June, 2012


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  • So long Springwatch

    The Springwatch series is now over and the reserve will slowly get back to normal. The production village is full of vans and vehicles; equipment is packed away and our overflow car-park is full of lorries waiting to take away portacabins, tents and production vehicles. The live studio will be transformed back to a tractor shed by the end of the day and by next Tuesday all the cables and mini cameras will be de-rigged and there will be no trace that Springwatch was ever here apart from the memories.  

    It was a mixed spring for our wildlife. A number of tragedies - the loss of the kingfishers to mink, a feral cat predating the wood warblers and the death of runtie, the smallest of the nuthatch chicks. The appalling rain which flooded the production village and some of our lowland wet grassland. But, amongst these disasters, there was also good news. The barn owls look healthy and I am sure they'll fledge. The common sandpipers hatching just in time for the final programme and the redstarts fledging. It's been a good year too for our pied flycatchers with 49 pairs nesting in our nest-boxes and managing to rear around 4 chicks to fledging, which is great news. Despite the floods it seems that most of our lapwing and redshank chicks managed to swim to higher ground and on a visit to the main wader breeding fields yesterday I saw lots of chicks feeding well.

    For the other wildlife that calls the reserve home, it's been a poor year. After little sun and too much rain, butterflies and dragonflies have been notable by their absence. Normally the woods are full of speckled woods and the fields a delight of common blues, green-veined whites and small coppers, but this year we've had a lot fewer than we normally see. As Springwatch departs and summer arrives I can only hope for some sunshine and warmer days. One of the iconic signs of summer is the arrival of the swifts and between June and August we're keen to know about any nesting pairs near you. You can tell us by clicking here.

    The team of volunteers that have helped us in so many ways over the last four weeks are also departing. Some were students at Aberystwyth university who stayed on after their exams to give us a hand and they will now leave for their summer break. A few will continue volunteering for us - helping out in the Visitor Centre or carrying out hands on conservation work. Without their help it would have been difficult to run the reserve so effectively during such a busy period and many thanks to all for their help and we wish them good luck for the future. 

    Springwatch may be over, but there's still plenty of ways you can enjoy the wonderful wildlife where you are. Sign up to Homes for Wildlife and find out about the steps you can take to turn your own back yard into a widlife haven. If you fancy getting a bit further a field, why not check out our fantastic network of nature reserves. There's bound to be one near you that's ready to be explored.

    P.S. Don't forget to submit your Make Your Nature Count results to tell us about the garden in your wildlife. 

    Nuthatch by Ray Kennedy (rspb-images.com) and the view from in front of the Ynys-hir Visitor Centre by Jenny Hibbert (rsbp-images.com).

  • The last day of the series

    The last day of the Springwatch series has finally come and some of the stars of the show have timed things to perfection.

    I was watching the web cams at lunch time and lo and behold, despite my low expectations, one of the common sandpiper chicks hatched! Over the afternoon more hatched and as I write we are all eagerly gathered around the screen in the Visitor Centre waiting for the last chick to make an appearance.

    Our barn owls are growing fast too and if the weather holds and the adults continue to bring in lots of food all four should fledge successfully. The treecreepers are also doing well and fingers crossed that they all fledge too.

    Throughout the series, we've been running Springwatch tours every day at Ynys-hir. This morning, we had a very special surprise guest, who was eager to join in. Iolo Williams, a regular Springwatch presenter, came along and introduced himself to a few of our star struck visitors (and staff!). Iolo encouraged those who were on the tour to walk up the infamous stairs and onto the tractor shed set. Many of the visitors had their pictures taken with him and the staff managed to get a couple too. The weather during the tour was rather windy, but fortunately the rain held off. Iolo pointed out a cheeky redstart, whilst jokingly explaining the difference between the Welsh and English species. Welsh redstarts are 'more muscular and better at rugby' of course! And, as a fellow welshman, I quite agree with him! 

    Iolo and the visitors on the Springwatch tour check out the tractor shed.

    Our very own Gabi and Gemma get their picture taken with Iolo. 

    Even though the show is coming to an end, I'll be continuing to post blogs regularly over the coming weeks and will try to up-date everybody on the progress of the birds featured on the web cams.  

  • Here comes the sun

    The sun came out at last yesterday and I managed to find a few minutes to wander the fields on the reserve looking for butterflies. Green-veined whites were out in good numbers with a few small tortoiseshell and common blues flitting from flower to flower.

    The chrysalises of small tortoiseshell and painted lady shown on Springwatch last night  reminded me of our successfull attempt to re-introduce brimstone butterflies on the reserve over 20 years ago.They were last seen at Ynys-hir in 1980. They disappeared from the reserve because their foodplant, alder buckthorn, had died out due to shading by a conifer plantation. And so, from the early eighties, hundreds of these shrubby trees were planted in suitable areas on site. In 1990 and 1991 eggs and chrysalises were sent to the reserve from a number of locations. The eggs were placed in suitable containers and fresh alder buckthorn leaves were collected daily to feed the caterpillars that emerged. Eventually adults emerged and they were carefully collected and released close to their favourite food. Every year since we have seen good numbers of adults and it was a delight this spring to see so many on the reserve.  

    At the edge of the peat bog I stopped a while at a sun drenched pond and watched chasers and darters skimming over the water surface. Large red damselflies and common blue damselflies were everywhere and carefully scanning the rushes at the water's edge I saw the first small red damselfly of the year. This little, dainty damselfly is one of my favourites but nothing, in my opinion, can beat the beauty of banded and beautiful demoiselles, both of which call the reserve home.

    The seasons slowly change and the woods fill with the sound of chicks and there are skylarks singing over the meadows. Pied flycatchers will be fledging soon and will disappear into the woodland canopy to feed up for their migration south. Meadow brown and ringlet butterflies will soon appear and, as the strength of the sun increases, silver washed and dark green fritillaries can be seen flittering about. The first green sandpipers will be passing through the reserve for a pit stop before continuing on their journey south and young barn owls will be practising their hunting skills at dusk.

    It's sad to think that tomorrow sees BBC Springwatch finished for the year, but summer will have arrived and with it the beauty and delights of another season.

    Pictures of green-veined white and brimstone butterflies kindly provided by Will George (RSPB)