Saturday, 29 June 2013

back on the blog

Well, sincere apologies for the lack of posts. We have been rather preoccupied with first my mum visiting and then with dog-sitting. Birding was therefore a bit limited and when we did get out, we didn't find the time to write up our sightings.

Locally we have mixed news. Our local common sandpipers were predated; less than a week after we found the nest. We hope it was early enough in the breeding season for them to try again elsewhere on a less disturbed field. The nest of our spotted flycatchers was also destroyed (corvids or squirrels? Let's say squirrels). The pair is still around and frequently found flycatching over the river but we don't know whether they are nesting elsewhere. Our blue tits fledged successfully. Unfortunately, we didn't check the box until all but one had left so we don't know how many were reared. The local great spotted woodpeckers reared at least three chicks and we delight with their attempts to get food from our various feeders. They appear to have different preferences with one hogging the peanut feeder, one enjoying the suet cake and one feeding on the ground. The parents still go non-stop for the suet log.

Whilst my mum was here I did have the chance to do a bit of birding whilst we were out and about. On our Borth walk I was very lucky to have found a little stint. But as I've never found such a good bird on my own and because Dave was away over night, I was unsure about what I had until we checked my distant record shots together the next day. So unfortunately it didn't make it into the local news. The three of us also had a very nice day at Ynys-hir. The local woodland birds showed well and I was able to get my mum onto a singing wood warbler, pied flycatchers visiting their nestbox and a male redstart. An added bonus for her was a willow warbler sitting relaxed in a tree in front of us having a very thorough preen.


Today we went on a lovely walk in the Wye valley and discovered juveniles of both stonechats and whinchats (photo). They appeared to be quite independent already and were able to find their own food. Also a delight were the activities of a family of wrens with at least four chicks.


We also managed to finally catch up with ring ouzel on one of our walks. Although the views weren't brilliant, a positive ID was made on the silvery wing panels in flight. Not too long ago a treat was in store for Dave when he had a close encounter with a polecat up in the hills. And I had a personal highlight when I went to one of the best sites for marsh fritillary butterfly in Wales which is also one of the sites I will base my MSc research project on. So far this summer we have also been lucky with the dragonflies. Four-spotted chaser (top right) were aplenty in the bog pools at Ynys-hir; we discovered freshly emerged male broad-bodied chaser (bottom left) at a permanent puddle on our local "Yellowhammer-walk" and encountered an also freshly emerged golden-ringed dragonfly (bottom right) in a scenic valley at Lake Vyrnwy.



Tuesday, 4 June 2013

A treemendous weekend

Much like the rest of the country we've been loving the recent spell of fantastic summerlike weather, and have been getting out and about looking at birds whenever not working (which involves getting out and about, erm, looking at birds). Very active down on the river, with the young dippers & wagtails still being tended to by the adults, whilst today we located the spotted flycatcher nest - easily viewed from footpath - and also the nest, containing two eggs of a common sandpiper. Rather worryingly, its location leaves much to be desired, as it sits rather conspicuously in short grass close to a gravel bank much used by local children and where people take their dogs to run riot. We saw it with the naked eye and we weren't even looking for it - I have to say I don't hold out much hope for a successful conclusion, especially as the adult bird was constantly going back and forth calling whenever anyone (us, a dog walker) or anything (sheep) went within 30 feet of the site, drawing attention to itself and the nest location.

Another interesting avian interaction took place yesterday outside the kitchen window, when I noticed a male pied flycatcher perched on the entrance to our birdbox, which is occupied by nesting blue tits. The flycatcher was cautiously poking its head in for a look, then drawing it out very quickly - presumably a sensible precaution when investigating a potential nestsite, as who knows what may lurk within. It did this about 5 times, then dropped onto the washing line and began to sing - maybe trying to find out if another male was using this territory? After going back to the box again and peeking in, it shot off not to be seen again, and some two minutes after out came the adult tits. Normal service has resumed, with the adults busy taking food into the box, making as many as 12 visits in 30 minutes.
On the mammal front, our badgers are still enjoying the fine dining we provide for them, and after finishing yesterdays survey I headed to Aber to pick up Steffi and we had great views of a feeding pod of bottlenose dolphins doing the whole leaping out the water, tail slapping, spray blowing thing that they do so well, close into the shore at Tanyblwch. Speaking of Steffi, she will now finish this off with tales of her weekend tree, really.

Yes, a weekend of identifying trees at the field study centre near Betws-y-Coed. I did my best to focus on just trees and therefore kept my bins and my camera in my backpack throughout the day; but when an alarmed meadow pipit drew my attention to a close-in cuckoo, instinct kicked in and getting my camera out was more important than making sense of the willow tree hybrids. The cuckoo continued to stay close whilst I frantically threw my lunch out in order to get to my camera and I managed to get a few nice shots. Not much else to report from the walks I did on the weekend; however, on the field centre grounds I did discover nestboxes occupied by pied flycatcher and redstart, which allowed for some nice photo opportunities.