Monday, 2 May 2016

Mid Wales - Early May Bank Holiday

Just back from a good early May bank holiday weekend in the Abergavenny area of mid Wales, despite a fair amount of rain! This year I didn't get any real chance for bird photography, but despite the apparently quite late season (up in the hills the trees were hardly in bud let alone leaf) we did see most of the regions specialties during 3 walks.

On day one, our circular walk from Llanthony Priory took us up about 1000 ft onto the ridge above, along and back down. Birds included plenty of singing Tree Pipits, Willow Warblers and a brief snatch of Redstart song. There were also Ravens overhead and a pair of Stonechats in what seemed to be good Whinchat territory! Walking the exposed ridge we were hit by a brief hail storm but apart from that the weather was fine but with a biting northerly wind.

The view down onto Llanthony Priory where our walk started!

The following day we did a walk in varying amounts of rain above Talybont Reservoir. This again produced Tree Pipits and Willow Warblers galore, with the added bonus of brief view of a distant Redstart picked up from a brief burst of song. Clearly the conditions weren't conducive to prolonged singing! Later on that day we found a couple of Wheatears from the B4560 where is goes up over a moorland stretch (close to a handy Pizza van in the middle of nowhere!).  

Finally on the damp Bank Holiday Monday we did a surprisingly productive walk which included a rough path by the river Usk at Llangynidr. The river had several Goosanders, Grey Wagtails and a couple of  newly arrived excited Common Sandpipers, as well as one of  our main targets - Dipper from the road bridge. Overhead the damp conditions brought in our first Swifts of the year, along with hirundines. At one point I heard another very brief song in the rain which sounded very much like a Pied Flycatcher. A quick search showed I was right and we eventually had quite good views of it from below and in flight as it sallied out over the river and then back again a couple of times. 

For those that don't want to walk, the road bridge over the Usk a bit further upstream at Talybont on Usk produced an effort free view of a Dipper as there is a place to pause on the A40 side of the river, from where is was only about 50m to the centre of the bridge! 

Mid Wales at this time of year can be magical but with the cool April and the early bank holiday this year, perhaps we missed at its best. Also the weather didn't help and may have contributed to us missing out on Whinchat and Wood Warbler (although the latter can be a bit hit & miss in the Abergavenny area in our experience). 

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