11/05/2015 ............ KOS Long Weekend in Mid / North Wales May 2015
As tradition demands we began this Spring weekend at the RSPB Lake Vyrnwy reserve arriving at about 10:45am after the two hour drive from Cheshire and availed ourselves of the facilities at the Artisans Cafe, just down from the RSPB information centre, ready for the slog up the hill to our usual vantage point. Before then though we visited the hide overlooking the feeders where we had excellent views of what we hoped would be the first of the 100 species that I'd optimistically set as a target count for the 4 days in the principality - a pair of Pied Flycatchers had occupied one of the nest boxes, giving stunning views and we were delighted to see a Marsh Tit using the X-billsfeeders - it's so rare nowadays in our area. The day was dry, but it was quite cool and some species were keeping a low profile, we heard just a few seconds of song from a Wood Warbler but neither sight nor sound of the Spotted Flycatchers that were expected and which were present on previous visits. Both Blackcaps and Garden Warblers were in full song and this gave us an opportunity for comparisons - it's still a struggle! When we reached the top of the hill a male Redstart gave good views as did a displaying Tree Pipit, soaring up from an ash tree before parachuting back down from where it started. Bird of the morning was probably a Hobby seen briefly by a lucky few as it shot over the hill and down towards the reservoir.
{short description of image}We enjoyed our butties after driving up to the north end of the lake before walking through the woodland to the Centenary hide; not much from there but as we returned to the cars Len and I were lucky enough to come across two crossbills, a male and female, calling loudly as they chased one another through the uppermost branches of one of the conifers that surround the car park.
On then to Barmouth over the narrow mountain roads, we had a singing Stonechat and Derek's passengers a party of Wheatears, before dropping down to the coast. As usual we stayed with Eric and Shelagh Jarman at the Wavecrest Hotel. Shelagh's a talented cook but unfortunately has stopped doing evening meals but they had recommended a number of local restaurants and, after much research and many emails, Derek had booked meals for us in the Min y Mor Hotel. This was a good choice, the food was great and excellent value - thoroughly recommended!

The weather on Friday (8th.) was abysmal with low cloud and drizzle as we made our way over to the RSPB reserve at Ynys Hir and it became increasingly wet as the day wore on, but we had a plan and for the time being were going to stick to {short description of image}it! After going through the formalities at the reception centre, we made our way onto the reserve heading for the Breakwater hide on the purple wetland trail via the Ynys-hir hide. A number of new species for the trip were added to Sheila's list including both Reed and Sedge Warblers but they seemed to be keeping a low profile as the weather deteriorated. From the Breakwater hide we could hear a single Skylark braving the elements, good numbers of hirundines were feeding low over the water and a few Swifts passed through struggling against the gale force wind. Eventually it was decided to abandon the second part of the plan involving walking across the reserve via the boardwalks to the Marian Mawr hide; we'd do that tomorrow and spend the afternoon at the Dyfi Osprey Project a few miles back down the road towards Barmouth.
{short description of image}This proved to be a good idea and we spent a couple of very enjoyable hours in the company of the Ospreys and their guardians. This has become quite an organisation with three full-time and two seasonal staff plus 100 volunteers. The visitor centre remains much the same with it's bank of TV screens showing live images from the cameras overlooking the nest, here one of the staff gave us an update on the current state of play - three eggs with incubation well underway.
The feeders in front of original elevated hide afforded good views of not only Redpolls and Siskins but, and much nearer to the Osprey's nest, the new 360° observatory. A state-of-the-art walkway made from recycled plastic led to{short description of image} this impressive new structure from where, as the name implies, we had superb views to all points of the compass. The female osprey was sat tight on the three eggs with the male perched nearby ready to see off any intruders - which it did a number of times during our visit, mostly Carrion Crows who always seem to be ready to cause trouble given an opportunity!
Saturday (9th) found us back at Ynys Hir to complete the walk we had to {short description of image}abandon the previous day, the weather was much improved and we were able to complete a circular route starting and ending at the information centre using the boardwalks that threaded their way through the grassland and lowland bog. Of note were Stonechats, Tree Pipits and our first Common Whitethroat of the weekend whilst from the new hide overlooking the Dyfi estuary Redshanks and Dunlin were added to the list. I think there were eight of the latter species looking resplendent in full summer plumage.
{short description of image}We spent the afternoon enjoying a nice flat walk along the disused railway line beginning at Penmaenpool and running along the estuary towards Dolgellau. There seemed to be Redpolls everywhere in the overhanging birches with Sedge Warblers out numbering Reed Warblers in the phragmites. Several new species were added during this walk - including Grasshopper Warbler and Cuckoo. Heard only unfortunately as it does make it more satisfying if people could get a decent view of these species - like the Common Sandpiper feeding in a small pool close to the path that remained in situ for a long time allowing 'scopes to be set up and everyone to have a really good view.
Sunday morning (10th) and after another of Shelagh's tasty breakfasts we said good-bye to our hosts and headed north {short description of image}for the 90' journey to RSPB Conwy. Although it was dry there was another gale force wind to contend with on the reserve. Migrating hirundines and Swifts were forced lower in search of food, skimming the surface of the pools and just inches above the reeds. By the time we'd walked all the way around the reserve the total number of species recorded hadn't even reached 90 so we drove across Llandudno to the Orme in an attempt to reach the elusive ton. Parking on the Marine Drive just short of the lighthouse gave good views across to the cliffs where as predicted the Guillemots, Razorbills and Kittiwakes were nesting. Sheila managed to find a single Chough and a Kestrel put in a short appearance before we left. Surprisingly there were no Fulmars about - we always used to see them here - I wonder what's happened there.
We finally ended up at Rhos on Sea where a Sandwich Tern and a Whimbrel were species 95 and 96, so we failed again - nevertheless it was good fun trying!

Our thanks go once again to Derek for all his hard work in the months and weeks before the holiday organising the accommodation and evening meals - without him these trips just wouldn't happen !!
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