New Quay, Aberaeron and Aberystwyth
After a brief walk along the harbour wall I could take the sound of screaming children no longer so set off to find the start of the coast path. On our way we encountered a pair of Dunnocks who are presumably very used to feeding on scraps left by visitors given their tameness. Even in the grey lighting they made a lovely sight.
Climbing steeply through farmland along the top of the cliffs we soon found ourselves looking down on the local fish factory. Here an incredible number of Gulls were either loafing around in the sea or sitting on rocks. The vast majority (several hundred) were Herring Gulls with the odd Black Headed and both Black Backed species dotted around. From what I can gather the factory was periodically releasing a waste discharge into the sea which must have had a good fish content to keep so many birds in the same place. A couple of Oystercatchers and even a Seal were also getting in on the act. A little further on and I spotted a small bird hopping though the bottom of some Gorse bushes. It took a bit of hunting before I got a clear view but once I did I was very happy to see that it was a newly arrived Willow Warbler, my first of the year. In the same area we found at least one more Willow Warbler and several Chiffchaff. The spring migrants are really starting to build up now.
At Birds Rock the Guillemots and Razorbills were back on the cliffs and preparing to breed with plenty of noise being generated. There was also a group of seven Shags nesting and at least thirty Kittiwakes. Seeing them reminded me that the Kittiwakes should soon be back on Mumbles Pier in Swansea, for what could possibly be their last season if the proposed developments there get the go-ahead. Moving our attention away from the cliffs we spotted three Stonechats and this well camouflaged Leaf Bug (apologies for the rather non-specific name).
By this time the sun was beginning to hint that it might consider putting in an appearance so we headed north to Aberaeron. The tide was in meaning that the regular flock of six Turnstones were well out of camera range as they roosted on one of the breakwaters in the company of a Redshank. The harbour itself held nothing more interesting than a few Mallard but a look out to sea revealed four Gannets fishing on the horizon. We also spotted a couple of Starlings having a bath in a pool of water that had gathered in an upturned boat.
Our final destination of the day was Aberystwyth where I was hoping that we might at last find the elusive flock of Purple Sandpipers that have apparently been present all winter but which I have now dipped on several occasions. A scan of the rocks in front of Old College finally put that failure to rest with twelve of them stood in plain view amongst several Turnstones. I made my way onto the beach and carefully approached what I thought was the closest Sandpiper. In the glare (the sun was now fully out) I somehow managed to completely misjudge the bird I was photographing and only came away with shots of a Turnstone. A major cock-up on my part but at least I did see the Purple Sandpipers even if I have no proof.
On the drive back south it was very noticeable how many Red Kites were out and about. Once upon a time it would have been Buzzards that we tried to spot from the car but it seems that Kites are now far more numerous. It just goes to show how much their population has recovered by in recent years.