Trip reports

Bexley Local Group Trip to North Wales

Straining tower, Lake Vyrnwy

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Bexley Local RSPB Trip to North Wales

Day One - Draycote Water
The trip to North Wales had been eagerly awaited since the completion of the group trip to Yorkshire in June of 2015. As with the previous year we started out in dry conditions with occasional showers as we drove northwards to our first venue. This is a reservoir managed by Severn Trent Water and has a circular walk of about five miles. On our arrival the first birds seen were three swifts but this did not prepare us for the sight to come. The reservoir came into view and as we moved from the car park, we saw hundreds and hundreds of swifts, house martins, sand martins and swallows flying around the reservoir feeding on the many insects. In addition there were at least 200 plus great crested grebes with over 50 counted in a single group from the Lookout Hide. The group went their differing ways, some to make the complete circular walk, others to stretch their legs part of the way in order to return for lunch in the restaurant and go out again along the reservoir towards the bird hide. Although it is a reservoir it is surrounded by woodland which gave us good sightings of many woodland birds. In all fifty five species were seen here. Birds seen: little grebe, great crested grebe, cormorant, grey heron, mute swan, greylag goose, Canada goose, mallard, tufted duck, buzzard, kestrel, pheasant, moorhen, coot, oystercatcher, lesser black backed gull, herring gull, great black backed gull, common tern, stock dove, woodpigeon, swift, green woodpecker, great spotted woodpecker, skylark, sand martin, swallow, house martin, grey wagtail, pied wagtail, wren, dunnock, robin, blackbird, song thrush, sedge warbler, whitethroat, blackcap, chiffchaff, long tailed tit, blue tit, great tit, jay, magpie, jackdaw, rook, carrion crow, starling, chaffinch, greenfinch, goldfinch, linnet, bullfinch, reed bunting, house sparrow and a yellowhammer was heard but not seen. We left Draycote Water at three p.m. for the two and a half hour drive to our base which was to be in Ellesmere Port .

Day Two - South Stacks and Conwy
We left on Sunday morning in promising sunshine but this proved to be a false dawn, for as we reached the Conwy area the skies emptied and it looked like we were going to have a soaking. However as we started to approach the Isle of Anglesey to visit RSPB South Stacks the skies started to brighten and by the time we reached our venue the sun was beginning to shine. By the end of the day shirt sleeves were the order of the day. On reaching RSPB South Stacks, a new reserve for the majority of people, some lucky person managed to spot a puffin on the water but it soon disappeared and was not seen again. The cliff top walk gave spectacular views of the cliff faces packed with razorbills, guillemots, fulmars and kittiwakes whilst many other birds were seen on the heath land. It was whilst we were walking along the cliff top the target bird for the reserve, a chough, came into view. Some people were very fortunate to have the bird so close to them they had to move backwards so that they could get their cameras to focus on the bird. Some of our party made the 400 step descent to the lighthouse where they managed to see porpoises. We left at 1.30 for the hour's drive to RSPB Conwy, another first for many of the group. After the rain at Conwy in the morning it was great to find that when we arrived it was bathed in glorious sunshine. RSPB Conwy has about a two mile walk around the reserve and is great for seeing the wildlife of the estuary and saltmarsh especially at high tide. Unfortunately we visited at low tide!! However despite this we were still able to see quite a number of birds especially the willow warbler. A total of 70 birds were seen at the two venues. Little grebe, great crested grebe, fulmar, gannet, cormorant, shag, little egret, grey heron, mute swan, greylag goose, Canada goose, shelduck, gadwall, mallard, tufted duck, red kite, buzzard, kestrel, moorhen, coot, oystercatcher, lapwing, black tailed godwit, curlew, redshank, common sandpiper, black headed gull, lesser black backed gull, herring gull, great black backed gull, kittiwake, guillemot, razorbill, puffin, woodpigeon, collared dove, swift, sand martin, swallow, house martin, meadow pipit, rock pipit, pied wagtail, wren, dunnock, robin, ring ouzel, blackbird, song thrush, sedge warbler, reed warbler, whitethroat, chiffchaff, willow warbler, blue tit, great tit, magpie, chough, jackdaw, carrion crow, raven, starling, house sparrow, chaffinch, greenfinch, goldfinch, linnet, bullfinch. In addition the garden warbler and blackcap had been heard but not seen. The journey back to our hotel was uneventful apart from the attempted humour of people asking if they were chuffed with seeing their chough.

Day Three - Lake Vrynwy.
We arrived after a two hour drive and the views that greeted us were breath-taking. The pictures you may have seen in books do not do them justice. We were met by one of the RSPB staff who gave us a brief history of the reservoir and of the birds we might encounter. There are five different walks and I think all bar one was covered by members of the group. Some of the walks included steep gradients and descents but for those who couldn't manage the walks there was the Capel Hide where you sat with feeders just inches away from the glass and it was not unusual to have twelve siskins on the feeders at one time. You could also get close up views of coal tits, redpoll, chaffinch, great spotted woodpecker, greenfinch and nuthatch. Those people who had managed to do the walks had seen dipper, pied and spotted flycatcher, redstart , willow warbler and a pair of obliging goldcrest. In all 51 species of bird were seen by the group. Cormorant, red kite, buzzard, kestrel, pheasant, common sandpiper, black headed gull, woodpigeon, collared dove, cuckoo, swift, great spotted woodpecker, skylark, sand martin, swallow, house martin, grey wagtail, pied wagtail, dipper, wren, dunnock, robin, redstart, blackbird, song thrush, blackcap, wood warbler, chiffchaff, willow warbler, goldcrest, spotted flycatcher, pied flycatcher, long tailed tit, coal tit, blue tit, great tit, nuthatch, treecreeper, jay, magpie, jackdaw, carrion crow, raven, starling, house sparrow, tree sparrow, chaffinch, siskin, redpoll in addition a garden warbler was heard but not seen. The drive back was made interesting for our resident train guru as we were overtaken by a lorry which was carrying a small steam train called VELINHELI. Len our driver tried to overtake the lorry as we were going up a hill so that our train guru could get a better look but thought he had better pull in behind it as there was a tailback gathering behind us.

Day Four - Carsington Water.
We arrived with hopes that we might see the great northern diver which had been around for several weeks only to find that he had last been sighted on the previous Saturday. Carsington Water is another reservoir managed by Severn Trent Water and has an eight mile walk around its perimeter but after three days of walking and bird watching no-one made the effort to walk around the whole reservoir. People were content to walk to the nearest hides and back to the visitors centre and walk around Stones Island. In all 46 species of birds were seen-Little grebe, great crested grebe, cormorant, mute swan, Canada goose, mallard, tufted duck, buzzard, kestrel, moorhen, coot, redshank, black headed gull, woodpigeon, collared dove, pied wagtail, wren, dunnock, robin, blackbird, song thrush, reed warbler, whitethroat, garden warbler, blackcap, chiffchaff, willow warbler, pied flycatcher, marsh tit, coal tit, blue tit, great tit, nuthatch, tree creeper, magpie, jackdaw, carrion crow, starling, house sparrow, tree sparrow, chaffinch, goldfinch, bullfinch, yellowhammer, reed bunting, snow goose, red crested pochard.
Everyone agreed all the venues we visited were excellent and the weather gods had been extremely kind to us especially in view of the weather forecast prior to leaving. In total 100 species of birds were seen and the most common words at the end were let's do it again next year!!