Monday, May 15, 2006

North Wales Tour, 6-7 May, 2006

We made good time, thanks to Dan's Llanidloes shortcut, and were watching distant ospreys before lunch. We watched both birds in flight briefly and the male perched-up alongside the nest. There is a nice set-up at Glaslyn. The hide looks out to the nest with Snowdon as the backdrop. The downside is that the nest must be at least a kilometre away, and even with x60 on the 'scope, decent views are difficult. Especially when there's a heat haze as we had. Nevertheless, seeing ospreys is great, and we were able to watch the female sitting on eggs via the large flat plasma screen in the RSPB office. I now know where my subscription is going! News that a woodchat shrike was on the Great Orme, swayed us from going to Anglesey, especially since the long-staying American golden plover had disappeared. (Guess what turned up on Anglesey, after the weekend!). A thorough search of the site where the shrike was seen proved fruitless though. On to the little RSPB reserve at Conwy. Jeff and I managed a couple of year ticks here - sedge warbler and reed warbler and we saw a nice whimbrel on the estuary. A short trip in the car, gave us views over some quiet pools away from the main reserve footpath. Another tick in the form of a drake garganey was our reward. With the afternoon running out, we set off for our second main target of the trip, little terns at Gronant. Dan was a little nervous, as he was not 100% sure the terns would be there. He should not have worried, even though the large numbers had not arrived, we must have seen at least 25 little terns both in flight and on the beach just 30m or so from us. We even watched a couple of pairs using sand eels in courtship. I also managed to tick a couple of ringed plovers on the beach. Offhsore, was an immature gannet and a red-throated diver. Plenty of Sandwich terns were out to sea, and another large flock settled on the beach to the east. Satisfied we'd got our birds, we headed off for our digs another hour or so drive into the countryside. Dan had fixed us up with a nice B&B, with the added bonus of a pub serving food and real ale just up the road. A couple of pints of Thwaites Lancaster Bomber ensured a decent night's sleep ... well a few hours anyway, as we were up again at 4:30am! A crowd of around 25 assembled at 5:30am at the Llandegla Forest Centre for the half hour walk to the black grouse lek, for our second RSPB event of the weekend. Up through the forest we marched, making sure not to drop to the back and miss out on prime views when we got to the hide. Some hide though! An old lorry container, with a few small slots to peer though out onto the moor. Dan and Jeff settled inside, but I decided to move outside and finally got a decent spot to set up the 'scope. The lek was about 400m away, but sure enough the blackcocks were doing their stuff. Fantastic! We watched them for over an hour, strutting about on their lek. One bird was even perched in a small tree. A grasshopper warbler was also singing somewhere on the moor, and a male merlin whizzed through. We returned on a different route through the forest. A few of us were struck by a strange call from high in the canopy. None of us a had heard it before, but one of the party suggested the only thing he could think of was long-eared owl. Given we were on private land and with an RSPB party, we decided not to pursue the bird. We'll never know, but it could have been this. We returned to the B&B and was eating breakfast by 8:15am. With no news on BirdGuides we headed south, deciding to try for some western oak-wood specialities along the way. On the way, we stopped briefly at Welshpool, where there's a nice little gravel pit reserve just off the by-pass. A number of black-headed gulls were on nests, and we got great views of a reed warbler and drake ruddy duck just in front of the hide. Next stop was Dyffryn Woods just down the road from Gigrin Farm in Rhayader. As Dan and I walked up the hill looking for birds, Jeff stopped off to take a leak. He was soon adding both male and female pied flycatcher to his p**s list. Jammy b*$@ard! Further up the slope we connected with 3-4 redstarts, including one pair. Overhead were buzzards, ravens and a couple of red kites. Dan and I were still in pursuit of the elusive pied flycatchers though. Dan picked out a garden warbler , which was added to our yearlist but still no pied flycatchers. With me and Jeff searching up the hill, Dan whistled, signalling he was onto a bird. He'd picked out the female pied flycatcher at the top of a tree. We all got views. Further down, we got a brief glimpse of the male in flight. We enjoyed our lunch on the small reserve and then headed south. Llangorse Lake outside Brecon often has black terns on passage during spring. BirdGuides was showing lots of black terns in the UK, so Llangorse was an obvious place to visit. We arrived at the church and overlooked the lake. It was deathly quiet. Just a few hirundines and swifts feeding and collecting mud, a grey heron and the ubiquitous Canada geese. We didn't stay long and decided to try Craig Cerrig Gleisiad for ring ouzel. On setting up just below the cliffs, we heard a faint calling. This persisted througout our stay, but the bird proved elusive. I got a brief glimpse of a male high-up and called for Dan, but it disappeared before he arrived. This was all in stark contrast to the previous week, here Jeff and I had good views of a very active and noisy male. By now we were a little tired and decided to call it a day. All in all, another great trip, connecting with our three targets - black grouse, osprey and little tern, plus a a handful of year ticks each.


Tim Hall said...

Sounds good, but where are the piccies?

Wayne said...

Photos from the trip are thin on the ground. Ospreys were too far away and we had a heat haze. Garganey was difficult, little terns were too mobile and it was windy and blackcock were always on the move on the lek, though I think Jeff managed a few record shots.