• Starling numbers approach fifty thousand

    January saw the starling murmurations build up as we'd hoped, with small numbers at the start of the new year increasing towards 50 thousand birds later in the month and producing some spectacular aerial displays as they arrived to roost in the reedbeds. At the time of writing it seems that numbers may possibly have already peaked, although considerable sized flocks have still been coming in at dusk on recent evenings…

    • 9 Feb 2019
  • New Year begins with some early signs of starling activity

    After much anticipation it seems that starling numbers have begun to show some signs of increasing, with some impressive murmurations already seen over the past few of days, perhaps numbering around 5000 - 10,000 birds. Hopefully this will continue to build up to produce the spectacular displays we've had in previous winters (photo by David Kjaer, RSPB Images), though as is the case with all wildlife we can never predict…

    • 12 Jan 2019
  • Visitors arrive from the north!

    One of the highlights for November was a female long-tailed duck which was present on the shallow lagoon over six days from 23/11 to 28/11 (photo by Jonni Price). This is the first recorded sighting of the species on the reserve, though it is understood that there was a reliable previous sighting a number of years ago which was not recorded. Long-tailed ducks can be seen around the UK coast in winter, most commonly in northern…

    • 9 Dec 2018
  • Winter on the way

    Highlights over the past month have included several jack snipe (photo by Marc Hughes) with individuals present on 8/10 and 11/10, and two on 20/10 seen on the shallow lagoon from the Tal y Fan hide and coffee shop. A great white egret flew over on 13/10, a female type marsh harrier was present on 13/10, and a juvenile goshawk was seen flying over the estuary on 20/10, another scarce bird for the reserve with only 14…

    • 22 Nov 2018
  • Autumn brings a few surprises

    A strong contender for ‘bird of the month’ for September was the spotted crake present on 22/9, which put in regular appearances in front of the coffee shop throughout the afternoon (photo shows a bird seen previously). This was the fifth record for the reserve, the last being in August 2009. A short-eared owl seen earlier on the same day was another good bird for the reserve, while autumn wader passage…

    • 7 Oct 2018
  • Waders keep moving as summer draws to an end

    Wood Sandpiper

    The most sought after bird over the past month was undoubtedly the wood sandpiper which stayed with us for 15 days from 8/8 to 23/8 and generally showed very well for visitors. Other main highlights were further visits from a great white egret on 14/8 and 16/8, and a female marsh harrier which was seen briefly over the reserve on 6/8 and 7/8. 

    Other wader highlights have included green sandpipers on…

    • 3 Sep 2018
  • Autumn wader passage gets under way

    As we move further towards autumn, the presence of wading birds on the lagoons and estuary is becoming ever more noticeable with both greater variety and numbers.

    Green sandpipers are currently proving to be a highlight with up to four present since 27/7 and showing particularly well in front of the Benarth hide. Other notable waders have included a juvenile little ringed plover on 27/7, greenshank on 22/7 and 29/7…

    • 1 Aug 2018
  • Channelling the spirit of '76.

    The grass is brown and desiccated, the leaves on some of the trees curl and fall to the floor, and the media is drawing parallels with the summer of 1976.  This is the heatwave of 2018. My memory of 1976 (I was five years old) was the huge number of ladybirds* - I remember having to pick my way carefully along the path to the school gate to avoid treading on them - but I'm not sure a generation younger than me would…

    • 15 Jul 2018
  • Why we continue to be wild about nature

    Over the last couple of years, an exciting project called 'Wild About Nature' has been underway at Conwy nature reserve. Our volunteers have been finding new ways to engage with visitors and we have produced new materials that you can see around the nature reserve. It's all focused on enabling more of our visitors to connect with nature, and we are really grateful to Heritage Lottery Fund Wales for their help…

    • 30 Jun 2018
  • Nature: the next generation

    We're less than two weeks away from midsummer and the reserve is full of life. Plants blooming, bees, flies and wasps are pollinating, dragonflies and butterflies are emerging, and birds are busy feeding youngsters.

    On the lagoons, coots, moorhens, mallards and gadwalls have chicks, and there is still at least one clutch of oystercatcher eggs that are yet to hatch. A common sandpiper is hanging around the deep…

    • 10 Jun 2018
  • It's baby bird time again!

    Little grebe with chicks

    With the breeding season now well under way, the presence of young birds is highly evident around the reserve.

    The lagoons are a great place to look out for birds with their young, with at least five broods of coot, three broods of little grebe and a brood of moorhens which have been easily visible from the coffee shop in recent days. Mallards with ducklings are very numerous around both lagoons…

    • 25 May 2018
  • Summer migrants continue to delight

    With all our regular summer visitors already back well before the end of April, the past two weeks has seen an interesting mix of other passage migrants dropping into the reserve.

    A drake gargany on 2/5 was perhaps the main highlight, present on the shallow lagoon from late afternoon into the evening, but unfortunately wasn't located again the following morning (photo of a previous bird by Jon Ward). An osprey

    • 12 May 2018
  • American duck draws a crowd

    There's no doubt about the star bird of the last week. This smart male ring-necked duck was found by regular visitor Marc Hughes early on Sunday morning, and many local birders were keen to see it. Originating in North America, it's only the sixth ever recorded in North Wales, and it's the first seen at Conwy.* It arrived, and presumably went, with a gaggle of five pochards, which may prove to be the last…

    • 25 Apr 2018
  • Look out for butterflies!

    Common blue (Brian Mottershead)

    Last week, you may have read or heard about the latest monitoring results from the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme. It wasn't good news. Although 2017 was better than 2016, it proved to be the seventh worst year for butterflies since the survey started in 1976. You can read all about the results on the Butterfly Conservation website.

    That 2017 was a better year was illustrated by our own results at Conwy, but we…

    • 24 Apr 2018
  • Wake up, it's Spring!

    It is Spring, isn't it? Yesterday I thought it was, walking around the reserve in a t-shirt, a couple of commas being the first butterflies of the year here. Today, I'm not so sure...

    Summer migrants have slowly started to arrive this week, with more chiffchaffs and sand martins around, plus our first swallows (Tuesday 3rd), blackcapwhite wagtail, willow warbler and common sandpiper (Wednesday 5th). Perhaps…

    • 6 Apr 2018
  • A mixed picture for summer visitors, but bad weather doesn't slow down Mr or Mrs Toad

    Usually by the end of March, good numbers of the early summer migrants have arrived. But March 2018 has been untypical, both for the prolonged cold weather dominated by easterly winds, and for a huge low pressure system over Iberia that effectively closed the door on northbound birds in the middle of the month.

    Our first chiffchaff, on 11th March, was actually a bit earlier than the average, but with only a few days…

    • 29 Mar 2018
  • Cold snap delays spring, but brings some surprises

     So, there was Winter, just sauntering along with its usual mix of wind, rain, and then more rain, and just as the days started to lengthen, snowfall, frosts and freezing winds scattered birds across Europe and deposited them in unexpected places. Many visitors and social media followers reported redwings and fieldfares in their gardens, and we had a good number on the reserve last weekend, the latter very unusual here…

    • 8 Mar 2018
  • A record amount of squealing in the reedbeds

    The signs of Spring are here if you look for them - catkins on the alder trees and the daffodils starting to push up in the clawdd wall by the Visitor Centre - but we are still in the grip of wet and windy weather. There are plenty of birds to enjoy on the reserve, with lapwings and wigeons especially plentiful, both species taking advantage of the islands that were cut last month. We have raised the water level in the…

    • 10 Feb 2018
  • Things are going to get messy!

    Next week, from 7-9 February, we will have a digger on the nature reserve, using a flail to cut back some of the scrub. This blog explains what we’re doing, and why.

    Nature reserves should be amazing places for nature. But they don’t just ‘happen’.

    We use our ecological knowledge and experience to manage the habitats for the species typical of that site, or for the very specific needs of plants…

    • 31 Jan 2018
  • New Year begins with a touch of the arctic

    The new year has so far produced a nice variety of bird sightings for the reserve with some surprises thrown in among the more regular suspects.

    A small number of brent geese have been wintering around the mouth of the Conwy estuary recently, some of which have evidently made their way a little further up river producing sightings from the reserve with eight seen flying over on 10/1, and a single bird over on 12/1…

    • 14 Jan 2018
  • Exploring my inner geek

    Every day that I'm at Conwy, I typically start with some birdwatching. I 'open up' the reserve, unlocking the hides and checking the trails, and perhaps doing jobs as switching on the water pump or checking some of our mammal monitoring stations. And, of course, I note the birds that are around, so that we have some information for visitors arriving at the Visitor Centre when we open at 9.30am.

    This first…

    • 31 Dec 2017
  • Hen Harrier Spectacular!

    The star attraction over the past couple of weeks was undoubtedly a hen harrier which made daily appearances between Monday 11th and Saturday 16th December (photo by Bob Garrett). The 'ringtail' bird, a name given to female and juvenile hen harriers because of the barred appearance on the tail was thought to be a first year, and delighted visitors with its graceful hunting displays over the lagoons in close proximity…

    • 26 Dec 2017
  • Rhegen y dŵr - not running, but standing

    The water rails have been the stars of Conwy in recent weeks, with up to four on show at any one time, and the total number on the reserve must be in double-figures. In Welsh, these are rhegen y dŵr, literally 'runner on the water', an appropriate title for a bird that you often only see legging it across a gap in the reeds.

    But they've been feeding in the open here, and photographers have been getting some…

    • 9 Dec 2017
  • Habitat management progresses as winter birds move in

    With the winter season under way, we're well into our habitat management program which involves cutting back reed, bramble and willow scrub, and other long vegetation from various areas around the reserve. We carry out this work to maintain a variety of habitats to benefit a diverse range of wildlife, keeping areas open and preventing the natural succession to scrub and eventually trees which would otherwise occur. The…

    • 12 Nov 2017
  • Raining birds

    Firecrest (Bob Garrett)

    Today was just one of those mornings when the nature reserve was alive with birds. The bushes and trees were hooching with thrushes, primarily redwings and blackbirds, fresh in from Scandinavia. There are plenty of hawthorn and rowan berries, and lots of rosehips, bright red in the sunshine, that will feed them for the next few days. Then I came across a flock of blue, great and long-tailed tits, with robins and wr…

    • 31 Oct 2017