With Autumn in full swing now, we have also had a touch of winter in the last week. The first snow appeared on the mountain tops last weekend end and we have experienced sub-zero temperatures and hard frosts. It may be cold but it has also been clear and sunny producing some stunning mornings over the lake.

Lake Vyrnwy (by Gavin Chambers)

This change in weather has brought a few of our winter migrants back from Scandinavia. The first brambling was spotted by a couple of our regularly returning volunteers who had popped into the Coed y Capel hide to see what was about. Redwing and fieldfare are also arriving back in the area, but numbers are still low on the reserve at the moment but this will certainly increase as birds continue to search for berries. The number of birds always increases at this time of year especially during cold snaps, so birds such as chaffinch, siskin, coal tit, blue tit, great tit and nuthatch should all be numerous on our feeders with the possibility of great spotted woodpecker, marsh tit and other finches such as greenfinch and goldfinch.

Male brambling from Coed y Capel hide in 2016 (by Gavin Chambers)

Also keep an eye out for bramblings on the lakeside road under beech trees. Mixed flocks of chaffinch and brambling will come down on to the road to feed on beech mast which will have been crushed by vehicles. These species are generally similar in appearance but when they fly, bramblings have a conspicuous white rump patch which chaffinches lack.

The lake has also seen a small increase in activity with a variety of wildfowl being spotted recently. A flock of mallard have been frequently seen between the tower and Llechwedd-du picnic site and also contains a pure white bird with yellow bill, which is a domestic duck rather than an albino mallard. On the 31st October there were also 7 common scoter, 2 wigeon and 4 teal seen from the Old Village car park. The scoters are annual visitors that migrant overland as they move between coastal sites and usually only stay for a day, whereas wigeon and teal will be arriving here to spend the winter.

Short-eared Owl (Archive photo by Gavin Chambers)

During this time of year, the moorland goes quite quiet with most birds moving to lower altitudes. However, this week we did spot some red grouse and the wonderful sight of a short-eared owl hunting over the heather and grassland mosaic. Grouse will remain on the moorland throughout the winter, so severe poor weather can have an impact on their survival rate whereas the short-eared owl will happily move off the moorland to coastal locations or lower rough pasture to hunt if the weather becomes too severe to find food.

Gavin Chambers, Warden

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