I just got back from a trip to the island of Anglesey in Wales. This particular area has been on my list since 2014 but its remoteness had so far kept me from visiting. My main target was Newborough Forest, which is home to one of the largest Raven colonies in the world. Up to 2000 individuals have been counted here in Winter when their population apparently tends to increase.
Sadly this forest is located on a sort of a mini-island right on Llanddwyn beach. This means it is almost always exposed to Westerly winds coming from the Atlantic. When it's not too windy you can still hear the roar of the Irish Sea, so good conditions for recording are awfully rare. This, along with its remoteness, is one of the reasons I had avoided going to this place.
A couple of weeks ago I decided to stop worrying about the weather and drive to Newborough to scout the place for possible future trips. I found an Airbnb relatively close and made reservations for a whole weekend. I prepared my Double MS rig, my 633 recorder, my camera and long lenses and hoped for good weather.
Joined by my girlfriend, we hopped in the car and started driving at 5am on Friday. The weather was awful, with gale force winds and torrential rain for the better part of the journey. Storm Brian was just heading to Wales bringing wind speeds of over 70mph and sudden downpours.
Undeterred, we continued driving and arrived at Newborough just after midday. The forecast looked grim for Saturday and Sunday, but Friday afternoon was relatively calm so we decided to make the best of it. We spent the rest of the day hiking through the forest looking for Ravens and trying to record them.
We saw a few dozen Ravens in all, but unfortunately they weren't too vocal. Whenever we would see them they would be darting overhead at incredible speeds, so even when they did call, we only heard them fleetingly before they disappeared over the tops of the trees. Here's the best take I could record:
After a long day of driving and hiking through the forest we finally went to the place we had booked for the weekend. As soon as we got there the wind picked up and the rain started. Storm Brian had made contact. We cosied up with a cup of tea in the conservatory and listened to it for a long time. I also made sure I recorded an hour of it in beautiful surround. Just listening to it gives me chills.
On Saturday the weather was rough for the first half of the day, but not excessively so. Being accustomed to storms in Scotland came in handy, so we went out to explore the island, did some shopping and got a hearty Welsh breakfast. We were planning on spending the afternoon indoors, but the weather cleared up so we went back to the forest for a few more hours of recording and hiking.
As we were preparing to go back to the house we decided to check out the beach. It was mostly deserted with the exception of a few dogwalkers who were preparing to leave. Just a short walk away there was an awesome-looking patch of dead forest that instantly made me want to record it. I ran back to the car, got my rig and managed to record a few minutes of wind in this location.
On Sunday the weather cleared up, but we decided to leave early so we could visit Snowdonia and other parts of Wales. The landscapes were rough and reminiscent of the Scottish Highlands to some degree. Definitely a place we'll come back to.