Monday 10 December was grey and overcast following a wet and blustery weekend – which had meant a couple of days indoors in front of the wood burner – so I was glad to get out to do some birding that morning. I would have usually started my day at Cemlyn Bay Nature Reserve quite early, but as it was now past 11 am I decided to go to Traeth Dulas. The tide was right for birds, which was helpful as I needed to do a recce for a weekly birding get-together with my mates on Wednesday 12th.
When I got to Traeth Dulas at about 11.45 am it was a mild 10 Celsius with a north-west wind and I set up my telescope to scan the estuary. The tide was going out and, for a couple of minutes, a flock of feeding Dunlin that were taking advantage of the exposed mud caught my eye. I then scanned a group of Black-headed, Common and Great Black-backed Gulls and there it was, I couldn't miss it ... a huge yellow bill, and as soon as I set eyes on it I instantly knew I was looking at a Royal Tern!
My mouth went dry with excitement. I watched for about 15 minutes and decided to take some photos through the telescope with my mobile phone before hurriedly calling some fellow birders, hoping that they could drop everything and join me at Dulas to verify my sighting. However, about 15 minutes later, the tern decided to fly out to sea, just before my friend Derek arrived.
In the past I had seen birds alternate their feeding between Traeth Dulas and Traeth Lligwy, so after waiting an hour and a half for it to come back we decided to drive over to the latter site. We put our telescopes up and scanned the gulls on the beach and, at 2.38 pm, there it was. Some local birders then turned up and they had good views as it stayed on the shore until 3.50 pm when it suddenly flew away (luckily I got that bit on video).
That evening my phone didn't stop pinging with messages of congratulations. The following day about 100 birders had gathered at Traeth Lligwy very early in the morning, having travelled the length and breadth of the country to hopefully get a glimpse of the bird which by now had been confirmed as a ringed American Royal Tern. At 8.45 am it arrived, flying around before settling on the beach. Everyone had good views and it afforded lots of photo opportunities.
As the day went on, the bird favoured Traeth Dulas and as high tide fast approached it decided to take flight and return there. This was good timing for my mate Steve Culley who was on his way in the car, and I quickly gave him a call to say the bird was on the move – he arrived just in time to get a particularly close view and take some excellent photos at Dulas. When my mate Graham and I arrived there, Steve had his telescope all set up for us to have a distant view as soon as we jumped out of the car.
A truly fantastic bird, a good life tick and a great addition to my year list as well.