Two years ago the wildlife explorers made a wildlife pond. On the February meeting this year the wildlife explorers did pond dipping in it for the first time. The pond was teaming with life. We found loads of little critters swimming around. This is a good sign of the pond being clean and a good habitat for the pond life. The pond was compared to the main pond dipping one and we found our own little pool had just as many creatures swimming around as the main pond dipping pond does.
Pond snailsDiving Beetle LarvaMayfly NymphDamselfly NymphStonefly NymphDragonfly NymphWater BoatmenNewtsWater fleaPhantom Midge Larva
By Lewis Dowling age 16
Many of our regular visitors will have met Angela Rogers, shop manager at the reserve since 2009. We are desperately sad that Angela passed away on Tuesday.
Angela had been ill for some while, fighting illness in her inimitable way with strength, good humour and a laugh which filled the Visitor Centre. Despite initially professing to know nothing about birds, she quickly discovered the joys of watching the birds in her garden and became passionate about wildlife. I was proud to hear of the knowledgeable way that she answered visitors' questions, based on her first-hand experience at home. She was also proud of her family, and had first discovered RSPB Conwy by bringing her two boys here for an activity day.
Angela was forthright, larger than life – you could not ignore her... and she had a wicked sense of humour. She was full of good ideas and threw herself into life on the reserve, having come from a very different high-street retail career. Having her face painted as a Sumatran tiger during one of our Christmas events illustrates how she got involved with our activities. Having initially threatened to disembowel me if I posted it on Twitter (I risked it and did), she was evidently proud of the photo, as it is still hanging next to her desk.
She is already hugely missed by visitors, volunteers, staff, colleagues and friends. Our thoughts and sympathies are with her family and friends.
The Visitor Centre and Coffee Shop will be closed on Wednesday 8 August from 10.45 am until noon as a mark of respect, and to enable volunteers and staff to attend her funeral. We hope that you'll understand our decision.
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.
The latest part of our Conwy Connections project has really started to shape-up this week. And now we can reveal what we're going to call the new building that will soon grow next to the Coffee Shop.
This week has seen a load of steel work arrive on site. The only steel in the finished building will be the door and its frame, but to ensure we can build everything safely, we have created a scaffold 'cage' to enable us to work at height. It starts to give us an idea of the scale of the new building, but of course, it will look much nicer than all these tubes.
The straw was transported from The Crown Estate's farm at Tabley in Cheshire last week, and we're storing it temporarily in a big barn at one of our other reserves. We've brought some of the bales to Conwy, and that's why there's now a large blue shipping container on Y Maes. That's not too pretty either, but it will mean we can keep it dry and the team can do some carpentry work when the weather is bad.
On Monday, the big deliveries of wood arrived. And we mean big! The beams that run the length of the building are each 12 metres long. Most of these are made from softwood and ply, but even so it took four people to move each one from the car park to the worksite. And then the mother of all oak beams arrived. I'm not sure what it weighed, but it took ten of us to move it, and even then it was a struggle. We knew that if we put it down, we'd probably never pick it up again. Thanks to all the volunteers and staff who came to help This piece of oak will be the central supporting beam, and it's going to be fun winching it up to roof height!
From the outset, we had a working name for the new building, but we hadn't revealed what we would call it when it's finished. It's going to be The Lookout (and Tŷ-gwylio in Welsh). We've called it that because it's going to be a great place from which you can see wildlife and enjoy the view. It'll also be a great space for small events that are about getting closer to nature.
In a few weeks' time, we'll start to stuff the roof and floor with straw as insulation, and then we'll stack and pin the bales to create the walls of The Lookout. Within the floor we'll place a time capsule, and we're delighted that so many people suggested items to put in it. We're working through the list to work out what will fit in the box and what we can easily get hold of, and we'll post up a list and some photos in a couple of weeks. But our first thank you goes to regular visitors Brian and Alice, who after reading last week's blog about the time capsule, gave us their limited edition Golden Curlew pin-badge for the time capsule, and gave us a generous donation too. Diolch yn fawr!
This is a bit of a catch-up, as we've had a busy few weeks. Remember that you can keep up-to-date with our nature news on Twitter or Facebook in between our blog posts. This brilliant photo of a willow warbler was our April Photostream Conwy Picture of the Month, and will be used in our social media throughout May.
Despite getting their nest washed out by last weekend's rain and winds, the pair of great crested grebes will not be defeated and have built a new nest, that looks a bit more substantial. Fingers crossed for better weather. We're hoping that some better conditions will also help the first lapwing chicks that hatched on Thursday.
There are still a couple of pairs of little ringed plovers around the reserve, but neither seems to have settled yet. Waders have been a bit slow coming through, but a few whimbrels and dunlins have been here the last few mornings, along with bar-tailed and black-tailed godwits and a smart summer-plumage knot.
We've had quite a good number of Sandwich terns in the estuary this spring, including six on Thursday 3rd, perhaps pushed in to shelter by the northerly winds. A whinchat was a nice surprise this morning, feeding alongside four wheatears on the saltmarsh. A few yellow wagtails have been among pied and white wagtails on the estuary this week, but the wagtail passage has diminished in the last few days. A grasshopper warbler was on the Ganol Trail on several dates, most recently on Wednesday (2nd). The cowslips are still looking spectacular around the coffee shop, but get here in the next few days to see 'em, as they'll soon be over.
The swallows, swifts and martins have been a spectacle over the last few weeks, feeding low over the lagoons during poor weather, and around your head over the estuary track if it got a little warmer. Other highlights during late April include six white storks over Llandudno on Monday 23rd (but seen from the reserve by standing on a picnic table!), ring ouzel in the paddocks on Sunday 15th and redstarts on Sunday 15th and Monday 30th.
Not all our visitors are welcomeThe first visitors to the reserve on Friday were greeted by the sight of the Benarth Hide with part of its roof ripped off and the guttering wrecked: we'd been visited by some undesirables (that's not the culprits in the picture, even though they might look a bit suspect...). Thanks to our alert visitors and social media, we knew about this before we'd even arrived on site! Two of our brilliant outdoor volunteers, Dave and Phil, came in this morning and did some temporary repairs, at least to ensure that it's watertight over the next few weeks, but ultimately we'll have to replace the whole roof, at a cost of hundreds of pounds. That's hundreds of pounds raised by volunteers, donated by visitors and members, which we can't spend on something else. What a shame!
The man from planning, he say "yeah!"On a more positive note, we were delighted to receive confirmation last week that Conwy County Borough Council has approved our plans to create new outdoor visitor facilities, the centrepiece of which is Y Maes. We've also appointed a Project Officer, to organise the programme. Laura Kudelska starts here on 21 May, and we look forward to her helping us transform the area between the Visitor Centre and the Coffee Shop.
Get out and enjoy the reserveThe Summer Evening Strolls have restarted for the summer, every Wednesday evening at 7 pm (you don't need to book). The reserve is a brilliant place to spend a couple of hours on a summer's evening. And we've just posted our June events online, so see if there's something that grabs you.
PS. We still have a few places left on our Birds for Beginners course on Sunday 27 May.