The last week has been a very busy one for the farm staff on the RSPB farm culminating in the sale of 1600 Ewes and Lambs on Friday. All livestock are farmed organically and consists of mainly Welsh Mountain and a small number of Speckled Face Sheep, which are used to graze the uplands around the reserve.
Sale in full swing (Photo by Gavin Chambers)
The auctioneers, Morris Marshall & Pool of Welshpool, come to the farm to sell the sheep. It is believed that Lake Vyrnwy is the only place in the UK where the auction takes place on the farm rather than at a local market.
As mentioned in previous blogs, autumn can be a great time to find something a little different and this weekend (19th) proved this point. A walk along the green trail to Rhiwargor Waterfall at the top end of the lake was seemingly very quiet with little bird activity until a flash of red flew in front of me while standing on the wooden bridge. It was clearly a Redstart species but the dark grey coloured body had alarm bells ringing…. It was a Black Redstart! There was a possible seen a few weeks ago but not relocated after a few searches so it may have been around a while.
Black Redstart at Rhiwargor Waterfall (Photo by Gavin Chambers)
Continuing along the green trail into the oak woodland there was a Chiffchaff singing, a few have been singing recently in the warmer weather, and a late tatty Purple Hairstreak was sunning itself near the tree tops. There was a lot of noisy birds around with Nuthatch being the loudest among mixed Tit flocks roaming the bushes.
Purple Hairstreak along Green Trail (Photo by Gavin Chambers)
With the warm conditions on Saturday I decided to walk along the Butterfly transect, not quite suitable for carrying out a survey but still good for hoverflies and dragonflies to be out and about. The first species found was one I had not seen on the reserve before, a female Southern Hawker, patrolling a stretch of woodland edge stopping briefly for a photograph! A Common Darter was also nice to see.
Southern Hawker (female) at Lake Vyrnwy (Photo by Gavin Chambers)
Invasive Plant of the Week
Himalayan Knotweed (Photo by Gavin Chambers)
With the removal of Himalayan Balsam nearly finished we felt we needed a new species to attack and the victim this week has been Himalayan Knotweed.
This plant is not only an invasive species, it is also a frustratingly difficult name to remember! We are used to talking about Himalayan Balsam and Japanese Knotweed but when you mix the two names together it boggles the brain. It has similar flowers to Japanese Knotweed and similar leaves and stem to Himalayan Balsam and hopefully not quite as invasive as these species.
Previous Blog: A bit of Colour
It has been noticeable in the last few weeks that Swallows and House Martins have been gathering in large numbers around the lake as they consider their long migration south. The largest flock has generally been around 300, predominantly House Martin, feeding around the Llechwedd-du picnic area. A warm sunny morning of 6th September had a flock of up to 100 birds sunbathing on a slate roof in the village, giving good views of the variety of ages.
3 juvenile House Martins (left), 2 adult House Martins (top & bottom) and juvenile Swallow (middle right)
There has been a flash of colour around the lake of late. At the Centenary Hide a couple of Kingfishers were dashing about on 29th August and with a bit of patience one eventually posed for long enough to get a few photos. They have also been seen and heard along the river below the dam, so keep an eye out for that flash of blue.
Kingfisher at Centenary Hide
Up on the moorlands colours have been bursting out with the lovely purple hue of the heather and vibrant red of the Cowberries. Rowan trees are also covered in bright red berries ready for the arrival of the winter thrush flocks and there are signs that the autumn is not far away as a few trees start to go a little more yellow.
Top Image - Heather
Bottom Image - Crowberry (Top-left), Cowberry (Top-right) and Cranberry (bottom)
Hoverfly of the Week!
Rhingia rostrata on Knapweed
A little different this week, though Knapweed can be Plant of the Week. With the cooler, cloudier conditions I was starting to think my hoverfly season would be coming to an end, but while heading back out for the Balsam I noticed a Rhingia rostrata. One of two similar species which I had been hoping to see and finally got this one followed by a couple more this weekend. The rarer of the two Rhingia rostrata is confined to southern Britain up to North Wales though has been expanded its range recently.
Previous Blog: Batman and a Great White
It is that time of year when birds start to move, those that joined us to breed in the summer are now heading back south for the winter and those that headed north to breed and starting to head back. There are also birds that generally disperse, especially juveniles, in all directions and could turn up anywhere.
Here at Lake Vyrnwy our location is not ideal for attracting these migraters as the majority will use the coastline. However we did get a rather elegant Great White Egret which was first spotted on 7th August and stayed for just over a week (15th August) at the top end of the lake viewable from the Lakeside Hide. Photos of the bird can be seen on the Montgomeryshire Bird Blog.
Great White Egret at Lake Vyrnwy in May 2014 (Photo by Gavin Chambers)
Above is a photo of the bird that we had in May 2014 which was an adult in breeding plumage, whereas this years bird is in immature or non-breeding plumage. Though I did see the bird last year I managed to pick the wrong week to have a holiday!! Despite arriving back on the 16th the bird had done a ‘runner’. I did however find a single Teal, my first of the summer, and a nice flock of 4 male Common Scoters which keeps my run of scoters going having now seen 104 Common Scoters (and a Surf Scoter) over three summers.
In the woods the summer migrants are now gone with the resident birds starting to flock together. You can typically find Long-tailed, Blue, Great, Coal and occasionally Marsh Tits moving through the trees together with the odd Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff or Treecreeper mixed in. Juvenile birds are also on show with young Bullfinch and Redpoll seen recently from the Centenary Hide, plus a glimpse of a Kingfisher on the 23rd.
Juvenile Bullfinch from Centenary Hide (Photo by Gavin Chambers)
You may think the blogs title suggests a story about bats, but in fact it is actually to do with Hoverflies! I have recently become very interested (OK obsessed!) with finding hoverflies and one of the first ones I found to be reasonably easy to identify was one that showed a ‘Batman’ symbol on its thorax.
Myathropa florea at Lake Vyrnwy (Photo by Gavin Chambers)
An interesting fact about hoverflies is that you can tell a male from a female by looking at their eyes (for the majority of species). If their eyes meet at the top it’s a male and if there’s a gap it’s a female. So the photo above is of a female Myathropa florea and can you spot the Batman mark?
Chyrsotoxum arcuatum at Lake Vyrnwy (Photo by Gavin Chambers)
A number of hoverfly species go for the mimicry tactic to put predators off and my latest find is typical of this. The above Chyrsotoxum arcuatum has a very Wasp-like pattern and takes me to around 35 species that I have found and had ID confirmed by experts on Facebook.
Plant of the (last few) Weeks
Broad-leaved Helleborine / Caldrist Llydanddail (Epipactis helleborine) (Photo by Gavin Chambers)
A nice find by Gethin while heading out to pull Himalayan Balsam..... yes we are still attacking the Balsam!