Tawny Owl - Elan Valley.
The TABCG annual pilgrimage to Wales is always an excellent days birding, the chance to visit a few typical welsh habitats and see a number of specialist species.
The first stop was Goldcliff which is part of the Newport Wetlands and by now the weather was cloudy, windy and there was the odd drizzle of rain. A Chiffchaff was calling from the car park in almost the same spot one was calling on the previous years trip. Looking out across the wetlands a flock of 50+ Dunlins were busy feeding along with Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank and Oystercatcher. A Ringed Plover was feeding along the edge of one of the islands with Lapwing, Shelduck, Canada Goose, Curlew and Whimbrel nearby. A single Avocet was found feeding on the other side of the water and a Little Egret soon appeared at the waters edge. 2 Ravens flew over and a male Cuckoo flew past the front of the viewing screen. Very few Warblers heard or seen which was probably down to the wind.
Next stop was the usual Dipper site on the River Usk, a Common Sandpiper was the first sighting as it fed along the side of the river and shortly after we spotted a Dipper as it perched up on a group of stones along the waters edge. It perched up and in true Dipper fashion continually bobbed up and down. Grey Wagtail were also present.
After negotiating the country lanes and passing church go'ers we finally made it to Llangorse Lake, no sign of either Little Gull or Garganey but good numbers of Swift, Swallow, House & Sand Martins feeding over the lake. A Blackcap flitted through the bushes next to us as we watched the lake and a Little-ringed Plover was feeding along the waters edge. Another 2 Ravens were flying across the hills as we left and as we passed a farm a single Raven flew low across the road in front of us.
Elan Valley was the next stop and a chance to get some good views of Warblers, After crossing over the river towards the woods the first species sighted was a beautiful male Pied Flycatcher sat in the trees next to the path, he sat perched above looking down on the group before flying off in to the wood. Walking along the path which leads up the hill to the top of the valley we soon came across a Willow Warbler singing from the trees above, and soon after another joined it on the other side of the path. It didn't take long to hear the first Wood Warbler singing from above and scanning the tree canopy found an individual perched on a tree branch, Chiffchaff were calling and further along the path a pair of Pied Flycatchers passed through the tree tops and another Wood Warbler called before disappearing amongst the trees, close by a pair of Nuthatches were chasing each other around the trees. Towards the top of the path a male Common Redstart showed incredibly well as it perched on a fence post before flying out of sight. Suddenly we were alerted by a younger member of the trip to the find of a Tawny Owl perched on a branch further back down the path, it has to be said that you can wait a whole lifetime to find a daytime Tawny Owl perched out for all to see and to have a camera with you was an extreme bonus. We watched the Owl for near to an hour and everybody got some fantastic views. For me it was certainly the best moment of the trip and with Wood Warbler and Pied Flycatcher also present the Elan Valley is always a fantastic place to visit.
Gigrin Farm was the next stop and a great chance to see Red Kite, Buzzard and Raven up close. Viewing from the hides overlooking the feeding area gave some great views of the melee at feeding time, Buzzards perched on the ground feeding on the meat whilst trying to evade the swooping Red Kites, Ravens adding to the frenzy by scavenging what they could and an extremely brave Grey Heron managed to grab the largest chunks of meat while coming under attack from everything else, it struggled to swallow the meat easily which formed a huge bulge in it's throat but still came back for more.
Clawdd-ddu-bach near Craig Goch reservoir is always the last stop before heading back home, by now it had started raining and visibility was getting poor but still a chance to get the final days species. Another pair of Ravens passed by, a couple of male Wheaters appeared on a rock next to the road along with a small flock of Meadow Pipit and finally a Male Stonechat.
A fantastic days birding even if the weather was a bit grim at times, best bird for me was certainly the Tawny Owl.
The Theale Area Bird Conservation Group (TABCG) Website can be found here - http://www.freewebs.com/tabcg/index.htm
Added To My Year List
143. Black-tailed Godwit
145. Common Sandpiper
147. Pied Flycatcher
148. Wood Warbler
149. Common Redstart