Remember the question I asked in my blog three weeks ago – Has Spring arrived? Well, if it had, we seem to have had summer and autumn in the last couple of weeks and already arrived back in winter! A couple more early mornings this week to look for grouse were cold and crisp with the weather turning dramatically on Wednesday morning while sitting on the moors at Tanrallt on the Mignient.
Telescope wasn’t needed after all – Photo by Gavin Chambers
With some migrants having already arrived and others still on their way it makes you wonder how they might cope with this cold snap. Our first whinchat was seen along the Bala road on the 27 April and the first wood warbler found in the woods along the Blue Trail the following day. This weather will no doubt affect certain species more than others such as small birds like wren, goldcrest and long-tailed tit, but will have the biggest impact on any early nesting birds with chicks. Food such as caterpillars and insects will be greatly reduced making it harder for adults to find food for their chicks.
Treecreeper nest building by Gavin Chambers
So far blackbirds have been our earliest known breeders with one nest of 3 chicks fledging last week near the shop and several other species seen carrying nesting material, including the treecreeper in the photo above.
Despite the cold weather the woodlands are alive with song and on the 15 May you can join us for a guided walk to listen to the dawn chorus as birds wake up and males stake out their territory. Booking is essential and further details can be found on our website.
Singing male redstart by Gavin Chambers
This bank holiday weekend is the last opportunity to join us on the farm for lambing so why not join us on Saturday or Monday at 1 pm, but don’t forget to book a place! (Note the event on Sunday has been cancelled).
Previous Blog: Whooshing and bubbling
This past week has been dominated by black and red grouse surveys which has meant very early starts as they are easiest to find around dawn. The earliest start has been 2:15am but generally averaging around 3am to be on the moors ready to survey around 4am. Overall the weather has been kind, with no rain and just a couple of days where the wind was a little strong.
Sunrise by Gethin Elias
The method is to walk transects along moorland edges and ridges and listen for their eerie bubbling and whooshing calls as they ‘lek’ to impressive the females. A lek is the name given to a group of displaying male black grouse, a small number of other species also lek, and who are said to be lekking. They can be feisty encounters especially when there are several males trying to attract a single female, but here at Lake Vyrnwy birds are often lekking on their own and are hard to see. So far several males have been heard bubbling around the reserve with a few more surveys left.
Lekking black grouse by Gavin Chambers (Archive photo taken elsewhere)
With grouse surveys finishing by 7am there has been time to continue with other surveys such as woodland common bird censuses (CBC’s), ring ouzel transects and moorland raptor monitoring. The CBC third visits were started this week with the woodlands now in song with pied flycatcher, redstart, and tree pipit which should soon be joined by wood warbler.
One sunny afternoon temperatures rose high enough to complete the first butterfly transect of the season which produced 4 species (peacock, small tortoiseshell, orange-tip and comma) and an interesting moth species, an orange underwing. There have only been 3 records of this species in the county with the last for Lake Vyrnwy being in 1998. It is a day flying species which likes to fly around the tops of birch trees as the buds are coming out in March and April which may explain the lack of records as they can be easily missed.
Orange underwing by Gavin Chambers
Other sightings this week have included the arrival of cuckoos which could be heard anywhere around the lake and also the first sightings of common sandpiper below the dam and from the centenary hide. A ring ouzel and fieldfare have been lingering along the Dinas Mawddwy road with the occasional hen harrier and merlin being seen.
Only a couple more weekends of Lambing on the farm events left so why not check out our website for details and book a spot. Please note that the event on the 1 May has been cancelled and moved to the 2 May.
Previous Blog: A good fall!
Wednesday (13 April) turned out to be a glorious day and lucky for some people. This year we are carrying out Common Bird Censuses (CBC’s) of all the broad-leaved woodland under our management, which totals around 170ha. The method requires 6 visits to each wood throughout the breeding season from mid-March to the end of June.
The view at the end of the woodland survey!
At this time of year the summer woodland migrants are just starting to arrive and despite none being seen on Tuesday the woods were alive with pied flycatcher and redstart the following day. This sudden increase in migrants is often referred to as a good fall of migrants, which relates to birds falling out of the sky, though this is generally only seen along the coast with the right weather conditions and at the right time of year.
Pied flycatcher by Gavin Chambers (taken last year)
The best place to see these migrants is along the Blue or Yellow Trails where tree pipit can also be seen and heard doing their parachute display flight and song. Another migrant that has arrived is a male ring ouzel at Gadfa along the Dinas Mawddwy road, a couple first seen on the 12 April with one still present on 14 April along with a late fieldfare who should be heading back to Scandinavia very soon.
Male ring ouzel by Gavin Chambers at Gadfa
Perhaps the most interesting record for the reserve on Wednesday were 2 little egrets that were first seen flying east high over the Lake Vyrnwy Hotel at 8am and assumed to have just been passing. But at 7pm two were seen roosting in trees along the edge of the lake near Eunant. The last record of little egret at Lake Vyrnwy was in 2007 (and is a nice addition to my list!).
Melangyna lasiophthalma by Gavin Chambers
Given the glorious weather on Wednesday it was no surprise to see a few more insects on the wing. A peacock butterfly was seen behind the shop and I managed to see my first hoverfly of the year, a melangyna lasiophthalma which is a first for me and one of the earlier species to emerge.
Don’t forget to check out our Lambing on the Farm events each weekend throughout April and finishing on 1 May. Please book early to avoid disappointment, as spaces are limited!
Previous Blog: Has Spring arrived?