe that you gained from looking at the
bright vibrant colours of the yellowhammer, so have this male lesserpoll to compensate.
The next location, another mountainous area, was next on the list. A personal highlight was the discovery of Velia caprai on a small flowing stream here. It was no more than water flowing from the summit, yet it gathered in pools along some parts. A single colony of these creatures existed on one of these pools. The water cricket as it is sometimes known is visually similar to the pond skater or water strider, yet it is a completely different creature altogether. It crawls rather than skates, and exhibits very unique behaviours. These insects were one of those childhood fantasies; you see them in the back of the field guide, but at the time nearly nothing was known about the insects. It was impossible to find any information about their behaviour, and living images of the species were non-existent. This is not the first time I have seen them, however.

A late instar nymph. Colonies of these
insects are hard to come by. There were no adults here, perhaps
suggesting that these nymphs are all recently hatched from eggs laid
the previous year.
A party of peregrine falcons flew over the hill just ahead and perched momentarily. Unfortunately I have little images of them but they are better than my distant shots I had previously.
Well at least its better than the osprey and black grouse images.
A pair of choughs flew in over the peregrines and landed in a field just behind. They are uncommon this far inland, but are widespread along parts of the Welsh coastline. It is a crow, just like the jay. Don't let anyone tell you that all crows are boring.

I guess you could say I was "well chuffed" to see them. Yes, I think I
need to find a whydah list of bird-themed puns.

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