This week has seen a significant drop in temperature with snow, hail and freezing overnight temperatures experienced. Having had a mostly warm April a lot of wildlife will have been prompted to start breeding, so this sudden cold snap could cause them problems. Eggs could get chilled, adults may struggle to find insects for newly hatched chicks and fledged birds may struggle to keep warm through the night. The cold weather could also delay the breeding season for the newly arrived migrants and slow the arrival of the late comers. Willow Warbler, Redstart, Pied Wagtail and Chaffinch have been seen nest building this week and Robin, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush and Dunnock have showed signs of having chicks. The first newly fledged Siskin was seen on the 26th and the Stonechat nest found on the 20th will hopefully be empty with 5 well grown fledglings in the vicinity.
Stonechat nest with 5 chicks (20th April – Gavin Chambers)
Despite the cold weather a few more migrant species have arrived with a Hobby seen over the moorland on 27th and again on the 1st May. The first Swift (over moors), Spotted Flycatcher (Yellow Trail) and Garden Warbler were all found on the 1st May as the sun tried to increase the temperature. A female Ring Ouzel was seen along the Bala road on the 29th and an Otter has been seen a couple of times during the day around the Centenary Hide on the 29th April and 1st May. Goshawk have continued to show around the reserve and for once the camera was ready while along the Blue Trail!
Immature Goshawk from Blue Trail (26th April – Gavin Chambers)
Friday’s sunny and slightly warmer weather encouraged birds to do a bit of displaying and singing. Singing Wood Warbler and Pied Flycatcher were very noticeable along the Yellow Trail as were many Willow Warblers and Chiffchaff. At the top of the Blue Trail a stunning male Redstart was holding its territory and a male Siskin was performing its display flight overhead.
Redstart along Blue Trail (1st May – Gavin Chambers)
Siskin displaying over Blue Trail (1st May – Gavin Chambers)
Unsurprisingly there has been little butterfly activity this week and due to the temperatures no survey has been conducted, let’s hope next week brings a rise in temperature!
Plant of the Week
Hare's-tail Cottongrass / Plu'r Gweunydd Unben (Eriophorum Vaginatum) (Photo by Gethin Elias - Migneint Arenig Fawr in the background) This is easy to distinguish from the other three British plants in its genus by its solitary flowers or spikelets followed by solitary 'cotton-wool' balls. These single balls of fluff look like the tail of a hare, giving this plant its common name. All the other species have multiple flowers and then multiple plumes on each stem. Like the other cottongrasses, it is always a sign of waterlogged ground.
Previous Blog: Common or Rare?
Depending on your location certain birds that are considered nationally common could be classed as locally rare. The lack of certain species is usually down to the lack of suitable habitat, whether for breeding in the summer or feeding during the winter, and geographical location, coastal or far inland. Here at Lake Vyrnwy there is a good mix of habitat but our location restricts certain species, especially coastal birds for obvious reasons, and therefore we can get quite excited about some of the commoner species.
Oystercatcher (23rd April - Gavin Chambers)
This week we had 2 Shelduck on the lake (22nd), a Lapwing and Starling in our ‘Curlew Area’ (22nd) and an Oystercatcher on the shoreline (23rd). All four species are considered to be scarce if not rare on the reserve, though Starlings are present more often through the winter months.
It has been a full week of Grouse counting with a few more Black Grouse and a lot more Red Grouse recorded across the reserve. The first Grasshopper Warbler was heard on the 20th right on the edge of the reserve and Tawny Owl, Cuckoo and Skylark have been very vocal during the counts. There has also been a few displaying/drumming Snipe, which is a fascinating sound to hear. Rather than being a sound created vocally, it is instead created by spreading its tail feathers and diving quickly through the air causing the feathers to vibrate and create this wonderful drumming sound. Listen here - drumming best heard around 55 seconds into clip.
Male Wheatear along Dinas Mawddwy road (19th April - Gavin Chambers)
Migrants are still moving in with the first Wood Warbler heard around the lake on the 20th and a Whitethroat on the 24th. A pair of Common Sandpipers were seen off the Old Village car park on the 24th and there has certainly been an increase in Redstart, Pied Flycatcher and Tree Pipit numbers. The Dinas Mawddwy road has been good for Wheatear this year and a female Ring Ouzel has been seen again this week around the farm buildings.
Green Hairstreak on one of its Larval Foodplants - Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) - (23rd April - Gavin Chambers)
Despite what appeared to be good conditions for butterflies, the weekly survey didn’t produce the numbers expected. However there were a couple of new species for the year in the form of Green-veined Whites and a couple of Green Hairstreaks. The first Orange-tip Butterflies were also seen on the wing for the first time mid-week, though not during the survey.
Opposite-leaved golden-saxifrage / Eglyn cyferbynddail (Chrysosplenium oppositifolium) (Photo by Gethin Elias)
A low, sprawling mass of leafy shoots that root at intervals, the leaves rounded and bluntly toothed, with stalks no longer than the leaf blades. Flowers are yellow green and most saxifrages have five sepals, five petals and ten stamens. It grows in shady wet areas and is currently flowering well on the reserve at the moment, en masse smelling like honey.
Previous Blog: Recent Sightings (13th-18th April)
Migrants continued to arrive this week. Our first Pied Flycatcher was a male along the Yellow trail on the 13th, with the first Ring Ouzel (female along the Dinas Mawddwy road) and House Martin (over moors) seen on the same day. The first Cuckoo was heard early morning on the 16th during a Black Grouse survey along with the first few Whinchat. With an influx of Willow Warblers on the 17th came the first Blackcaps in full song along the Yellow trail and the first Redstart at the top of the Blue trail.
Pied Flycatcher (male) along Yellow Trail (17th April - Gavin Chambers)
This week saw the team of field workers starting Black Grouse surveys, which unfortunately means very early starts. So on the 16th the team were up at 2am and were off wandering the moors from 4am listening out for bubbling Black Grouse and ‘gobacking’ Red Grouse. A few Black Grouse, males and females, were heard and/or seen and a good number of Red Grouse were spread across the heather clad moorland. Tawny Owl, Ring Ouzel, Golden Plover, Cuckoo, Whinchat and Stonechat were also recorded during the grouse surveys.
Immature Goshawk over Yellow Trail (8th April - Gavin Chambers)
Other sightings from around the reserve have included a pair of Mandarin off the dam on the 14th and an immature Goshawk has been seen a few times from the Yellow/Blue trails. Otter has been seen within the last couple of weeks, a Weasel was seen up on the moors and Toads have been very active in pools including outside the Centenary Hide.
Lamb having a piggy back along Blue Trail (18th April - Gavin Chambers)
All around the lake you will see fields full of newly born lambs. Lambing began back in March but is still continuing at the RSPB farm and you have an opportunity to see Live Lambing for yourself over the next few weekends, see website for details.