Monday, July 23, 2012

Snowdon Mountain Race

Last Saturday I ran my first ever fell race when I took part in the International Snowdon Mountain Race. The route starts in Llanberis and follows the Llanberis path all the way to the summit at a height of 1085 metres above sea level, and a distance of about 10 miles. The weather was superb on the day with bright sunshine and a bit of a breeze near the top. Not knowing how my race would go, I started conservatively near the back of the pack of about 600 runners. We left Llanberis and headed up the steep tarmac road and onto the rocky path that leads to the summit. The support from the crowds was excellent, with plenty of vocal encouragement and even a couple ringing cow-bells. The views, when I had a chance to admire the scenery were stunning. I managed to push on past a few runners, but I was reduced to a fast walk during mile 4 up a scree slope. Not long after this the leaders came hurtling down the mountain at an unbelievable pace. I reached the summit  in exactly an hour and eagerly anticipated the run down. A few runners passed me running down the scree slope, but I managed to retake a few places on the rocky paths lower down. By the time I was running down the tarmac road again my quads were really hurting, and my legs felt like jelly on the level road back in the town. I still managed to wave at the large crowds of supporters as I entered the finishing funnel. I finished in 1 hour and 35 minutes in 150th place overall and 6th in the V50 category; I was well pleased. I celebrated that night with the ultimate in recovery drinks - a few pints of Greek Mythos beer; lovely!

Running into Llanberis at the end of the race. Many thanks to
my son Adam for the animation.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


Ynys-hir is a fabulous RSPB reserve in West Wales that has become famous in recent years after being chosen by the BBC for some of their Springwatch programmes. There is something to see at all times of the year but a Spring visit can be very productive birdwise.
We had planned to go in June so on the 10th of that month we set off for the reserve despite all the dire weather forecasts. Not far from the reserve we had to stop and rethink our plans as the main road was flooded and littered with abandoned vehicles including a breakdown truck. Undeterred we donned our wellies and headed for the Dyfi Osprey Project reserve. After walking and wading for over a mile we were disappointed to find that the reserve was closed, so we picnicked in a nearby field then waded back to the car past even more broken down cars!
We manged to find an alternative route to Ynys-hir via a single-track road over some hilly terrain; and it was well-worth the drive, apart from BBC crew and wardens we had the reserve and its super-abundant birdlife to ourselves. Redstarts, Wood Warblers and Pied Flycatchers were all busily feeding young in nests. Treecreepers, Blackcaps, Nuthatch, Little Egrets and Woodpeckers were all seen well. But the Pied Flycatchers were definitely the highlight, I wish we could have arrived earlier and stayed longer to get some decent photos but that will have to wait until next year, hopefully the weather will be better then as well.

Male Blackcap foraging in an Oak tree.

Flooded fields near Ynis-hir

Me on the flooded road, note broken down truck!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Cemlyn Bay

I visited the beautiful Isle of Anglesey last Wednesday with my friend Jane and despite the almost non-stop rain managed to have a great day's birdwatching. We spent the morning at the RSPB's South Stack reserve where there were still good numbers of auks on the cliffs including some chicks. Harbour Porpoise were showing well off the lighthouse stack with at least three animals feeding. A few Gannets were seen diving for fish and there was a constant stream of Manx Shearwaters flying past. Puffins, Choughs, Ravens and Kittiwakes were all seen well.
A veritable tern festival was had in the afternoon at Cemlyn Bay, where around 2000 pairs of Sandwich Terns have nested this year. According to one of the wardens, unfortunately the earlier nesting Common Terns have not fared so well. Arctic Terns were also seen along with one or two Black Guillemots in the bay. The following photos are all of Sandwich Terns.

Sandwich Tern trying to out-compete Puffins in the carry-a -
sandeel contest!

Sandwich Terns manage to call continuously as they return to
the colony without dropping their fish.

Saturday, July 7, 2012


It's been a while since my last post so I've got a lot of catching up to do. At the beginning of June I spent a few days on the North Norfolk coast based at Salthouse. Norfolk is the premier mainland county for birdwatching, but as with recent months the weather was not conducive to birdwatching or photography. Nevertheless I managed to see or hear 94 species of bird and 8 species of mammal; not bad considering the rain (it was the Silver Jubilee weekend for those of you that braved the weather in the early part of June).
Unusually for Norfolk at that time of year rare birds were thin on the ground, the only rarity of note during my stay was an elusive Black-winged Stilt at Cley. Even the Nightjars on Salthouse Heath failed to show on 3 different nights. But I did manage a view of a Cetti's Warbler, a bird definitely more often heard than seen. The one day that the sun shone I drove to Strumpshaw Fen but no Swallowtails or Norfolk Hawkers were on the wing.
I'm sure my next trip to Norfolk will be more productive; it's a fabulous county even in the rain!

This Red-legged Partridge was in the car-park at Cley.
The rain forced this Swift to feed low
over the lake at Holkham Hall.
The rain eventually did stop allowing birds such as this Barn
Owl to hunt.
A beautiful example of mimicry; this Wasp Beetle was
photographed at Strumpshaw Fen RSPB.
Summer-plumaged Sanderling at Titchwell RSPB.
Summer-plumaged Sanderling.
Avocet feeding at Titchwell RSPB.
Avocet, Titchwell.
Breeding-plumaged Little Egret at Cley,
it was being mobbed by a Lapwing.
Juvenile Robin at Titchwell waiting to be
fed by its parent.
A flock of Spoonbills at Cley. They were easier to see than the
Black-winged Stilt.
A female Broad-bodied Chaser basking in some rare sunshine.
I tempted the Jackdaws at Blickling Hall with some fruit cake.

Jackdaw at Blickling Hall.

A soggy Little Egret manages to catch some lunch at Cley.