What a wild, wet and windy couple of days this past weekend turned out to be. Both Saturday and Sunday were dark and grey with strong winds blowing the rain almost horizontal. On reflection it probably wasn’t the best time to take a two day jaunt through mid Wales, but at least it didn’t turn out to be as calamitous a decision as our camping trip last year in Pembrokeshire (the wind blew the tent down on that occasion). I blame the arrival of our first ever Siskins to the gardens new Niger feeder for lifting our spirits and encouraging us to push on with our plans regardless.
Our first garden Siskin and my only photo from the weekend
First port of call was the Llyn Llech Owain country park in Carmarthenshire, a new location for us consisting of a large lake underlain with thick peat and surrounded by a small forestry area and open scrub-land. The lake itself was devoid of anything more interesting than a couple of Mallards and a noisy Jay, while the trees held a Goldcrest and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. Despite the conditions the area shows much promise, particularly for springtime, so we shall definitely be back.
Next was Cilsan bridge to have a look for the wintering flock of Whooper Swans. Unfortunately they were nowhere to be found, presumably having relocated to a field out of sight somewhere else in the valley. Plenty of Mute Swans and twenty or so Greylag Geese were in their place, while on the river a Little Grebe and a Little Egret were doing their best to feed in the fast flowing waters.
With the rain getting heavier and heavier we arrived at Talley Lakes. After donning full waterproofs a short walk found us looking over the upper lake and scanning through a flock of Tufted Ducks hunting for anything unusual. Nothing was forthcoming as we struggled to hold the binoculars steady, but further out were four male and seven female Goosanders. That is by far the biggest flock I have seen for this species and it was a welcome sight in the gloom. Another couple of Goosanders were on the Rheidol River near Aberystwyth with at least six Red Kites circling overhead, but that was pretty much the end of the days birding due to ever worsening weather.
Sunday was spent mostly at RSPB Ynys-hir, though we were still being hounded by rain and gales. The tide was extremely high as a result of the onshore winds meaning that the estuary was pretty much devoid of wading species due to a lack of feeding opportunities. A few Curlew and Oystercatcher were sticking it out but that was about it. Fifty or so Barnacle Geese were mingling in with the regular Canada Geese but the small flock of White Fronted Geese that spend the winter on the estuary eluded me for the fifth year in succession. Talking of elusive species, we spent a good hour searching the woodland at the back of the visitor centre looking for a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. Once again we drew a blank but we did see another Goldcrest, a couple of Treecreepers and Nuthatches as well as a courting pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers. Even better was the pair of Brambling that briefly appeared at the top of a nearby tree. In the car park on the way out a large mixed flock of Siskins, Goldfinches and Chaffinches were marauding over the seed feeders. Have Siskins had a good year as they seem to be everywhere at the moment?
Over both days we tried our luck up in the hills around Pontrhydygroes, looking for a Golden Eagle of all things. The bird in question is believed to have escaped from captivity about eighteen months ago, but news only leaked out into the wider domain last week. Although not a truly wild bird it would have been a fantastic sight to see if only the visibility hadn’t been so poor as to make any chance of finding it almost impossible. It does however give me a chance to repost one of my favourite photos, taken a few years ago on the Isle of Mull and showing a Golden Eagle being mobbed by a Raven.
Golden Eagle and Raven on Isle of Mull, Scotland
If you want to see more bird centric blogs then check out the World Bird Wednesday meme, hosted by Springman over at Pine River Review, by following this link or clicking on the banner in the sidebar.