Friday, June 12, 2015

Llandegla Forest (part 2)

I visited Llandegla Forest in North Wales at the end of April with my girlfriend Jane (see previous post), and although we saw some fantastic birds there were a number of species that we missed so a return visit was definitely on the cards. An early start at the beginning of May saw us walking up the Offa's Dyke path and into the forest not long after sunrise.
It was a great place for a dawn chorus. Common woodland birds including Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Song Thrush, Robin, Wren and Dunnock provided a rich musical symphony as we made our way through the ranks of conifers and up onto the open ground adjacent to the Denbighshire moorland. As on our previous visit the arias of Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs were very much in evidence, along with the fruity songs of Blackcaps. On the open ground Tree Pipits twittered in parachuting display as Siskins and Redpolls flew overhead.

Willow Warbler

We made our way to the hide overlooking the moorland, it was here a few years ago that we were priveledged to see a male Hen Harrier quartering the heather, like some long forgotten spirit of the hills. It's remarkable how once you have seen a special bird in a certain place that you always expect to see that bird in the same place again; but that rarely happens, and today was no exception as far as the harrier was concerned. A Raven cronked in the distance and flapped lazily over a dip in the heather. We were too late in the year for the lekking of the Black Grouse but I did manage to scope two beautiful males feeding on the heather. Another good find was a male Whinchat perched sentinel-like on a small tree among the heather his peachy breast and pale supercilium clearly visible through the telescope, but he didn't come within range of my camera.
A couple of Whitethroats were singing their scratchy songs close by but remained camera-shy. Not so a Redpoll which paused briefly near the hide and allowed a few record shots to be taken.


A very obliging Willow Warbler fed and sang in willows and young conifers near the hide and allowed me to take some photos that illustrate the subtle beauty of this exquisite migrant.

But, best of all, the distinctive disyllabic panpipe call of a Cuckoo had us hastily gathering our gear and marching smartly towards a nearby copse. Through my scope we could see the bird calling in the distance, but if flew into the forest and we could not relocate it. Nevertheless this enigmatic Spring icon was a very welcome addition to our dawn chorus list.
We strolled down to the reservoir were a pair of Canada Geese were busy defending their area of water from another pair.


A large shoal of Minnows was milling in the shallow bankside water, but there was no sign of the expected tadpoles. On the far side of the reservoir a bare patch of rock was hosting some sunning butterflies including Small Tortoiseshell and a few Peacocks.
We continued our journey back to the visitor centre when the unmistakable call of a Crossbill was heard. Scanning the tops of the trees we located a beautiful green female Crossbill perched on the very top a the tallest conifer. A great bird and one that we had failed to see on our previous visit. And there was one last surprise as we made our way back to the car, I heard the fluty song of a Redstart and located this gorgeous bird in an oak by the road. With its red breast, quivering orange-red tail and black face crowned and mantled with a luscious silvery-grey, this is surely our most attractive songbird.

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