It just goes to show that when people visit RSPB Cymru reserves, they are sometimes so inspired by what they see they land up fighting the cause for nature in the most unexpected places in the most unexpected ways!
This is what happened to 12-year old Niamh Stewart from Dubai, who after visiting the RSPB Conwy last summer has decided to try and raise £250 by taking part in the United Arab Emirates 5k Color Run on 14 December.
Niamh said that she was inspired when she "visited the Reserve and was amazed at the wild birds I saw and how the sanctuary has been built to protect the birds and keep them safe".
The Color Run was founded in January 2012 to promote healthiness and happiness by bringing the community together to participate in the “Happiest 5k on the Planet”. The run is a fun un-timed race in which thousands of participants, or “Color Runners”, are doused from head to toe in different colours at each kilometer. With only two rules...Wear white at the starting line and finish plastered in colour! Judging by this video, it looks like it will be a lot of fun.
Niamh has raised £200 so far, so to get her over the finishing line of £250, check out her Just Giving page at http://www.justgiving.com/Niamh-Stewart. We wish her all the best; she'll be running with our huge thanks.
A little burst of colder weather and we very quickly saw a change in the birdlife. On the water, we've had plenty of ducks. The stars have been three scaups, a bird more usually found feeding in inshore coastal waters, but these three immature-type birds have been here since Friday 15th, usually in the Deep Lagoon, close to the Ynys Screen. Thanks to Dave Williams, who took this lovely photo of two of the scaup. We'd been wondering where the goldeneyes were, but these turned up at the weekend: three males and two females so far. A pintail is spending its third week here - is it going to stay the winter? - and there are a few pochards and several hundred teal too.
Last week, we gave the islands in the Shallow Lagoon a good trim, removing all the long vegetation and making them ideal homes for lapwings next spring. We'll be doing the islands on the Deep Lagoon in the next couple of weeks (weather permitting), so if you're planning a visit, check our Twitter or Facebook pages, as it inevitably causes a lot of disturbance (though it means that you get to see lots more birds on the shallow lagoon!).
Water rails have been seen regularly, especially from the Coffee Shop, while the first frosts brought more redwings, extra meadow pipits and the first fieldfare of winter. There are lots of snipe too (and a single jack snipe), and an impressive count of 102 dunlins on the lagoon this afternoon. The lapwings look superb, close to the Benarth Hide, and there are a few black-tailed godwits among them. November is often the month that our starling roost builds, but it's moved elsewhere for now; we'll keep you posted on Twitter and Facebook if they return! But we have had a murmuration though, with 1000 chacking jackdaws swirling over the estuary each night, before roosting in Benarth Woods.
A couple of chiffchaffs are feeding on the last of the insects, and are probably wintering birds - the next few weeks are a good time to look for a firecrest! The surprise of the week wasn't a bird, though; one of our volunteer wildlife guides startled a polecat close to the Visitor Centre on Saturday (23rd), an animal that we have started to see more frequently on our remote trail-cam, but rarely in the flesh. It just shows that you can never guess what you're going to see when you visit Conwy!
The last few weeks have seen us welcome the ponies back on to the reserve, and we're now back up to the full complement of six. Instead of our customary Carneddau ponies, this time we have some Welsh cobs in the mix, and they look huge compared to our usual short stocky ponies. But they're definitely doing the job - for the first time in many years we took the ponies off the reserve for the summer (so that we could treat the abundant ragwort), and the grass and other vegetation has grown lush and long. In order to provide good conditions for breeding lapwings next year we need to graze this down quite hard now, so that we go into spring with a nice short sward, and we can already see the difference in the areas the ponies have been using. Once winter sets in, they also do a great job of keeping the reeds, rushes and bramble in check by grazing them, stopping them from spreading and providing a very green alternative to getting the strimmer out. Like the Carneddau ponies, these animals are wild and unused to people, and we're keen to keep them that way, so please don't feel tempted to approach them, and particularly don't try to feed them, however cute they look! As soon as they become habituated to people, unfortunately we have to move them off the reserve, so the longer we can keep them wild, the better. The record so far goes to Toby, one of our last batch of ponies, who managed over 2 years without becoming tame, but he was definitely a bit of a character who possibly wasn't entirely convinced that humans were a good thing!
It definitely finally feels like autumn out on the reserve now (despite the fact that most of the trees are still clinging on to their leaves), with water levels creeping up and hundreds of teal back on the lagoon. Water rails have been showing brilliantly (the LookOut and Coffee Shop are the best spots to sit and wait), a single twite was on the saltmarsh on 8 November, and a jack snipe was seen on 9 November. Starling numbers are slowly starting to build, and with them come the birds of prey, looking for an easy meal - at the moment we've regular sightings of peregrine, sparrowhawk and kestrel, and a marsh harrier was spotted on 29 October too. Two red kites drifted over in the sunshine on 10 November. A kingfisher is being seen occasionally on the lagoons, we've a long-staying pintail, meadow pipits and skylarks are moving through, and snipe numbers have reached over 50. However, despite the dusting of snow on the Carneddau hills, summer is not entirely over yet; a common darter dragonfly was spotted on 31 October, a reminder of what a glorious summer we've just experienced.