Trip reports

Ann Thomson - A holiday to remember- 3 Days of Birdwatching at the Devil's Bridge in northern Ceredigion

Ann Thomson - A holiday to remember- 3 Days of Birdwatching at the Devil's Bridge in northern Ceredigion
Red Kite Gigrin Farm - L Bimson

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

So what drives a girl to book herself onto a holiday, unaccompanied in the middle of wild Wales with the prospect of 4 days with total strangers? Quite simply Birds - this was an opportunity for this novice bird watcher to pick up more than a few birding tips, see some very special birds set in stunning landscapes with a brilliant guide and as it turned out some very pleasant company -Betty, Rachel, Sue and Dave, interestingly the girls outnumbered the men by 3 to 1! 

John Davis who runs the Mid Wales Birdwatching holidays is knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the birds and wildlife. He leads groups of up to six people at a time and I would recommend the holiday to any one who is interested. I stayed at the George Borrow Hotel and from there excellent views of Red Kites and Restarts were to be had. The holiday's are inclusive, including accommodation and all meals.
Here is John's report on the bird watching

Tuesday 19th June
A warm, dry, cloudy-bright day which began with a short drive to Trisant. We first viewed Siskins and Goldfinches on a niger seed feeder in John's garden. From there we also viewed a distant sheep carcass with about 30 Ravens and a Buzzard in attendance. The rest of the morning was spent in sheep country where farm buildings and a couple of lakes produced some good sightings.
A pair of Redstarts were nesting in one of the buildings and the male showed extremely well. On one of the nearby lakes a pair of great Crested Grebes had one, down-covered young. The female was on their nest with one egg visible and the youngster was adding nest material to it! Nearby a pair of Whinchat were seen, plus Buzzards, Kites and Ravens.

We had our picnic lunch at Cwmrheidol by a set of falls on River Rheidol. On a ledge over the water was a Grey Wagtails nest with 2/3 young, here we had good views of the busy adults bringing in food. We then drove to the Nant yr Arian Red Kite feeding site, in it's wonderful lakeside setting the Red Kites are fed every day at 3pm, at least 50 Kites were present .On the adjacent lake we sighted Tufted Duck and Little Grebes. After a walk round the lake and some tea, we took the mountain road to Nant y Moch reservoir (means the pig stream in English!!,). More Whinchats were seen along with Wheatears. Star bird of the day was a Snipe, seen on the top of a telegraph pole! It flew off and soon returned to settle on the nearby rough, damp pasture. Its whole behaviour suggested a breeding bird.

Wednesday 20th
A quite bright warm day with a few showers which hardly interfered with our bird watching. We spent the day at the RSPB reserve at Ynyshir, beside the upper reaches of the Dyfi estuary The reserve boasted mixed habitats of Welsh oak woodland, wet grassland and the saltmarshes of the estuary.

We soon tracked down the first target species, Pied Flycatchers - summer migrants to Wales. Having seen a female taking food to one nest box, followed by a pair attending another box nearby, we seemed to encounter Pied Flycatchers everywhere throughout the day, including a newly fledged youngster. Spotted Flycatchers came next, followed by Blackcap, Treecreeper and Nuthatch.
At a viewpoint by Marion Mawr hide, we saw Little Egrets, which now breed on the reserve, the first of many Stonechats, an Oystercatcher, Common Sandpiper and a female Goosander with 3 young. At this point we briefly heard an elusive Grasshopper Warbler.
From the Saltings hide, overlooking the estuary and pools, we saw Shelduck, Redshank, 2 Common Sandpipers, and out on the saltings, a Red breasted Merganser sitting by a couple of Goosanders.
After a picnic lunch by the visitor centre we walked around much of the rest of the reserve, seeing many young Stonechats and a fledgling Redstart. A Grasshopper warbler was heard again, this time from close quarters, but alas evaded our straining eyes. Later we spied another warbler so often heard rather than seen, Reed Warblers. 
The 'AH' moment for the day came for a visit to the  Breakwater hide, here we watched 2 busy Shelduck families, one with 12 ducklings, the other with 10.

Thursday 21st
We began the day at the coast at Clarach, just north of Aberystwyth. Coastal weather was breezy, mild and quite bright in contrast to the largely wet day inland. Sadly, no Chough appeared during our brief visit but we got to grips with Rock and Meadow Pipits. Here we saw the first Gannets of the day and a pair of Linnets.
We then drove north to Ynyslas Nature reserve, at the mouth of the Dyfi estuary. The Reserve is made up of three parts: Cors Fochno, an internationally important peat bog; The Dyfi Estuary, an internationally important feeding ground for thousands of wading birds and the beach and sand dunes of Ynyslas. On the sandy shore, outside the protected, roped off area, was a female Ringed Plover on her eggs. We learned from one of the summer wardens that 6 pairs had attempted to nest this season. So far, all had failed and some were on their third and last attempt, we hope this one made it. Offshore we noted more Gannets and in the distance Manx Shearwaters.
Lunch was taken at the revamped, complete with murals of the 4 element, the Victorian railway station of Borth. Sadly, this is where we had to say goodbye to one of our fellow birdwatchers, Sue who was on a 3 day break.
Within a few minutes we were sea-watching at Borth one of the longest beaches in Ceredigion, not for the Surfers that love the area but for the sight of plunging Gannets and gliding Manx Shearwaters, and then the highlight a dark-phase Arctic Skua seen flying south .
We then drove inland to an upland valley known for its Goshawks. None obliged (it was one of those days) but we did get to see a singing Tree Pipit and heard more elusive Lesser Redpolls.
We returned to The George Borrow hotel and for Betty it was to be her last evening of the trip.

Friday 22nd
Ann was keen to see a Dipper, so we began the day back in the Rheidol valley at the falls at the far end of Cwmrheidol. There was no sign of the birds near their nest site but we had excellent, prolonged views of a bird on a set of falls a little further upstream. Unfortunately it then began to rain, so we made a dash for the coast where we enjoyed a fairly sunny day.
We stopped at the picturesque harbour town of Aberaeron and again had distant views of Gannets and Manx Shearwaters. A little further to the south, the cliffs at New Quay produced all the expected birds: Kittiwakes, some with eggs, some with young; Guillemots, many with chicks; Razorbills, Fulmars, Cormorants, Shags - including two nests with well grown chicks; Herring Gulls, although very few this year had young and Ravens. Gannets of varying ages were observed at close quarters, then seen plunging into the sea with other seabirds in a feeding frenzy as shoals of fish appeared at the surface. Unlike our trip to Clarach we caught up with our elusive Choughs, 2 adults and their 3 young, these striking crows showed well on and off throughout our visit. Linnets and Rock Pipits frequented the clifftop and a fitting end to our birdwatching day was the Peregrine Falcon which timely put in a appearance.
I should also mention a different type of wildlife seen from the cliffs that day, at least 3 superb Bottle-nosed Dolphins putting on a prolonged and active appearance. All in all, a very productive visit, followed by tea in the village and the final drive back to The George Borrow.

Over the 4 days the total number of bird species encountered was 91.