With slightly warmer weather, though still a rather chilly easterly wind, a few migrants have started to appear. The first sand martins were seen last Saturday and a few chiffchaffs have started to sing around the reserve. A pipistrelle bat was seen this lunch-time near the new boardwalk and butterflies seen today include brimstone, peacock and small tortoiseshell. Winter visitors have mainly departed but the Greenland white-fronted geese will be with us for a few weeks yet and are now feeding mainly on the salt-marsh to the west of the Breakwater hide. A few pintail and wigeon are still feeding on the estuary and birds of prey are still causing the occasional panic amongst the wader flocks. Hen harrier, merlin, peregrine, red kite, buzzard and sparrowhawk are seen daily with an occasional glimpse of a goshawk over the woods surrounding the reserve.
A few more summer migrants have started to arrive with over 200 sand martins and a few swallows feeding this morning over the Breakwater fields. The weather has turned slightly colder following a few days of very warm winds and a bit of rain overnight seems to have grounded a few migrants. A redstart and some 30 willow warblers were feeding in the shelter of a bramble patch near the Marian Mawr hide. The Greenland white-fronted geese (63 of them) were again on the salt marsh but this time right in front of the Breakwater hide giving excellent views. A few pied flycatchers have also arrived, the grey herons seem to be sitting on eggs in the heronry with little egrets starting to build nests there too. A walk yesterday on Foel Fawr, part of the reserve with some excellent footpaths (and views), produced a female stonechat; the first I have seen on the reserve since the arctic-like freeze in December and at least seven male wheatears along with yellowhammers and a soaring sparrowhawk. No ring ousels though which are occasionally seen here on spring passage.
A warm sunny day at the end of March on the Dyfi is a welcome break
after such a hard winter. There is a palpable excitement in the air as
birds which are arriving to breed lay claim to their territories and
those who have wintered with us stretch their wings in readiness for the
long flight north.
At Lodge Farm, lapwings are competing for the
best territories with their unique display flights and calls. Precisely
where they have spent the winter is not clear but we hope it was
somewhere free from the worst of the cold. Ynys-hir now has around a
tenth of the entire breeding population of Wales crammed into a few
ring-fenced fields. A breeding bird that was commonplace throughout the
land has, within living memory, been depleted to remnant populations
found almost exclusively on protected sites.
Another species which
shares the wetlands here with the lapwing is about to leave us. A
small flock of the Greenland race of the white-fronted goose spends the
winter here, the last one of its kind in England and Wales. It is also
dwindling, as the years pass, but this time it is for reasons out of our
control. Something is happening to it on its breeding grounds in
Greenland, a subject for much study by hardy scientists who follow them
there each spring.
Any day now, the flock will take to the air
on a signal known only to themselves. They will wheel around the skies
high above the estuary, calling evocatively. This time they will not
settle somwhere on the salt marsh but will stike north and, with
unerring accuracy, fly non-stop to Greenland.
We will have to wait untill the autumn to see them again and to discover how many did not make the return journey.