Firstly I must apologise for my tardiness. This week has been hectic work wise and I just have n ot had the chance to sit and write up Monday’s birding
Baird's Sandpiper Traeth Dulas
Last Monday my friend John and I set out for Anglesey with high hopes of some good birding our first target was a report of a rare Sandpiper at Traeth Dulas a lovely little inlet near the village of City Dulas, On Anglesey’s northern coast. When we arrived on site several other birders were already scanning the mud flats so we quickly set up our scopes and searched away. We were delighted to see a least three Curlew Sandpipers along with a good group of Dunlin and a great mixture of Gulls including at least one Med Gull, but no sign of our target. A fellow birder then told us how shortly before our arrival a dog had been let out of a car and had just run across the salt marsh disturbing everything in the area. Fortunately we were not to be disappointed as eventually our target for the morning the Baird’s Sandpiper re-appeared and we enjoyed great views in our scopes. unfortunately my photo does not do the bird justice. In case you are wondering Baird’s Sandpipers are Vagrants from either North America or North East Siberia who end up here having got lost probably in a storm several appeared around the british coast last week.
After Traeth Dulas we journeyed up to Llanbadrig for a quick seawatch here we were able to see plenty of Manx Shearwaters and Gannets flying around with Auks, Fulmer and Gulls, but nothing to create any more excitement, so we moved on to the Cemlyn. At Cemlyn the sea watching produce similar birds to Llanbadrig but it was the lagoons that held the interesting birds. A knot had us confused for a while simply because it looked out-of-place, a Grey Plover was also a delight to see along with other more common waders such a Turnstone, Redshank, Oysercatcher, Ringed Plover and Dunlin. Then as we scanned through the Curlew flock we realised that a couple of Bar Tailed Godwits were searching the far bank for food. These are the first Barwits I have seen for months a sign that autumn is quickly approaching. I should note that the reserve held the usual coot and swans as well as a Grey Heron and a few little Egrets. We were also pleased to see several Goosander here.
Red Breasted Mergansers
So we moved on the Alaw Estuary area as the tide was now dropping and we hoped to find some birds on the receding mud. Sadly we got our timing slightly wrong and the tide had dropped a bit too much for us to see man birds. There were plenty of curlew and Oystercatcher with a few other smaller waders about. On the mouth of the river there were various gulls and little Egrets as well and we found a family of Red Breast Mergansers which are alway good to see. In the bushes there were several Goldfinches to entertain us.
Black Tailed Godwits at Valley
From the Alaw Estuary we decided to drive round to Penrhos Country Park to see what was on the mud round there. On the way we passed a flooded field which a few weeks ago contained a Ruff. This week there was no Ruff but there was instead 24 Black Tailed Godwits obviously enjoying themselves looking for food.
So our last port of call was the car park at Penrhos. We had a good scan of the mud where we were delighted to find lots of waders mainly Oystercatcher, Dunlin, and Curlew. After a good scan we also found a couple of Bar Tailed Godwits. We were also delighted to find 38 Knot. Unfortunately the photos don’t show
2nd Winter Med Gill
up the birds very well as they are camouflaged against the mud. The best bird here was probably the 2nd winter Mediterranean Gull which was stood on the mud banks.
Hooded Crow The Range
I went on my usual birding jaunt with John small on Monday. First off we headed out to The Range at South Stack on Anglesey where we had excellent views of Manx Shearwaters passing very close in shore. Also present were good numbers of Gannets and a few Sandwich Terns. Shags were sitting on the Rocks. Raven and Kestral flew passed as we watched the sea. On the way back to the car we found a couple of Chough which are always nice to see along with a wren and some Stonechats. While watching these birds I noticed a funny looking crow, which on closer inspection turned out to be a fine looking Hooded Crow.
Ruff at Valley
On Leaving The Range we drove round to Valley where we planned to visit the Alaw Estuary at high tide. Unfortunately the tide was very high and most birds were very distant. That said there were good numbers of Dunlin and Ringed Plover Roosting on the banks. Our highlight was driving into Valley were there is a flooded field which often contains the odd gull. As we drove past John noticed a wader in the field which turned out to be a very nice Ruff. I hadn’t realise that Ruff’s were actually quite uncommon on Anglesey.
Our next stop was the foreshore at Abergwyngregyn were we went to look at the gull roost in amongst the many Common Gulls, Herring, Lesser Black Back, Great Black Back and Black Headed Gulls was one Mediterranean Gull.
We also found some wigeon and a very small looking Whimbrel along with a nice cormorant.
Cormorant at Aber
Med Gull at Aber
Green Sandpiper at Morfa Madryn
The final visit was to Morfa Madryn where there were some excellent bird on the sea there were good numbers of Goosander, Merganser and Great crested Grebe plus a few Common Scoters. The Oystercatcher Roost is building up very nicely as well. The best birds here was a very smart Green Sandpiper which was in the first lagoon. Other good birds were two Greenshank, a good few Redshanks and a single Spotted Redshank. We even picked up a Common Sandpiper as we left. This was a really excellent birding day
Below is an article I wrote for the church newsletter reflecting on my sabbatical.
You will have realised by now that I have returned from my sabbatical. First of all I want to thank you all for respecting my sabbatical and not getting in touch with me during the last three months. A couple of weeks ago when I met Ian Whyte one of my predecessors in the Circuit . Ian always asks about church life when I see him and I normally tell him the news but on this occasion I had to tell him that I had no idea how things were going on simply because I had not heard any news myself. That said I realise I have missed out on some significant events. It would also have been good to be around to offer my support to those who have been ill or bereaved over the last few months hopefully I can offer some support now but I do know that John Wiggall has done an excellent job in my absence.
From my point of view the sabbatical has been a great success. You will realise that I did a lot of bird watching over the 13 weeks of my sabbatical. I saw 161 different species of bird in Britain mainly in Wales or North West England and I picked up a further 18 species of bird while I was on holiday with Ruth on Menorca. The best single birding experience was watching two spotted flycatchers raise a family as we sat in the hotel bar. On the first night mother was brooding freshly hatched chicks however by the time we left Menorca the family of four chicks had all fledged and mum was beginning to make a new nest for the next brood. To have the chance to sit and watch nature in action is a wonderful thing.
So have I learnt anything during the last few months? Well I can tell you that in the bible there are approximately 129 verses which mention birds and about 29 species are specifically named. Some of these you will know about like sparrows and eagles but also mentioned are swallows, vultures and even herons. My studies have also reminded me that translating the bible is a complex business. As my studies took me farther into the bible I realised that different people translated the words for birds differently for example in one place there is a reference to people shaving their heads to make them as bald as an eagle but other biblical translations talk about being as bald as a vulture.
Another point of interest for me has been issues surrounding the whole idea of God’s creation itself. On the Internet I found several websites looking at a similar theme to my own but they all came from a very different perspective. These sites took a very literal view of the bible and particularly of the creation story in Genesis chapter 1 refusing to countenance any argument for evolution. In this significant year when we are marking both the two hundredth anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth and the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the publication of the Origin of the Species I found that very challenging and I have been doing some reading around the subject to help me come to some sort of view on the matter. I will say at this point that I believe that the ideas behind evolutionary biology are based on good sound scientific principles but that that does not mean by any stretch of the imagination that God is not behind the process. I also would say that the bible is not to be read as a scientific journal explaining how things happen but rather the bible is the word of God and speaks to us of about God and God’s desires for us.
The last thing I want to say about my sabbatical is that it has been a really refreshing time for me. Physically I am more relaxed than I have ever been since entering the ministry and probably fitter too. I am mentally more relaxed than I have been for at least the last ten years of my life i.e. since entering the ministry. Spiritually it has been an excellent time, I have had the chance to enjoy worship and prayer and more particularly I have had to the opportunity to reflect on my calling as a Methodist Minister. It is with a deep sense of joy that I can say that the sabbatical has confirmed my calling by God and my desire to serve God as a Methodist minister.
A friend of mind has pointed out to me that my list of birds in the bible is missing a species, the pelican! It is true that the Pelican does appear in some translations of the bible. Particularly the King James Authorised Version. Where there are three references. Although other translations have Screech Owl, or Cormorant instead. Also there is a footnote to Zephaniah 2:14 which suggests that cormorant could be translated as Pelican here as well. This is very confusing to me and just reinforces the view that the bible translators have had a very difficult time dealing with the birds!
On Monday John Small and I had planned to spend the day on Anglesey. However the news of a Wood sandpiper at Conwy RSPB persuaded me to drag John round there first! We were rewarded with some good birds there were many Common Sandpipers on the reserve as well as the hoped for Wood Sandpiper. This wader is only found during periods of migration and is certainly not very common at all in North Wales. So we were please to see it. There were also Ruff, Black Tailed Godwits and Dunlin about. As well as the more usual suspects. It was also nice to catch up with some young Willow Warblers and Chiffchaff as we walked back to the car.
We then moved on to Anglesey first calling at Afon Alaw. Here we again found plenty of common Sandpipers as well as a few Greenshank.
Next port of call was Cemlyn were we caught up with the few Sandwich Terns which remained on site. The highlight here was the Whimbrel ( which looks like a small curlew!) again this is a passage migrant so we were very please to catch up with it. Other birds of note were a good gathering of Red Breasted Mergansers and a buzzard who posed for us. We also were did a quick sea watch and spotted lots of manx shearwater as the passed by and a good number of gannets. I was also very please to see some Rock Pipits on the beach.
Our final site for the day was Llanbadrig for a sea watch. We had similar birds to Cemly plus lots of auks swimming around of shore. We where also delighted to catch up with a family of wheatears on the headland.
While I was preaching from Exodus 16 on Sunday I realised that I had not yet mentioned Quails in my blog. The quail is a very difficult bird to see in Britain although they can be heard calling in the right location (to my knowledge I have never seen or heard one.) They are a small game bird and of course quails eggs are considered a delicacy in some places.
They are mentioned in three places in the bible Exodus 16:13, Numbers 11:31-32 and Psalm 105:40. The basic story being that the people of Israel are on the long Exodus journey from Egypt to the promised land. A particular problem has beset them in that they are now becoming hungry as the supplies they brought with them from Egypt have begun to run dry and so the people have begun to rail against Moses and Aaron for bringing them to this awful place. They even begin to think that they would have been better of staying put in slavery in Egypt. However God hears the grumbling and decides to act saddened that the people are turning on Moses and Aaron and also aware that there real complaint is about God who they are starting to think has brought them out of Egypt only to starve them in the desert. God acts in these stories to provide the people with bread and meat. The bread being the manna from heaven and the meat coming from Quails. The quail is a migratory bird and can travel at night in very large numbers. There are many accounts in history of people trapping quails in the Middle Eastern region for food and so there is no reason to think that this was a completely impossible or implausible event.
I suppose the important thing is that the Israelites felt that God had brought the quails to them in their hour of need and they were reminded above all else that they should not complain about God because God is the one who provides for all there needs. Psalm 78 also mentions these events although it talks about birds rather than quails specifically but the gist of that passage is certainly a reminder to trust in God and God’s provision for us all.
On Sunday the lectionary made the link with Jesus feeding the five thousand and his subsequent reminder that the people really should be seeking not the bread that perishes but the bread of life i.e. Jesus.
On Monday John Small and I visited Trawsfynydd Reservoir on myusual day off birding trip. This is one of the largest reservoirs in Wales and is an excellent if under watched birding site. Even in the rain we had excellent views of many species of bird. Highlights in the wood included good numbers of Willow Warblers, some great views of Nuthatch and even a Treecreeper which has been something of a bogey bird for me this year!
At the southern end of the lake we also found common sandpiper, pipits, and wheatears, and on the lake were lots of Gulls plus some Great Crested Grebe, Goosander and Tufted Ducks.
Some body asked me the other day about how many species of bird are mentioned in the bible so I thought I should check it out with a quick search on Biblegateway.com
Accordingly there are 29 Birds species or families mentioned in the bible. However care needs to be taken here because of the translation problem which I have already noted. Particularly in the list below we should note that the Swift is not mentioned and if you look at my post on Swallows and Swifts you will realise that the Swift probably should be in this list. (Biblegateway.com uses information from NAVE Bible dictionary which I think in turns use the King James translation.)
I would also comment that a Glede noted in this list and mentioned in Deuteronomy 14:13 is probably a Kite. An Ossifrage is probably a type of Vulture known as a lammergeier. So the list could be 29 (as shown below) or 27 removing Glede and Ossifrage or 28 if we add Swift.
As you look at the list it is also worth remembering that some of these references are simply in the list of clean or unclean birds.
July can produce some great birds but on the whole it tends to be a quiet time. the migrant passage has not really got going and the smaller birds tend to be hard to spot partly because they are quieter but also because the cover in the woods is at its thickest.
So John Small and I set off on our regular Monday trip more in hope than expectation. We first visited the Morfa Madryn reserve at Llanfairfechan where we planned to check out the high tide gull roost. We were pleased to see a good number of Sandwich Terns in among the Black Headed Gulls with a few Common Gulls with the larger Herring Gulls. There were a few waders on the reserve including a Ringed Plover, a Common Sandpiper t and about eight Redshanks.
We then nipped down the A55 to the Aber Ogwen reserve for a quick luck to see what was around. Amazingly there were about 30 Great Crested Grebes on the straights and hundreds of Mute Swans.
Next we popped over to Penmon Point were we hope to find a puffin. Unfortunately none were visible from the shore but we did have a good view of a Black Guillemot as it flew past.
Puffin Island from Penmon Point
Black Necked Grebe
Unfortunately I have to report that my sabbatical is now over and my birding activities will have to slow down quite a bit. Although I have to say it is also nice to be back at work seeing people I have missed for the last three months and catching up with their news. Sadly 6 people connected with the churches I serve have either died or been bereaved while I was away 😦
I saw a total of 161 birds in Britain and an additional 18 while on holiday in Menorca. There were many highlights. Early on I was delighted to see my first ever breeding plumage Black Necked Grebe a Moore Nature Reserve. Another great moment was watching a Tawny Owl bring food to her chicks one lunch time as I walked through some woods on the Wirral.
The good news is that the sabbatical has been really worthwhile I have got a lot out of the reading and study which I have done and perhaps most imprtantly I feel more relaxed and rested than I have felt probably since I entered the ministry 11 years ago.
I do hope to keep this blog going so please pop back on a regularly basis to find out how my birding is going and also hopefully I will continue to reflect biblical on the birds.