Monday, 18 May 2015

North Wales springtime fun

Yesterday I was off again with the West Midland Bird Club, this time to Wales. Our first stop was RSPB Conwy, where we were greeted by Swifts galore, the first of the year for many of us - myself included. They were accompanied by many Swallows, House and Sand Martins. From the cafe we picked up Shelduck, Little Egret, Great Crested Grebe before following the trail round and stopping at each hide in turn. 

RSPB Conwy.
It was high tide so there were waders aplenty on the lagoons! Both Curlew and Whimbrel were present, helpfully standing next to each other making their differences very apparent - the main one being their size with Whimbrel clearly a third smaller than Curlew. A graceful Greenshank was dibbling around on one of the lagoons, and we saw a pair of Redshanks and a pair of Common Sandpipers elsewhere. There were also a few Lapwings around and a large flock of Oystercatchers, most of them resting while they waited for the tide to go back out. 

Large flock of Oystercatchers.
Digiscoped Oystercatchers, about the best I could manage before my camera batteries conked out!
As well as the usual Mallards, Tufted Ducks and Gadwalls I also found two male Red-breasted Mergansers drifting around. There was plenty of warbler action too, we heard Chiffchaff, Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat and had great views of Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler and Blackcap. One interesting bit of behavior I spotted was a group of eight Sand Martins perching together on some reeds at the water's edge, the reeds bending over under their weight. I don't know why they had chosen to sit there but they looked very cute! As we walked along the seashore there wasn't much around due to the aforementioned high tide, but we did spot a distant Cormorant and three Linnets feeding in the saltmarsh. 

We jumped back on the coach and headed to our next destination, Loggerheads Country Park. We were soon enjoying a pair of Grey Wagtails collecting food for their young along the stream! However there were a lot of dog walkers and other noisy visitors around so we walked down the stream pretty quicksharp to get to a more peaceful spot, munching on wild garlic as we went. I switched to my camera phone seeing as the batteries in my usual camera were flat.

A quieter spot downstream, and a cloud of Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum).
Soon we were surrounded by three singing Song Thrushes! Their cacophony momentarily drowned out the more delicate song of a Pied Flycatcher in the trees in front of us, but we soon tracked him down. We also saw a Green-veined White butterfly supping on the wild garlic flowers. 

This Green-veined White (Pieris napi) let us get surprisingly close.
Heading up the steps to the cliff top we saw a Robin with its beak stuffed full of insects, some still twitching! We watched to see if it would give away the location of its nest, and sure enough, it flew down into a small gap between the roots of a tree at ground level, hidden by ivy. We heard the chicks cheeping as they were fed! After the Robin parent flew off, we carefully peered into the nest and saw tiny downy grey chicks with gigantic gapes!

The Robin's nest was hidden behind the ivy between two of the tree roots.
Further up the hill we sadly found some discarded orchid (I think maybe Early-purple, Orchis mascula) flowers that someone must have picked - I didn't think that really happened much any more, I remember having it drilled into me when I was young that you MUST NOT PICK WILDFLOWERS. 
A shameful waste :o(
We enjoyed the view from the top with a cup of tea and watched a pair of Buzzards soaring overhead. On the walk back down we watched a pair of Nuthatches foraging around on the ground. In the stream near the We Three Loggerheads pub several of our group had got lucky with Dipper, so we headed over there and indeed had superb views of a Dipper collecting food - as well as some Mallard ducklings catching flies! It was all go as then our group leader Ray arrived with news of Spotted Flycatcher back along the stream, now that it had quietened down and there were fewer people around. Within a couple of minutes of arriving at the correct spot, we had located a fine pair of Spotted Flycatchers, jauntily flitting around between the trees, fence and gutters of a building by the steam. Brilliant! Our final bird of the day was Coal Tit in a conifer by the visitor Centre. Another great day of birding and some fine year ticks for my list!

The view from the top of the cliffs.

The view from the top of the cliffs.

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