Monthly Archives: April 2019

Best of the rest from Blacktoft

The title says it all really ….

Little Egret flyby…

“time for my close-up”

the ever-present Marsh Harrier
I love Avocets but these were just too far away..

Little Grebe – or “cotton wool bird” as I call them


Mr and Mrs Tufted Duck

Mr & Mrs Gadwall

and a “heavy bomber” Cormorant

The Stars of Blacktoft

Blacktoft Sands RSPB reserve is a superb place. There are so many birds around, some resident and some passing through.
There is one resident species that visitors cannot miss. The Marsh Harriers are the apex bird and it’s unlikely that you will go more than 30 minutes without seeing one. The reserve is large but narrow and the hides look across the strip of pools and reeds. As the Harriers patrol past, their eyes always intent on what lie below, some good views and photo opportunities can be had.

What do you call a Gull that’s only little?

This will be the first in a multi-part account of my trip to RSPB Blacktoft Sands on the bank holiday Monday.
I love this reserve. Great hides, habitat and birds and, being on the east coast, different birds from the Welsh ones I see near home.
From the moment I sat down in a hide I spotted a bird that I knew was different. Six Little Gulls (so imaginatively named!) were sat on the water in front of me. I’ve seen them before near home but only tired and tatty specimens, blown near shore by gales at sea. These were pristine, in full summer plumage. Their heads were sooty black, reflecting no light at all, and their breasts were showing signs of the pinkness of a bird in breeding condition. They never came close but I still tried to give them my best shot.
Of course, with them being gulls, little and powerless to overcome the ripples on the pool, I called them all “Bob”!

Typical feeding behaviour, plucking a tiny morsel from the surface of the water.

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!”