The winter season at Conwy generally means an increase in wildfowl on the lagoons, flocks of tits and finches feeding in the trees, and the presence of one of the reserve’s most sought after birds, the firecrest (library image by Bob Garrett). This year it seems this species arrived a little earlier than usual, with the first record on 12/9, and there have been regular sightings of at least one bird throughout the past few weeks.
Goldeneye are another anticipated species as winter approaches, with the arrival of a pair on 21/10 and a female seen on most days since. Whooper swans were a nice highlight in October, though as usual they didn't hang around for long, with two birds present on the lagoons on 18/10 when an additional 12 birds were seen flying over, and a further four birds were present on 21/10. Other notable wildfowl has included shoveler with a peak so far of 11 on 18/10, pochard with a maximum of six on 31/10, regular merganser with nine being the most seen on 31/10, and a female goosander which has been present on several days on the River Ganol along the eastern edge of the reserve. 303 wigeon recorded on 18/10 was a relatively high count for the site.
Flocks of siskin have been present over the last few weeks, with up to 11 birds seen feeding on alder cones near the boardwalk on 5/11, along with one lesser redpoll. Long-tailed tit flocks have also been a regular sight, often with goldcrests and other tit species amongst them, and a treecreeper was also seen on 21/10, a relatively scarce species on the reserve.
Other signs of the winter season have included regular chough seen flying overhead, sometimes in slightly larger groups than usual with 12 seen together on 9/10 and again on 10/10. Cetti’s warbler was another species that arrived earlier than usual this year, with birds present since the early autumn, and up to three regularly heard and occasionally seen in recent weeks. Stonechat have also been seen regularly, while redwings have been moving through on several days with flocks of other thrush species, and two birds on 13/10 were the first recorded this season.
Autumn wader passage appears to be all but over for this year and highlights over the past few weeks have included spotted redshank seen on several days with a maximum of three birds on 18/10, regular greenshank with a peak of seven on 31/10, up to five bar-tailed godwit on 2/10 which had been present since the end of the previous month, and occasional knot and black-tailed godwit. 98 dunlin on 18/10 was a good record for the reserve when 188 curlew and 611 redshank were also recorded during the monthly WeBS count. Two species typical of the winter season are now present in good numbers, including lapwing which can easily be seen on the lagoon islands along with the often more elusive snipe.
Great white egrets have continued to be present with up to four seen regularly earlier in October but fewer recorded since, with just one individual still being seen up until at least 7/11. While it does appear that some of the birds present for much of the summer and autumn may have moved on, the absence of records is perhaps also partly due to the lack of observers over the last couple of weeks while the reserve has been closed.
Other highlights included a merlin on 10/10, a fairly scarce bird on the reserve with only occasional records during the winter season. A female tawny owl was heard calling from the trees by the car park at dusk on 30/10. Being largely nocturnal and rather secretive, there are only five previous records of this species on the reserve. However, the rarest bird over the last few weeks, for the reserve at least, was a razorbill present on the estuary on 29/9. While these are locally common with many breeding on the cliffs around the Great Orme and Little Orme, there are only three previous records here with the last one seen in December 2011.
Meanwhile the last of the migrants from the summer season included a rather late house martin on 29/9, and a wheatear on 30/9.
A few insects were also recorded including a migrant hawker dragonfly on 7/10, green-veined white butterfly on 14/10 and speckled wood on 16/10, all of which generally fly until the end of October. Several common darter dragonflies and red admiral butterflies were also recorded and may continue to be be seen flying well into November.
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