Monday, 26 January 2015

The Famous Grouse

Starting out on a quite pleasant Sunday morning at 8 o'clock Martin Bevan and myself decided to use up some calories and climb up to Site A and look for Red Grouse. The first part of the walk was really strange walking uphill through a clear fell area rather than looking up into the tops of trees for the local residents. It is really hard to take in how much the valleys have been changed recently by the all the felling of the forestry. For people of our ages who have never known anything different the landscape can look quite alien and I found it quite fascinating to see the contours of the hills much clearer.

Not a lot seen on the first part of the walk up to the stile Crossbills being the highlight. Over the stile and up on to the moor and the slow walk upwards. Never mind soon we would be looking at pipits, buntings, larks and raptors. Three quarters of the way up to the bog we hadn't seen a bird!!. Then a Meadow Pipit came up right in front of us, Martin followed that I happened to glance over to the left and two Red Grouse came up and flew around the ridge in front of us and out of view. We both commented that we had never seen them this low. We walked on just to the top where Martin spotted 2 Red Grouse about 30 metres in front of us near the path. They stayed for awhile then flew over near the bog in the distance. We decided not to disturb them anymore by walking through the bog and return back down the path to the stile where we would have a cuppa.

Back at the stile we had a nice healthy birders breakfast of pork pie, chocolate cake and coffee!! Lots more Crossbills and some siskins were observed. Walking back down our first raptor was found a Buzzard. So not a lot seen but we had our target bird the grouse.

Plan B was then to go to Garwnant and see if we could connect with the Great Grey Shrike having failed to find our own for this winter. Walking up to the clear fell south of the visitors centre only thing of note was a large flock of various tits. No sign of the Shrike from the main road so we took a path up the middle of the clear fell and walked up to the fence at the far side. I turned around looked at tree which we had walked past and there was the Shrike. It then flew to our right and out of sight so we walked back to the road and followed in its general direction. No sign so we decided to walk back to the centre and look for Willow Tit. Walking past that tree again and there was the Shrike again, I'm sure they can transport themselves through some unknown medium.

The walk back failed to turn up Willow Tit so we decided to have a quick look on the top end of Llwyn-Onn reservoir. Birds seen included 9 Tufties, drake Pochard, and a Dipper on the platform near the hide.

Plan C was then to drive over Cwm Cadlan and to have a quick look at Sub-Station pond in Hirwaun. We stopped for another cuppa by the cattle grid in Cwm Cadlan where Martin gave me his last Bakewell ( see previous report ).

Sub-Station pond produced 2 Goosanders, 7 Wigeon, 5 Teal, Mallards, Moorhens and Coots. A local Peregrine was also frightening the local Starling flock. Not bad for a little pond on the edge of an industrial estate.

We decided to finish off in Dare Valley Country Park. Nothing out of the ordinary here species wise but it was nice watching the Little Grebes fishing, they were very close to having a 100% success rate in catching their small prey. Another new behaviour for me was the two Goosanders swimming around with their heads under the water and when seeing something they liked the look of they would dive. Goosanders I've watched before usual just dive and spend some time swimming under water looking for prey.


  1. great read phil and cheers for putting it on ,

  2. I failed with Willow Tit too, Phil, but at least, like you, I saw the shrike, though not as well as you, I suspect. I agree, it can be very disorientating walking through these recent clear fells but it is a treat to see views not visible for decades. My advice would be to take advantage of the opportunities presented and take lots of photos of the views unique revealed. In ten years time they will be gone again, as the inevitable replant quickly grows up.