|Summer 2011 part 1: Big
news - Dyfi Ospreys hatch chicks!
& Dyfi Valley landscapes Slide-Library - Click HERE
historic moment for mid-Wales. On the
afternoon of Sunday June 5th 2011, the first osprey chicks to hatch on
the Dyfi Estuary in over 400 years began to emerge. CCTV video was
posted to Youtube as the events unfolded: the following three images
are screengrabs from the videos:
So, what's the
background to this story?
Ospreys are migratory raptors that spend the winter months in Western
Africa and then migrate north in Spring to haunts in Scotland and
elsewhere. Once, they inhabited much of the UK, but heavy persecution,
for example by Victorian egg-collectors, led to them becoming largely
absent from the early 20th Century. In the 1950s, they returned to
Scotland, with a very gradual recovery: by 1976 there were 14 pairs,
but enhanced protection against egg-collectors raised the population to
71 pairs by 1991 and 158 pairs by 2001.
In 2005, the Glaslyn
Osprey Project near Porthmadog in North Wales saw the first successful
Welsh osprey brood raised. Now, ospreys have
regularly been seen over the years on the Dyfi Estuary, stopping by for
a day or two to hunt the abundant mullet and flounders that they seem
partial to, but have typically moved on in time. The big question was:
with sufficient encouragement, would they be tempted to stay?
In 2007, the Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust, an independent
conservation charity with 10 staff and several dozen dedicated
volunteers, constructed an artificial nest - a broad platform strewn
with sticks atop a tall wooden pole - at its Cors Dyfi reserve, near
the Dyfi Junction railway station, The following April, a male was seen
at the nest site and he was joined by a female in June. They spent the
next few months at the nest site but did not breed.
2009 and 2010 saw similar activity, but in 2011 a male and female went
that extra step and three eggs were laid between April 25th and May
1st. Incubation typically lasts 30-40 days, and after a nailbiting
wait, which aptly illustrates the adage "better late than never", the
first egg hatched on June 5th, which in my reckoning makes it day 41.
The events were reported as they occurred on the project's Facebook
page (I'll put relevant links below) and, as the nest is monitored by
CCTV, it was only a short wait to see the video online. This
represented a tremendous success - the culmination of many years' hard
work, of which the osprey headline is just a part - although a very big
Amongst my collection of well-used and in some cases stained and
tattered maps that I keep in my jeep for route-finding when going after
thunderstorms, I have a old 1:50,000 Aberystwyth sheet that depicts the
reserve as it was (above centre):
A dreary plantation of conifer forest, it
clearfelled, the drainage ditches blocked and in time the wetland
vegetation that one might expect to find in such a place recolonised
the land. Today, it is a beautiful expanse of wet woodland and marshes
dotted with pools fringed by rushes and yellow flag iris. The Trust
have made part of the reserve easily accessible to all by constructing
a boardwalk pathway that permits dry progress through what is a very
This is a typical view from the boardwalk. Swathes of rushes sway
gently in the breeze, with stands of birch and sallow dotted here and
there. Tarrenhendre forms the backdrop, on the other side of the river.
On a still, warm afternoon, the air is fragrant with the scent of bog
myrtle - also known as sweet gale - whose shrubby bushes are clustered
thickly in places. Small birds - various warblers and buntings -
dart here and there through the undergrowth.....
In places, larger pools have been dug......
On a warm Spring or Summer day, dozens of dragonflies can be seen
zigzagging about at breakneck speed over the surface of the water,
presenting a very difficult photographic challenge....
Occasionally, they pause for long enough to permit a clearer image!
Yellow flag iris provides a burst of colour in May and June:
At the end of the boardwalk, the nesting platform is visible across the
expanse of pools and swamp...
This is a severe digital crop of a telephoto shot (200mm), so that
without an embarrassingly long lens you would get little detail here....
The Trust have provided an excellent solution to that, with this
purpose-built hide, equipped with top-notch telescopes and
Even better, next door is the Visitor Centre, where large, wall-mounted
monitors display the live CCTV footage of the nest:
I can thoroughly recommend a visit to this
superb reserve, one of several in the area - the Trust alone manages 19
reserves, whilst the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) and the RSPB
are other key players. CCW manage the famous sand-dunes at Ynyslas,
which are in their prime in early summer, with the drifts of
marsh-orchids, some tall and graceful amongst the deeper grass....
....and others more squat in areas heavily cropped by the substantial
More colour is added by the common blue butterflies that abound in
Here's the view back along the boardwalk that crosses the high dunes,
looking up the Estuary:
The boardwalk passes a huge blowout, where the prevailing westerly
winds have blasted their way into a dune (somebody popped up top L to
The boardwalk leads on to the open beach, here busy with visitors on a
warm early June day - a far cry from the typical scene during my usual
visits, when the sky is full of dramatic storm-clouds or the sands are
deserted due to the antisocial hours I keep when fishing!
But such superb early summer weather has to be savoured - despite some
silly tabloid stories about endless heatwaves, the charts continue to
show a right old mixed-bag in the days to come! On June 2nd, to make
the most of a fine forecast for the day, I headed up to NW Wales - the
first trip this year. I left home at 6 and was fishing at a mark near
Pwllheli before the Today Programme had finished. Here's the view back
towards the mountains of Snowdonia:
failed to deliver, so I continued west and by mid-morning was heading
for the rocks of Bardsey Sound, beyond Aberdaron:
Despite the rough weather of late, the water was gin-clear and I set up
two rods with different lures to see what would be on the feed once the
riptide set in on the ebb:
Conditions were flat-calm, an unusual thing at this 5-knot plus rip
that can generate awesome stopper-waves several metres high when there
is any swell - just as well for the venturesome occupants of this
rather small dinghy! Bardsey Sound has a notorious reputation due to
its severe currents and has claimed many lives - it is no place for the
As if to confirm that Summer had indeed arrived, I was rewarded with my
first mackerel of the year within an hour of starting, plus a steady
stream of pollack and coalfish....
So what is in
store for the next few weeks? Well, it's good news for some in that
more vitally-needed rain is a possibility for areas that have seen a
woeful lack of it in recent months. The theme out to mid-month (I don't
hold with looking to more than a fortnight ahead) is generally
unsettled, in stark contrast to some headlines of late, which, it
should be noted, have absolutely nothing to do with the Met Office! For
me, the unsettled conditions will
mean more slug-reduction activity - I walked over to the garden at 0300
one morning last week and by torchlight I collected 40-50 of the little
But slugs aside, the garden is managing OK so far, and with Common Blue
and Small Heath sighted last week it's now up to 11 species of
butterflies - and that's without the Cabbage Whites!
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