By seven o’clock on Monday morning I was sat in the car on Tywyn seafront, gently rocking from side to side as it was buffeted by winds approaching gale force six. An hour earlier we had been forced to get up and take the tent we had been staying in for the last four days down before it suffered damage or was dismantled for us by the weather. Now I’m not a morning person so this particular turn of events did not sit particularly well with me, especially seeing as it was also freezing cold. Never one to waste a day though I got my binoculars out for a quick scan of the sea and was amazed to see thousands upon thousands of Manx Shearwaters streaming past. They were far closer to land than I have ever seen them before resulting in some superb views. They were so good in fact that I woke up my sleeping girlfriend to let her know just how good. The various mumbles I received as a response were either an acknowledgment that nature had once again delivered a fantastic show, or that I should just shut up and leave her alone. Whichever it was those mumbles soon turned into a brisk walk along the promenade as at least a hundred Gannets had joined the Manx Shearwaters and were now involved in a feeding frenzy a few hundred meters off the beach.

P1080216 - Gannets, Tywyn

I have never seen a spectacle quite like it! There were waves of Gannets smashing headfirst into the sea one after the other whilst all around Manx Shearwaters were skimming across the surface of the sea. As the minutes ticked by more and more birds joined the ever expanding group until it stretched for some distance along the Tywyn coastline. Then after half an hour it was all over and the birds had dispersed in a matter of moments. I was left almost speechless by the whole thing but had thankfully filmed a few short videos that capture the action better than any photo ever could.

Walking back to the car a small flock of four Common Terns were right overhead battling with the winds, which when added to the two Red Breasted Mergansers that had flown in off the sea earlier gave a pretty good list for so early in the morning. The gale force winds undoubtedly had a part to play in bringing the birds in, which just goes to show that all weather can have its benefits.You just wouldn’t have guessed that the previous evening had been so lovely.

P1080206 - Sunset over Barmouth

The rest of the weekend had been wall to wall sunshine and despite the lack of photographic opportunities we managed to pick up some great new species for the year. The highlight has to be the pair of Ospreys that have returned to the River Dyfi and are now incubating eggs for the very first time at the reserve. I really hope that they are successful as I’d love to visit again later in the year and see the fledglings after they have hatched. Also on the reserve we spotted a Lesser Redpoll which is the first one that I have seen for a couple of years. A bit further south on the River Tyfi we found a pair of Little Ringed Plovers back on their traditional nesting grounds along with a huge colony of Sand Martins. Heading North again six Common Sandpipers at Penmaenpool well and truly signalled their arrival, while a walk along the abandoned railway line delivered a cracking Garden Warbler in fine voice. The Spring migrants were rounded off nicely on our last evening with the very first Swift of the year over Barmouth. I love this time of the year.


TexWisGirl · May 5, 2011 at 12:41 am

thanks for that video! those gannets look like kamikaze rockets hitting the water! 🙂

Stewart M · May 5, 2011 at 3:55 am

Hi – these feeding frenzy sessions are remarkable to watch. Saw one a few years ago in Port Phillip Bay (that’s the large bay that Melbourne sits on). Huge numbers of Australasian gannets, short tailed shearwater, Caspian terns, crested terns and 2 or 3 species of shag/cormorants – wonderful sight. What made it even better is that it was taking place about 300m from a popular fishing jetty – where dozens of fishermen were catching nothing at all! Nature 1 : Humans 0!!!

Cheers Stewart M – Australia

Adam Tilt · May 5, 2011 at 9:36 am

texwsgirl – no problem at all. The speed that they hit the water is pretty amazing!

Stewart – that sounds like a great spectacle. I've seen Cormorants fishing around fishermen's lines before and coming up with the goods while the fishermen catch nothing. I think humans just weren't born to fish!

Dave · May 6, 2011 at 10:12 am

Brilliant… nice write up of a wonderful spectacle. I can relate to the partners enthusiasm… I normally get "yes its another bird"

Nice one Adam

Caroline Gill · May 6, 2011 at 11:19 pm

Adam, I loved the video ~ amazing. I have just posted a Gannet link from here back to your post …

theconstantwalker · May 8, 2011 at 8:18 pm

A great post to read..and view.

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