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.


Spring is moving in…..

It was a gorgeous morning today and I’m off work for the week so I decided on a trip to the Great Orme. It’s a great place to find migrants at this time of year and I really wanted to catch up with my first Wheatears. The Orme didn’t disappoint me.

As a drove around the Marine Drive I stopped to check the cliffs. The ledges are already occupied by their summer incumbents. Auks, Gulls, Kittiwakes, Fulmars and Cormorants were all present.


Moving on to the limestone pavements it seemed at first as if Meadow Pipits were the only birds around. Hundreds of them – everywhere. However, looking towards the high point of the path I could see some birds with a different stance. Even in silhouette Wheatears are unmistakable. They love the short rabbit-grazed grass areas.

One resident Stonechat must have felt outnumbered by the visitors.


There must have been 50+ Wheatears present. The Females look lovely with their subtle pinks and greys whilst the males look resplendent with their striking markings and that “bandit” eye mask. Some looked like they had just bathed in the dew which covered the longer grass.

Add to these views sightings of my first Swallow and House Martin of the year and it was definitely mission accomplished!

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Red Kite Turns Osprey?

I took my mum out this afternoon and we ended up at the Spinnies (Aberogwen) reserve near Bangor. There are two hides, one by the road and one by the estuary – we tried the roadside hide first.

On arrival all seemed fairly peaceful. The ducks were bathing, the Moorhens were squabbling and an assortment of Tits and Finches were doing their best to empty the feeders. It was so calm that even a frog was aimlessly swimming across the pool, seeming to be in no hurry, just happy to bathe in the warmth of the sun. I christened “him” Freddy.

If your bath doesn’t come with a shower – make your own!



I decided to wander off to the other hide – mum stayed put (she is 86, after all). Again the birds were mainly on or around the feeders. I love Nuthatches, but this one wouldn’t land a branch, just the feeders.


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After a while a gentleman in the hide with me asked “is that a Red Kite?” as a large bird flew away from us over the road. A quick and distant grab shot confirmed that it was indeed a Kite, possibly carrying nesting material.



I wandered back to the car and met up with mum again. “Did you see anything?” she asked. “A Red Kite” I answered. She said “Oh, I’m glad you saw it. It swooped down right in front of the hide and plucked something from the water. It was all over in a couple of seconds.”

Having looked the photo again, all I can say at this point is “RIP Freddy! What a way to go…”

Eiders and Manxies

This afternoon promised little but came up trumps – no competition-winning pics but a couple of great birds.

It started at the Spinnies. The roadside hide proved to be a big disappointment with only Blue Tits and Mallard on show. The car park at the end was different.  Immediately obvious were 72 Mute Swans, drifting long only 10 feet from the shore in a line that was over 100m long.
I had heard that there were Eider around and it’s definitely true, they were everywhere. Small groups were dotted around on the water along with a pair who were proudly guarding their single fluffball duckling.

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Moving on to Llanfairfechan I caught sight of a couple of Manx Shearwaters, one of my favourite birds. I love their mastery of the air as they graze the wave crests. At one point they even came in to investigate as a windsurfer briefly parted company with his board. Fantastic birds! (click on any pic for a larger image)

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The windsurfer survived his ducking. I just hope that he cherished that view of the Manxie. I would!


Spot the Moths

A couple of weeks ago a nice lady at Conwy RSPB asked me if I had any photos of Six-Spotted Burnet Moths on Ragwort, as she was working on an information board about Ragwort. When I got home I checked my stock and found that I had photos of Burnet Moths – but always on thistles. At Conwy today I made amends.

Settling into Benarth hide I soon realised that there was a melee of moths right in front of me – and settling on the Ragwort too! No excuse then!

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Bird-wise I have started setting myself a target bird – today it was to be Common Sandpiper. Well there were lots of birds around including distant Common Sandpipers on all the islands but much too far away for photos. It was high tide and the Oystercatchers had come in for their daily bathe – as if they weren’t smart enough already…..

IMG_1385 IMG_0779A Magpie was sifting through the long grass after insects. It was unusually close to the hide, giving me a chance to get what was almost a macro shot of that murderous bill. I, for one, wouldn’t fancy being pecked by that!

IMG_0962Other birds kept their distance. The Great Crested Grebes were taking their stripy youngsters for an outing and a single Redshank and Dunlin stayed annoying out of camera range. A couple of Black-Tailed Godwits were slightly more obliging.


and then, just as I was about to leave, a Common Sandpiper appeared from nowhere, right in front of me. Mission accomplished!

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Seeing Red at Conwy

I guess that one of the attractions of wildlife photography is the unpredictability. I set out this morning in the hope of encountering the Stoats which have been seen at Conwy RSPB recently. I never saw one but the first creature I encountered was this pristine young Fox.


As I reached Benarth hide the stand-out bird was a summer-plumaged Godwit with a group of Redshanks. At this point I was starting to think that the theme for the day was “red”, for obvious reasons.

IMG_0467I was kind of glad at this point that some smaller birds turned up to break the theme. For a few minutes I was buzzed by Sedge Warblers and Whitethroats as they passed along the bushes, finding breakfast as they went.IMG_0530 IMG_0605 IMG_0659 IMG_0655

Returning to the estuary path I was disappointed again by the total lack of Stoats but I bumped into Bob, a friend. We chatted for a while but then something made me turn around.  We were being watched. The theme turned back to “red” at the end! Who needs Stoats anyway?