We've been back through the RSPB North Wales Facebook page and report our year through the posts that you liked, loved and shared the most.
The year kicked off where December had finished, a wet and windy month. Late in January we went for 24 hours without rain for the first time in 66 days! Storm Gertrude made a mess of the Ynys viewing screen, but our volunteers soon put it back together again, and later in the year would install flooring to greatly improve accessibility. We also refurbished the Coffee Shop kitchen ready for what turned out to be our busiest year ever.
February was the month of the starling, with the nightly murmuration of up to 60,000 birds attracting hundreds of people to watch. We also did our first ever live internet broadcast of the spectacle, so people across the globe could see it.
We had a busy half-term, with two of our younger supporters raising money through the sale of crafts they had made. It's been the best year ever for otters at the reserve, and one one night, we saw three together, and a badger also triggered our trail camera. Finally, the power of social media was illustrated when our Facebook appeal enabled us to reunite a Llanrwst family with their cat that we found on the reserve. After all, a nature reserve is no place for a cat!
The starling murmuration continued through March, though we didn't get to see much of it as we were busy refreshing the Visitor Centre in time for Easter and the Spring migration, which brought some great birds, including a smart garganey and the reserve's first ever wood warbler.
The shop and coffee shop at the reserve raise vital funds for the RSPB's conservation and education work, and Jack joined us for the Summer to share his enthusiasm for nature and encourage visitors to support us. We didn't expect this jokey post to prove quite so popular!
Derek Brockway visited in May to film an episode of his popular BBC Cymru Wales programme, Weatherman Walking, which will be broadcast in February 2017, the final instalment in his forthcoming series. We also received a Certificate of Excellence from Trip Advisor thanks to reviews by visitors. We greatly appreciate your comments.
June is the peak of the breeding season, and we were pleased that our great-crested grebes were among the waterbirds that nested successfully this year. Our orchids were spectacular, with record numbers of three of the five species that grow here.
We run events throughout the year, and in 2016 we did a few innovative activities, such as a Wet and Wild adventure where older children kayaked down the river, then explored the reserve. Our Big Wild Sleepout was another sellout, with perfect weather enabling us to add star-gazing to the activities we offered. We've also done several sleepovers for local cub, brownie and guide groups, so get in touch if you're a youth group leader who'd like to do something similar in 2017.
Our Bioblitz event in July had dozens of people scouring the reserve for anything that grew, crawled, buzzed or stridulated. With our friends at Cofnod, we recorded an amazing 438 species in just one day, and these contributed to our best ever wildlife recording year at Conwy, with 155 species found in 2016 that we've never recorded here previously. A number of these new species were moths, and included barred rivulet found during the Big Wild Sleepout, which turned out to be the first Denbighshire record since 1976!
Water and mud conditions were just about perfect for southbound wading birds through August and September, with lots of visitors able to see birds such as curlew sandpiper, and three pectoral sandpipers from North America were spotted. Read the blog for more about how we manage the lagoons for waders, providing them with a crucial temporary home as they head for Africa.
Connecting young people with nature is also our mission, through our school visits and family activities. It's been our busiest year for school visits since 2010, and we couldn't have done it without the superb team of Learning Volunteers, some of whom also participate in our Wild About Nature project, funded by Heritage Lottery Fund, which launched this year. Hundreds of children showed how much they love nature by entering our art competition in the Summer - we had a great day judging the winners.
October saw another ground-breaking event, Celebrate the Night, when a sell-out audience came to experience the reserve and its wildlife after dark, with the trails beautifully lit by the team from Venue Cymru. With help from the Conwy Arts Trust, there were artists around the reserve, giving visitors the chance to try out new things. It was a great evening, and we had some lovely comments from participants.
October was also the 10th anniversary of the opening of the Visitor Centre and the Coffee Shop (no, we don't know where that 10 years went either!). We were delighted that two of our volunteers, Audrey Parry and Alan Gray, were given a special RSPB President's Award at a ceremony in Birmingham, a thank you for the huge amount of time and energy they have put into the reserve for the last decade.
In late October we hosted our first Hoopoe, enjoyed by many visitors, including lots of families here for half-term. On the afternoon of the second day, it flew into the path of an oncoming peregrine, a moment captured in a series of photos by visitor Sam Whittaker. Through the Autumn, we were delighted to host six great white egrets, beautifully captured in the sketchbook of Anglesey artist Philip Snow.
Throughout the year, outside the school holidays, we have hosted a nature group for pre-schoolers, Muddy Puddles, and it's been great to see young kids enjoying being outside and discovering wildlife. Muddy Puddles restarts in January, each Wednesday morning.
In December we thanked our volunteers for the many thousands of hours, the huge range of skills, and the boundless energy that they give to the RSPB at Conwy. We have more volunteers now than at any time in our 21 year history, and have also been assisted in our habitat management this Autumn by groups of students from Bangor University and Coleg Llandrillo. We really couldn't do it without them.
We have recently published an updated checklist of the reserve's birds and are also working on checklists of other wildlife, to be published next year. Just what you need as 2017 begins.
May you have many happy hours of wildlife-watching in 2017, and thank you for your support and engagement through Facebook, Twitter and when you visit.