It's proving to be a great year for orchids on the reserve. The bee orchid count has topped 50 plants, and they're appearing in lots of places that we've never previously seen them - including by the bike rack next to the Visitor Centre. They have usually faded by now, but they look like they'll be going strong for at least another week. Then Sarah spotted some southern marsh orchids along the Ganol Trail - we're at the northern edge of their British range, save for a handful of records in northwest Scotland.
While we were out leading a guided walk on Tuesday, looking at these orchids, someone asked where southern marsh orchids ended and northern marsh orchids began. We had to look that one up, but it turns out that Conwy is in the overlap zone of the two, with 'northern' growing north of a line between the Rivers Severn and Humber. And within a few minutes, one of the group had spotted some low-growing northern marsh orchids. Both southern and northern marsh orchids are along the Ganol Trail in the open grassy areas close to the estuary, and both are new records for the reserve!
Thankfully, orchids don't mind the rain, which is a good thing, as we've had plenty this week. Our two great crested grebe chicks are keeping out of it, snuggled up in the feathers on the back of Mum or Dad, and out of the way of any underwater predators until they are bigger. A brood of two little ringed plovers hatched earlier in the week, so keep your fingers crossed for them.Numbers of redshanks and curlews are increasing, a sign that the breeding season is already over for some birds, and southbound migration has begun. A couple of teal, a goosander and a male shoveler this week are all signs of autumn too, though a snipe appears to have stayed with us right through from last winter.
This morning, there were five black-tailed godwits on the muddy shore in front of Benarth Hide, and there were three Sandwich terns in the estuary on Thursday (21st). It's not been a great week for butterflies or dragonflies, but broad-bodied chasers and speckled woods have been on the wing. A garden warbler heard last weekend is a scarce visitor here, though not as rare as the rose-coloured starling that graced a garden in Rhos-on-Sea for several days last week.Finally, if you're visiting this weekend, please show your support for the world's rainforests, by pledging with your signature at our entrance display.