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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?
Posted by Gavin C
From late March the summer migrants start to arrive back at Lake Vyrnwy, often a little later than the surrounding area given its altitude. The first migrant to arrive was the Chiffchaff during the last week in March and can now be heard all around the lake and a Redstart was reported just off the reserve in early April. A Tree Pipit was heard calling at the top of the Blue trail on the 5th April and the first Swallow and Willow Warbler were found on the 8th April. The first known Sand Martin to be seen was a day after the first Swallow, which is slightly unusual as they are consider one of the earliest migrants. However there are no nearby Sand Martin colonies so there is no need for them to hang around the reserve. A male Wheatear seen off the Dinas Mawddwy road on the 11th April is the most recent migrant to arrive.
One of the highlights of the past week was the appearance of an Osprey off the dam on the 9th April, initially seen by our very own Gary Slaytor and later seen catching a fish just off the dam. Another highlight has been a wintering Great Grey Shrike which has probably been around most of the winter and is thinking of heading back to its breeding grounds.
Great Grey Shrike - Photo by Gavin Chambers
The reserves field workers have begun their season of moorland monitoring and with the arrival of the sun, raptors have come out to play. Hen Harriers are back with the males starting to try and impress the females with their skydancing display, Merlins have given their all too brief glimpses and Goshawk have been seen displaying over moorland edge forestry (potentially viewable from any of our trails). The pair of Peregrines are back on their cliff opposite the Lakeside Hide and 4 Great Crested Grebes are currently arguing over who should be nesting at the top of the lake. Meadow Pipit and Skylark have been seen in good numbers and Stonechat have been seen nest building.
Female Stonechat with nesting material - Photo by Gavin Chambers
Other sightings have included 95 Black-headed Gulls (2nd April), 5 Oystercatchers on the dam (4th April) and a Redshank heard off the dam (9th April), all of which are uncommon birds on the reserve.
The warm sunny weather has given us the perfect opportunity to start our butterfly transect. The first survey on the 5th April recorded 12 Peacock, 1 Small Tortoiseshell and 1 Comma, with the second on the 9th April recording 20 Peacock and 2 Small Tortoiseshell. The moth trap has been out a couple of times and caught a good variety including Frosted Green, Yellow Horned, White-marked and Satellite.
2 Peacock Butterflies and a Small Tortoiseshell (top right) - Photo by Gavin Chambers
The next week should see the arrival of Pied Flycatcher and an increase in Willow Warbler, Redstart and the other early migrants. This time of year can also spring a few surprises.....
The majority of land managed by the RSPB at Lake Vyrnwy is run as an Organic Farm by the RSPB Farm team. This week saw the 76th Annual Sheep Sale take place at the farm on Friday. In the past 3 weeks the farmers have had a hectic time rounding up the sheep from the moors and selecting those for the sale, along with setting up the shed with a little help from a few willing volunteers. The auctioneers, Morris Marshall & Pool of Welshpool, come to the farm to sell the many Ewes and Lambs (1400 in total this year) and it is believed to be the only place in the UK where this type of auction takes place (auction on farm rather than at a market).
Build up to the sale
My rivalry with Adam took a nice turn for the better (for me anyway!) when I took a drive around the lake on Saturday (20th). Between the dam and tower I found a small group of ducks which to my amazement consisted of a Common Scoter (99th of the summer), a Pintail, 6 Wigeon and a few Mallard. That might not sound that amazing but they were my first Pintail and Wigeon of the summer and only the 3rd record of Pintail for the reserve! These birds were later seen from the Lakeside Hide along with 26 Teal and 5 Little Grebe. So Pintail and Wigeon take me to 107 species since the start of April and surpasses Adams list. However, if it wasn’t for Adam keeping a list I may not have tried as hard to find new species along with many other species such as dragonflies and butterflies, so thanks goes to Adam.
Pintail from Lakeside Hide
Other wildlife highlights have been; the first Common Darter of the summer (16th), a Hobby below the Hotel (19th), and the Otter was seen fishing below the dam for at least 20 minutes at 8am on the 16th. A male Redstart along the Green Trail (feeding around Jupiter) and a Wheatear along the rocky southern shoreline were lingering summer migrants (21st).
Male Redstart along Green Trail
Wheatear along southern shoreline
Marcolepidoptera of the Week
In the past week the weather has been idea for moths, humid mild nights, which has meant several new moths for the year being caught including: Oak Hook-tip, Flounced Chestnut, Dusky Thorn and September Thorn. You don’t just get moths in a moth trap with a Wasp, Orange Ladybird and a couple of Hawthorn Shieldbugs caught this week along with many craneflies and midges!!
So moth of the week this time goes to a very intricately patterned ‘French’ moth – Merveille du Jour, which apparently translates as ‘wonder of the day’. Despite the name it is fairly common and widespread in the UK and I imagine is on many moth-ers wish list. The larval foodplant is the immature flowers and leaves of Pedunculate Oak and probably Sessile Oak. The moth itself is well designed to camouflage itself against lichen covered trees.
Merveille du Jour (all photos taken by myself during the past week)
Adam has now migrated to RSPB Ynys-hir, along with fellow intern Tom, to start their second half of the internship. A huge thanks goes to both of them for their hard work throughout the last 6 months. With regards this blog, thanks has to go to Adam for his fantastically informative weekly posts which is going to be hard to continue to such a standard! Both interns got stuck right in to reserve work from monitoring on the moors to leading walks. They also came up with their own projects, Adam set up bat surveys and a fruitful butterfly transect but he wasn’t up for giving one of the horses a lift off the hill!
Adam and friend
Tom created a scale model Solar System trail. The Solar System trail was completed at the end of August and can be viewed along the Green Trail as you walk along the path to the waterfall at the top end of the lake. With each planet there is a brief description along with a few interesting facts, including how far away the nearest star would be at the scale used.
Solar System trail
As Adam mentioned in his final post, he managed to see 105 species of bird on the reserve during his 6 months here. There has been a friendly rivalry between Adam and myself, and having arrived a month later I have been struggling to catch up with Adam. However, today (14th) I found my 105th species…… a MOORHEN (a rare bird at Lake Vyrnwy!). With 2 weeks of my stay remaining will I manage to beat Adam???
Another local rarity was found off the dam on the 4th, an immature Shelduck which only stayed the one day (I was on holiday so missed it!). In the past week the lake has had: 5 Little Grebe, 5 Tufted Duck, 10 Teal, a Great Crested Grebe and 240 Lesser Black-backed Gulls came in to roost on the 7th between 7-8pm. Kingfishers continue to be seen around the lake including below the dam, along Green Trail and bottom of Dinas Mawydd road. 2 Dippers were seen below the dam on the 12th and Chiffchaffs have started to sing again, heard at several locations around the reserve. The butterfly transect was done this week but, despite the glorious weather, only 5 butterflies were recorded. A few dragonflies were still about with Black Darters and a couple of Brown Hawkers being the more obvious ones.
Brown Hawker ovipositing in small pond
While working around the reserve there has been a noticeable increase in the amount of Fungi about. Autumn is a great time of year to get out and about to see the amazing colours and shapes of Fungi, though remember some are poisoness and can be deadly!! One interesting looking Fungi is this Coral Fungi which was found along the butterfly transect and is only a couple of centimetres high. If anyone happens to know what species of Fungi this is it would be great to hear from you (comment here, facebook, twitter or email).
Coral Fungi - But which one?
Macrolepidoptera of the Week
The recent cold nights have put us off trying to use the moth trap. However it was put out on the 13th due to a slightly milder forecast and produced a few interesting moths including Pink-barred Sallow and Green-brindled Crescent. But, for me anyway, Macro-Lepidoptera of the Week goes to the Black Rustic. Yes I know its black, but I am always amazed by just how black it is. With its charcoal sheen and flecks of gold poking through I think this is an incredible looking moth and proves they don’t need vibrant colours to stand out.
In what is to be my final instalment of the sightings blog before migrating down to RSPB Ynys-Hir to continue my internship, I would like to take the opportunity to say a big thankyou to the staff and volunteers who have been a fantastic group to work with during the past six months. Lake Vyrnwy really is a great place for wildlife with mine and fellow intern Tom’s reserve bird list finishing on 107 species and over 300 moth species recorded since April being just a couple of notable stats for this upland reserve.
Anyhow let’s get back to the business of recent sightings of which a Common Tern, the first record for the reserve since 2008, was the main highlight and also a big reward for anyone who ventured out on what turned into a rather soggy bank holiday Monday.
This Common Tern was the first record for Lake Vyrnwy since 2008 (Many thanks to Gavin Chambers for the photo).
The lake played host to 64x Mallard, 6x Teal, 7x Goosander, 3x Little Grebe, 1x Great Crested Grebe, 2x Cormorant, 1x Common Sandpiper (dam, 27th), 1x Redshank (Lakeside Hide, 25th), 63x gulls roosted (Lesser Black-backed and Herring Gull, 26th) and Kingfisher (Hafod, Lakeside Hide, Hotel Boathouse and bottom of dam, daily).
Other interesting avian sightings included, 4x Kestrel (family party, Gadfa Road, 28th), Wheatear (Gadfa Road, 27th), Dipper (Afon Vyrnwy, daily), Willow Tit and Marsh Tit (Sculpture Park, occasional) and Crossbill (Visitor Centre, regular).
Willow Tit has been sighted occasionally around the Sculpture Park and can be best separated from the similar Marsh Tit via its call (Many Thanks to Gavin Chambers for the photo).
High levels of bat activity were recorded along the Afon Vyrnwy with Lesser Horseshoe, Daubenton’s, Common Pipistrelle and Soprano Pipistrelle observed. A small number of day flying bats were also sighted during the week around the dam, suggesting that the cold and wet weather of late could have had an impact on foraging success.
The bright red berries of Mountain Ash will provide an important source of food for thrushes during the winter months.
When the sun did shine the invertebrates took full advantage with Painted Lady, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Large White, Green-Veined White butterflies and Common Hawker dragonflies on the wing.
Macrolepidoptera Of The Week
Canary-shouldered Thorn is top moth this week. This colourful species is common in the UK where it frequents woodlands and gardens.
Canary-shouldered Thorn is top moth this week (Many Thanks to Gavin Chambers for the photo).
Posted by Adam J
A day foraging Otter below the dam was one of headline sightings from this period. The other was of three Redshank at the top end of the lake (Lakeside Hide, 23rd), the birds adding a bit of spice to Lake Vyrnwy’s autumn wader passage which up to then had consisted of two Oystercatchers.
An Otter showed superbly well below the dam (Many Thanks to Gavin Chambers for the photos).
The lake played host to 38x Mallard, 1x Teal, 16x Goosander (10th), 2x Little Grebe, 2x Great Crested Grebe, 4x Cormorant, 2x Grey Heron, 2x Common Sandpiper (10th), 10x Lesser Black-Backed Gull (22nd) and Kingfisher (occasional, Hafod and Hotel Boathouse).
Other interesting avian sightings included, Hobby (flew over Llanwddyn, 23rd), Peregrine Falcon (occasional, Lakeside Hide), 2x Swift (over dam, 19th, last sighting this year?), Kingfisher (regular, below dam), Dipper (3x daily, Afon Vyrnwy) and Pied Flycatcher (Llanwddyn, 10th).
The heather, now in full bloom, is looking fantastic on the hillsides. I took this photograph whilst checking drains in the Hafod valley.
Painted Lady was a new species for the weekly butterfly transect with small numbers of Peacock, Red Admiral, Small Copper, Comma, Green-veined White and Large White also on the wing.
The distinctive Comma butterfly was recorded during one of our weekly transects (Many Thanks to Gavin Chambers for the photo).
Odonata sightings included, Brown Hawker, Common Hawker, Black Darter, Emerald and Common Blue Damselfly.
Hummingbird Hawkmoth Macroglossum stellatarum is top moth this week. One was observed feeding on common knapweed flowers whilst undertaking a butterfly transect on the 15thAugust. It looks to have been a good summer for this species in the UK with lots of sightings registered on the butterfly conservation website.
Often misidentified as a Hummingbird the Hummingbird Hawkmoth is a regular immigrant into the UK from the Mediterranean (Many Thanks to Gavin Chambers for the photograph taken off site).
Highlight of the week was a superb Clouded Yellow butterfly seen flying around Llanwddyn (3rd), this migrant species arrives into the UK from southern Europe in variable numbers every year and is not a common sight in Montgomeryshire. In fact the whole week turned out to be rather good for butterflies with Purple Hairstreak spotted in the Hotel Wood and the weekly transect producing 57x Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Small Skipper, Comma, Green-Viened White, Large White, Small White, Small Copper and Meadow Brown butterflies.
This superb Clouded Yellow butterfly was a good find in Llanwddyn during the week (Many Thanks to Gavin Chambers for the photo)
Red Admiral butterfly was recorded in small numbers during the weekly butterfly transect.
Earlier in the week we unveiled the following mystery photo on the RSPB Mid Wales Facebook Page.
Well done to everyone who identified the mystery creature as a male Emerald Damselfly. This colourful damselfly is relatively frequent along waterbodies on the reserve at present. Other odonata sighted on the reserve this week included, Azure Damselfly, Black Darter, Common Hawker and Brown Hawker.
Emerald Damselfly can be found frequently along the reserves waterbodies at present.
High levels of bat activity were observed at dusk along the Afon Vyrnwy, with the bridge near the Sculpture Park (OS Grid: SJ020190) being a particular good spot to watch feeding Common Pipistrelle, Soprano Pipistrelle and Daubenton’s bat as well as listen to a family of Tawny Owls. The Afon Vyrnwy also played host to Kingfisher (daily), Dipper (daily) and Grey Wagtail (daily).
Sightings on the lake included, 28x Canada Geese, 47x Mallard, 2x Teal, 9x Goosander, 1x Little Grebe, 3x Great Crested Grebe, 4x Cormorant, 5x Grey Heron and 2+ Common Sandpiper.
We've been treated to some beautiful sunsets on the reserve recently.
Other interesting avian sightings included, 1x Red Kite (regular over Llanwddyn), 1x Hobby (over Llanwddyn, 4th), 1x Goshawk (Red Trail, 4th) and Crossbill (regular, Visitor Centre, Orange, Red and Green Trails).
Blue-bordered Carpet is top moth this week. Uncommon in Montgomeryshire this species inhabits damp woodland.
Blue-bordered Carpet (Many Thanks to Gavin Chambers for the image).
As we enter the month of August the majority of woodland birds have finished nesting and small passerines have started to form mixed feeding flocks. Catching up with a mixed flock along a hedgerow or in a woodland can be particularly rewarding with resident birds such as Goldcrest, Blue Tit and Treecreeper hanging out with summer migrants like Redstart, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff. Another mixed flock which has been providing enjoyable viewing at present involves Swifts and hirundines (Swallow and House Martin) which hawk low over the dam at dawn and dusk.
Great Tit is another species which joins mixed flocks at this time of year (Many Thanks to Sam Constable for the photo)
This week the lake played host to 28x Canada Geese, 47x Mallard, 2x Teal, 11x Goosander, 1x Little Grebe (1st), 3x Great Crested Grebe, 2x Cormorant, 5x Grey Heron and 2+ Common Sandpiper.
Autumn wader passage is steadily gaining momentum across the UK. Lake Vyrnwy is unlikely to get the numbers and great diversity of waders that would be expected at a coastal site however, the exposed mud at the top end of the lake, viewable from the Lakeside Hide, is certainly worth a scan, especially after overnight rain. Waders such as Green Sandpiper and Little Ringed Plover have been sighted in the past. Oystercatcher kicked off autumn wader passage at Vyrnwy when one was heard calling near the dam at dusk last week.
Well done to everyone who correctly identified the creature as a Peacock Butterfly. It is believed that the bright blue eye spots have evolved to protect the butterflies from attacking predators. The predators are either startled when the eye spots are exposed or attack the spot which they believe is the creature’s actual eye, resulting in a greater chance of escape and survival for the Peacock Butterfly which can flee with its real eyes intact.
Peacock Butterfly was dominant in our weekly transect with 22 individuals counted
This fresh Small Copper was a nice find during the weekly butterfly transect
Other interesting sightings this week included, 1x Hedgehog (Llanwddyn War Memorial, 29th), 1x Goshawk (Red Trail, 31st), Hobby (flew over Llanwddyn, 2nd) 1x Great Black-backed Gull (flew over Red Trail, 28th), Kingfisher (Afon Vyrnwy, daily), Green Woodpecker (Llanwddyn fields, regular), 3x Sand Martin (flew along lake, 28th), Dipper (Afon Vyrnwy, daily), Wheatear (Dinas Mawddwy Road, daily) and Crossbill (Visitor Centre and Purple Trail, daily).
This Hobby perched up briefly in Llanwddyn during the week (Many Thanks to Gavin Chambers for the image)
The bright red Ruby Tiger is top moth this week. The caterpillars of this species feed on the leaves of ragwort and plantains.
Top sighting this week was a flyover Yellow Wagtail from the Red Trail (23rd), this summer migrant usually inhabits lowland agricultural fields with the nearest known local population located towards Welshpool. Another highlight this week was an Osprey which flew down the lake (23rd). The lake also played host to 30x Canada Geese, 30+ Mallard, 3x Teal, 3x Great Crested Grebe, 1x Cormorant and 4x Grey Heron.
Frequent Kingfisher sightings this week included birds seen from the Lakeside Hide, below the dam and along the Afon Vyrnwy (Many Thanks to Gavin Chambers for this image taken at Vyrnwy last year).
Other interesting bird sightings this week included, Red Kite (regular along the Dinas Mawddwy road), Sparrowhawk (regular at the Visitor Centre), Green Woodpecker (1x juvenile, Green Trail, 1x Abertridwr), Dipper (regular, Afon Vyrnwy), Wheatear (Bala Road), Stonechat (Rhiwargor waterfall), Spotted Flycatcher (family parties, LLanwddyn and Dinas Mawddwy road) and Crossbill (Visitor Centre, Red and Green trails).
Siskin are regulars at the bird feeders at present (Many Thanks to Sam Constable for the image).
The distinctive blooms of Harebell can be seen along the Green Trail at present.
Purple Hairstreak butterfly should be searched for in the oak woodland at present with at least four sighted along the Green Trail this week (Many Thanks to Gavin Chambers for the image taken off site).
The weekly butterfly transect highlighted a fresh emergence of Peacock's, with twenty individuals counted alongside a single Comma and small numbers of Ringlet, Large White, Green-veined White, Small Tortoiseshell, Meadow Brown and Large Skipper.
The blooms of Common Knapweed are providing a rich source of nectar for insects at present like this Skipper butterfly.
Odonata on the wing this week included, Banded Demoiselle (first record this year), Emerald Damselfly, Black Darter, Common Hawker, Brown Hawker and Golden-ringed Dragonfly.
Look how dark this male Black Darter is in comparison to last weeks female.
This week’s top moth was also the focus of attention in the following mystery photo unveiled on the RSPB Mid Wales Facebook Page earlier in the week.
I can now reveal that the giant moth in the photo is a Northern Eggar. Well done to everyone who guessed correctly. Eggar moths are an important part of the Vyrnwy food web with the hairy caterpillars being a favourite meal for Cuckoo and the flying adults a food source for acrobatic Hobby’s. Dayflying ginger male Eggar moths may be seen zigzagging across the higher level trails at present.
Female Eggar moths were attracted to the light on our moth trap.
Grid reference: SJ0119 (+2km)
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