Mike's 200 bird challenge Blog 8

Mike Bell

Mike headed for the River Dee to tick off a number of species of birds on his quest to count 200 in 2019.

I had planned to cover a few locations with specific targets in mind on Saturday 30th March so I was on the road early aiming to be in Llangollen by the River Dee before 9 am. I was hoping to see a very exotic looking species - Mandarin Duck - which is regularly seen in the area. The Mandarin Duck was originally introduced from the Far East and have become established following escapes from captivity. It seems quite out of place on a very fast flowing Welsh river on a very chilly March morning, but the three males and one female which I saw brightened up my morning immensely. I had some lovely views of them as they dabbled about in the shallows by the riverside walk, and even managed some respectable photographs. However after about 15 minutes, with my hands starting to show signs of frostbite, I left them to it and headed for my next stop, Llyn Bran, a small lake just to the south of Llyn Brenig in the heart of the Denbigh Moors.

The object of this leg of the road trip was a Ring-Necked Duck which had been seen in a small flock of Tufted Ducks on the lake. I arrived just after ten and set up the scope on a little beach on the edge of the lake in what was now quite warm sunshine to scan the lake. At first, it seemed quite quiet, with a couple of Canada Geese, a Great Crested Grebe, and a Little Grebe the only birds around, but then I caught sight of 3 lovely Goldeneye, and then a small flock of Tufted Duck right at the far end of the lake. This was when my new Kowa scope really came into its own, as I was able to pick out the one Ring-Necked Duck in amongst the flock, which is a great tick for the year as it is quite a rare bird.

Then on to Llyn Brenig, specifically to look for Siskin, but also had the added benefit of again sampling what could possibly be the best Chocolate Brownie in the world which is sold at the cafe there! What could be nicer than a hot cup of coffee, an excellent chocolate brownie, and a mixed flock of Siskin, Brambling, Chaffinch and Goldfinch coming to the feeders. An added bonus was that the female Osprey had returned to the lake a couple of days earlier and was nest building on the artificial nest platform on the edge of the lake, a sure sign that spring has arrived.

The next stop, on my way home, was the Shropshire Wildlife Trust reserve at Wood Lane, to see what was about. A pleasant couple of hours in the hides gave me a total of 17 species, including a beautiful Black Tailed Godwit in full summer breeding plumage, and two Oystercatchers, bathing and preening right in front of the hide which gave me a great opportunity to practice my phonescoping.

A final quick stop at Colemere where I saw my first Swallows and Sand Martins of the year swooping over the water. All in all, it had been a very productive day, with six new species taking my total to 151, which is a figure I never dreamt of reaching in the first three months. I have a feeling that my challenge is only going to get harder from now on!