Back to our Aberystwyth trip for this one after a couple of weeks enforced break away from blogging. The culprit? A massive model of the Millennium Falcon which has prevented me from accessing my desk let alone the computer which used to reside upon it. The upshot though is that a project creeping over two years duration is finally complete (and mighty fine it looks too) leaving plenty more free time to crack on with those New Year resolutions. In the meantime we need to catch up with a couple of pretty epic days birding starting with our aforementioned weekend away where, following a Purple Sandpiper and Red Kite extravaganza, Sunday dawned dull and dreary. With a light drizzle descending it was clear that altitude would once more be out of the question so instead we decided to head down the coast in search of slightly better conditions. First stop was Aberaeron, a delightfully colourful village which was brightened considerably further by an unusual visitor down on the river. Trying to fit in with a small group of Mallards, with varying degrees of success it has to be said, was this stunning male Mandarin.
Even a cursory glance will tell you that this is not a native species to these shores, though a sustainable breeding population has developed in various localities following their introduction from China. I’m not aware of any such birds locally however so perhaps this is a more recent escapee. Regardless of its origins we spent an enjoyable quarter of an hour or so together, me with camera and increasingly frozen fingers and he in search of acceptance from birds who were clearly determined on reluctant tolerance and nothing more.
The wider harbour held some very vocal Starlings as well as a smattering of Turnstones, Redshanks and a rather tame Rock Pipit. It was so dull that I didn’t attempt any more photography however before heading further down the coast to Teifi Marshes. As the flagship reserve of our local Wildlife Trust I’ve always found it somehow a little disappointing. Don’t get me wrong we’ve seen some great birds there over the years but the general feeling of the place seems to let it down. A lot of this has to do with extensive vandalism of the public hides and a general state of dilapidation, all rather at odds with the very attractive visitor centre and cafe. To be fair it was good to see two of the hides being replaced, until you learn that the previous incarnations were destroyed in arson attacks. Really sets you up for a nice day out learning that the locals seem hell bent on destroying the efforts of a charity and its volunteers.
Thankfully the sight of five Goldeneye (two male, three female) and stunning views of a hunting Peregrine Falcon down by the river helped lift my spirits and we were soon back into the swing of things. Also present here were a couple of Little Grebes and a pair of calling Buzzards which spent a while circling around each other before drifting off into the surrounding countryside. Moving into the reserve proper we kept an eager eye out for any signs of the Bittern which had been frequenting this area in the past few weeks, but sadly ended up drawing a blank. That was despite some dramatic tales from a fellow walker who reported coming across the bird in question sat in the middle of a path early one morning which then proceeded to allow an approach to within touching distance. Some people have all the luck!
Mind you the sight of a Kingfisher perched up near the aptly named Kingfisher Hide was pretty good going, its dazzling blue plumage a perfect counterbalance to the dreary conditions which appeared intent on sticking around. By this point the tide was retreating rapidly revealing acres of glorious mud to which Teal were flocking in their hundreds. Most were way too distant for photography but a couple of female birds were feeding in a channel just off the path allowing me to take the following image. Not quite as colourful as a Kingfisher but sometimes you just have to take what you can get.
Keeping them company were a couple of Curlew whilst the tantalising call of an elusive Water Rail hinted at what else might be hiding in the extensive reedbeds. That pretty much rounded things up for us though as apart from a small flock of twelve Wigeon we didn’t see anything else of note. All in all iIt had been an excellent and varied weekend away taking in storm battered coasts, snowy mountains, wandering Asian birds and not an insignificant amount of rain. All par for the course really when you call Wales home.