Sunday 22 November 2009

Acute Anglesey

This is my first "away" blog, tippy-tapped into the computer of our first born in her room at Bangor. We're having a weekend in North Wales with the wild Welsh weather.

An early start from Tense Towers saw us pootle into dear old Bangy by noon, to be greeted by a downpour and a happy, bouncy Sally. This may have had more to do with the presence of boyfriend Dan than the arrival of the 'rents!

After a quick lunch at Plas Newydd on Anglesey, we headed for our overnight accommodation in Beaumaris, the Townhouse next to Ye Olde Bull's Head Inn. Then it was down to the sea front to experience the howling wind and a brooding cloudstrewn sunset. The odd gull could be seen out in the Menai Strait and a solitary cormorant by the pier, otherwise it was just us and the weather.

In the evening, the four of us had a pleasant meal in Ye Olde Bull, where my wife's love of slate became abundantly clear, even to a "slow on the uptake" chap like myself. Whilst having a nightcap in the bar, an unexpected flash made me look round for a camera, until a huge crash of thunder presented an alternative explanantion. Strangely, after a Welsh cry of "Al qaeda!", the bar swiftly emptied, leaving us to wonder whether the foothills of Snowdonia might be a better place to wage the war on terror, rather than Afghaniraqistan?

Following a fitful night's sleep, punctuated by a squeaky sign outside our window, we struggled bleary-eyed to brekkie. The rain seemed to have got bored and gone off to bother someone else, so we braved the foreshore in the blustery wind. With the tide out and despite being unable to keep my bins still, we managed to spot Oystercatchers, Curlews, Ringed Plovers, Turnstones and a lone Dunlin, though it could've been a Sanderling. I am still rubbish at waders!

Like a complete buffoon, I didn't realise that there were Red Squirrels on Anglesey, and we will have to return to try and spot these cutesome creatures... when the sky isn't intent on turning itself inside out.

Friday 20 November 2009

Motorway list

Being a "local patch" birder, it's easy to define that patch as wherever I happen to be. So when I had to journey from Northamptonshire to Manchester this week and found myself in a vehicle sans cd player, one particular option presented itself.

Rather than listen to pop music, inane babble or folk arguing on the radio, I used the motorway network as my birding patch:

M1 J15a -J19   A solitary kestrel. Oddly I didn't see another of these "typical" motorway birds all day.

M6 J1 - J4   A big flock of rooks and jackdaws, wheeling over the traffic. Enjoying the turbulent air of a gusty Autumn day.

M6 Toll   A flock of lapwing making heavy weather of the er... heavy weather. Then, further along, a buzzard hanging in the wind like an enormous kestrel, working the speeding air to remain motionless in space.

M6 J12 - J14    A dozen Canada Geese lift from the flood plain on one side of the motorway and somehow make it over the roofs of the passing vehicles to the other side. Crazy birds!

M6 J19    Two more buzzards. One flying low over the embankment for the slip road, another sat on a fence watching the ground intently.

Lunch in town in the Snipe Retail Park, which sadly didn't live up to its name.

M6 J19 - J15   A huge rounded shadow looms out of the increasing gloom, and at first I thought it was an owl, but it turned out to be a heron.

M6 Stafford services   Fairly obligatory, this one, a bunch of Pied Wagtails in the car park.

M6 J14 - J12   Those pesky Canada Geese again! Struggling into the breeze, back across the carriageways.

Not the best day's birding I've ever had, but when you're stuck behind the wheel for 6 hours, the odd avian sighting does lift the heart.

Saturday 7 November 2009

Early brambling

Though barely awake and bleary eyed,
An early brambling, my wife espied.
A winter visitor with chaffinch flocks,
Cracking view through our binocs!

Early in the day for us, early in the year for him.

Hope Santa brings a bigger camera...

It's all relative

At the end of our Scottish trip, we bid farewell to my wife's sister's family and set off in the rain and fog, bound for warmer climes nearer the Equator. Or England, as I like to call it.

The only member of their family that we hadn't seen was little Andrew, who was away at college, but who would soon be visiting Silverstone for a race meeting. As he was going to be in our neck of the woods, we naturally offered to be of assistance should he require it, and pondered a visit to the circuit ourselves, perhaps.

As it turned out, this was uncharacteristically perceptive of me, but also less than correct.

Several days after our arrival home, my wife received a call from her sister, asking for a bit of help with a problem. Little Andrew was now at Silverstone, but ill and confined to his hotel bed. Could we collect him and provide some much-needed TLC?

The poor, wee lamb was in a bad way, with what we soon realised was not a common cold or that other mildest of ailments, man flu. Fortunately, he was a dab hand at the "catch it, bin it, kill it" game. However, after a few days of no improvement, we called the NHS helpline and were advised to take him to the drop-in clinic at our local hospital. In his diagnosis, the doctor couldn't be 100% sure, but it was either proper flu or the porcine variety, with treatment much the same for either.

At this juncture, I'd better point out that little Andrew isn't so little anymore. He's much taller than the last time I saw him, towering over all at Tense Towers, though still the same polite, unassuming, but humourous chap I remember.

Happily, over the course of the next week, his humour, if not his appetite, slowly returned and today, before dawn, we put him on a train for home and back to his anxious parents. Serendipitiously, this meant we were sat in the lounge much earlier than would have normally been the case on a Saturday morning. Just in time for my wife to spot a male Brambling on the bird feeder. So thank you, Big Andy, that was a really nice surprise.