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.

23911 - Siskin, Pontarddulais

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

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Unknown · February 8, 2011 at 7:33 pm

Those ravens will mob anything. Good tour so far for us. Hope the rain quits for you and more species show up. Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

holdingmoments · February 8, 2011 at 8:04 pm

Despite the horrendous recent weather, you managed to see some great birds Adam.

Love that last shot of the Raven and Eagle. Two great birds in one frame.

theconstantwalker · February 8, 2011 at 8:09 pm

Good luck with your local Eagle. I have still to see a wild eagle in the UK. Love the comparison of size with the Raven (a big bird) the Golden Eagle really lives up to it's like a flying back door description.

mick · February 8, 2011 at 8:15 pm

Too bad that you had all that wind and rain and were not able to get more photos. Great that you have a photo of the Siskin that is now visiting your garden.

Anonymous · February 8, 2011 at 9:38 pm

Nice post!

Sondra · February 8, 2011 at 11:07 pm

Love the siskins although they empty our feeders in a half day–Great that didnt cancel your outing sounds like you had some really nice birding!

Adam Tilt · February 8, 2011 at 11:21 pm

Thanks everyone for your comments.

Gary – If it's not the Ravens then it's the Buzzards or the Hooded Crows. The Golden Eagle get very little peace.

Keith – It certainly has been very poor weather but there are always things out there to see. Glad you like the Eagle photo.

Constantwalker – Thanks. I've been rather spoiled with Eagles through regular trips to the Isle of Mull. It really is a fantastic place if you ever get the chance to go.

Mick – Thanks. I'm chuffed about the Siskin.

Pattyler1 – Thanks very much.

Dixxe – Thanks. Seeing them does explain what had been getting through the seed!

J · February 9, 2011 at 12:33 am

Great shot of the eagle and Raven, Adam.
Would love to get to Mull one day, although not sure I've got the energy to go all that way!

Sally in WA · February 9, 2011 at 3:02 am

I need to learn to go birding in the rain. You give me hope since we seem to have so much of it in my area. I'm looking forward to spring pictures from your return trip. Sounds very promising, indeed!

Springman · February 9, 2011 at 4:40 am

Your wonderfully written posts never fail to take me on a beautiful imaginary trek. Congratulations on the arrival of Siskins in your yard, Niger is a potent seed. I imagine you standing on a cliff edge taking the eagle shot. That is quite a perspective! ;-)WBW

Adam Tilt · February 9, 2011 at 8:46 am

Jeremy – Thanks. It's about a 7 hour drive I think plus the ferry. Motorways can get very boring after that amount of time I can tell you, though the Scottish A roads are superb!

Sally – It's well worth it. I've only recently started to put a bit more effort in as we too seem to get more rain than sun.

Springman – Thanks very much. It was a big cliff!

Pat Ulrich · February 9, 2011 at 3:14 pm

Wonderful trip report, and really cool shot of the golden eagle — they are really impressive birds!

joo · February 9, 2011 at 6:49 pm

I love Golden Eagle! Beautiful photos and blog.
By the way, I watched red Kites near Aberystwyth last summer – they were great!
Greetings from Poland:)

Adam Tilt · February 9, 2011 at 10:31 pm

Pat – Many thanks. I haven't seen anything yet that beats the Golden Eagel.

Joo – Aberystwyth is a fantastic place for Red Kites. I was at university there for five years so got some brilliant opportunities to watch them.

Arija · February 10, 2011 at 3:17 am

A beautiful shot with the welling sea below.

Dave · February 10, 2011 at 3:57 pm

the rain cant dampen your spirits when you are out spending time doing what you enjoy…. Your right the Siskins really do lift the spirits when it looks gloomy.

The Eagle and Raven image is one to cherish!

Caroline Gill · February 10, 2011 at 4:02 pm

I clicked through to Flickr on your Eagle photo: it is amazing. I thought you must have been on a boat, but I gather it was a cliff. have yet to go to Mull, but love seeing Eagles (largely but not exclusively) White-Tailed on Skye and Raasay.

Hilke Breder · February 10, 2011 at 4:26 pm

Beautiful image of the raven and eagle against the turbulent sea. Sorry you had such miserable weather on your outing.

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