Monday, April 1, 2019

Birding Wales

Sheep were everywhere and there were so many little ones this time of year.  Very very cute!
"Wales?!", they asked. "Why not London or Ireland or Scotland?"  I wondered if they had been to Ireland or Scotland. I also wondered if they knew that London was a part of England. Or if they could locate Wales on a map. 

People run in muddy slippery areas near Mute Swans.  Look at the crazy number of birds in that pic! Pennington Flash
In my early 20's, I remember sitting in a bar along Lake Michigan having drinks with several Welsh friends. They spoke of Wales with a great fondness and I was fascinated.  I can't believe how many people, both birders and non-birders alike, were shocked that I'd go to Wales!  Only my British friends in the States understood. When I mentioned Wales to them, their eyes lit up. "You're going to love it Chris."  Wales is one of the most overlooked countries of Great Britain and the United Kingdom.  And it shows on ebird.  My mission was to fill in data.

The front shield of the Eurasian Coot is wild!
The jet lag was real.  But the drive to discover new birds was strong.  Once the adrenaline began to kick in, I forgot about how tired I was. We left on Saturday morning and arrived on Sunday morning to meet the expert birder that never tires, Steve Culley.  He whisked us away from the Manchester airport and took us to some wonderful English birding hotspots before heading over to Wales. 

Steve and the godzilla Mute Swan
We arrived at our first location, Pennington Flash. I got out of the car and heard lots of crazy new bird calls. And then I was overwhelmed by new birds.  And surrounded by REAL Mute Swans.  Normally they kill Americans when given the chance😉, but the ones at this hotspot were friendly!  Still I was hesitant to get near them.  I've seen what they can do to grown adults!

Eurasian Moorhen
Many birds had the "Eurasian" title so I got rid of the Eurasian part. Several of the birds were slight variations of their American counterparts.  Steve was great and talked me through their field marks.  

Eurasian Treecreeper or just plain old Treecreeper
We drove through some amazing scenery.  And I instantly fell in love with their crazy weather patterns and beautiful landscapes.

There were moments on our first trek when I'd pass out from exhaustion in the middle of a conversation.  Jet lag. I felt so bad. I wanted to bird 500 percent like I do when I'm back home, but I'd constantly fight the lack of sleep throughout our stay due to the very necessary early birding hours and heavy gray skies. 
Eurasian Oystercatcher
Oystercatchers are on the decline in the US, but in England and Wales, they were EVERYWHERE!  In fact, they were one of the most common birds found in a variety of habitats. 

the brilliant pinkish bill and legs of the Water Rail steals the show
One of the most thrilling discoveries came from this Water Rail above.  Rails in general can be tough to observe out in the open, but we lucked out on our first day. 

The Common wood pigeon was ginormous. They looked like pudgy chickens on branches.  And when they flew, I couldn't get over their size.  This species turned out to be another favorite of mine. 

Common wood pigeons
But dang, nothing compares to the cuteness of a European Robin.  They were VERY common. And often their vocalizations would confuse me because they had so many different calls. 

the European Robin
Steve had a plan and this blog will follow our daily treks around northern Wales and some parts of England. Each day had a very unique flavor.  We'll explore the Welsh coastline, interior, sea cliffs and highlands. 

If you've seen the "Big Year", one of the main characters kept dipping on the rare-to-the-US Pink-footed Goose.  I finally saw my first one this year.  They are beautiful birds. 

Pink-footed Goose
I'd like to acknowledge 2 people who made our stay memorable and exciting.  To Steve for taking us out and showing us the birding world of Wales and to Bonnie, who we've met on this blog, for hosting us at her place.  She is an amazing cook!  (Minus the black pudding) 😉  

I'm looking forward to presenting some of our crazy days in Wales.  There are 3 things I'd like to mention here.  1. It was a bit of a culture shock coming back to the US where people lack manners. 2. I'd be lying a bit if I told you that I didn't go through a withdrawal after coming back to the US.  I really enjoyed birding with Steve and it's not often that I meet someone who is as addicted (or more so) to birds than I am.  I hope we'll bird again because it was a blast. Our Arizona birds are awesome. Maybe after the Brexit deal is over:) 3. Getting to spend more time with Bonnie was great. Whenever she visits Arizona, we usually get to visit one day.  

Her place was so relaxing.  And her pooch Sophie was the best.  She protected us and it was sad saying good-bye to that furry bundle of love.  She'd squeeze between Micheal and myself every night for a cuddle.

Wales has so many wonderful birds, birding hotspots, pubs and more. "Why Wales?" Like New Mexico of the US, Wales is often overlooked by its popular neighboring siblings. One Welsh person even asked us what we were doing in Wales for a week (because, according to him, most tourists just pass through the area).  After my series on Wales, I think you'll understand why this place is an awesome birder's destination. Until next time....


  1. Well there you were so close, just over the water and you never visited me!! I am glad you were not disappointed with birding in Wales and you had a good guide who knew where the birds would be.

    1. Margaret! Next time:) We're planning on crossing over....and when we do, I'll let you know:)

  2. Can't wait to read more and see more photos. That lamb is just too cute!

    1. I wanted to take them all home. They were everywhere!

  3. I would love to spend more time in Wales. I have only cycled up the border of it, and as I was in the throes of cycling from the bottom of England to the top of Scotland (±1000 miles) I had no time for birding sadly. We get a lot of the same birds in France but they seem to have different characters. While the robin in the UK is generally very friendly the ones here seem to be very suspicious.
    Sounds like you had a great time and your photos are excellent. I love the Water Rail and the Tree creeper and of course the Robin.
    Have a good day, Diane

    1. Diane! There were so many cyclists there, especially in Snowdonia. It was surprising. Isn't it weird how each species acts differently in different places? Perhaps there is a predator there that they don't have in Britain? Like you during your cycling event, I wish I had paid more attention to the birds of Paris and France. I saw birds but couldn't really ID them like I can now. I'll have to go back one day:)

  4. Great post Chris - so pleased you had a wonderful time and loved all the birds :) The photos are gorgeous and I can't wait to hear more of where you went and what you saw.
    We are going to Wales - Anglesey for our main holiday this year so will be interested to see if you went there.

    1. We were in Anglesey!!!! WOW! We spent much of our time there! You're going to love it. Not far away is the amazing Holyhead. I was in love. It's the next blog post:)

  5. What an awesome adventure! The robin is so much more dainty than ours. Looking forward to more.

  6. Exciting! I've found that people who haven't traveled to a place are the worse critics. Looks great so far.

    1. Thanks Gaelyn. I don't understand why people do that. If I'm honest here, I've done it as well. It's always a pleasant surprise everything you thought you knew is wrong. That's what I love about birding.


Thanks for stopping by!