It's been all about the orchids this week, as we conducted our annual count - which takes longer each year as they pop up in new places and in greater numbers! Did you know that the collective noun for orchids is a coterie? No, I didn't either.
We have five species here, and most seem to be doing very well. When I started here in 2008, there was just a single patch of a couple of dozen bee orchids along the estuary. Last year we counted 220, so the total has almost doubled. Southern marsh orchids are doing even better, going from a few dozen spikes to more than 2,500; we are one of only a handful of places in North Wales with this species, and the only one between Wrexham and Bangor. Finally, early marsh orchids (which are not very early here!) are also doing well, and again Conwy is one of only a couple of sites in North Wales with this darker coccinea form.
The reserve is a riot of colour with other flowers too - check out our recent blog that shows which species to look out for this month.
Bird-wise, the focus is on the breeding species, and the warm, slightly humid, weather has been ideal for insects and therefore adults foraging for their young. The reserve is full of noisy fledglings: dunnocks, reed buntings, whitethroats, blackcaps, long-tailed tits and many more. On the water, our brood of gadwall chicks is growing up, and it's great that 10 of the original 11 have survived. There are young mallards and Canada geese of various sizes, plus the mute swan cygnets and great-crested grebelets on the Shallow lagoon; the little grebe brood has fledged, and we think the whole family has already left.
The male pochard that arrived a couple of weeks ago looks like it may stay for the Summer, while teal numbers are building slowly, as are curlews on the estuary, which are returning from their breeding grounds (there were 15 this morning). Surprise birds of the week were a hooded crow on Sunday (only the second reserve record), four Sandwich terns on Monday (13th) and a stock dove today (a tricky bird to see here).
Volunteers Rob and Ruth, who do a weekly invertebrate survey, recorded common blue and blue-tailed damselflies, emperor, four-spotted and broad-bodied chaser; speckled wood, small tortoiseshell, common blue and large white butterflies, and five bumblebee species, including tree bumblebee. We saw quite a number of painted lady butterflies and cinnabar moths when we were counting orchids at the weekend, plus the first silver-Y moth of the year. A black-tailed skimmer dragonfly last Wednesday (8th) was the first here for a while, and we also spotted ragged robin in flower near the dipping pond, and amazingly that was the first reserve record.