We've taken advantage of the good weather to crack on with some of our habitat management programme over the last few weeks. You'll see changes in several places around the reserve. We have cut new rides in the reedbed near the boardwalk, giving you new views and the water rails new 'edges' along which to feed. With the help of a group of volunteers from Bangor University, we have also removed most of the willows that were encroaching into the reedbed near The LookOut. If you want to see the difference this has made, stand on top of the steps in Y Maes, and the view has really opened up. We needed to do both of these jobs before we started raising water levels, and with the first 'proper' rain of the Autumn, we have been able to pump water from the Afon Ganol onto the Shallow Lagoon. We still have a long way to go, but the teals and wigeons are loving it, and there are plenty of both feeding in front of the Coffee Shop, where water rails are frequent sights too.
Last week, with help from the volunteers and a couple of staff from our Anglesey team, we cut all the vegetation on the islands in the Shallow Lagoon, which should make them attractive to birds over this Winter and into the next breeding season.
We have also been cutting some trees down. The foliage in the Wildlife Garden has become quite dense in recent years, and so with the help of a group of students from Coleg Llandrillo, we have taken the trees near the bird feeders back, and we will also be thinning a few trees nearby so that more sunlight can get to the ground, encouraging both flowers and insects. We are also removing a few trees near the Dipping Pond in preparation for a project in January that will see us build a second dipping pond, doubling our capacity for schoolchildren to do this always-popular activity. Big thanks to The Big Lottery Fund for the funding to do this work. We will post more news early in January, as we will have to close off a couple of sections of footpath while the work is being done.
In the deepest parts of the lagoon, there can often be limited bird interest, so we are constructing a couple of floating islands, topped with gravel, that we hope will be used by birds to roost, or even nest. It's a bit of an experiment, as we have never tried this technique at Conwy. Our volunteers have built the first island, and if the weather is kind this week, we will tow it into position in front of the Ynys screen.
Finally, we have started work on a fence around the new reedbed soakaway, close to the A55. The reeds clean the 'grey' water from our sewage treatment plant, before it is discharged into the ground. The fence is to stop the ponies eating the reeds, and will look much smarter than the temporary barriers that have been surrounding it for the last few weeks.
Bird-wise, there are lots of ducks on the lagoons. No huge numbers, though there do seem to be more wigeon than usual. A couple of goldeneyes and two goosanders have been on the Deep Lagoon, and a couple of weeks ago, we had a count of 34 red-breasted mergansers; a high total for Conwy. Lapwing numbers increased during the cold weather, and there are around 100 still here this morning, interspersed with a dozen dunlins. A jack snipe was in front of Tal-y-fan Hide on Sunday (4th) and a couple of knot on Monday (5th). Late afternoon visitors have seen woodcocks on several occasions, including over the car park last weekend.
The scrub is full of wintering birds at the moment. Goldcrest and bullfinch seem especially abundant, and there are plenty of redwings if you look hard enough. It has been an extended Autumn for chiffchaffs here, with several present to the middle of November. One was present this morning.
A water pipit has been present on-and-off this week. It's usually on the saltmarsh at low tide, where it is really hard to see, but comes onto the causeway in front of Benarth Hide when it gets pushed off the estuary by rising water. Other scarce visitors include a nuthatch reported yesterday (9th), firecrest (mostly recently on Monday 5th), and brambling (3rd). Two Cetti's warblers were heard regularly through November, but none since 29th.
We haven't got much of a starling murmuration so far, though around 500 birds have roosted on a couple of evenings this week; last winter, it didn't start until mid-January, so there is still plenty of time for that to grow.