When Springwatch arrives the reserve is buzzing with excitment. But not all the jobs are that thrilling. Probably the worst is manning the overflow car park. In the first week I spent 14 hours standing there. As boredom sets in, one starts to think of ways of amuzing ones self.
This is where the car park challenge started. Within ten metres of the car park gate, how many species of bird could one see? As it turns out, quite a few. Various woodland and farmland birds are all about, by standing on the wall one can see the lake below the visitors centre and by croaching down you can see the back of the village of Eglwys-fach. If one is particularly sneeky you can look over the trees of the reserve and see anything flying high over the estuary. So far, I have got 49 species including dipper, red kite, stock dove, redstart, whitethroat and raven. I still have not seen or heard a song thrush and I could not identify the pipit flying around the marsh in the distance one time. It is amazing what one can see from just one spot.
Finally I would like to apologise to all the visitors to Ynys-hir whose first sight of the reserve has been a rather distracted warden staring into the distance waiting for a great black-backed gull to fly down the estuary (I got one after only 12-hours of waiting!).
With the Springwatch rush as well as the school half term, Ynys-hir has been buzzing through the past couple of weeks. As well as seeing the birds, the stars of Springwatch, visitors have had the opportunity to experience the range of different wildlife seen on the reserve. One of the events has been pond dipping, which has been proven to be very popular with children (and adults!).
The pond, on the edge of the woodland, makes a captivating sight as you approach – especially with the fantastic weather we’ve had so far this Springwatch period. Clouds of damselflies of all colours take to the air, territorial males battle on the wing and pairs can be seen perched on pondweeds, ovipositing (laying eggs) into the water.
Under the knowledgeable guidance of field teachers and volunteers, visitors were given nets and let loose around the edges of the pond. The enthusiasm from visitors of all ages was inspiring to see. Also incredible was the diverse range of animals that they managed to catch: great diving beetles, beetle larvae, mayfly larvae, dragonfly larvae (some of which were huge!), common frogs and palmate newts were some of the most popular finds.
Despite our efforts to catch more animals to put in the trays during the lulls this was rarely successful, on the other hand, children seem to have the inherent ability to catch things like great diving beetles and newts on their first try.
Overall though, it’s been a great event to volunteer for, especially with the great weather. Definitely a nice change from last year when the footpath that we were pond dipping from (near the Marian Mawr hide) ended up under a foot of water during the floods!
Photos taken by volunteer Emily Barrington.
Ian Hayward is an old friend of Ynys-hir as he went to Aberystwyth University, which is just down the road from here. Last week he left his usual RSPB job at Wildlife Enquiries at the Lodge and headed back to West Wales to help us during Springwatch. This is his diary of two, rather hectic days...
I’m a big fan of springwatch and try to follow it every year, the shows from RSPB Ynys-hir over the last couple of years have been engrossing. I’ve had some opportunities to visit this amazing reserve a few times in the past so when the opportunity to pop down for a few days to lend a hand with the various tasks associated with the site during Springwatch, I couldn’t say no!
Rolling up early is possibly the best time to listen to the birdsong at the site which is a real audio spectacle! With the late spring giving the bluebells an extended flowering season, the wooded areas are still hazy blue, this won’t last much longer though as the canopy is closing up now the oak leaves are out, so get there quick if you want to see this. It was fantastic to see a diverse mix of visitors popping in, especially the families taking advantage of the good half term weather to get out and about and explore the natural attractions the area has to offer. There really is a buzz around the place with the BBC filming on the reserve, you can’t help but notice their presence with the cable criss-crossing the site!
As well as spending a bit of time meeting and greeting at the welcome tent and car park, I helped out with a few of the Springwatch guided walks. If you are intrigued, these involve reserve staff and volunteers showing a group around some of the reserve taking in a quick peek at some of the sites you will recognise from the show including the studio as well as pointing out some of the species that are featured such as the pied flycatchers and redstarts. We were blessed with some great sights including nuthatch nest building with mud from the path, great tits feeding young in the boxes as well as an adult dunnock feeding a recent fledgling, at least some have escaped the weasel! The bird song as well was impressive with warblers like the blackcap and whitethroat in full voice along with song thrush, robin and blackbird. The smaller creatures were also abundant with plenty of midge activity (the swifts need to work harder!), newly emerged four-spot chaser dragonflies and large red damselflies. We did spot the presenters rushing around as well!
It was a great two days and the Ynys-hir team are doing a cracking job. In the wildlife enquiries team we often get asked lots of questions about Springwatch and where to watch the stars of the show (non-human stars that is!). Being able to see the reserve and what happens on the ground was a real eye opener and if you fancy a few days in one of the most stunning parts of the UK, I would certainly recommend paying a visit to the reserve. Be sure to have a chat with the staff and volunteers at the site to get the latest updates on recent sightings and if ice cream is your thing, the visitor centre has got this covered!
Bluebells on the way to Ynys-hir car park