Thursday, May 13, 2010
I had another good night’s sleep, and this morning a local birder named Richard picked me up at 8. I had walked across the parking lot and gotten a Mickey D’s breakfast that was way too large, but very satisfying. Over here they have DOUBLE sausage with egg McMuffins, and DOUBLE bacon with egg McMuffins, and I had one of each. Very tasty, and I was glad I had had so many calories by the time I had my “lunch”. It was probably 1000 calories, compared to the 420 calories that I aim for when I am in the Zone, at home I did enjoy it, anyway.
Richard took me off to north Wales, which I was not expecting, but makes sense in retrospect. It was about an hour or a bit more to get to our first birding site, an incredibly beautiful valley, where we walked for a mile or two to a close view of a nice waterfall. I have lots of pictures, to be posted eventually, but not tonight.
The weather was the best I have had yet – sunny and without the cold north wind I have had so far. The valley was the “birdiest” place I have been so far, with singing birds all the time. Richard could identify them, of course, although they all sounded the same to me, when I could pick out the calls at all. Tons of warblers, of a number of different species.
We walked up the valley, and saw lots of birds. My first new one was a bird I had particularly wanted to see, a Dipper. We have an American Dipper in the US, a bird I sometimes see in Yosemite, and one I feel a special affinity toward. Richard saw one, then heard it calling, and we got very good looks at it, in the end. A very nice bird to start my day.
Another little bird that I saw for the first time was Redstart. We had several great looks them, and I wouldn’t have ever seen them without Richard’s help, since he had heard their calls each time we saw them, which caused us to scan the trees for them. The importance of knowing the calls of the birds was once again brought home to me today. At this point, it seems almost pointless for me to try to see small woodland birds without knowing the calls, but my mind just doesn’t remember calls. I have them on my computer, and I can listen to one over and over again, but it just doesn’t stick. My mind just isn’t wired to remember or recognize sounds, I guess.
Anyway, we had a wonderful walk up the valley, in the sunshine, many pictures to follow, eventually. By the time we got back down, it was about 12:30, and my huge McD’s breakfast was a long time ago (5.5 hours by then). I had some cheese and various “bars” that I had brought with me from home, and Richard had some food for his lunch, so we drove up to a high lookout point and had our lunch. I had walked maybe 3 miles, if not more, that morning, so I was looking for a place to sit down. I sat on a rock but soon jumped up, as it felt like I had sat on a bunch of needles. Well, it turned out to be a bunch of stinging nettles. They looked a little different than our nettles, and I hadn’t recognized them. They managed to sting me right through my jeans. In about a minute, I really felt the effect, but it faded after about 5 minutes, fortunately. Still, throughout the afternoon, I felt little reminders of my mistake. I ate my lunch standing, though, as sitting down didn’t seem prudent at the time.
After lunch we drove over onto Anglesey Island to look for Grasshopper Warblers, but we came up empty, after walking for 45 minutes or more around an area of sandy meadow. We did see other good birds, though, as we had in the morning. Skylark, Wheatear, and Stonechat were three of them. I have seen so many species here now that it is pretty hard to see new ones, but it is still very nice to see ones that I have already seen, and I enjoyed that today.
We tried some other sites, and we drove through Conwy town, and through part of the castle there, which was interesting, and up the Conwy River valley, including up some very small and narrow roads, but didn’t see any of our target species. It was a very interesting tour of north Wales, though, and I enjoyed it very much, even though we didn’t see anything new for me. Like the morning, we saw some good species, just not ones I have not seen yet. That was fine with me, as it was an extremely nice tour of the hills of north Wales.
We got back here to my Travelodge at 6:45 this evening, one of my longest birding days of the trip so far. I added 4 species to my trip list – Dipper, Redstart (a number of great views), Siskin (better views desired), and Raven. The Raven is the same species I see in California, but the others were lifers. An extremely nice day of birding.
I had a beer and the rest of my Scotch (got to find a store to replenish supplies tomorrow), and I had a Mickey D’s dinner, which consisted of two double cheeseburgers (discarded one of the buns) and a large order of fries. This has been the first real non-Zone day of eating for me, the price of not having a kitchen. It is likely to be like this for the next week
Tomorrow my plan calls for me to drive for about 2.5 hours into Central Wales. I am going there to visit a place where they feed Red Kites, a raptor that had almost died out here until they made a concerted effort to bring it back. It is supposed to be a very interesting spectacle, to see dozens of Red Kites competing with other birds like Ravens and Buzzards for the meat they put out for them. It is supposed to rain tomorrow, so it will be interesting to see how that might interfere with my viewing of the kites. The feeding is at 3 pm, so I have plenty of time to get there. I hope to stop on the way to take pictures of a canal aqueduct that runs across a valley. I saw it in the mid-80’s when I traveled through Wales with my dad, and I want to see it again and take pictures of it if I can, so that gives me another goal for tomorrow, although a rainy day might interfere. We will see.
So, time to settle down tonight. I’ll see if I can get this up on the website. The trip rolls on, and next is Wales.