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2021......a Tortoise in lockdown hibernation?


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Dave Williams

Well, not quite! I'm still alive, awake and very lucky. I haven't as yet contracted the dreaded virus and I rather fancy keeping it that way!:rolleyes:

 

It looks like my freedom of movement will be severely curtailed for a good few months to come, vaccinated or not. The UK has started sticking the needle in and the programme is to work down the list by age and vulnerability. There are 9 named groups with the over 80's at the top  down to 50-55 at group 9. The rest of the population is considered less at risk, most deaths have occurred in the over 65's.

Our esteemed Prime Minister has declared that the top 4 groups should be vaccinated by mid February but I'm in Wales and we have our own Welsh Assembly which apparently governs us. They have limited powers but what they do have they seem to want to exercise to the full. That includes lockdown rules. They are also responsible for the NHS ( National Health Service) in Wales and to be honest, it's not particularly well organised either. Here in Llandudno we have a centre for vaccination...that's handy...in a converted theatre now ( as yet unused) emergency hospital. They started with the most fragile group yesterday and from all accounts it was somewhat chaotic with frail and elderly being forced to stand in a queue for up to 3 hours, some of it outside where the temperature was just around 2 degrees yesterday.

Well, I'm in group 5 so by the time I'm called they will hopefully have got their act together and queuing time and the weather will have improved.

 

Meantime I will try to attempt a BY of sorts but it's going to be different...very different.

 

A Big Year diary!

One of the most rewarding aspects of past participation has been the chat and humour between participants and for me, the highlight was actually meeting up with both Peter Connan and Fred aka Galana in the flesh ( as well as their other halves too). The worldwide web at it's best!

Birdwatching is a reason we have come together but there is more to us than that. I was touched by the support I received during my health issues in 2018. This year you might find out a bit more about me because my entries are going to vary from the norm and I also have a cunning plan ..... you might call it cheating........ and you may well be right!

 

Watch this space!!

 

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Zim Girl

Very intriguing, I can't wait to see what you have got up your sleeve!

 

I agree, the BY threads are a fun place to be and I have also had the pleasure of meeting a few other ST'ers.  When the nightmare of this pandemic is finally over we will have to meet up on one of your visits up to my area.

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Dave Williams

So, let's go back to the very beginning.... do I feel a tune coming on? No.Not that one for sure!

This is a map of the UK, I'm sure google won't mind me sharing it, I live under the big red marker. Up to now there there are 6 of us that participate from the UK, and incidentally 5 have already volunteered as "safari pals" and I'm sure the 6th would too so as you can see, it's a good place to come for a birding holiday amongst other reasons of course. Just off the bottom corner we have Peter in Holland and further to the north is Denmark, way down south west is Portugal  and south east Austria and Slovenia which makes up the European contingent. 

Back to the UK though and by and large the east coast being a major migratory route seems to attract more species than over to the west . The south east also attracts more species that just pop over for a visit from mainland Europe too. Wikipedia states that 621 species have been recorded in the UK to date but in reality if you see more than 200 in any one year you are doing exceptionally well in my book, indeed there is a "recognised" 400 club which most keen listers want to be accepted in to. No doubt Fred will have an opinion on that set up!!

In simplistic terms we have Spring and Autumn migrations of birds arriving to breed in the UK. We have others passing through on their way to breeding grounds in the the very far north, then returning to sunnier climes in Europe and Africa and in some cases much further afield.

Winter time sees the arrival of huge flocks of ducks, geese and waders who are escaping the Arctic breeding grounds, and with them we get huge flocks of Starlings, winter thrush species and if we are really lucky some exotics like Waxwings.

It's pretty obvious that we are of course an island and a great stopping off point for migration but our coastline and islands are perfect breeding places for a whole host of seabirds.The sea is relatively warm and rich in food source too.

 

Not a bad place to live if I'm honest even if for a couple months of the year things are fairly quiet. 

 

 

1791022239_Screenshot2021-01-07at13_08_42.jpg.6f59c4bd8fafbebcf5c6d0cbdb8f48fb.jpg

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Dave Williams

So , having put Llandudno in to perspective in terms of position, here's a closer look!

We are right on the coast, our nearest neighbour started her business, The Soaping Goat, in the last year or so and partner farmer Gareth was sceptical of her contribution towards the overall farming business until he saw how fast it was growing!!

Having a farm as our neighbour means we are on the very edge of town...easy to walk to the shops, just as easy to walk in to open countryside as you can see by the amount of green on the map! 

The town stands between two substantial headlands , No 1 The Great Orme and No 2 , yes of course The Little Orme. both have reasonable numbers of nesting seabirds, the Great Orme is a particularly better spot for finding migratory birds at the certain times of the year. Both are within walking distance but if I'm taking heavy camera gear, driving is preferable.( more of that and the bearing it has on my BY later!!);)

To the south of us , and to where I would always drive, is our local RSPB reserve. It has an interesting history in as much as it only occurred as a by product of building a tunnel across the river Conwy estuary. Until as recently as 2001 the crossing was a single carriageway bridge before the main trunk road along the North Wales coast took you through the streets of the medieval walled town. It was crazy! In summer the traffic jams queued for miles, especially when a large articulated lorry got stuck in the narrow entrance to the walled town. The solution, although called a tunnel is actually a tube. A large hole or basin was dug to the side of the river and the concrete tubes were constructed within  it. Sealed at both ends they were ready to be towed out and sunk in the ready made channel across the river when the side of the basin was breached and the water rushed in. The spoil from the basin and channel were dumped upstream and being them two lagoons formed. This has become the RSPB reserve which is a reasonably good spot particularly during the high tide roost for gulls and waders, as well as attracting various ducks and geese during the winter. 

Oh ,and what became of the big hole? Why, the perfect place to build a boating marina! So, the construction of the tunnel had a very significant part to play not only in relieving the traffic...it's now the main road route to Ireland not only from the UK but the rest of Europe too, but we got a wildlife reserve free of charge too. 

 

 

934611856_Screenshot2021-01-07at13_04_08.jpg.1a8f69a4ab967234a7375c6c33a08e74.jpg

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Kitsafari

what an interesting spin to a BY thread. looking forward to reading more about your area. 

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Galana

Good to see you with us. I never had Baldrick down as a Welshman and hope to learn of your cunning plan before long.

 "as cunning as a fox who's just been appointed Professor of Cunning at Oxford University" no doubt!;)

 

I am sure Edmund would be pedantic enough to point out that "you don't build tunnels across estuaries. Tunnels go under estuaries. The clue is in the name.:rolleyes:"

 

Looking forward to more.

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Dave Williams
2 minutes ago, Galana said:

Good to see you with us. I never had Baldrick down as a Welshman and hope to learn of your cunning plan before long.

 "as cunning as a fox who's just been appointed Professor of Cunning at Oxford University" no doubt!;)

 

I am sure Edmund would be pedantic enough to point out that "you don't build tunnels across estuaries. Tunnels go under estuaries. The clue is in the name.:rolleyes:"

 

Looking forward to more.

 

As an alternative to Crackerjack ( apologies youngsters) I'll collect a turnip and proceed although it isn't actually under the river so where does that leave me o wise one:P

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Dave Williams

I went to bed full of optimism for the New Year on the 31st of December. Earlier that day I'd seen our local Tawny Owl sat outside the nesting box my pal Mike had built and erected in one of the trees in the garden. First spotted 11 days earlier she(?) had taken up residency and was occasionally to be seen perched at the entrance of the said box. This was looking good to be the new 2021 lockdown project to succeed the Badgers of 2020. Hope at last!!

As we did last year , and only for the second time in my life, we went to bed before midnight, a sure sign of common sense rather than age(!) but presumably on the stroke of midnight a rude awakening awaited when a firework display began in close proximity to our house. Casual enquiries have failed to pinpoint the culprits and in fairness it was NY but there was an almost continual barrage of noise until around 1am. It doesn't help that we live under a cliff and consequently the noise was exaggerated  but the Owl box is there too. Now I don't know if the Owl was at home at the time but it hasn't been seen since.

Damn! I can only hope they decide to come back.

As it was December and I haven't seen one since my BY begins and stays on 

0)Tawny Owl!!

50782922488_c18a6cd498_b.jpgTawny Owl by Dave Williams, on Flickr

 

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Dave Williams

January the 4th and I have had my new camera for 2 whole months but only had a couple of opportunities to test it out. The weather looked promising , at least it was dry, so I decided to go and take a look for the Purple Sandpipers that roost on the sea defence boulders at Rhos Point, a short drive away. The minute I went over the top from the sheltered part of Llandudno where we live, the north easterly wind, was biting and whipping up the waves. There was no way any birds would be roosting on the rocks today but I did manage to try out the camera on some sea birds of sorts! Bondi Beach this isn't and note these hardy souls were wearing gloves and even a wooly hat!!

0) Seabird (sp)

50810229988_34d97833dd_b.jpgSea birds. by Dave Williams, on Flickr

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Dave Williams

January 6th. I leave it until after lunch to go for our daily walk and it's getting dark at around 4.00pm even on a day with few clouds.One of the advantages of being on the west coast is we do get some stunning sunsets although yesterday's wasn't the best example.The shot was taken on my iPhone 6s, the only camera I carry when I go out on a walk with Claire as I know she get's fed up if I hang around trying to get a shot of something.Besides we walked about 7 kilometres and if I'm honest that's too far to carry my heavy gear on the off chance of seeing something. 

 IMG_2956.thumb.JPG.e433a272097d175c7e79aac8b44b4ccd.JPG

 

As it happened we did, as well as the usual more common suspects I had two sightings of 1) Bullfinch

24877080587_669ec3e555_c.jpgEurasian Bullfinch  Pyrrhula pyrrhula by Dave Williams, on Flickr

January 2018 in the garden that one!

and 2) Mistle Thrush

47998903058_dabd65552e_b.jpgMistle Thrush by Dave Williams, on Flickr

This one was January 2019...................... in Spain.

 

 

Do you get the picture?:lol::lol::(:ph34r:

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Dave Williams
Posted (edited)

January 7th. We wake up to a fine day but bitterly cold. A hard frost leaves everywhere looking white although a good part of our garden seems to avoid it because of the trees. Claire goes out jogging with her running pal, I stay home eyeing up the glorious sunshine for our daily walk later. Much of the local birding is tide dependant and this week the tides are all wrong now so the high tide roost takes place in darkness. The local RSPB reserve is shut down for lockdown( I don't understand that to be perfectly honest, the hides yes, the open space...why?) anyway , desperate to have a go with the camera I stick it out of the bathroom window..my reserve hide.... and snap the Blackcap in the fatball feeder. I don't usually like shots of birds on feeders but this one sums up my current mood of being caged!! Anyway, the wind was howling through the window and it was freezing so I soon gave up. Pointless having the central heating on and wasting it with a cold wind blowing around the house.

As so often is the case here, the weather took a nosedive and by this afternoon it was lashing down. No walk today then!

3)Blackcap January 2021

50811087797_4f64a457b2_b.jpgCaged bird by Dave Williams, on Flickr

Edited by Dave Williams
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Tdgraves

@Dave Williams I’m confused about your alternative BY: no 3 was this year but the others were not (and your thrush is song, not mistle) :blink:

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Dave Williams
Posted (edited)

@Tdgravesthere is a website especially for you!

https://www.confused.com

 

You'll get the hang of it in due course;)and it's a Mistle Thrush!!

 

Here's another from Llandudno in December 2016.

31154107663_65e8c80bab_b.jpgMistle Thrush by Dave Williams, on Flickr

Edited by Dave Williams
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Galana

I get the sequence 2018, 2019 and 2021 but what happened to 2020?

Did it fall into the Tunnel under the estuary.

 

I also confirm #3 is a Mistle Thrush but your Seabirds look more like Auks or indeed Orca.

 

Today has been dry here and indeed it still is.

Good luck with the Tawny. Our only example is Sandemans.

Edited by Galana
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PeterHG

I have been riveted by your story so far and can't wait to read the next instalment! Surely that beach shot was not taken this January? Are people confusing the lockdown with a cooldown? Anyway stay safe and keep finding ways to share your beautiful photography efforts with us!

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elefromoz

Aaaaa, damn fireworks, hope the Owl returns so he can be upgraded from a zero. 

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shazdwn

So glad you are joining us this year Dave. Get as creative and quirky as you like, I’m enjoying reading about your patch

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Peter Connan

Hehehe, I'm looking forward to this!

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Dave Williams

January 7th,8th and 9th.

Oh the vagaries of the UK weather.Friday was absolutely awful. Wet, sleet and rain most of the day with a cold wind thrown in for good measure. We had a funeral to attend just to add to the gloom.

Saturday though was the complete opposite. It was still freezing cold but the sunshine was glorious.We decided to head off on a walk from our house around to the far end of the Great Orme headland and back over the top then home again.IMG_2961.JPG.ffa3449e9b25332bc41e296cd9e3840e.JPG

 

The direction would drop us down to the North Shore promenade meaning we didn't have to go through town although it would be quiet as most shops are shut.Yes, you've guessed it.Covid lockdown.

816180215_NorthShore.jpg.5dff22a309fcbe578c0321674c78f079.jpg

 

The sea was flat calm yesterday but it can get a little wild at times and as the majority of the town is at sea level there is always the worry that a combination of high spring tides and high winds could be a potential disastrous combination. The council took the decision to fortify the defences by dumping 50,000 tons of rocks on the beach. That was an awful lot of lorry loads and it took almost a year to complete. In the process the level of the beach rose considerably but it was bulldozed to form a gentle slope down to the sea and the original beach level. Of course the first winter storm changed all that and the beach now has some quite steep drops in level. I'm surprised that no-one has got in to difficulties having found themselves out of their depth in a matter of a few metres but there again, you don't often see folk in the sea here. It's too cold for the sane amongst us!! Anyway, the cost of changing the beach was huge both monetarily and to the appearance. You will be fined if you try to take the rocks which have soon rounded in to pebbles home but there are many locals who would love to see the whole lot gone and the groins that served so well from early Victorian times rebuilt.1122455632_Marinedrive.jpg.1aab4752b411201b957199b8a549dcd5.jpg 

 

Those Victorian engineers knew their stuff and built things to last, including the Marine Drive around the Great Orme, which is now a one way toll road although free of charge for cyclists and pedestrians. Llandudno was quite the place to come to take in the air in Victorian times. Our Pier is still going strong, well it was until Covid struck. Currently it's shut!

1347402475_HerringGull.jpg.027b852bdaef89e8c11244d415efeada.jpg

 

Now the walk we were embarking on is quite lengthy so once again I was armed with just my iPhone to take photos. Unfortunately very few birds are as confiding as the 4)HERRING GULL

They are more than confiding, having been habituated to humans, especially tourists, they are so used to being fed on a diet of fish, chips and other take away food items they will now help themselves if they are not offered. They are cunning to the extreme, attacking from behind they will swoop down and take an ice cream cone right out of your hand as it's raised towards your mouth. They have become a bit of a pest to be honest but it's not their fault.

Anyway,onwards along Marine Drive we went and as the tide retreated the birds could be seen feeding in the rock pools way down maybe 200 feet or so below .

Can you see it?? Yes, No 5) Little Egret  

 661893817_LittleEgret.jpg.a1e685dda9b0ccd2f48b2cbac8e4efe6.jpg

 

Obvious it isn't but it is there to be seen! That's why I'm using an alternative photo, one I prepared earlier!

This one was taken at our local RSPB reserve ( currently closed, yep Covid lockdown!!) in October 2018.

50821479447_f53d0232e9_b.jpgLittle Egret by Dave Williams, on Flickr

Well the iPhone copes with something a bit bigger and closer, here are two of Llandudno's now world famous wild GoatsGoats.jpg.59006e701c4e33d037b83a902e1ec610.jpg

 

and not to be outdone, the farmers sheep show a similar head for heights on a small patch of precipitous grassSheep.jpg.c473503be0d5962ee292260fed564488.jpg

 

Nope, those aren't elongated rocks down below.It's a colony of Grey Seals.

Llandudno.jpg.1a32d590c92d1a9fa46f1b96425268f1.jpg

 

I could tell you a lot more about the history and ecology of the Great Orme but I'll keep that for another day. I expect to be back fairly soon but as they have shut the Marine Drive and all the other access routes and car parks to vehicular traffic. Corvid lockdown!   I can't see me carrying too much camera gear with me for some time. Our completed walk back to home was 16kms, or 10 miles in old money. I scored quite a few species including this favourite, 6)Common Kestrel

50820636108_178fc80573_b.jpgCommon Kestrel by Dave Williams, on Flickr

Yes, quite possibly the same bird I saw and photographed there in September 2017. Happy days when lugging my Canon 1DX, 600mm f4 and a 1.4TC didn't present me with such a problem as it would do now had I not sold them!

Edited by Dave Williams
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PeterHG

A 16 km walk, even without the camera gear is quite an accomplishment! Wonderful photos, both of the stunning scenery and beautifully caught birds. I do feel my fear of heights just by looking at some of your photos...;)

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Galana

Quite an eventful walk to be envied.

Had to smile at your profligate councils attempts to beat Neptune. (Hint. They can't) I don't know the tides around your part of the world but I don't give those pebbles two years.

We had a similar incident a few years back as strong tides built up a shingle bank, open to the sea at the eastern end which we nicknamed "Spurn Head". It made a great tidal lagoon and roost for migrating waders.

1-DSCF3197.JPG.9a5edba4a93db6628ab1c1909b7ea5b5.JPG

1-DSCF3198.JPG.5c2a4786afb582478714ef5e92a28541.JPG

Then it filled with weed which rotted. Then the end closed off as the Spit grew. The white topped posts were 'scientific' instruments measuring the movement.

 

No tide so the weed rotted and stunk. Local Holiday cottage owner complained his guests did not like it and demanded the weed be taken away. Government costed exercise at £100,000. "We" objected as this is a Nature reserve, hence Government ownership. Project stalled whilst 'experts' consulted.  Farmer going ballistic.

Come Autumn and two good gales and the whole shingle bank went taking the rotten weed with it. It is now forming about two miles down the coast.

Why pay good money when the natural forces that put it there will happily take it away again for free.:P

 

Edited by Galana
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elefromoz

@Dave Williams, well I never would have guessed the beach rocks were artificial and it looks a very tempting day for a dip. Marine Drive looks nice and seems to have a bit of a "pullout'. The one thing on Mull (by comparison) that frustrated me no end, was the lack of parking spaces anywhere on the narrow roads when you saw something that was worth a stop. Its very bad form to stop in the over-taking spaces on single lane roads, so often the moment was lost. Nothing "common" about that Kestral, a beauty. 16kms is a good solid hike, someone said to me a while back, you have to choose, you're either hiking or birding, you can't do both", for me that was a good bit of advice.

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Dave Williams
3 hours ago, elefromoz said:

16kms is a good solid hike, someone said to me a while back, you have to choose, you're either hiking or birding, you can't do both", for me that was a good bit of advice.

 

We did another 10km walk yesterday as my back and blistered toe remind me! 

I agree with "someone", it's hard to combine bird photography with hiking especially with my other half. I abandoned the idea years ago so now I make a decision on whose company I prefer, Claire's or my camera's and the former will almost always come out on top!

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Soukous
15 hours ago, Dave Williams said:

Corvid lockdown!

not another new variant :o

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Soukous
12 hours ago, Galana said:

Why pay good money when the natural forces that put it there will happily take it away again for free.

 

Indeed. Our beach at Shingle Street is different every year, sometimes lagoons or inlets, sometimes pools cut off altogether. During the high winds in December a 10 foot high wall of shingle was created. It makes it interesting as every visit is like coming to a different place

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