The arrival of birds for the winter season is now well under way, with further increases in wildfowl, winter waders and other species typical of this time of year.
Numbers of wigeon and teal (photo by Steve Knell, RSPB images) have steadily built up around the estuary and lagoons and these have been joined by other wintering wildfowl including a female pintail on 26/9 to 27/9, up to two pochard, five shoveler and several merganser which have been seen regularly, and goosander which were present on 15/9 and 5/10 with three individuals each time. Snipe and Lapwing numbers have also increased around the lagoons, these being two of the wader species which over-winter on the reserve, and water rail have been seen regularly on the shallow lagoon, particularly from the Tal y Fan hide. Cetti's warbler has been present since 26/9, more often heard than seen around the Benarth hide and near the car park entrance. Other winter birds have included common gull with the first one seen on 5/10, small numbers of redwings feeding with other thrush species on 11/10 and again on 12/10, and a noticeable increase in kingfisher sightings throughout the last few weeks.
Meanwhile autumn migration has produced a good variety of other wader species with spotted redshank on 15/9 and again from 5/10 up until at least 12/10, regular knot, black-tailed godwit and bar-tailed godwit in small numbers, greenshank on 23/9, 29/9 and 11/10 and whimbrel, with the last one being seen on 27/9. Passerines have included wheatear on 16/9, 20/9 and 21/9 with good numbers of meadow pipits and small flocks of linnets, mostly all seen along the estuary track and on the salt marsh. Skylarks have also been seen passing overhead, and a goldcrest was present on 8/10.
Just about all of our summer visitors have now left, although chiffchaffs and blackcaps are still present, some of which may over winter and have even been heard singing in recent days. The last lesser whitethroat sighting was on 16/9, and hirundines gradually disappeared with the last swallows seen on 19/9 and a house martin on 28/9. A common sandpiper was also still present on the deep lagoon on 6/10.
Other highlights over the past month have included another report of a great white egret on the estuary on 19/9, several peregrine sightings including one hunting noctule bats over the estuary on 19/9, and kestrel, a surprisingly uncommon bird on the reserve seen on 21/9, 23/9 and again on 9/10.
Mammals captured on the trail camera over the last month have included individual otter on 2/10 and 12/10, badger on 24/9 and two individuals together on 8/10, and a possible polecat on 24/9. There have also been day time sightings of fox and stoat.
The last invertebrate survey of the summer season took place on 20/9 with a good variety of species still present including speckled wood, green-veined white, small tortoiseshell, meadow brown and comma butterflies; common darter and emperor dragonflies; and common carder and white-tailed bumble bees. Red admiral butterflies have also been seen in recent days. Meanwhile alder leaf beetles seen earlier in September are thought to be a new species for the reserve, and may also be a local rarity in north Wales with only recent records from a small number of sites.
Events during the past month have included a Wader Walk on 15/9, focussing on the autumn wader migration; an Open Weekend on 21/9 to 22/9 with free entry and free guided walks and pond dipping activities for visitors; and the usual regular activities including Muddy Puddles for pre-school children each Wednesday, Nordic Walking and Tai Chi workshops each Thursday, and the monthly Farmers Market which took place on 25/9. Various spooky children's activities are planned for the Halloween Festival of Frights! event taking place on Saturday 26/10, while anyone visiting the reserve on 31/10 can visit for free if they come in fancy dress!
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