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Llandegfedd Wildlife

Before the Rain

Spring might have been a wet one, but it’s been great so far this summer for bugs. I usually turn my attention to bugs this time of year as some species have a small window of opportunity before they all disappear again till next year. If you like Grasshoppers and Crickets, it’s worth visiting the north side of Llandegfedd as the meadows are alive with Roesel’s, Dark, Oak & Speckled Bush-crickets, Green, Meadow, Field and Mottled Grasshoppers, Long & Short-winged Coneheads and even Ground Hoppers with more to discover I’m sure.
As you know I like to record the sounds of nature, but as many people cannot hear some species of Grasshopper as they’re too high pitched, I’ve started a project that aims to record as many different species of Grasshopper / Cricket as possible and to slow those recordings down so that you can listen to the finer detail of each and every stroke of the wing cases. It’s not for everyone, but i find stuff like this fascinating as it reveals frequencies that you wouldn’t otherwise hear. Listen back to these insects in slow-motion helps you enter their world for a moment and also highlights how important it is for us to start consider the environmental impact our noise pollution has on species that are dependant on sound in order to reproduce.

I tend not to go anywhere simply for the walk these days, partly because I can’t walk far at the moment as I have gall-stones that are playing havoc, but also because I only walk 2 minutes before spotting something interesting to photograph, record or just appreciate. It doesn’t do anything for my fitness levels this way but I’ve made so much luck this way, slowly walking through the landscape, trying to appreciate everything that I see. If you do this, you’ll be rewarded more and more, and this was evident when I was accompanied by a Stoat that was quite shy, but I would have easily missed it if I was walking with the intent to walk. If you want to see things, you need to slow right down.

Llandegfedd's Perks

Only because I don't work at Llandegfedd anymore, doesn't mean I don't love the place. Despite being open to public, you can still get the North end hides to yourself for the day and it still has some great passage birds, if you can spot them!. Lucky for me I have a friend who's devotion to birding Llandegfedd exceeds the average jo's 'patching' efforts. Craig Constance time's his arrivals in perfect accordance for spring and autumn migrants and to be fair and so far we've had quite the arrangement.. he finds them, and I turn up late and photograph them. Seems fine to me?

I have a few things to thank Craig for this time around though as he also got me my first opportunity to photograph a Purple Hairstreak Butterfly in his Garden that decided in the hot weather that Craig's tropical sun-tan lotion was suitable enough for drinking, as it literally landed on his chest haha. Take em while you can! Usually Purple Hairstreaks stay right up in the canopy of mature oak tree's, and all you usually get is a fleeting glimpse of them chasing each-other as a spec in the sky. This was a first for his Garden that backs up on the same woodland that Peakmans LTD want to carve a new road thru.. I'll say no more. 

In the bunch  below you'll also see a very detailed shot of a Dark Bush Cricket. They remind me of the sound of late summers nights, as they're the only species of Cricket here than continue to chirp throughout the night. Llandegfedd is a great place to hear this spectacle at night but it can also be heard in many other parts of the countryside. 

A 'Twitchy' Day

Those who know me well, know that I'm not your typical birder, attending twitches around the country, clambering over people to get a look in at a rarity. It's not that I wouldn't love to see these birds, but it's the people part that I'm not overly fond of. Yes, it's great to share your passion with others, and it's certainly no bad reflection on those who do like to twitch, but it's just not for me. That said, it was a day of local twitching yesterday, with a very rare visitor at Twmbarlwm mountain in the form of a Snowy Owl!. It was picked up by a local Dog walker, who managed to photograph and video the bird on the peak of the mountain. Quite a few birders turned up once the news got out to search for the bird, but having searched every upland in my local area, we failed to relocate it. That's the way it goes sometimes!. You'd think a big white owl would be easy to find, but with patches of snow still on the uplands and thick moorland reed beds, they are harder to spot than we thought. 

Failing that, I made the effort to look at Craig Constance's rare find at Llandegfedd called a Black-necked Grebe. When he found it in the morning it was showing near the Fish Cages out in the middle of the reservoir, so not many people came out to see it as Llandegfedd can be quite a difficult place to bird, especially when it's a bird as small as a Black-necked Grebe, which is about the same size as a Little Grebe. 

Upon arrival, Craig and I both scanned and I just about managed to pick out a black dot in the choppy waves on the opposite side. We walked all the way to the north end from the visitors centre, both with inappropriate footwear on a very muddy path but it was well worth it as the bird was feeding 10-20 metres out from Green Pool entrance. Hiding behind a hedge low to the ground was enough to get it within reaching distance of a 600mm (300 with 2x). Still a cropping to fill the frame a bit but check this beaut out! Almost in full breeding plumage! Have to thank Craig again for the effort he puts into birding Llandegfedd. Without him, we'd loose a lot of truly great birds there.

An opportunity I cannot miss!

My time as a Seasonal Ranger has come to an end, with my last official day with them just yesterday. But why you say? You love it at Llandegfedd! This is very true, I do love Llandegfedd, and thankfully, my connection to Llandeg goes much deeper than a Job with Welsh Water, and that connection will never end. 

So what's next? Well, I've been offered a Job as a Specialist Wildlife Researcher for Aden Productions to help produce Iolo Williams' next wildlife documentary for the BBC. It's a great opportunity that I simply cannot turn down, and I can't wait to start with them on the 28th of this month. It will mean some extra travelling but it's well worth it, working alongside like-minded people, all of which share my passion for wildlife. I appreciate all the support from friends and family, as though this change is a good change, I still struggle at times like this as my anxiety can sometimes get the better of me. 

Below are four of my favourite pics from Llandeg last year. I'm sure I'll continue to have many more memorable moments at what is such a fabulous place for wildlife.  

Cinemagraph Photography

Cinemagraph Photography

To keep my sanity at yet another bad period of health, I've found myself spending the last couple days expanding my knowledge and finding new ways to display my photography to you. 
This is a 3 minute introductory to a new style of photography, called 'Cinemagraph Photography'. In my last business meeting it was discussed that it would be beneficial for me to start doing more video content, and for a photographer, primarily capturing still imagery, this seemed like an odd thing to do, after-all, if I wanted to take videos, I'd buy a video camera right? Maybe one day..
For now, I think adding a little movement to my images may just make photography within video a little more interesting to watch. 

Cinemagraphing is the combination of video and still imagery in the same sequence. Let me know what you think? 

All of the images / videos used in the video below were taken at Llandegfedd Reservoir 

End of Season

My first season as a Ranger at Llandegfedd has ended and what better way to end it than with a Black Tern and Great White Egret! It was nice to also receive a card and box of biscuits from Valery (Local Resident and Llandegfedd's star litter picker). She deserves a medal for the amount of time and effort she puts into keeping the place look tidy, that and she's genuinely a lovely person so it meant a lot to receive a personal card from her. Other notable sightings at Llandegfedd came from Craig Constance yesterday morning with a flock of Hawfinch! They appear to be popping up all over the country at the moment, suspected to be caused by the destruction of large forests in Russia. 

Suddenly I have lots of time on my hands for the next 4 months till the next season starts (If they have me back). If you know of any conservation work this winter, i'd appreciate getting in-touch with me. 

With beautiful weather today, you'd think I'd be out in the car venturing off somewhere special with my camera, but instead, I'm stuck at home with a fractured wrist..
Not exactly what I had planned after work finished but maybe I need the rest? 
Will need to go back to the hospital next week for a scan as it's a 'complicated' bone that may need further attention if it doesn't heal properly. 

That said, I can still hold the camera! Turns out I carry the camera with my left hand and all the right hand does is press the shutter lol. So a little trip across the canal is all I'm able to do for now till I can drive again. 

Glorious Ospreys

I've held this off for long enough now. What have I been doing the last couple months? Well, as far as photography is concerned, very little to be fair. I simply haven't found the time. However! after quite a few 5am starts with not one, but three! Ospreys at Llandegfedd, I set out to get a close up shot of these outstanding birds, but in a way that would leave the birds completely undisturbed, showing their natural behaviour, without them knowing I was there. 

I'm very lucky in that I got to observe these birds in and outside of work for the last month and a half, so got to learn a lot of their routine. All three birds are this years Juveniles, one of which was ringed in Scotland and the other two that stayed the longest which I believe may have been siblings due to their interaction and lack of rings. It was the two siblings that really put on the show for us as they appeared to be very much so beginners at catching fish. They would often fail to land on a perch while also trying to hold onto a wriggly, wet fish. They started off catching silver fish, like Roach and Rudd, likely because they are easier to see in the water but they did manage to get better in their time here. It was quite a proud moment watching them catch their first trout! some of which were quite big. There's lots more I learned about Ospreys thanks to these individuals and having them so late in the year was a bonus for us for sure, I just hope they manage to get to Africa in time and safely. They have all left now so fingers crossed for them. 

Wryneck @ Llandegfedd

This month has been pretty busy so far, and October is looking to be even busier! However I am only on seasonal work right now (sad face), so I'll have 4 months over the winter time and plenty of time to write some blogs. For now however you'll have to deal with my staggered blog posts. I am saving them for something special that will be revealed soon ;). I have been taking pictures, I'm just waiting for the right opportunity to post them!

For now I'll give you a taster of the fantastic bird that turned up at Llandegfedd last weekend! I've never seen a Wryneck before and was blown away with how cryptic their patterns were. You can learn a lot through observing behaviour and because I didn't really know much about these birds, I did spend a full day observing the bird after Gavin Moore found it and thankfully put the word out. I joined in the search while the bird popped up in random places, swiftly followed by eager birders, myself including. I was extremely disappointed to see a notorious paparazzi climbing and running across the Dam wall on arrival just to get a closer photo. The lengths that some people take to get a photograph are unreal and I would much rather wait and observe than clamber over people who simple want to see the bird.. Something that may never happen if you're own actions cause the bird to be flushed. Selfish photographers, it's an illness. 

The bird was trying to feed alongside the road verge near the curbs. Every now and again it would pop up on the fence post. It was just a matter of hiding behind a car and hope it would land on a post in reach of the lens, which it just about did 5 minutes after I said I was going to leave. It pays to be patient :). 

Wryneck / Llandegfedd / Saturday 23rd

After the Storm

With heavy storms hitting the Uk the last two weeks, we've seen Migration in two very different ways. Firstly a halt in activity due to high winds coming from the south, this brought us 3 Juvenile Ospreys at the same time, just over a week ago. They are all still at Llandegfedd and are continuing to catch fish and put on a great show, right from the visitors centre. Following the high winds, the weather has taken a change with rain storms coming from the north, which has seen the swift movement of thousands, if not millions of Swallows and House Martins all over the country. It was quite a spectacle today to see so many bird moving south. One of the 3 Juvenile Ospreys showed a Blue Darvic Ring (Blue JL8) on the left leg which we've tracked back to Aberfoyle, Scotland this year. Darvic rings are proving to be vitally important in tracking birds of prey as the large rings can be read with a good telephoto lens. The last two photos in this group show all three Ospreys in one tree and the last picture is one of the Ospreys looking at a Fox in the background lol. Something I never thought i'd see in the same lens, despite it being a way off. 

Cattle Egret

'Patching' is so important and there is nobody that's more committed to a single patch than Craig Constance. He really does put a lot of time and effort into birding Llandegfedd and as a result, he has found some great birds over the years. Yesterday evening was another classic example as we were just about to meet up after my shift and he finds a Cattle Egret right opposite the visitors centre, much to my approval, as I've never seen one before!. They are usually winter visitors to the Uk but breeding records are increasing yearly, this year even breeding at the popular RSPB site - Hamm Wall Nature Reserve. Llandegfedd is a perfect breeding site for Cattle Egrets with plenty of mature trees around the outskirts of the water to nest in but also plenty of farmed fields for Cattle Egrets to feed. As the name suggests, Cattle Egrets are closely associated with Cattle, in that they prefer to be feeding at the feet of cattle as they disturb insects off the ground. They are native to places like Asia, Africa and Southern Europe and you may have seen them in Nature documentaries on TV, feeding around the feet of Elephants and larger cattle. Here their feeding methods remain largely the same, only they feed around Cows, Horses and Sheep. 

In other news, the resident Osprey is still present, seen only early hours and late evening. I would recommend making an early appearance for best chance of seeing it fishing (between 5-7am, or late evening between 7-9).