Most of our time on Saturday was spent at Ynys-Hir, the RSPB reserve on the banks of the River Dyfi. For those that don’t know it I highly recommend a visit. The range of habitats on offer is really rather exceptional with mature woodland blending into open grassland, mudflats, salt marsh, reed beds and open water of the tidal and pool varieties.
You always know that you are going to have a good day when the car park itself offers up more variety than you would normally expect from a whole reserve. The small lake here held a good few Teal as well as a couple of Mute Swan and a very colourful male Shoveller. Surprisingly this was also the only place that we saw Coot or Moorhen during the entire day. There were a couple of Pheasants stalking the nearby fields loudly and the first of many Song Thrushes was happily sitting right at the top of a large dead tree. A loud drumming noise heralded the arrival of the Great Spotted Woodpeckers. At one point I could hear three individuals drumming one after another heading further back into the trees each time before a male came and landed at the top of the tree that I was stood by. He proceeded to examine the trunk before heading off back into the wood screeching as he went. The nearby feeders had the usual Blue, Great and Coal Tits present along with lots of Chaffinch and several Robins and Dunnock. Despite watching for a good half an hour I only saw one Greenfinch pay a visit which is far less than I have ever seen here in years past. I can only presume that the disease that has been decimating the population countrywide has also reached these isolated parts. A great shame. I did get to see my first Nuthatch and Goldfinch of the year which cheered me up. The mood was further lightened by the presence of five Grey Squirrels. Now I know the bad press that this species gets but I can’t help liking them despite it all. This group were busy trying to find ingenious ways to gain access to the bird feeders as well as feeding on catkins from the surrounding bushes. They must have tasted delicious as the squirrels were certainly eating their fair share.
We headed down to the first hide, Marain Mawr, that overlooks the estuary. The tide was just peaking at its maximum which normally bodes well for finding waders. Unfortunately this time we were to be out of luck as I fear that we were slightly too late in the year to catch the overwintering birds. The best on offer was a solitary Redshank, twenty Oystercatcher and around thirty Curlew. The river offered up three female Goldeneye heading upstream with another female present on one of the inland pools. The pools also had several very noisy Canada Geese, more Teal and Mallard but not a lot else. We were about to head on when I caught a glimpse of a large bird heading up the estuary towards us. I had a quick scan with my bins and had to do a double take as I couldn’t believe what was on its way. Within a few seconds I didn’t need binoculars at all as a male Hen Harrier glided past on his way to the reed beds on the opposite side of the river. Considering I had spent years looking for this species before four turned up on my doorstep I now had another sighting to add to the list. I have had similar experiences with my first Snipe for example where after you have seen one you see lots as you have got your eye in. I can’t believe that the same is happening with the Harriers as they are fairly difficult birds to miss. I guess we have just been incredibly lucky.
The walk around to the Breakwater hide delivered a solitary Greylag mixed in with the Canada Geese, as well as a couple of Little Egrets and a Grey Heron. I was very pleased to spot a male and female Stonechat along the railway embankment and a male Reed Bunting just outside the hide. The flooded fields held several Lapwing and yet more Teal but nothing to get too excited about so we carried on walking. The return route headed back through the forest where we got out first Long Tailed Tits of the visit and also picked up a Red Kite and a couple of Buzzards. There were yet more Great Spotted Woodpeckers flying around and as the photograph above shows, an absolutely stunning reflection of the hills in the water from the Yhys Eidiol Hide. A great way to round off the visit and I will try not to leave it another year this time before I visit again.