Monday, 10 August 2015

Straying off the local patch - a visit to the Dyfi Osprey project

On a brief holiday to Machynlleth for a few days, one of the trips we made was to the nearby Dyfi Osprey project, a reserve managed by the Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust. The site has been home this summer to adult Ospreys Monty and Glesni, and their three now successfully fledged chicks; Merin, Celyn and Brenig. 

We visited on the 3rd August, hedging our bets as to whether we would see the Ospreys at all, knowing that the chicks would have already fledged, and that they therefore may not be so easy to spot. When we arrived we went straight over to the main hide - a newly built and impressive structure with 360 degree views, from where the nest used this summer is only 200 metres away. Scopes are in place pointing towards the nest, and great views of the birds can be had... assuming they are there to see! The adult female Glesni hadn’t been seen that morning since the previous day, so we felt very fortunate that whilst we were there in the afternoon, she returned and could be seen perched close to the nest. One chick, (probably, we were informed, the middle chick Celyn) could be seen in the nest and heard begging for food. 
Adult female Glesni (on the perch) and one of her chicks, (probably Celyn) in the nest

Screen shot of live stream taken 10/8/15, youngest chick Brenig standing
The hide looks out over the nesting platform the birds have used this year as well as other nearby perches used by the birds and an additional nesting platform. There are also cameras trained on the nest and perches, and the visitor centre is equipped with a screen to show these images which are also live streamed - I have enjoyed watching (as well as listening) to the birds several times since our visit.  


Info board in main hide
It was interesting to read through the details recorded on the information board for example of the dates of the arrivals of the adults returning from Africa in early April, to the dates of the eggs being laid (commencing less than two weeks after their arrival at the site), and finally to the successful date of all three chicks fledging some two months later.

Although the Ospreys were undoubtedly the highlight of this visit, it was also a delight to see several young common lizards, only 6-7 cms long, lazing on the raised edges of the boardwalk in between rain showers. 

A beautiful animal, though perhaps a less welcome sight was that of a mink. Similar in shape to our native stoats and weasels, these animals typically have a much darker, almost black coat of fur, and are also considerably larger and bolder. The mink which reside in the UK are American mink which are natives (unsurprisingly) of North America. These animals have their ancestry in fur farming and have established themselves here as a result of escapes as well as releases from these farms. (Fur farms were abolished in the UK as recently as 2000.) They have had a very negative impact on populations of some native species, for example by their predation of [now uncommon] Water Voles. 
Young common lizard
Another young common lizard!
On our way towards the exit we briefly stopped in the hide closest to the visitor centre which offered great views of birds visiting the giant seed feeders there. Amongst the usual suspects of Great and Blue Tits, were good numbers of finches – as well as the familiar Greenfinches and Chaffinches, there were several smaller, less commonly seen finches such as Siskins and Lesser Redpolls.

Juvenile Siskin



A quick stop in the small coastal town of Aberdovey one evening offered the opportunity to watch some of the antics of the local gulls, the ones I saw mostly being Herring gulls of different ages with their wonderful calls (which to me epitomise the sound of the seaside), as well as Black-headed gulls with their distinctive shrieks and squawks. Newly fledged Herring Gull chicks begged incessantly for food, raising their heads to shout to their parents, then ducking back to hide behind flowers close to what I presume was their nest site, several metres up a cliff face and adjacent to the main road through the town. 

A juvenile Herring Gull 'hiding'
It saddens me to hear in the news the talk of potentially culling gulls in seaside resorts where they have been labelled a 'nuisance'. Whereas I have every sympathy with anyone who may have lost a pet as a result of an attack by gulls (if, indeed, there is any truth in these recently reported stories), surely, with a little more understanding and common sense (they are after all large and strong birds and can be [not unlike ourselves] protective of their vulnerable offspring) people could learn to respect and appreciate these masters of the skies, and thereby limit any negative encounters, rather than what seems to be the default setting of some to automatically call for a cull of any and all wildlife that may pose them the slightest inconvenience. 

Contrary to what the tabloid press might have us believe, Herring Gulls have in fact been subject to significant declines in their numbers over recent years, and as a result are in fact a Red listed species meaning that they have been designated the highest status of conservation priority. I previously lived by the sea for a number of years and the worst that ever happened in my relations with these birds was a poo landing on my shoulder. Once! What a sad visit to the seaside it would be if it was quiet of their classic cries and cheeky chip-stealing antics. 
Adult Herring Gull

Adult Herring Gull at sunset enjoying the convenient perch of a car roof


  1. Great images and information again Jan. I hope to see these superb little lizards when I'm over on Jersey in september, but I'll be hard pushed to beat your wonderful images of them.
    People are their own worst enemies where gulls are concerned. They encourage them by feeding them or by leaving their leftovers lying around and then complain that there's too many of them. The ospreys are always a pleasure to see and we're lucky enough to have a few lochs not far from us that get regular visits from them.

    Keep up the good work


    1. Thanks Dougie - I'm sure Jersey will be wonderful, it's not somewhere I've ever been but would certainly love to visit, I'm sure you'll find lots of different wildlife that would probably find Scotland a bit on the cold side! I'll look forward to seeing your photos! :) It was wonderful to see the Ospreys, I've only seen them once previously which was at Glaslyn. The closest ones to us (as far as I know) would be at Rutland - unfortunately they're few and far between in England. Completely agree about gulls, I'm sure most 'problems' are entirely preventable, and people can be very quick to decide there are 'too many' of something without thought to the reasons for any conflicts (which are often greatly exaggerated anyway) and ways to minimise them without resorting to killing the creatures in question.

  2. Great piece to sit down to with lunch Jan! Wonderful to see the osprey family. Great captures! I love your common lizard; interesting looking little creature. Sad to hear of the decline of the water vole, and to the hands of the mink. Very unfortunate that the mink has been introduced to that ecosystem in that way. Here it is a joy to see them and we had happened across a group of them on the river the other weekend, but to hear about this critter invading other ecosystems is horrible. Creatures, including humans, have their own places and it is a shame when these balances are disrupted. And in the case with the gulls, sometimes we humans are way too quick to try to control nature when many times it may be our own influences causing the problem. Here the coyote is hunted and left to lay, a very sad situation in my opinion, and will even be sadder when I cannot go out at night and hear their howls. Sorry, I have been behind a lot here lately. It's that four letter word, "work." Hehe! I hope I can get a balance going on there soon. :-) Looking forward to catching up with more of your wonderful work!

    1. Thanks very much Greg! I can certainly empathise on the work front - mine has been a few for letter words at times recently!!! ;) Hope you get that balance worked out soon! Glad you enjoyed the read, yes it's a real shame about the mink here, and the history to their arrival in the UK is a sorry one too. (It won't surprise you that I'm no fan of fur for fashion.) Once again, a critter which through no fault of its own finds itself outside of the ecosystem in which it evolved, and the consequences are detrimental to other animals ill-equipped to cope with their arrival.

      Regarding gulls, and I imagine the same applies to Coyotes, they're intelligent and adaptable - if we create situations which are going to bring them into conflict with us, then it's up to us to minimise that, but without resorting to killing all the time.