It's starting to feel a bit like autumn, isn't it? Sunrise is that bit later, it's getting dark by 9.30pm, and there's a dew on the grass in the mornings. Birds know that it's autumn too, and that's a time of change.
Some mornings this week, there have been lots of small birds in places you wouldn't expect: a sprinkling of young redstarts in the car park or along the trails; sedge and reed warblers in trees rather than reedbeds; lots of blackcaps in bushes that didn't have a nest, lesser whitethroats that have hardly been evident for many weeks. All these are signs that birds are moving south, some birds from farther north 'leap-frogging' the same species that are still feeding young in nests around the reserve. This morning, nuthatch and jay were along the footpath immediately north of the reserve entrance, an indication that our local woodland 'residents' are also dispersing after the breeding season.
As the water level drops, the lagoons are a magnet for waders, and you never know what will have arrived during the night. Visitors over recent days include knot, green sandpiper, little ringed plover, common sandpiper, up to 40 dunlins and several black-tailed godwits, including one wearing coloured leg-rings (from Iceland we guess, but we are waiting to hear). The mud in front of the boardwalk and Tal-y-fan Hide is looking perfect, though inevitably that means that there isn't a lot of water remaining in front of the Coffee Shop. Whimbrels are daily visitors too, but tend to stay on the estuary until the tide comes right in, when they roost with curlews on the islands.
There are still a few swifts feeding each morning; they will soon be on their way south, but the swallows and martins should be regular here for another six weeks. We had great views of a kingfisher this morning, perched at one point on the electric fence in front of Carneddau Hide!
August is a month in which anything can appear, though often briefly: a first-summer little gull was a great find among the black-headed gulls during the evening roost on Monday (10th), a whinchat and red kite were both seen on Sunday (9th); a spotted flycatcher was here on Saturday (8th), but that it's the first this year is a sad sign of their huge decline.
Stoats and weasels have been spotted on several dates this week, but the biggest mammal surprise was last Saturday morning (8th), when a brown hare was eating reeds on the lagoon edge outside the Coffee Shop; it's the first confirmed brown hare sighting here, though several have been claimed over the years.
Another new species for the reserve was hornet hoverfly (Volucella zonaria), which - as its name suggests - is a hoverfly that mimics a hornet. We don't see hornets at Conwy, which is why this was so obvious, nectaring on a flowering teasel in the wildlife garden. The second generation of common blue butterflies are on the wing, and there are still plenty of six-spot burnet moths. Look out, too, for gatekeeper and meadow brown butterflies and the black-and-yellow striped caterpillars of cinnabar moths feeding on ragwort. We had an excellent Dragonflies and Damselflies walk last Saturday, with common darter, southern hawker, emperor, common blue and blue-tailed damselfly.
.......... and that's why it is just one of the best places to visit in north Wales.