The Spinnies, Aberogwen is one of the North Wales Wildlife Trust’s most popular reserves. Set amid a small woodland, a series of ponds and a lagoon provide shelter and food for many species of wildfowl and waders during the autumn and spring migrations. The reserve is immediately adjacent to the estuary of the Afon Ogwen and a large area of tidal mudflats.
There are two hides on the reserve, one of which overlooks the lagoon and the estuary. The tall, graceful stands of common reed around the lagoon provide dense cover and sheltered nest sites for breeding species such as the Moorhen, Mallard and Sedge Warbler.
It’s been a while since I was at The Spinnies but a clear sunny day, albeit cold one, made me think it was time for another visit.
Out on the estuary there was a wide variety of wading birds but the only one to come close to the hide whilst I was looking that way was the Little Egret. It’s a small white heron. and it’s New World counterpart is the Snowy Egret.
Little Egrets eat fish, insects, amphibians, crustaceans, and reptiles. They stalk their prey in shallow water, often running with raised wings or shuffling its feet to disturb small fish. They may also stand still and wait to ambush prey.
On the lagoon side of the hide, there was a lot of activity, mainly from Blue Tits, Robins and the beautiful little Long Tailed Tit.
The Long-tailed Tit or Long-tailed Bushtit is a common bird found throughout Europe and Asia.
This species has been described as a tiny (at only 13–15 cm in length, including its 7–9 cm tail), round-bodied tit with a short, stubby bill and a very long, narrow tail. The sexes look the same and young birds undergo a complete moult to adult plumage before the first winter. The plumage is mainly black and white, with variable amounts of grey and pink. Talking of that tail…
The Long-tailed Tit is insectivorous throughout the year. It eats predominately arthropods, preferring the eggs and larvae of moths and butterflies. Occasional vegetable matter is taken in the autumn.
A little bird I really like is the Robin. Absolutely fearless, it will defend it’s territory against all comers.
The European Robin, most commonly known in Europe simply as the Robin, is a small insectivorous passerine bird that was formerly classed as a member of the thrush family, but is now considered to be a chat. Around 12.5–14.0 cm (5.0–5.5 in) in length, the male and female are similar in colouration, with an orange breast and face lined with grey, brown upper parts and a whitish belly. It is found across Europe, east to Western Siberia and south to North Africa.
Did I say the Robin is fearless? Usually it is but even a Robin knows when it’s not going to win.
Wherever there’s easy pickings you’ll always find the Grey Squirrel. It’s a native to the eastern and mid-western United States, and to the southerly portions of the eastern provinces of Canada.
A prolific and adaptable species, it has been introduced to Britain, where it has spread across the country, largely displacing the native red squirrel. In Ireland, the red squirrel is also under threat from the grey squirrel, though it still remains common in the south and west of the country. There are concerns that such displacement might happen in Italy and that grey squirrels might spread from Italy to other parts of mainland Europe.
Another great little bird is the Blue Tit
Blue tits, usually resident and non-migratory birds, are widespread and a common resident breeder throughout temperate and subarctic Europe and western Asia in deciduous or mixed woodlands with a high proportion of oak. They usually nest in tree holes, although they easily adapt to nest boxes where necessary. The main rival for nests and search for food is the much larger Great Tit.
The blue tit prefers insects and spiders for their diet. Outside the breeding season, they also eat seeds and other vegetable-based foods. Blue tits are famed for their skill, as they can cling to the outermost branches and hang upside down when looking for food.
Yesterday was a really cold day and after a couple of hours in a bird hide with the wind blowing through from the Estuary it was time to leave. Whilst I was there I met up with Steve Ransome, a prolific bird photographer and my guide to which bird is which. I’m absolutely useless at identifying birds but Steve sure knows his Red Shank from his Oyster Catcher. Check out Steve’s photostream on Flickr. You won’t be disappointed.
If you want to visit The Spinnies, I suggest you take a look at the North Wales Wildlife Trust website for more information about The Spinnies and other sites they manage. Now I’m going to assume that just about everyone reading this is an English speaker so the link above is to the English language version. If you speak Welsh then please follow this link.