Monday, May 05, 2008

Wales Weekend - day 1

I got home from my week in India at 20:45 and by 21:05 we were out of the house and driving to Wales :) We stayed close to Dolgellau.

Saturday morning saw a reasonably prompt start, all things considered, and we headed first to the RSPB centre at Penmaenpool on the A493, only to find that it is closed, permanently by the looks of it. We had decided to walk the Penmaenpool-Morfa Mawddach Walk, along the Mawddach Estuary (with the 'Where to watch birds in Britain' book as our guide), which could be anything from 12-18 miles so I opted for 100-400x lens.

The BBC had nearly put us off going to Wales as the weather forecast was for heavy rain from mid-morning on the Saturday with possibly some respite on Bank Holiday Monday but we didn't think about it for long, we both needed a break, whatever the weather.

Before encountering the estuary proper we noticed Barn Swallows flitting about, including this one collecting wet mud, no doubt nest building nearby:















Round a bend and we saw the estuary, it's a huge landscape and at this time the tide was heading out and had already drained it notably. Such tidal movements obviously made fishing easier as evidenced by this Red Breasted Merganser (you'll need to click for a better view):














Having caught a flat fish I wonder how or even if the bird ate it? Also feeding amongst the receding waters a number of Grey Herons, I caught this one as it was landing and like the way the feathers and wings are splayed:
















About a third of the way along the trail there was a very Dipper looking river, and as seeing a Dipper was one of our main goals of the break we decided to detour along it. The river itself was fast flowing and clear with plenty of good dipping rocks, as you can see here:















No Dippers about though. We did spot this Great Spotted Woodpecker in the trees:




















Also about for most of the walk were plenty of Willow Warblers:

















In fact Blackcap and Willow Warblers were abundant here, with smaller numbers of ChiffChaff, Robins and Blackbirds, etc. One species that stood out though was the Song Thrush. We heard our first bird shortly after parking and were very rarely either unaccompanied by their song or by the birds themselves. Here you can see a mother feeding a fledgling:
















We can only have been 10 yards away for the birds but they seemed quite content, with mum foraging through the leaves then returning to feed the youngster. If you think about it, for the bird to have already fledged the eggs were probably laid in late March during that really nasty spell of weather we had, so the parents have done very well already this year.

Returning to the trail we continued on towards the mouth of the estuary. We spotted some Thrift growing on the rocks used to construct the sea-wall:














This was the view about halfway down, note the grey clouds and poor light too:















We arrived at Morfa Mawddach station after around three hours walking, and by now the weather was notably improving (in place of the forecast heavy rain) and the skies were clearing. At the station we met a group of birders who were regular to the area and they pointed out where we might see some Black Redstarts and an incongruous row of Victorian terraced houses, amongst other things. We bumped into them at dinner that evening and they told us that they'd found Ring Ouzel on the 'Roman Steps', which we filed away as Ring Ouzel was another main goal of this holiday.

Whilst we chatted this Common Buzzard soared overhead, I like the way the primary wing feathers are projecting forward:

















We headed around the island where they'd seen the Black Redstarts but couldn't find them and so decided to head back towards our car. We photographed this Sea Campion again clinging to the sea wall:















A Herring Gull had found lunch though I'm not sure if this meal was particularly fresh:
















We'd seen a few waders in the pools close to Morfa Mawddach station but it was only when we walked very close to one, we identified the Common Sandpiper:











Once back at the car we calculated we'd walked about fifteen miles but we hadn't managed to see any of the birds we'd set-out to, so we took the other advice of the birders we'd met and headed into Dolgellau itself to park-up and search the river between the bridge and the back of the co-op. They were right!

The Dipper was in shade so you'll need to click on the pic to see the chestnut colouring to the abdomen, but we were chuffed to bits to finally see one :) It dipped about, flew across the river before diving and catching something then flew out again to consume it, then back in again. We watched it swimming and then followed it a bit as it flew up river:

















The bird kept returning to this spot with food:

















So having flushed it once in our enthusiasm to follow it, we decided to head back to the hotel though very pleased we'd finally seen a Dipper! As an aside I'd recommend to the council of Dolgellau they have an annual clean-up as the town itself is very picturesque but the overall impression is spoiled by the bottles, cans and fast food packaging literally everywhere.

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1 Comments:

Blogger Jane said...

I like all your bird photos here but especially the woodpecker, heron and mother thrush feeding her young. We're very fond of visiting the Mawddach Estuary ourselves though don't go very often as it's nearly 4 hours from where we live.

7:07 pm  

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