Dipper - Cinclus
Located in a valley, beneath Snowdons peak, this amazing location is home to a spectacular array of wildlife as well as the Osprey’s.Although I never did a bird count I am sure it must have been well over 100 species. One bird I wanted to see but was unable to locate were the Honey Buzzards that were nesting on the hills surrounding the valley.
Female Pied Flycatcher - Ficedula hypoleuca
The ospreys project began 10 years ago, in 2003, when the nest was located. Unfortunately in 2004 due to severe winds the top section of the tree where the nest was originally fell down in a bad storm meaning both chicks sadly died. Later that year during the period the adults were away in Africa the RSPB went in and re-enforce the tree with a platform, still 80 feet above the ground but now less likely to be blown out the tree. They also added a camera to attract visitors to the site, where they could learn about the ospreys and their behaviour. It was at this time that the visitors centre was built and the team put together to look after and guard the nest.
Male on post and female on nest ospreys - Pandion haliaetus
Every year the same couple have returned to the nest site which becomes their home for 5/6 months of the year. After each season the RSPB go up to the tree and destroy the nest, only leaving a few twigs and the platform. This allows the birds to start fresh each year, if this wasn't done the birds would just build the new nest on top of the old one and each year it would get taller and taller and soon it would be too unstable and need to be destroyed. In Scotland there is a site in which the removal of the old nest wasn't done for a number of years and reached a height of around 16 feet! The average nest is around 6 feet across and only around a foot or two high this allows room for the chicks as they turn into adults and not too high as to make it unstable.
Over the past 5 years the pair have not only returned and made a nest but also been able to bring up an astonishing three chicks each year which have all fledged. Unfortunately this year one of the eggs didn't hatch, which although sad, is an advantage for the other two that did. The male who is the one that goes out fishing each day, while the female stays by the nest to protect them brings back enough fish to feed three each day and so the chicks have grown up quickly and in good health.
Looking towards Snowdon
At the start of the year the male normally
arrives early and prepares the nest and awakes the arrival of his partner, in
an attempt to impress her. Once the female arrives he will go fishing and offer
his catch to her. She will then decide if or not he is bringing in enough to
fill her needs and those of the chicks. If she accepts they will mate, if not
she will leave and he will be left waiting for the next passing female. After
mating and the eggs being laid the female sits on them till they hatch. Once
hatched the male needs to go to work bringing in 4-10 fish a day depending on
the size of the fish and the size of the chicks as he needs to feed them and
her. Often at the Glaslyn site the male will eat the head of the fish and then
take rest to the nest, once in the nest the too it is no longer his and he
won’t get a chance of having seconds. During the periods that the male is
fishing the female will protect the chicks from any predators including crows, peregrine
falcons, buzzards and any other savaging birds that comes over the nest. Over
the period the eggs are there and the chicks are young, there is a 24/7 watch
at the protection site. Which means someone is sitting watching the nest to
check no one goes to try and steal the eggs.
View from visitors centre
Once the chicks are strong enough they will
start to fly around within the area around the nest and then as they get the hang
of it they will start to follow their male out on fishing trips and learn to
fish. While I was there the male started to bring in live fish instead of
killing them first he and the female stood by and let the chicks do it so they
knew how to for later. Once the chick start to fly but still in the area of the
nest the nest it self will become a dinning area and the chicks will watch as
the male brings in a fish to the nest, they then come in to eat it. Once the
chicks are strong enough they start to go off fishing they go straight away and
start to learn. This is vital if they are to make it to Africa later in the
year, they don’t have a local Tescos like us and male won’t be around to help
Female Osprey - Pandion haliaetus
In the first week I was there I witnessed an important part in their development that is used to identify them in later years, the ringing. This involved a trained licenced volunteer to climb up the tree through the traps that are set for anyone trying to disturb the nest. Once at the top he places the chicks one by one into bags and lowers them down to a group of people below who ring, weigh and measure them, and taken a blood sample to allow them to identify the birds gender. The birds are then put back in the bags and lifted back up the tree before being gently placed back into the nest. All this time the female who was there protecting them flies above and watches the process take place. They believe that as this is done each year she is used to it and doesn’t worry as long as she can see them. Nearing the end of this process the male arrived with a fish and joined the female overhead. Once the chicks were safely back in the nest and the tree climber was back down the adults soon returned to the nest and the male dropped the fish in for the chicks to feed on and recover from the stress the ringing may have caused.
Osprey Ringing (http://www.ospreys.org.uk/whos-who-and-who-lives-where-2/)
The rings will later be used to identify the
birds in Africa and check they have made it and also to see if they come back to
nest in the UK in two years’ time, if so where. By identifying each osprey as it
gets to the UK, we can create a history about each one and add to the information
we already have about where they were born, for instants we known that at least
7 of the chicks from this pair are now breeding in the UK on different sites
and those sites know where they have come from due to their rings people
identifying them from their rings.
Male Osprey with fish - Pandion haliaetus
As I have already mentioned the Osprey travel down to Africa each year. This happens around late August, beginning of September. The time they leave depends on the weather that we are having around that period, the better the weather the longer they are likely to stay. The female will always leave when the weather is right but the males are known to stay with the chicks for as long as they can trying to get them to a strength which would allow them to travel such a long distance. This can means the male is endangering his own life although there is still a point in which the male will leave without them and sadly then the chicks are left alone and their chance for survival reduces significantly.
At the protection site I was closer to the nest but still around 700 feet away. It is located in a nearby field and consists of a small caravan, inside there is a live feed of the nest along with its own telescope so I could monitor what the adults were up to when they were out of view of the live feed. Also there is a small hide which looks out over the field which surrounds the ospreys nest. From here I am around 500 feet away from the nest and can see them without any binoculars or telescope, but still too far to capture the ospreys with my 400mm lens.
Female coming in with twig and male sitting on post
Throughout my time in Wales I went on a number of walks around the local area and also a hiked up Snowdonia one day. Parking my car in Llanberis, the other side of Snowdon I took a bus to Pen-Y-Pass, where I started my hike up to the peak, which I managed to complete in 1:30hr which wasn’t bad when you take into account the temperature of the day, 20˚C +, which meant I drank most my water on the way up. At the peak I had my lunch and I made my way back down with the knowledge of a nice pub at the bottom to keep me going.
View from Snowdonia
When on the other walks the main thing I was
looking for was wildlife to photograph this meant not walking as far but
spending my time as I made my way down each path to check I hadn’t missed
anything. During the second week I noticed that a pied flycatcher had taken up
residence in a nest box just down from where I was staying. This allowed me the
perfect opportunity to photography the birds especially as it was by the main
path leading through the site, meaning they were used to humans. I set-up my
camera making sure that as I did so I wasn’t disturbing them and started to
capture some photos, ending up setting up a flash to capture the blacks along
with the whites of the male as he came in with flies for the young. By using
video I was also able to capture the young as they stuck their heads out
calling to the parents to hurry up with their food. Man did these parents have
to work hard, bring in food every minute or so and every time the chicks
calling for more.
Male Pied Flycatcher - Ficedula hypoleuca
Along with the flycatcher, I saw during my stay red breasted mergansers, Blackcap (just behind the caravan nesting), Dippers, Buzzards, kites, willow warbler and many other species of wildlife. The Dippers I found at Glaslyn ravine when trying to capture some interesting landscapes of the area. After working out the area of the river in which he preferred. Once I had worked this out I visited the site again the nest day, it turned out that he was a young individual and this is properly why I was able to get to close to him and even capture a shot of a fish in his mouth.
Dipper - Cinclus
On Thursday evening of the second week my Dad arrived, unfortunately the weather had got worse as the week had gone on and Friday was now set for rain all day, but never the less we out in search for something to photograph. Apart from the trains there was little around, most animals seem to have the sense to stay in bed while the weather was bad. The day was a bit of a let-down to an amazing couple of weeks in wales, no red breasted mergansers on the river, no dipper at the ravine and only the trains to entertain needless to say the trains alone kept Dad happy.
Ffestinog Railway train
Red Kite - Milvus milvus
Then the time came for the Kites lunch,
already well over 100 had started to cycle above and then a member of staff
went out with a bag of meet and throw it on the grass, only around 30 feet away
me and Dad watched and started to capture photos as the kite swooped in a
grabbed the meat off the ground. Every now and then one would drop a piece into
the lake and another would come in a pick it out the water. It latest around 30
minutes till everything was gone and the kite started to move off getting
higher and higher.
Red Kite - Milvus milvus
After leaving the site we started to make our way east and towards home, as we did so we stopped off at one final location Gilfach Farm, a Wales Wildlife Trust reserve that Dad had found online, not expecting much as the weather had now gone overcast we couldn’t have been more wrong. Upon arriving we found a couple sitting outside the house located on the reserve and got talking the man then took out some mealworms and put them in a tray within next to no time a Redstart had come down right next to us and we were able to capture some great photos, seeing the male and the female was great. We then went down to the hide where we saw a pied flycatcher and I spotted a Dipper further up. After spending some time there we got back in the car and headed home.
Redstart - Phoenicurus phoenicurus