Bank holiday Monday saw an improvement in the weather so we headed off into mid-Wales for our (almost) annual visit to RSPB Dinas. Ever since we discovered the reserve several years ago it has consistently delivered the full spectrum of woodland migrants whilst simultaneously providing a thoroughly enjoyable walk through classic Welsh scenery. Whether more people are slowly becoming aware of this hidden gem or not I can’t be sure but I have never seen the place quite so busy as on this occasion. Perhaps the pair of Marsh Tits which were showing spectacularly well on the feeders had something to do with it as they’d certainly attracted a substantial line of photographers with equally impressive pieces of glass. I felt somewhat inadequate turning up with my small bridge camera and in the end didn’t get anything worth keeping, instead settling for the simple pleasure of watching the birds going about their business. Keeping the Marsh Tits company were a male Yellowhammer, Blackcap and several Nuthatches, not forgetting of course the commoner species which are never far away.
Kicking off the migrants were a couple of Swallows overhead before the sound of a much anticipated Cuckoo drifted across from somewhere up the valley. It remained frustratingly elusive however with only another couple of calls heard across the rest of our visit. Not a problem for our next find which came in the shape of two Garden Warblers singing at full volume just above the path. They were both constantly on the move and gaining a clear shot was far from easy but I’m reasonably happy with this one. Great birds and the first time I’ve heard them singing quite as well as this.
From the board walk we were soon watching two pairs of Pied Flycatchers carrying nesting material into newly erected boxes (at least the females were with the males restricted to displaying and patrolling their territories). Of Spotted Flycatchers there was however no sign, perhaps a result of it still being a little early in the season with the Bluebells here at least a couple of weeks behind those back at home. There were however plenty of other species to keep us entertained with another couple of Garden Warblers, a stunning male Redstart, Treecreepers, numerous Willow Warblers (though not a single Chiffchaff) and perhaps best of all at least two Tree Pipits. Down by the river we were treated to a noisy pair of Grey Wagtails, Mistle Thrush and mating Blue Tits but failed to see any of the regular Dippers. Chances are we just missed them but this still remains my favourite part of the reserve.
The noise from the river becomes almost all consuming for the next mile or so and it wasn’t until we’d taken a diversion up into the trees that we finally managed to pick up the distinctive sound of a calling Wood Warbler. Of all our warbler species this is perhaps my favourite and after a short search I managed to find this individual, just one of at least five heard across our visit. I wonder if I’ll get any on my local patch this year?
Having climbed so high already it seemed a shame not to push on to Twm Sion Cati’s cave. Reputed to have been the hiding place of Thomas Jones, the legendary Welsh Robin Hood, its sides are covered with the names of visitors spanning at least two hundred years. Sadly the narrow access defeated us on this occasion but I’m definitely going to head back soon in more suitable attire to finally penetrate its inner sanctum.
Back down in the valley and it was pretty much more of the same with Willow Warblers and Pied Flycatchers by far the most numerous species seen. A little persistence eventually paid off resulting in these shots which, although not frame fillers, give a nice sense of the environment in which we were walking.
Back at the car park the Marsh Tits were still putting on a grand show for the gathered photographers and we took our own final fill before calling it a day with the weather once again taking a turn for the worse. I reckon that in another couple of weeks Dinas will be even more productive with, fingers crossed, the missing Spotted Flycatchers having finally arrived.