Tuesday, 23 December 2014

My North Wales Highlights for 2014

Having spent the first 6 weeks of the year away on our Amazon cruise it was March before I got out and about locally.
A visit to Rhos Point to check out the over wintering Purple Sandpipers is always worth the effort... if you can find them !
Purple Sandpiper 2014-03-01
Which at least I managed. Having had a dreadful winter of rain and floods it seems the Short Eared Owls over in Rhyl were not to be seen last winter.A big disappointment .
Ah, well, by March the weather had brightened up considerably and I was out and about at Conwy RSPB reserve and had some wonderful views of Grey heron fishing.
Grey Heron 2014-03-09
A few days later I was down in Llanberis at what must be one of the best sites in the UK for Goosander.

Goosander 2014-03-12
They are a really difficult subject to get the right exposure on which is why I keep going back to try and achieve the perfect shot. That will never happen but I am getting better.
March was proving to be outstanding with excellent views of Dipper
Dipper 2014-03-17
and Grey Wagtail
Grey Wagtail  2014-03-19
Both had been on my wish list for some time but not as high as Mr Fox was ! I see one quite often in the garden but they are very quick to spot you and even from my hiding place in the house they are off no matter how quietly I try to open the window.
This one I found down at Conwy reserve again.
Fox 72014-03-28
April saw me venturing a little further from home, a trip in to Shropshire and Mid Wales where the highlight were the Siskins at RSPB Vyrynwy.
Siskin 2014-04-04
Locally out on the Great Orme the Stonechats were showing well.
Stonechat 2014-04-09
but the highlight was a close Kestrel encounter at the same location.
Kestrel    2014-04-09
At the end of April I managed a quick week's holiday over in Lesvos on a cheap last minute deal... intended as a treat for Claire as I was off to Bulgaria at the end of May.
Trips to the Little Orme were rewarding for Cormorant shots
Cormorant 2014-05-14
and back at my Dipper site it was obvious that the eggs had hatched !
Dipper 2014-05-16
With June in full swing it was back to Conwy RSPB to try capturing some flight shots of Swift
and of course, a trip out to Cemlyn Bay for the Terns is an annual pilgrimage.
Common Tern
Not sure why as they are cause for much frustration too !
Sandwich Tern
At home in the garden the new generation were starting to appear.
We are lucky to have a big enough garden to hold quite a few breeding species.
Long Tailed Tit
Long Tailed Tit  juvenile
Great Tit
Great Tit juvenile
are just a few of the youngsters we might find. Sadly, for the first time in many years it appears the local Tawny Owls did not breed and in fact they are rarely heard now so my fear is they have moved away. We do have these little cuties though
Bullfinch juvenile
and they were very successful this year with at least two broods visiting my feeders.
Another major annual highlight which failed to materialise this year was the "Stoatfest" at Conwy RSPB when the young Stoats come out to play and make fantastic watching and photo opportunities.
In all probability the winter floods had destroyed their previous nesting sites so they may well have gone elsewhere. Still, the House Martins were an alternative challenge.
House Martin
With July under way I was lucky to get invited on a pelagic trip out of Liverpool again. Once again the Gannets were a prime target, you never tire of photographing them.
but this year they were outshone by a pod of Bottlenose Dolphin that swam alongside us for a good 45 minutes of pure magic.
Bottlenose Dolphin
Things in the garden were getting a bit quiet so aided with a few props I looked to make things happen. Great fun with the Bank Voles.
Let them eat cake
but just now and then the unexpected occurs. The peace was shattered by a screaming Peregrine that reappeared over the house with it's catch.
Over our house
For once I was ready and armed with my camera !
September marks the arrival of one or two passage migrants heading south after a local stop over, often on the Great Orme.
Wheatear Conwy RSPB
but my very favourite and my local "bird of the Year" was this delightful Grey Phalarope.
Grey Phalarope
I spent 3 days at close quarters with this very confiding bird. I was trying to capture an image of it catching flies as it darted around the little pool it favoured. Eventually I came pretty close to what I wanted but I hate to tell you how many shots it took to get it.
Grey Phalarope
Whilst some birds fly south for the winter, some actually move in to the area.
My first shot of a Common Kingfisher at reasonably close distance in many a long year in the UK. This one down at Conwy RSPB and for me a nice birthday present.
Kingfisher Conwy RSPB
Over in Colwyn Bay the regularly seen Mediterranean Gull was back too.Seen here in a sandstorm and no wonder I had to spend ages cleaning my kit afterwards !
Mediterranean Gull
It was a pretty quiet autumn overall and to be honest there were times when I was frustrated by the lack of opportunity here at home.
With November spent in the Far east I shouldn't complain as I was lucky enough to fit in visits to 25 countries over the last 12 months so opportunities abroad were plentiful however, I'm always pleased to return to the stunning countryside we are lucky to live in.
Snowdonia walk
We have some fantastic scenery
Snowdonia walk
to match the best in the world.
Snowdonia walk
And if you go looking there is always a new challenge just waiting around the corner.

Kestrel      Great Orme
So my 2014 wasn't too bad a year after all and now I'm looking forward to what 2015 brings.

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