Monday, 14 May 2012

Mid Wales, Gwenffrwd-Dinas - 6th May

It was another sunny morning, and we set off even earlier to try and find Dipper.  Our main destination was the RSPB reserve of Gwenffrwd-Dinas, which combines old oak woodland with fast flowing water of the river Twyi.  Our journey took us over the mountains and through moorland to the large reservoir of Lynn Brianne.  This route was completely empty at this time on a Sunday morning, and we were able to stop and enjoy the scenery along with the birds that occupied the roadside.  The first stop was a small stream, and as we slowed down we saw a pair of Dipper fly away from us.  We followed in the car, and was able to watch them as they swam in the stream, but did not get the chance to photograph them.  However on one such stop we were joined by a pair of Stonechat that scolded us with their alarm calls that sound just like stones being banged together. 

While we looked for the Dipper a Grasshopper Warbler reeled from the tussocks, but of course we never saw it.  All along the journey we scattered Wheatear from the road side, and also managed to set up a female Ring Ouzel, which was very nice.  One male Wheatear posed nicely in the dry grass tussock.

At the reserve we took the board walk that stretched out over the many small streams that came down the hillside.  Pied Flycatcher were in the oaks around the nest boxes, and you could hear Wood Warbler singing.  We walked down around the river, and stopped for coffee to take in the wonderful scenery.  On one side the beautiful oak wood, with the inter woven branches and trunks, and on the other side the river crashing over the rocks.  Above us along the ridge the odd buzzard would show, and we also had a short but clear view of a Peregrine as it took off from the rocks.  The oak trees formed a blanket over the slopes of the mountain, and everywhere you looked there was moss and greenery.

Initially the walking was difficult over the rocks and around the trees, below us the river was fast and loud and this would block out any bird song.  It wasn't sufficient though to block the calls of a pair of Dipper that came flying up river and stopped just in front of us. 

As they stood on the rocks they characteristically bobbed or dipped, flashing the white eyelid as they blinked.  They didn't stay long, and were gone up river.  We saw others later, and they would always signal their arrival with a shrill whistle that stood out from the rushing water.

At some stages you could get down to the river, and this would allow some lovely views along the water. On one of these stops I also found a Common Sandpiper preening on a rock close to the water.

The river now began to level out, and wide itself away from the trail and the woodland, this allowed us to explore the woods, we were able to find typical woodland species like Nuthatch and Blue Tits along with the cascading song of the Wood Warbler, while overhead a pair of Raven called as they flew back and forth across the valley.

A cuckoo called from across the valley, and gradually came closer.  We decided to take a break and see if it appeared but we were never able to find it, after a while it could be heard further and further away.  We were entertained though during the coffee break by a pair of Blue Tits carrying moss and leaves into a hole in one of the oaks.  As they came out of the hole they were careful to ensure there were no unwanted visitors close by.

As we walked back to the car park it began to drizzle.  Just before the car park, a small pipit flew around us.  When it did settle it I was able to see it was a Tree Pipit, and it perched nicely for a photo. The change in the weather though could not spoil the morning.  We had both been captivated by such a wonderful, beautiful place.  

We took the same route back to Aberystwyth over the mountains.  The views across the reservoir were lovely, but now it was a lot more difficult to keep stopping as the amount of traffic had increased.

As we came around one corner I noticed a bird sitting on a fence post, we stopped and I could see it was a Cuckoo.  As I got out to try and take a photograph it flew off, and perched a little further away, as I watched it again it was then chased off by a rusty coloured bird, which was a female.  Sadly I was unable to get any good photos, the shot below is just a record shot.  It was though very nice to see a bird that I don't often come across these days.

We stopped off in Tregaron at the Cors Caron nature reserve.  This is one huge bog, and we walked around the boardwalk.  Before we set off a Sparrowhawk put in an explosive appearance as it tried to mug the finches on the seed feeder by the visitor centre.  This was to be the highlight of the visit though with only a Redshank, a Teal and plenty of Swallows and House Martins worthy of note as we walked around the reserve.  The Teal though did produce a nice reflection in the inky black bog water, and a female Wheatear at the end of the boardwalk did look rather lovely.

We left the bog and set off for Aberystwyth, the sun had returned, but we didn't stop, just drove through and headed north to the dunes at Ynys Las.  The dunes are a National Nature Reserve, and are very extensive with lots of high dunes falling away to sheltered slacks.  The tide was out and for as far as you could see was beach and sand.  A small group of summer plumaged Dunlin flew about, and gulls could be seen in the distance at the waters edge.  Far away to the north the clouds had gathered over the higher peaks of Snowdonia.

We walked around the beach, then headed into the dunes.  In one of the slacks we were amazed to find this perfectly formed Fungi.  This is a Dune Brittlestem or to give it it's latin name Psathyrella Ammophila.  They apprently feed and live on decaying Marram Grass and are usually found in stable dune slopes and dune slacks. Variable in colour but often a brown colour, Dune Brittlestems usually occur either singly or in small groups. It looked like a little parasol for some one in the sand, and seemed completely out of place.

As we made our way back to the car, a pair of Stonechat once again did not like our presence, and called loudly at us.  The male made a lovely composition against the dried Marram grass.

We decided to drive back to Devil's Bridge over the mountains.  As we came along the narrow road, I noticed a large black bird with red on it's head.  For a moment I was quite excited, could it be?  No it wasn't a grouse but a pheasant.  However even more bizarre than it being black, it was in fact a deep blue colour.  Where there should normally be the rusty brown plumage it was completely deep blue.  It looked quite magnificent, I wonder how he gets on in a fight?

It was now a lovely evening, and the views were stunning.  As we drove around one corner I noticed a silvery grey bird being mobbed by crows.  I stopped and searched, but could not find it, the crows were still there though. I am certain it was a male Hen Harrier, and I wished I had seen it for longer, all I had to console myself was the stunning view.

We had been so lucky with the weather, and was able to enjoy two wonderful days with some wonderful wildlife, and incredible scenery.  How lucky we were was reinforced the next day as the rained poured down as we made our way home.

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