Monday, 13 May 2013

Birding weekend in Wales

Setting off on Friday morning for the now annual weekend in Wales, 260 plus miles along the M4 ahead of us.
A phone call from Brian letting us know that two Black-winged Stilts had been found at Goldcliff in Newport the previous evening, makes us change our plans for the normal stop off after the bridge and divert to the Newport Wetlands Centre instead.
It's 151 miles into the journey and a good stopping point. Having never visited this reserve we were met by friendly staff who were very helpful. 
Unfortunately they informed us that the two Stilts had not been seen this morning, and with news seemingly only being put out on the forums, we decide to head for the reserve cafe and then take a gentle stroll around the reserve.

Newport Wetlands Reserve 
The weather was looking very overcast and grey, and fierce winds were blowing across the estuary.
There seems to be a lot of work done here trying to get school kids involved with nature at an early age. At least three groups of kids were seen around the reserve with parents and members of staff. 
The walk itself with the weather conditions as they were produced very little of note. The winds making it very difficult to hear birds never mind see them.
The one highlight of the walk was a brief reeling from a Grasshopper Warbler, my first of the year having missed them at Lakenheath the previous week.

Saturday and arrangements were made the previous evening with Brian. We head for Marloes and are still undecided on whether we are going to take the boat to Skomer.
On the drive up we miss the turning for Marloes Mere, site of the now seemingly resident Glossy Ibis. Instead of turning back we continue on to the car park and head off towards the Deer Park.
The weather wasn't pleasant on the drive up, so I decide to leave the camera in the car and take the scope instead.

Lockley Lodge Visitor Centre
The field to the South of the car park leading towards the Deer Park was alive with Wheatears last year, this year it's empty.
On the Deer Park the winds are again very strong, but the early morning rain has stopped and I'm already regretting not taking the camera.
A year tick was added when two Chough's fly overhead calling. But on the walk towards the headland Wheatears and Stonechats are conspicuous by their absence. 
Trying to get some shelter from the biting winds we decide to head for the rocks. Another Chough flies overhead and then drops down onto the ground in front of us.
Scanning the cliffs and water's around Skomer Island produced a second year tick. Plenty of puffins were sitting on the surface of the sea, along with Guillemots and Razorbills. Shags were seen perched on rocks and in flight. Gannets were very obvious and frequent. 
I'm now as far from the car as I can possibly be, and decide I need to have the camera. Leaving dad and Brian I set off back towards the car. The walk back didn't take too long, but I made the mistake of running back up the stone steps and after reaching the top soon realised how unfit I am. The walk back to the headland was slow, until I saw Brian laying down photographing a Chough. Reaching them I skillfully dropped down collapsed beside them  and tried to take a few photo's. The results were not good but considering at one point I felt like I was having a heart attack they will have to do.


The Gannets were still flying around the headland and I took the chance to grab some photo's while recovering.
The light was rubbish, and the wind was blowing a storm, but I managed the shot below.
While recovering and laying behind the rocks another year tick is added when a Raven flies overhead "kronking".

The walk back to the car did produced sightings of Wheatear, Stonechat and Whitethroats, but the strong winds kept them from sitting up for too long, and no sooner did they appear on the tops they disappeared back within the gorse.
Reaching Lockley Lodge, the visitor centre and location where you would buy your ticket for the boat trip to Skomer the staff inform us that the boat crossing was touch and go today and although the boat did make the crossing we decided against going.
Instead we head back down the road and head for Marloes Mere. Parking the car in the National Trust car park. Something to remember here is that if you have already paid to park your car in the car park near the Lockley Lodge centre, then this ticket will also be valid to park at the NT car park at Marloes Mere on the same day. Otherwise it's going to be £5 to park the car here. So if your planning on a short trip to try for the Glossy Ibis after a visit to Skomer or the Deer Park, make sure you keep hold of your ticket.
As we arrive at the metal gate to scan for the Ibis the heavens open, and we run for the hide further along the track. This does me the world of good after the events on the Deer park!
No sign of the Ibis, and with the staff at Lockley Lodge centre informing us that the Ibis has been elusive of late we head for the car when there's a break in the rain.
A brief visit to Fishguard Harbour, after a tip off that a pair of Black Guillemots may well be present, proves in vain. It doesn't help that a huge ship is in the harbour at the time of our visit.
Back at Brian and Sue's holiday cottage, and dad gets lucky when a Raven is seen from the garden. He missed the one on the Deer park earlier so is pleased to have seen this one.

Sunday morning and although it's a bit out of the way, we decide to try again for the Ibis. Leaving the lodge at 5.45am, it's a 14 mile drive back to Marloes Mere. We park the car and start to scan the area from the metal gate. At first there's again no sign of the Ibis, but from beneath the bank in front of us the Ibis takes flight and lands in front of the reeds. It's distant and dark overhead but I took this shot as a record.

Glossy Ibis
From here it's off to Dinas Rspb reserve. It's roughly 70 miles from Pembroke Dock, 10 miles North of Llandovery on a minor road to Llyn Brianne.
Arriving at the empty car park, we stock the bird table with some food and wait to see what will come down. It's not long before Chaffinch, Robin, and Dunnock's are all feeding. A bit of a surprise was a Yellowhammer which came in to feed briefly. Normally Nuthatch can be attracted to the table, but not today.
Heading along the boardwalk the first bird seen is a male Pied Flycatcher. Shortly afterwards a female is seen. A scan of the paddock area produces both male and female Redstart, but there's no sign of any Spotted Flycatchers.
Another year tick is added when a Garden warbler pops into view among the tussocks. A Dipper flies past along the river and heads downstream. We take the longer route round the reserve. Climbing across rocks and making use of the wooden steps that have been placed at certain parts of the route.
We head past the cave location of Twm Sion Cati (The Welsh Robin Hood). It's a bit of a climb up hill to reach and with not much to look at when you reach it, I decide to give it a miss this year. Wood Warblers are heard frequently, but it takes a while before we get good views. It's butterfly-like flight eventually helps track the bird down.
On the return walk back towards the car, Nuthatch, Redstart, Wood Warbler, Pied Flycatcher and Dipper and marsh tit are all seen.
By now the rain has once again started to fall, so we decide to make for the car.

Time to head for home. The trip to Dinas has managed to knock 30 miles off the trip but it's still another 240 miles ahead of us.
The weather wasn't great, but much of the time it was dry and it could have been a lot worse. 
A couple of weeks at home and then it's a short trip to Scotland. I can't wait.


  1. Sounds like an awesome weekend!!! Based onmm reading this I've decided to alter my birding plans for Bempton Cliffs and take a trip to Wales instead!!! Can't believe you got a Glossy Ibis!!!
    Minsmere on sunday, and Forest of Dean the weekend after. Any other birding locations I can read about and copy later!!!!


  2. Hi Adam
    The Glossy Ibis has been resident at Marloes Mere for over a year now
    I think I'm right in saying it's the only one in the country at the moment.

    Skomer Island is alive with sea bird activity. Time it right and you can have Puffins beneath your feet. The cliffs will have all the expected species, Guillemots, Razorbills, Shags, Kittiwakes, Fulmars and Puffins make use the burrows.
    If you are lucky you might see Little Owl on the stone walls, and Short-eared Owls breed on the island. If they are sitting on eggs they are harder to see.
    The warden will be able to give up to date information when you land.
    I think it's around £10 for the boat and another £10 to land on Skomer. Plus £5 for the car park.
    Remember if you are going to look for the Ibis afterwards, keep hold of your car park ticket as it's valid for the other car park on the same day.
    If you are not planning on going to Skomer, you can walk onto the Deer Park and you should see Choughs. They can be anywhere, but seem to favour the far headland near the rocks or on the short grass just before the rocks.
    The Ibis is only a short drive from the first car park. If you look on google maps and zoom in you will see the second car park and the marsh area where the Ibis resides. There's a metal gate with wire on the top that seems to produce sightings quite frequently. The guy in the car park will point you in the right direction.

    If you do go, I hope the weather is kind to you. If it is it will be fantastic.

    Good Birding

    1. Just looked on Google maps.
      The car park for Skomer and the Deer Park is near West Hook Farm Camping.
      The car park for the Ibis is West of the Youth Hostels Association, and the Ibis is in the marsh area South of Ward Smithies Farms.
      The metal gate is along the left hand track just before the car park. There's also a hide not far past the gate.
      Some birders arrive early and try for the Ibis first.
      Hope this helps.