The highlight of the past few weeks has undoubtedly been a redhead smew which was present on the deep lagoon from 29/11 to 6/12 (photo by Peter Sutton). Smews, along with mergansers and goosanders are in a group of water birds known as sawbills due to the serrations on their bill which allow them to easily catch and eat fish. Their breeding range extends from northern Scandinavia across Siberia and small numbers reach the UK each winter, more commonly on the east side of the country. They are relatively scarce in north Wales with the last record on the reserve being in November 2007. Females and immature males are known as ‘redheads’ being difficult to distinguish, while adult males have a more distinctive black and white plumage.
Two scaup have also been present for most of the past month, with an immature male which had been seen from 26/11 being joined by an adult female from 29/11. Other wildfowl highlights have included a female pintail seen on 16/12 and 21/12, three whooper swans flying over on 12/12, and a pink-footed goose on the shallow lagoon on 22/12 which is likely to be part of a small recent influx of birds in the local area. 29 shoveler on 21/12 was the highest count yet this winter, and up to five pochard have been present. Merganser and great crested grebe have also made regular appearances.
A jack snipe which was first seen on 27/11 remained feeding close to the coffee shop up until 4/12, and woodcock were seen over the reserve around dusk on 4/12 and 5/12. Lapwing numbers have been gradually building up with 96 recorded on the WeBS count on 19/12, and small numbers of black-tailed godwit have continued to be present with a maximum of five birds on 5/12.
A great white egret continues to be seen regularly, usually feeding in the channels out on the estuary, while sightings of water rail have also been frequent around the lagoons and ponds.
The areas of trees around the reserve seem to have been very busy with bird activity in recent weeks with flocks of siskins, bullfinches and long-tailed tits being regularly encountered along with occasional goldcrests, and stonechats out in the open scrub habitats.
A peacock butterfly seen flying on a warm sunny afternoon on 15/12 may well be the last of the season.
Meanwhile work has been taking place to re-landscape part of the lagoon edge in front of the Foel Fras screen, creating a shallow scrape area to encourage feeding waders and also to improve the view of the lagoon from the screen. Further work is planned for the beginning of the new year where part of the shallow lagoon will also be re-landscaped in front of the coffee shop, creating areas that will retain deeper water throughout the year with improved areas of shallow margins for feeding water birds.
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