A Tale of Two Sandpipers

I had my first Common Sandpiper of the year yesterday which had taken up summer residence at at Llyn Aled. Then I found out that there had been a sighting of a Wood Sandpiper at Conwy RSPB. First thing this morning I was down at Conwy for a distant view of this rarer bird, seen only occasionally in North Wales as they pass through on their migration.

Common Sandpiper

Wood Sandpiper

A very Good Friday!

So it’s that rare time when I get a 4 day weekend off work. Unusually the weather is amazing. No excuse – must go out – but where?
There’s an area of Wales called Meirionydd. Even it’s name sounds old and soft. To me it’s the most beautiful part of an already beautiful country. It’s an area unspoiled by industry and commercialization. It’s landscape is as natural as any in the British Isles. As a consequence, it plays host to some wonderful wildlife.
We decided to visit the area, and, in particular, the Glaslyn Valley and the centre which has been set up there for observing Ospreys. The area was home to the first Ospreys to nest in Wales in recent times. The resident female laid her 51st egg (her third this year) since she arrived in Wales in 2004.
Unfortunately for photographers the next is a very long way from any good viewing point. The best I could manage was a shot of the nest with no Osprey visible although the CCTV showed that the female, “Mrs G” as she is known was on the nest but hunkered down on her eggs.

However, there is another nest visible from the centre where a lonely female known as 5F after her ring number lives, alone. She was visible on the nest, forever looking skywards for a potential mate.

Maybe one day her prince will come.

It was so relaxing there by the river. Free blood pressure reduction, without prescription!

Image may contain: sky, plant, tree, outdoor, water and nature
with Snowdon in the background….

I was serenaded by a Dunnock, singing its beautiful song whilst other nature passed through, doing its own thing.

Mute Swan

Peacock Butterfly


We took a very scenic route home over the hills and moors. Highlight sightings included Red Kite, Hen Harrier, Wheatear, Kestrel, Buzzard, and a special bird for me – a Ring Ouzel.
The Ring Ouzel is a bird much like a Blackbird but it lives mainly on high ground. Why special to me? Because where I grew up in Buxton, on the edge of the moors in Derbyshire, we used to get them on our lawn!

Too cold for Skylarks!

I was awake early so I thought I’d try an early run up to the moors. It was cold, very cold. All the time I was there the car thermometer never rose above 1 degree with a vicious wind.
At first it was quiet, with hardly a bird to be seen but as the moorland creatures thawed out birds started to appear but even the Skylarks were singing from the floor! On the southward run I saw hardly anything but turning around and retracing my path the birds started to appear. – displaying Curlews, posing Wheatears and, most spectacularly, a pair of Hen Harriers which were trying to do their courtship skydance but they had an interfering Crow playing gooseberry.
Add in a couple of Red Kites, a Buzzard, a flock of three Sand Martins and scattered Stonechats and all the signs are there than spring is underway.

King of the castle

Chasing the Sunset

The eastern edge of the Conwy Valley is a great place to catch the sun as it sets over Snowdonia.
I’m no landscape photographer but I do know that it’s all about the light. At first, the scene has “potential” but a few minutes of watching and waiting can make all the difference…

Click on the image for a larger view…

Signs of Spring, at Conwy RSPB

An early start at Conwy this morning. In years gone by I used to call Benarth hide at Conwy “my second home”. I love it. An hour in there never disappoints.
Today was no exception. It’s spring so everything is changing up a gear, from the testosterone-overloaded Canada Geese to migration. Today several flocks of Sand Martins passed through on their way northwards.
Here are a few photos…

Little Grebe

Great-Crested Grebe

Robins are ever-present at Conwy

The reflection of a reed, distorted by ripples, caught my eye

It’s that time of year….

I wonder how this duck came be called a “Goldeneye”?

Gadwall are common at Conwy nowadays

The Redshanks will be off to their breeding grounds soon

… and the ever-present opportunists

Spinnies – Water Rails to order!

Having spent two hours at Conwy I decided on a quick trip to the Spinnies before going home, “in the hope of seeing a Water Rail”. I love it when a plan comes together! 20 minutes in the roadside hide in perfect light and voila!

(You can click/tap on some photos to get a larger image)

time for my close-up

Some birds were making the most of the spring day…

whilst others were just hangin’ around, chillin’ or even havin’ showers!

“I’ll have a bath – everyone else gets a free shower!”

The King of Fishers

There are few birds in the UK which set a photographer’s pulse racing like a Kingfisher and it’s that time of year when the Kingfishers return to the for the winter. I’ve just been to the Spinnies NWWT reserve where one or two birds are just returning for the winter. This photo was probably the best of today’s attempts. I can’t wait to get back there for more.

Summer returns to the woods

It was my first visit of the year to the woods near Llanfair TH today. Although the air was cool, the sun was strong and with the bright blue sky and fluffy white clouds one couldn’t help but feel that spring is approaching fast.

The birds seemed to agree with this as I had great views of the resident Nuthatches, Treecreepers and a Greater Spotted Woodpecker plus the summer visitors, Blackcap,  Chiffchaff, Redstart and Pied Flycatcher. The spring collection is in!

A few pics….

Female Pied Flycatcher (the male was around but refused to pose)IMG_8140
I love Nutchatches!IMG_8081 IMG_8030
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Conwy Detox 19/4/15

There’s a hide called “Benarth” at RSPB Conwy which overlooks the lagoons and the causeway between them. For many years now it has been my place to go for a mental detox and today I definitely needed one. I’ve said to many people that “an hour in Benarth seldom disappoints”. So many visitors pop in, look right and left and then exit thinking that there’s not much to see. How wrong they are. It just takes a little patience.

Today I was there from 9.30-11 and I never saw another soul. My own personal reserve – brilliant! It wasn’t long before the first avine performer appeared in front of me.


Magpies are another bird which we overlook because they’re common and sometimes we even despise them for their murderous habits but there’s no denying their fantastic markings and that blue on it’s back is straight out of nature’s incomparable paintbox.

Next to perform was another bird with iridescent plumage – one of this year’s visiting Lapwings.  Always nice to see up close.


Evidence of migrants arriving was all around me. A Reed Warbler was “singing” incessantly in the reeds to my left while 60+ Sand Martins were feeding over the pools.


I also saw my “first of the year” Common Sandpiper as it searched the rocky water’s edge and a Reed Bunting pair, gathering nest material to set up residence next to the hide.

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Other notable performances came from the ever-antagonistic Herons,



and the Shelducks which seemed to be almost too numerous at times.



Missed opportunity of the day came on the walk back to the car. The rising tide had brought a gorgeous male Merganser close to the path but I only managed 3 shots of it bathing before my battery ran out at which point the bird must have heard my whispered expletive and swam further away. I was still quite pleased with this shot though.