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Beach birding in a gale

Morfa Bychan 3

We headed down to Black Rock beach, Morfa Bychan, near Porthmadog, a stunning beach that has a track record for producing good birds. Today the gale force wind had whipped the sea into a frenzy - no chance of watching the sea-ducks today! As we walked along the tideline we quickly realised that a terrible wreck of seabirds had taken place. Every few yards lay the body of a bird, horrible to see so many dead birds. The majority were Razorbills, but also a lot of Common Guillemots, a few Kittiwakes and two Shags, a terrible sight. Persumably the prolonged gales had weakened these poor birds and they had eventually lost their fight with the rough sea. Some 150 dead birds found along the beach, many more doubt hidden from view in the seaweed or buried in wind blown sand. How many had sunk beneath the waves where they would not be seen?

We check the beach for live birds, there were very few due to the very strong wind. Rock Pipits fed in the tideline, a flock of Sanderling hurried along the waters edge and we picked out a Little Gull dancing over the surf, always a thrill to see one of these dainty birds.

Little Gull Black Rock 1

At nearby Borth y Gest we scanned the choppy waters offshore and picked out two Great northern Divers riding the waves. It was slighty more sheltered at Porthmadog and we scanned the water and mud at Llyn Bach. A Greenshank and 16 Black-tailed Godwit were the pick of the waders. Two Shag were unusual here no doubt seeking shelter from the gale.

At Cricceth sea-front we again scanned the wild sea, another Little Gull danced over the waves and a drake Long-tailed Duck flew low over the surf. Many Common Scoter were also riding out the storm, now you see them, now you don't, in the rough water. Kittiwakes were hanging in the wind and a lone Fulmar made slow progress into the wind.

Further north at Foryd Bay we stopped to admire a very close flock of Pale-bellied Brent Geese, they will be heading back to Arctic Canada before to long to their breeding grounds.

Great Northern Diver Mull 3

In the Menai Straits, west of Caernarfon, we watched four Great norther Divers feeding, long dives produced crabs which were swallowed whole!

A last stop at Bangor Harbour produced two more Great northern Divers and a single Red-throated Diver. But the real surprise here was the number of Black Guillemots, at least fourteen of these dapper black and white auks were fishing in the staaits here, amazing to see so many. Perhaps they had come in to escape being battered by yet another storm?

Black Guillemot


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