It had to happen eventually - and seems even more timely following my last post! This afternoon the wind was again blowing SW/W around force 5-6 with the odd shower and a good deal of sunshine. I persuaded The Urbanski Birder to join me for another look at Cricieth, arriving around 1415 hrs for a couple of hours.
Immediately, Eddie connected with a group of distant skuas on the water off the castle and when a couple flew up then dropped down (shuffling the deck for want of a better description) we were able to see the spoons and confirm them as Pomarines. It was then a case of wait and see, and as usual at this site, it took a long time for the birds to change gear, get up and fly another short distance. They are easily overlooked and visitors are advised to scan very carefully with scopes from one of the shelters to have a decent chance of ticking this species here.
In the meantime a handful of Northern Gannets, just 15 Manx Shearwaters, 8 Sandwich' and a "Commic" tern were noted with a Red-throated Diver and a few Guillemots on the sea. A fine pale-phase Arctic Skua moved west when shortly afterwards El Player (don't ask!) picked up another very distant skua. The bird was heading our way at very long range and initially looked good for Arctic. As it got a little closer I thought I could make out a bluntish tail and considered a sub-adult Pom... but was the chest really heavy enough and surely the wings weren't broad enough at the base?
At this point a very beardy passer-by popped his head in the shelter and asked us what we were doing. I managed to multi-task by fielding his questions with one eye on him and the other still watching the mystery skua come closer and closer..... There was an ominous silence, he departed, the light improved and then our star find suddenly banked, lifted above the horizon and confirmed our growing suspicions by revealing the longest thinnest rat's tail of any skua; it was an immaculate adult Long-tailed Skua and was heading our way!
We then enjoyed a fantastic performance. The bird decided to head west then turned and headed back towards Black Rock Sands (seemingly flushing the group of 15 Poms in the process and affording excellent comparison) before starting to circle and climb high towards Morfa Bychan. It drifted a couple of hundred metres over the beach before abandoning thoughts of an overland passage and dropped back down and headed west, landing briefly on the sea in front of us at one stage before resuming it's journey, being mobbed by a Northern Fulmar at one point on the way. Great stuff! Do I think I missed 27 of these the other day? No, but I am happy with the one we saw today.
Also passing were a couple of distant Bonxies, two unidentified tiny specks of skua over in the direction of Harlech and three Whimbrel. After a shower had passed over the Poms took off and headed purposefully west straight past us - again mostly pale-phase adults.
Happy with our session it was time to retrace our steps. A quick stop at Afonwen produced a nice Dipper before calling in at Pwllheli's harbour channel. Rhys Jones had a Roseate Tern off Pen-y-chain yesterday and we were half-hoping it might still be around. No joy, but we did manage 19 Sandwich' and 17 Commons plus a respectable 50 Dunlin and a high figure of 37 Ruddy Turnstone. The afternoon's birding ended with a beautiful sea and towering clouds as the next pulse of rain clipped the peninsula.