If there’s one thing you can’t say about the last few months it’s that there’s been a shortage of bank holidays. Not that I’m complaining of course but couldn’t we have them spread a little more evenly throughout the year? Anyway, we spent the latest exploring the RSPB reserve at Dinas on a particularly grey and humid day. We’re a little later this year than normal which meant that leaf growth was much more advanced, always a tricky proposition when it comes to picking out the specialist species for which these woodlands are famed. I am of course speaking of Spotted and Pied Flycatchers, Wood Warblers, Redstarts, Tree Pipits and Cuckoo, all of which we eventually managed to find. I say eventually as at first things seemed a little quiet. The traditional Pied Flycatcher boxes from the board walk seemed unoccupied until a female carrying nesting material finally put in an appearance with a male nearby. A second brood perhaps or just late nesting? In contrast the lone Spotted Flycatcher we saw was proving particularly showy although such dull conditions and small birds made for tricky photography.

P1080139 - Spotted Flycatcher
P1080132 - Pied Flycatcher

What certainly wasn’t lacking were the Wood Warblers of which we heard at least eight, likely more, calling from across the reserve. Preferring to hang out near the canopy these are usually a tricky find but I managed to locate a rather accommodating individual up near the cave. What the following photos don’t show however is the fact that I was being eaten alive whilst taking them. As soon as you stopped for even a moment hordes of vicious midges would descend, sinking into any exposed skin and even biting through clothes. The last time I experienced anything like this was on a particularly ill-advised summer camping trip along the shores of Loch Lomond and let me assure you, it’s not to be recommended. As a result photography had to be limited to a couple of shots at a time before quickly moving on in a futile attempt at outrunning the invasion. At least the birds won’t be going hungry.

P1080157 - Wood Warbler
P1080153 - Wood Warbler

Elsewhere the usual smattering of Nuthatches and Willow Warblers were all present and correct as were a couple of stunning male Redstarts. We even managed to locate a juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker although both Cuckoo and Tree Pipit ended up being ticked by their calls only. The former were being very vocal with at least two, possibly three males in the area. Along one of the woodland streams a Dipper was doing what it does best whilst just downstream another juvenile was noisily calling for attention, this time a Grey Wagtail. It was also pleasing to find a pair of Marsh Tits for the third year in succession making regular visits to the car park bird table and posing nicely in the surrounding vegetation.

P1080124 - Marsh Tit

Special mention should also go to a very showy Garden Warbler that managed to poop on my arm. I’ll add that to having a pine cone dropped on my head by a Crossbill, though considerably less painful.

Alongside the birds we couldn’t help but notice the number and variety of caterpillars present, some already heading for a brood of hungry mouths but the majority hanging out, quite literally in some cases, on the trees. Several were completely new to me and after a spot of research I think we have them keyed out as follows:

P1080145 - Mottled Umber Caterpillar
Mottled Umber Caterpillar
P1080165 - Oak Sawfly Larva
Oak Sawfly Larva
P1080160 - Mottled Umber Caterpillar
Mottled Umber Caterpillar

There’ll have likely been a whole lot more on the ground a short while later as, just as we reached the car, the heavens opened brining a torrential downpour. Well, this was a bank holiday after all.


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