A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Little Auk makes landfall at Connahs Quay!

Having sadly missed the influx of Little Auks to the East coast last November and with Little Auk being one of my top targets for last year, I thought I had missed the boat when it came to seeing one of these tiny arctic visitors. When an alert popped up on my phone in the middle of January telling me a Little Auk had been seen at Connah’s Quay Nature Reserve in North Wales, I opened it up expecting the report to be just a fly-by – the typical view of Little Auks over on the West coast. I was therefore shocked to read there was one apparently swimming around the inland pools outside Dee and Middle Hides!!

I was determined that I wanted to see my first Little Auk up close as opposed to a distant dot flying over stormy waves, and knowing that it could fall victim to a marauding crow or gull at any moment, we left Alex’s house in record speed (I’ve never got ready so fast). With Connah’s Quay being a permit only reserve, I had luckily bought Alex a key for Christmas – money that was now definitely well spent!

Despite a few setbacks where the Sat-nav kept insisting on directing us to a random field, we were soon on site, just missing this dainty alcid by moments with it having just that second swam around the bend. A small chase of cat and mouse then ensued, where we attempted to follow it from hide to hide before eventually pinning the elusive Auk down to Middle Hide – relief and my first UK Little Auk, a much wanted bird for some time!
Little Auk - Connah's Quay NR, North Wales
Little Auk swimming along the channel at Connah's Quay NR
We watched as the tiny Auk swam swiftly along the back of the pool before powering off to the left hand side of the channel and out of sight – a much speedier swimmer than I’d anticipated! Heading back on to the road and over to where it looked to be heading, we were surprised to find it had beat us to it and had completely disappeared - seemingly vanishing in front of the assembled birders eyes – presumably taking shelter in the large rocks that lined the banks.
Little Auk - Connah's Quay NR, North Wales
With no sign for a good hour or so and with the bird having either taken shelter in the bank or forced its way through the small weir blocking the access in to the estuary (unlikely!) we headed over to Burton Marsh to enjoy the views of Short-eared Owls, Hen Harriers and Bewick’s Swans that were present. With reports just after lunch that the Little Auk was back in front of the hide again, we made the decision to head back to Connah’s Quay – it’s not every day you get to see a Little Auk so close after all!

Arriving at the hide to find the Little Auk had climbed on to the grassy bank at the side of the water, it was clear that this particular individual was not in completely good health, having seemingly injured one of its legs. 
Little Auk - Connah's Quay NR, North Wales
Little Auk - Connah's Quay NR, North Wales
Watching it for some time and following it down the channel again when it eventually swam off, we enjoyed fantastic views just metres away as it powered past us towards the weir again, and unable to pass, it once again positioned itself in the rocks out of sight to rest.
Little Auk - Connah's Quay NR, North Wales
Little Auk is an excellent record for North Wales, with birds occasionally seen as fly-bys on sea watches during the winter months, and it was even more exceptional that it was found on the pools at Connah’s Quay instead of the harbour.
Connah's Quay NR, North Wales
The small channel the Little Auk kept favouring
With our Little Auk making a final appearance just before dusk, again showing exceptionally closely before swimming off back up the channel and out of sight, we can only hope that under the safety of darkness it managed to make a getaway and head back out to sea. A report of a Little Auk flying west past Hoylake subsequently had the optimist in me hoping that this was our little bird and that he made it to safety! A truly fantastic experience and one I certainly won’t be forgetting in a hurry. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...