Tuesday, 30 July 2013

The green green grass (snake) of home....

Yesterday dawned dry, warm and bright so we grabbed a quick brekkie, stuck a load in the washer, and jumped in the car and headed out to the Ynyslas area for a day of wader spotting. Calling in at Glyndwr pool first, all looked quiet with just 3 lapwing amongst the honking canada geese, despite a good coverage of muddy fringes to the rapidly declining water level. After 15 minutes or so alone green sandpiper flew in and promptly went into deep cover.Deciding to try elsewhere, a quick peek over the embankment on the Leri brought us face to face with 3 stunning black-tailed godwits, looking lovely with their brick red plumage glowing in the sunlight.


A quick visit to the beach car park at Ynyslas gave us good views of roosting sandwich terns amongst the gulls, and a large mixed flock of dunlin, sanderling and ringed plover. However, with the sun being out the place was starting to fill up with families and dog walkers, and worst of all, jet ski enthusiasts, so we went on to pastures new. Trying the pools at Ynys-hir seemed like a good idea, and indeed they were. Apart from great views of more green sandpipers, a real treat was in store for us when a gorgeous wood sandpiper appeared from behind a clump of rushes and began to feed, and chase off the green sands, right in front of us. Job done. Before heading back home, a quick stroll around the new boardwalk looking for dragonflies seemed to be the thing to do, and we were rewarded with close up views of black darters and a female southern hawker, who was busy ovipositing in the damp vegetation around the edge of a ditch. Having decided that we had done pretty well, we cut through the woodland to get back to the car park, and got a shock when I almost trod on a superb grass snake; quite easily the largest I've seen in years, at least 3 foot long. To finish things off, we also came across what we believe is a caterpillar of the elephant hawkmoth.


A couple of things from today to round things off - a check this evening on the spotted flycatcher nest after last nights heavy rain storm proved positive, with both youngsters looking healthy and close to fledging. Its exposed position has had us constantly checking on their well being, but so far they have escaped the attentions of any predators and thunderous downpours. Also, on the way back from said nest check, we had a new tick for the garden with this beaut of a slow-worm, which appreciated my delicate handling so much he crapped all over my palm - a small price to pay for a photo opp!

Sunday, 28 July 2013

lepidoptera days

Another update on our recent activities and I'm afraid this time the reason behind our recent lack of posts is sheer laziness. So what have we been up to?

About two weeks ago a morning spent in Aberystwyth at Tanybwlch beach and Pendinas revealed the breeding success of many species such as sedge warbler, wheatear (at least 8 juveniles on the beach) and chough of which a family of five was moving around the area searching for the best feeding spots. On the beach I spotted a mediterranean gull amongst about 80 black-headed gulls and a few bottlenose dolphins were showing well again near the harbour.



A few days later we decided to spend an afternoon in the sand dunes north of Aberdyfi. Noteworthy on the bird front were only the passing manx shearwaters and gannets ( not high in numbers compared to the Borth feeding frenzy). Our focus was therefore directed on the butterflies and moths.The highlight and butterfly tick for me was a beautiful grayling (photo) that we found sunning itself on exposed sand. We also spotted large skipper (photo), ringlet, meadow brown, tortoiseshell, common blue and small, large and green-veined white. Also of interest were an abundance of freshly emerged and mating six-spot burnet moths and Dave discovered two garden tigers which are not well-camouflaged in the dunes at all.



These days waders are beginning to build up in numbers again. We were lucky to have great close-up views of a green sandpiper at Llyn Coed y Dinas (near Welshpool) and soon after found three of them at Ynys-hir feeding on the mud fringes in front of Saltings Hide. Also at Ynys-hir (from Domenlas) were about 40 dunlin, 20 redshank and one curlew.
We also have good news on the local front: Our predated spotted flycatchers built a new nest and are currently feeding their chicks; we were able to see at least two gapes when we discovered the nest which is made out of moss and placed on a rock outcrop. A few days ago we had a buzzard visiting the garden - much to the dislike of our blackbirds. And finally, on a local walk along the Dyfi near Pennal we heard a grasshopper warbler reeling in the middle of the afternoon on 23/07. A very optimistic bird inspired by the gorgeous weather to go for another brood? Also on the walk we had a few golden ringed dragonflies and numerous gatekeepers.


Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Manxie mayhem

After witnessing yesterdays seabird spectacular, I couldn't resist another visit to Borth today - luckily it coincided with a local survey, so Steffi came along as she'd missed it on Monday. We weren't disappointed. Hopefully these photos can convey some of the excitement of standing at the waters edge on a deserted beach, with the sun on your back and a frenzy of feeding activity going on right in front of you. If not, then I suggest you make the effort to see it for yourself.


Once again great views of the local, and very unshy, otter as it fed in the surf around the groynes opposite the railway station, and 25 dunlin looked resplendent in the sunshine at the point.

Afterwards we headed once again to Cors Fochno as it seemed ideal for dragon/butterflies. More of the same with the addition of large red damselfly, plus I got good close up views of large heath, and on the bird front a low flying goshawk carrying prey was a bonus. Before we had even left the house this morning we came across this poplar hawkmoth that had decided to use my boot as a good place to spend the day - we moved him to a more suitable spot before heading out.


Monday, 8 July 2013

It's getting otter......

As the deadline approaches for the surveys I've been working on, leisure birding has had to take a back seat whilst I stomp about the uplands of Wales, fighting off sunburn, horse flies and trenchfoot. However, there's still bits and pieces to report from the odd afternoons I've managed to meet up with Steffi and enjoy the beauty of the Ceredigion countryside - and now that Steffi has a break before she begins her Masters, she has been heading off into the wilds with the trusty camera whenever able. Butterflies and dragonflies have been on our radar these last few days, and we managed to meet up yesterday at Cors Fochno, a lowland raised peat bog just outside Borth. Before I arrived Steffi had picked up 4 grasshopper warblers, a green sandpiper, families of whitethroats, sedge warblers, linnets and willow warblers, along with large heath butterflies (photo), small red damselfly (photo), black darter (photo) and black tailed skimmer. She also had an incredibly close encounter with a young fox, who seemed oblivious to her presence.


 Meanwhile I had the pleasure of watching the astonishing wildlife spectacle that is the gathering of manx shearwaters in Cardigan Bay - if  you happen to time it right, as I did, then nothing quite prepares you for the sheer gob smacking event that unfolds before your eyes as thousands and thousands of shearwaters wheel around in great swirling clouds close into shore, with hundreds of gannets mixed in amongst them. With a calm blue sea, early morning sunshine and an empty beach, I sat and took in this brilliant sight which easily ranks as the one of the greatest natural wonders in this country.
Just to make our day really memorable, not long after we met up we decided to cross over the Leri and check the reedbeds - we didn't make it that far. As we were crossing the Leri, Steffi looked down and saw a movement on the mudbank, and there right in front of (and slightly below) us was this cracking otter enjoying a fish supper! Having views like this right in the middle of the day doesn't happen often, so we happily spent the next 40 minutes watching this beauty eating, cleaning and hunting before it headed up out of the river and came up right by us before heading over the embankment and into a reed filled ditch. Not too shabby.


Back home, a male whitethroat has this week claimed the gnarly tree at the bottom of the garden as his own, and has been singing his little head off day in, day out. Hoping for a bit of late breeding? Maybe the arrival of this cracking spell of summer weather has given him the urge.....