At this time of year the wardening team are out and about as much as possible surveying the key bird species breeding on the reserve. This year we are concentrating on the moorland, with surveys for hen harrier, merlin, curlew, black grouse, red grouse and ring ouzel taking place. For most species it is still early days, though thankfully the early morning grouse surveys are well behind us. Though the moorlands are being looked at most this year, we never forget about the woodlands and the rich variety of species using them. Our local volunteer nest box checker (and bird ringer) has been busy checking our many boxes across the reserve, with our first pied flycatcher eggs hatching this week.
View down the lake by Gavin Chambers
The last couple of weeks have presented us with ideal conditions to survey the moorlands. While out and about we come across many different things, from stunning views to interesting creatures. Moths are generally considered night time species, but there are plenty of species that can be found by day. Currently there are loads of common heath fluttering across heather glad slopes, heather being one of its main caterpillar food plants. They are not the most colourful of species but the males make up for this with their amazing feathery antennae which they use to detect females. Similarly, the male emperor moth has large antennae and are believed to be able to detect females from several kilometres away!
Male common heath moth by Gavin Chambers
Meadow pipits are a common sight and sound across the moorland and therefore it is no surprise that every so often we come across a nest, neatly tucked away in the vegetation with a beautifully woven nest of grass containing 4 or 5 dark mottled eggs. Their presence is important to the success of some of our key species, namely the hen harrier and merlin, whom prey on them throughout the breeding season. The pipits will normally have more than one nest in a breeding season which helps counteract the number taken by predators.
Meadow pipit nest by Gavin Chambers
Colours on the moorland at this time of year are a bit limited, but tormentil, heath milkwort and lousewort are some of the species of plant adding a little splash of colour. However, down the slopes and into the woodlands, the colours are spectacular. Bluebells seem to be having a bumper year with swathes of dark blue banks around every corner. This stunning blue is then interlaced with the white of greater stitchwort and subtle pink of cuckoo flower, especially along road verges. Though a lot of places have now lost their bluebells we still have plenty on show, but not for much longer so if you haven't seen them yet you better hurry!
Heath milkwort by Gavin Chambers
Other sightings from around the reserve have included an osprey on the 20th & 21st May, first circling high behind the Hotel and the next morning moving up the lake from the dam. No sign since but it may still be in the area. Another otter sighting from the Centenary Hide has been reported along with a great photo of it and a stunning male mandarin (see the Montgomeryshire Bird Blog for images). A hobby was seen just off the Bala Road (by County boundary) last week.
Gavin Chambers, Warden
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