Sunday, May 16, 2010
Well, as I once again start tapping away here, Iím feeling kind of burdened by the task of these updates.† That is normal; it happens from time to time on a trip.† They might get a bit briefer (you should hope so!), but maybe not.† Once I get going, it seems to flow.† Sometimes I take a couple of days off, but I have been quite regular this trip, so far.
So, to take it up where I left off last night, when I went on down to get my ďdinnerĒ, which was going to be a Double Whopper from Burger King, either with or without fries, I found that Burger King had just closed.† 9 PM on a Saturday night.† They were done for the day.† I guess this isnít a major Service area.† Serves me right for waiting so late for my evening meal.† Little Chef was open, maybe they are open all night, I didnít ask.† I had the Steak and Ale Pie, with a microwaved potato.† Not much protein at all, but it filled me up, I guess.
Have you noticed how much of the verbiage here is about what I am eating?† I guess it always has been, on all of my trips so reported, but even more so this time, I think, because I have experienced such a revolution in my eating habits in the last 10 months.† Most of you know my story.† I was incredibly overweight and last April I decided I had to lose some of the weight.† I lost 87 pounds from last April to the day I left on this trip (Iím still obese, and not finished, yet with the losing, I hope), and it involved learning a new way to eat.† The new way to eat not only allowed me to lose weight, it also made me feel amazingly good.† I was doing pretty well for the first part of this trip, when I mostly had a kitchen, but the last few days, living in motel rooms and a B&B, I just havenít been able to get the right food.† I am really feeling it.† Anyway, that is one reason I go on so much about the food; it is really significant to me, since it affects how I am feeling so strongly.
So, this morning I was going to have a Burger King breakfast.† I assumed they would have breakfast sandwiches, like they do in the US.† Well, it turns out that the Burger King at this Service area not only closes at 9 PM on a Saturday night, it also doesnít open until 11 AM.† They donít do breakfast.† So, it was the Little Chef again.† I debated the various choices and settled for the smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, with toast.† It was tasty enough, but the amount of salmon was miniscule, and the amount of egg not much more.† I was short of protein again.† I had a couple of my low-fat cheese-food slices, but it wasnít really a very good breakfast to start the day with.
Anyway, the weather forecast has been a factor, changing daily, and by this morning, they were saying sunny intervals in the morning, with rain showers in the afternoon.† So, I headed out toward South Stack, a nature reserve near Holyhead, in the far northwest corner of Wales.† Holyhead is the place where ferries leave for Ireland.
It was about a half hour drive to get there, very easy, although I struggled a little finding my way through Holyhead, as they had obviously changed things since the book I was using had been written.† I think they must have built a new ferry terminal.† I found my way, after a little backtracking and coming around again.† I also found a McDonalds as I came into Holyhead, and I stopped to have a double bacon and egg McMuffin, just to finish off my breakfast, which I was feeling had been inadequate.† Their version of bacon is more like what we call Canadian bacon, so it was like an Egg McMuffin, with double the Canadian bacon, or ham, if you want to call it that.
When I got to the South Stack area, I stopped at the first parking area, and I walked the quarter mile or so to Ellinís Tower.† I could see much of the main seabird colony on the cliffs from there, as well as the birds themselves out in the water.† There was also a great view of the lighthouse on the point.† It was sunny mostly, with clouds sometimes, but it was windy and the temps were in the low 50ís F, so it was chilly.† I went into the Tower, but a group was filling it up, so I just asked where the best viewing places were, and went outside.† I immediately saw two of my target species for the day, Guillemots and Razorbills.† There were hundreds, or maybe thousands of them.† They are seabirds who nest on the cliffs at South Stack.† They were all over the cliffs and in the water as well.† They look quite similar, but I knew the differences, and I could easily pick them out with my scope.
What I really wanted to see, though, was Puffins.† When I had been planning my trip, I had understood that Puffins would be all over the place at South Stack, but that turned out to be wrong.† It turns out that there are only 4 or 5 Puffins there, among the thousands of Guillemots and Razorbills.† I looked for a while, until I got too cold out in the wind, and then I went inside.† Now there was a gang of teenagers in there, but I managed to ask the worker/volunteer there about the Puffins.† He is the one who told me there are only 4 or 5 there, but he said if I kept scanning the water, I had a good chance to see one.† To tantalize me, they had a live camera showing on a TV screen, and right at that minute, it was focused in on a Puffin, on land, but not in sight of where we were.
So, I went back out into the cold wind and scanned the sea some more.† The worker/volunteer had given me advice about where to look.† As I scanned and endured the cold wind, I speculated on why it was OK for me to count a bird that I see through my scope, but not count one that I saw via a camera, which was live and located where I was.† I couldnít really figure out the logic, but I knew I wanted to see a Puffin through my scope or binoculars, or with the naked eye, not via a camera.† At one point, I heard a splot sound, and saw that a bird flying over had left a nice deposit on my shoulder.† Oh well, at least it wasnít on my head.
After about another 20 minutes out in the cold wind, I saw them, though!† Puffins! Two of them, on the water.† I could identify them with no problem, but they were pretty far away, even with my scope.† Still, they were mine; I owned them.† Puffins, you are mine!
So, with that, I packed up my kit bag and lugged my stuff back to the car.† I drove on up to the end of the road, stopping at the public toilets on the way, as I was in need.† Ooops.† It was Sunday.† Toilets closed and locked.† I guess you arenít allowed to pee on Sunday in Wales, even though this was no doubt the busiest day of the week, in terms of visitors.† I suppose there were rest rooms at the cafť, but I just peed behind the toilet block on the ground.† Worked for me.
I lucked into a parking place at the end of the road, and I wandered around and took pictures.† It cost about US $7 to visit the island the lighthouse was on, and it was at the bottom of over 400 steps anyway, so I passed.† I just donít do that kind of tourist stuff when I am on a birding trip.† No museums (London will be an exception), no castles, no clubs, no fun parks.† Just me and the birds, and as few people as possible (not easy over here in this densely populated land).
So, I had seen three of my targeted species, and I was just enjoying the nice day and the scenery.† I got much better views of Gannets than I had gotten down in Kent, and that was nice.† Then I heard a new bird call, and when I looked around, there were a couple of Choughs on the hillside.† I had forgotten all about Chough (pronounced chuff, to rhyme with rough or tough).† They are a black bird, smaller than a crow but larger than a Blackbird, and they have a downcurved red-orange bill and red-orange legs.† They were also one of my target species for the day, and I had forgotten them completely.† I probably wonít see them anywhere else on my trip, so I had really wanted to see them today.† I think I have some pictures, which I will get up tonight or maybe tomorrow night.† Anyway, I was very happy to have seen Choughs.
Having added four lifers to my trip list, I headed out from South Stack about 12:30 or so.† I stopped in Holyhead at the McDís and had a couple of Double Cheeseburgers (and discarded one of the buns, making it a single quadruple cheeseburger) and an order of fries.† Not an ideal lunch, as it had too much fat, but at least I got some protein.† After that, I stopped at a Tesco supermarket that I had spotted when I was backtracking earlier and finding my way.† I got some char-broiled chicken breast pieces, some cheese, some bread, and some raw veggies (broccoli, carrots, green beans, and baby corn) for my dinner tonight.† That will be much better for me than a Burger King or Little Chef meal.† I got some lean ham and some yogurt for my breakfast, too, to go with some more cheese and bread.† Much better for me than another Little Chef breakfast.†† I loaded up on British currency again, too, at a cash machine there that didnít charge a fee.† They wanted a fee of about US $3 to get cash here in the Service Area, so I felt like I ďbeat the systemĒ.
This afternoon I visited a RSPB (Royal Society for the Preservation of Birds) reserve at Conwy, which is about 12 miles down the road from my Travelodge.† Reserves usually have a whiteboard where they list the species of birds that had been seen that day, and they listed two ducks that I have not seen over here, although I see both of them regularly at home Ė Goldeneye and Red-breasted Merganser.† I walked out onto the reserve and looked at birds and took some pictures.† I hope I got some good ones of Lapwings, a bird I find very interesting and attractive.† Maybe a picture of a Jackdaw, too, which I have been wanting to photograph. †If not, Iíll try again, as they are a common bird.† I saw three Red-breasted Mergansers, bringing my species count to five for the day, but I dipped on the Goldeneyes.† I have to drive right past that reserve tomorrow morning, and it opens at 9:30, so if I am not out of here too early, and if the weather is cooperative, I might stop to see the Goldeneyes then, although I think I will see them in Scotland anyway.† My count now is 148 species on the trip, of which about 109 are lifers.
I hung around that reserve until about 4:30, and I got back here at 5.† No rain, only sun today, despite all the forecasts of rain for the last few days.† The weather people over here obviously have found the last week very challenging.
So, that is my story for today.† It was a much more relaxed day than yesterdayís driving ordeal.† Tomorrow I am off for my next Travelodge, at still another motorway Service Area.† It has been pretty interesting to stay in Travelodges.† They are clean and I am comfortable enough, although the room is very basic.† As I reported, I paid for internet access for a month, so that is great, although tonight, I keep losing the connection and have to log on again, for reasons I donít understand.† It sure does limit my food selections to be stuck here in the Service area, but it is really dirt cheap, too, so that is some compensation.† I could go driving to find a place to eat dinner, but I like to drink in the evening, and I am not about to drive over here, after even one drink.
I only have a couple of hours to drive tomorrow, and it is all what we would call freeway, so that will be easy.† Tonight I will see what birding sites along the way I might stop at, although that will be determined by the weather tomorrow, too, no doubt.
Iím cruising along, seeing birds and seeing new country.† I will probably never pass this way again, so I am drinking it in and enjoying it.† What a life!