Well, another month and another tick! That’s one in April, two in May and one now in June! June is usually the good month for the super rare bird and this year has been no exception. However several good birds have proved untwichable, and the one I really wanted looked like going the same way. A Cretzschmar’s Bunting was found on Bardsey Island of North Wales on the 10th June but was only seen briefly and then it disappeared, leaving the staff frustrated as only 3 people saw it. No news the next day left everyone thinking it had gone as the obs had searched hard! On the 12th it popped up again in a totally different part of the island…. and vanished again! Boats looked very frustrating too. There is only one ferry run by Colin Evans from Porth Meudwy a small valley west of Aberdaron.On Saturday the 13th several birders made it over but dipped. This wasn’t going to be easy. Once again I relaxed thinking it had gone.
Sunday morning yet another mega alert, it was back again and singing! Had we realised that the boats would be more frequent we may have given it a shot but we thought we wouldn’t have enough time to reach the boat. We would have had…
Hey ho we couldn’t go Monday anyway, but it sounded like a nightmare as people queued for the boats over night. Bardsey and the boatman had arranged a good number of sailings but there were still too many people at first light for the number of boats!
At this point we realised we couldn’t just take a punt and queue overnight in the hope we might get over. Anyway Friday was our earliest opportunity now. Tuesday saw the bird seen but the weather didn’t look that promising and it forced any Wednesday boats to be cancelled. At this point I felt it would be chaos at the boats on Thursday! Anyhow Lee Evans suddenly volunteered to help organise bookings on the boat alongside Bardsey obs. Much better, except I had to join twitter to book (something I said I’d never do!).
We got ourselves on the first boat on Friday….. would it stay?
Thursday saw 84(?) birders make it across and get views,so on Thursday night we pilled in the car at around 9.30pm and set off across to Wales. Now it takes us about 3 hours to Anglesey, but despite being only a bit further south the Llyn Peninsular is a different proposition. 4.5 hours late we negotiated the narrow roads in the dark and pulled into Porth Meudwy valley at about 2am. We managed to snatch a bit of sleep before walking down the valley to the slipway in the first light of dawn at 5am.
A short wait for the boatman to arrive and we were setting sail.
The trip was a little bouncy but not bad at all with the twin outboards kicking up rooster tails as we did the crossing in 20minutes. However of arriving we couldn’t land properly and had to go over the side and negotiate the treacherous seaweed covered rocks to get ashore. We all took a little time (me the longest embarrassingly) but our small party of 12 soon headed up to the lighthouse with one of the wardens, who informed us the bird had not been seen so far, not good.
I was not to good so had to take my time and the others were setting up and we were still 50yards away, the Obs guy waved… it was there! We ran the last bit and approached quietly, however it was obvious it was not easy to see and some of us were struggling… suddenly it flew up and over past us and behind us into the compound. Grrrrrrr, untickable views. Never mind said the staff, it shows about every hour! I have to say I was really impressed with everyone as we all stood still and quiet waiting for it to drop back in on the seed. After 30odd minutes a voice quietly whispered “its on the wall”, and there it was sat at the far end of the compound. Great scope views then it dropped onto the seeded concrete and we were able to watch it for well over 5 minutes as it fed on the seed. A cracking bird, pastel blue and orange with black brown feather centres on the wings and mantle. The large black eye stood out surrounded by a thin white eye ring. Just beautiful. Suddenly it was off again over the buildings… cue relaxed birders! I confess I didn’t take any photos and only a couple of seconds of shaky video as I was too busy watching it.
Below are some rubbish video grabs… if you want to see superb photos of the bird go to Ben Porters page here, http://benporterphotography.blogspot.co.uk/2015/06/cretzschmars-bunting-update.html
Watching the bird feed amongst the beautiful colours of the flower strewn sward, it recalled to my mind another Welsh mega I saw in amongst the same beautiful colours, the Anglesey Black Lark. There though the pink and yellow was punctuated with bright blue Scabious flowers as well.
The next boat load of 12 arrived so we made room for them. I did get to see it again when it dropped in again after about an hour and a bit. But by then we were enjoying the local Choughs and seabirds etc.
As an added bonus we were shown Thrift Clearwing moth (a moth tick), Map winged Swift moth and a Green Tiger beetle.
At 9am we re-embarked on our boat back (much easier than the getting off) and enjoyed a quick and relaxed trip back to Porth Meudwy. Que breakfast in Aberdaron and a long trip home… stopping for sleep in the car for 2 hours near Conwy!
Bloody Cranesbill, Porth Meudwy.
Robins sharing our Breakfast at Aberdaron.