A wealth of sightings for you as Spring gleefully unravels it's way into the seasonal procession. We seem to be hearing more and more singing chiffchaffs on a daily basis, and the reserve has also recorded it's first wheatears and sand martins of the year. There is much to be seen still on the raptor front as well, with one of the Dyfi ospreys (Blue24) returning on the 24th, and the continued presence of hen harriers, notably a female who tarried around Marian Mawr pools on the 15th. Other bird sightings include two yellowhammers at the feeders on the 2nd. a great white egret by the Saltings trail on the 15th, and a veritable feast of interesting activity on the 28th, which included a single gargany, 3 willow warblers, a cetti's warbler at Covert Du, yellowhammer, and 2 little ringed plovers on Breakwater fields.
A stroll along the boardwalk on warmer days may provide encounters with the caterpillars of Drinker and Oak eggar moths, both of which I have seen on Covert Coch in the past few weeks. These species hibernate in the larval stage over the winter before emerging to recommence feeding in the Spring, and have a wide range of food plants (including heather, bramble, blackthorn, and bilberry for Oak eggars, and a variety of grass species for Drinkers). For those wanting to see adult lepidoptera, brimstone are being observed on the reserve with increasing regularity, as well as the odd red admiral. Following on from last blog's lesser celandine, wood anemone is another early spring bloomer, preferring dry woodlands of deciduous trees, and the first are just starting to come into flower in Coed Penrhynmawr. Hopefully a prelude to a burst of their white flowers in the next few weeks.
A game of spot the brimstone, Gonepteryx rhamni
Finally, another fungal feature. This week, the scarlet elf cup, which grows on branches rotting on the ground, apparently most often from lime and maple, though the specimen below was under an oak.
Scarlet elf cup, Sarcoscypha coccinea (Chris Goding)
Spring is well and truly underway!
Ynys-hir has had it's fair share of the recent gull activity in the county, with a 1st winter glaucous gull on the 26th, as well as first winter and adult little gulls on the 23rd, which associated with the black headed gulls and fed on the river whilst avoiding the worst of Storm Doris. In Europe, little gulls typically breed on freshwater marshes in the Baltic states and Scandinavia, wintering in coastal areas along the Mediterranean and western Europe, but a pair at RSPB Loch of Strathbeg in 2016 became the first record of a successful breeding attempt in Britain, raising two chicks. Also on the afternoon of the 23rd three bewick swans took refuge from Doris on the saltmarsh, but stayed only briefly. A single hen harrier on the 12th, and two on the 28th over Rushy Field complete the sightings of interest.
Distracting us from the stormy weather,the burst of spring and summer flowers that we are all looking forward to at the reserve is being foreshadowed by the yellow splashes of lesser celandine, which is just coming into flower. A member of the buttercup family, lesser celandine is commonly found in woodlands and hedgerows in damp soils, and is an excellent nectar source for early emerging insects. Wordsworth was a fan, writing not one but three poems about them (evidently he preferred them to daffodils), describing the timing of their blooming as 'soon as gentle breezes bring news of winter's vanishing'. Warmer weather to come then!
Lesser celandine (Ranunculus ficaria)
A scattering of interesting sightings over the past few weeks, including an unconfirmed report of a great grey shrike near Domen Las, flyover crossbills near the visitor centre on the 2nd, and a brambling on the 7th near the feeders. Of particular note, lesser spotted woodpecker activity appears to have increased recently, and it is definitely worth keeping an eye out for them calling, drumming, and busily foraging, especially around the crossroads that form the junction of the red, blue, and green routes, as well as Marian Mawr woods. Lesser spots have undergone widespread decline throughout Europe since the 1980s, for reasons that aren't entirely clear, so it is encouraging to have them on the reserve.
Lesser spotted woodpecker, Dryobates minor (Tom Kistruck)
If you visit Ynys-hir between now and the 14th, you will likely be witness to a seasonal outpouring of affection. Once again, the RSPB is joining forces with the Climate Coalition for the Show the Love campaign, raising awareness about the effects of climate change, and you can show your support by wearing a green heart (readily available at Ynys-hir, we even have the materials to knit your own!), and take a picture of yourself to share at #ShowTheLove. We have also re-purposed our exhibits wall for you to fill in a green heart with an aspect of the natural world you want to show the love for in the face of climate change. If you come on Saturday 11th, members of the local WI (who are national partners in this campaign) will be at the visitor centre making their own contributions.
Finishing on a fungal note, below is a photo of a stunning specimen of Terana caerula, or cobalt crust fungus, taken by a visitor near the dipping pond, and recently posted on our Facebook page. It's too good not to reshare.
Cobalt crust fungus, Terana caerula (Willow Allen)
Until next time...