This week we have carried out our Wetlands Bird Survey Counts for the reserve and estuary. Some of the high counts of Waterfowl include 354 Teal, 79 Wigeon, 5 Goldeneye, 3 Tufted Duck, 2 Pochard and 59 Mallard. Other water birds seen this week include our first Great Crested Grebe since the summer and 10 Whooper Swans flew south on the 18th.
It has been a good week for raptors again with sightings of Peregrine over the estuary, 2 Sparrowhawks on the reserve and a few Buzzards nearby.
Gull numbers are building gradually. The low tide count found that 229 Herring Gulls, 60 Common Gulls, 22 Black-headed Gulls and 8 Great black-backed Gulls were using the estuary to feed.
It has been a good week for Thrushes too. Robins and Blackbirds are in every tree now. There are a few Redwings amongst them and out first decent flock of 29 Fieldfare flew through on the 16th. A Mistle Thrush, our first for a while, was around the Ganol on the 14th.
Warbler wise, the Firecrests are still on the reserve. Seen almost daily, there are now at least 3 Firecrests and a Goldcrest about. The three Firecrests were all calling together by the bridge pond on the 16th. There are two wintering Chiffchaffs on the reserve. One a typical (Collybita) British/C.European looking greenish bird, and the other a brown (Abietinus) Scandinavian type Chiffchaff.
The 2 Firecrest’s have been showing well on and off this week in the bushes towards the end of the back-track. They have been showing with two Chiffchaffs. The crests showed particularly well on the 14th calling and fly-catching high in the willows. The Yellow-browed Warbler was last seen on the 7th.
A Male Hen Harrier hunted around the reserve on the 10th. It was showing off its acrobatic skills. Let us hope it returns this weekend.
A Razorbill, found dead on the estuary track probably starved in the strong winds. This is thought to be only the third record for the reserve.
A Scandinavian Rock Pipit was found on the estuary on the 12th. A Brent Goose had also been seen on the estuary twice this week associating with the Wigeon.
2 Chough flew over on the 9th.
A Whooper Swan dropped in briefly on the 12th before taking off south. A Greenshank was also seen the same day.
We've recently had two great pieces of news that mean we can give the green light to plans that visitors, staff and volunteers have been dreaming up for at least four years. The Countryside Council for Wales has granted the RSPB up to £179,000 towards a programme of work that we're calling Conwy Connections, and the volunteers in RSPB Conwy Support Group have raised an impressive £30,000 towards the match-funding in less than two years. This shows huge support for what we are proposing, for which we’re very grateful.
There are several elements of the project, and we hope to start construction work on the project this autumn. The centrepiece would landscape the grass and gravel area (or 'no-man's land' as I've heard it described) between the Visitor Centre and the coffee shop, but the proposals also include changes that will enhance wildlife-watching at the reserve, and install solar panels to heat the water used in the coffee shop and toilets.
Y Maes @ RSPB ConwyThe grass and gravel area between the Visitor Centre and Coffee Shop will be transformed into a multi-use space for all, the ‘village square’ of the reserve: a place for everyone, throughout the year. New landforms will turn the featureless grass into hillocks and hummocks to provide elevated views across the reserve. Natural features and native plants will introduce more children to nature, stimulating learning through play and their own imaginations. Mounds, tunnels, hollows, boulders, trees and logs will provide a challenging and inspirational environment to explore nature close-up. Play “equipment” will mostly be made of natural materials, placed organically in the landforms. Work on this will take place in summer 2013.
New viewsOn the edge of Y Maes will be a new ‘observation room’, built into the earth bank between the coffee shop and boardwalk. Large windows at the front will look across newly-created lagoon-edge habitat and the Conwy Valley beyond, and it will provide a small events space for a range of activities. We want this to be a 'green' building, and are discussing with experts how best to achieve this. Work on this will take place in autumn/winter 2012.
We are also looking to create a new view over the deep lagoon at the Glan Conwy end of the reserve, ideally at ground-level so visitors can get a wader’s eye view of the world, overlooking the main high-tide wader roost.
Car parkWe’re not terribly proud of our car park, and this project provides a one-off opportunity to upgrade it. We want to improve the surface along the in/out routes and near the Visitor Centre, increase the number of spaces for blue-badge holders, widen the entrance and provide a footpath along the south side so that you don’t have to dodge the traffic as you walk back from the estuary or arrive from Deganwy. This will be the first part of the project to be completed, in October 2012.
Water from the sunOur south-facing coffee shop is ideal for solar panels, and we’ll invest in solar thermal tubes that would heat the water used in the hand-basins and the coffee shop, including the dishwasher. This would make a big dent in the greenhouse gases that are emitted from the electricity we use, and save money on fuel bills that we could spend on wildlife conservation. These will be installed over winter 2012/13.
Next stepsLaura Kudelska, our Conwy Connections Project Officer, starts on 21st May, which means the project will really gain some momentum. Bethan Wyn-Lloyd, Conwy Connections Communications Officer, also starts work in May, so you'll be getting to hear a lot more about this project. We’ll give visitors plenty of notice before we start, and there will be some access restrictions to parts of the reserve, particularly during any improvements to the car park.
Conwy Connections is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government and is a component of the Countryside Council for Wales' Communities and Nature (CAN) strategic project. CAN aims to generate increased economic growth and sustainable jobs by capitalising on Wales' environmental qualities, particularly its landscape and wildlife.
We'd love to know what you think. The plans are on the noticeboard outside the coffee shop if you'd like to take a closer look. Email us at email@example.com, or comment via Twitter or Facebook. And if you’d like to know more about the plans, please speak to staff at the reserve.