19th January 2019
This mornings birding consisted of a walk around Llangorse Lake, the lake is in Brecknock, Wales, and is a great birding site. We had arranged to meet up with a birding group run by the Brecknock Wildlife Trust. As we left the house, the weather was already less than ideal. After a reasonably clear week this Saturday’s weather was heavy rainfall. Hoping that the rain would clear, we set off.
Langorse Lake was only a few minutes away from where we were staying which meant that it was a quick journey there. Upon arrival the group of around 30 people were ready to start the walk. As the weather started to clear the beautiful surroundings became apparent, however the recent rainfall had caused the path to become very muddy and difficult to navigate. Eventually the group was ready to carry on. The numerous fields were all managed for biodiversity as hay meadows, allowing common and marsh orchids to flourish later in the year. The first birds of the morning were a pair of little egrets perched high in the treetops in front of us. These elegant egrets are becoming increasingly common and are spreading throughout Britain quickly. Little egrets are readily identified by their black bill and legs contrasting sharply with their luminous yellow feet.
We slowly carried on towards the lake stopping regularly to view the vibrant goosanders that regularly passed overhead. The goosanders travelled in neat groups of threes and fours. Many of them were leaving the lake to feed on the river Usk nearby. The vibrant males can be quickly picked out amongst the vast numbers of diving and dabbling ducks by their striking green head and pale body. The lake itself is huge and it is very difficult to identify birds on the other side. After scanning the many widgeon and gadwall directly in front we moved on towards the hide. The lake from there was filled with wildfowl however this consisted of the usual widgeon, gadwall and tufted ducks. Walking alongside the lake I spotted increasing numbers of goosander although many of these were in flight. Unfortunately, these stunning goosanders are not favoured by fishermen because of their fish orientated diet. These birds are regular river visitors the nearby rivers and cause numerous problems for the local anglers.
After many attempts at scanning for the regular great white egrets there, I decided to carry on. Listening to the calls of various wetland species I picked out the pig-like squeal of a water rail and the powerful song of the regularly heard but rarely seen cetti’s warbler. Many of the meadows that we passed through contained friendly Shetland ponies that decided to follow us around. Their rufous brown coats suited the waterlogged surroundings perfectly, allowing them to blend into the mud.
Shortly after, we stopped to scan the lake from a different angle nearby to the church. From here I managed clear views of 11 goldeneye (4 pied males and 7 dappled females). Fortunately, these conspicuous males were only a short distance away and were displaying to one another energetically, the goldeneye frequently lifted their heads comically and produced an unusual droning call. This carried on for a few minutes in which time I captured some photos of them.
The goldeneye is a captivating species, they may not be brightly coloured, but they are sophisticatedly pattered and demonstrate an enthusiastic personality. The male goldeneye exhibits a luxurious snow-white body and neck which streaks into the charcoal back, the head is a dark glossy green and the feathers extend from the back of the head to form a rounded crest. Male goldeneyes also have an obvious white patch in front of their beak and as their name suggests, a distinct golden eye. The females are less conspicuous, they show mottled brown backs with a white angular patch on their wings, their heads are chestnut brown with a stout slate grey bill. After this encounter we headed back to the house that we were staying in.
Later, around 3:30 I decided to go back down to Langorse. At this time of day, hundreds of gulls came back down to roost on the lake after spending the day feeding on farmland. It was a magnificent spectacle watching hundreds, probably thousands of gulls returning to the lake. I checked many of the gulls but only found the regular: common, lesser black backed, herring and black headed gull on the lake. The light quickly faded however. Just before we left a female sparrow hawk drifted effortlessly above the treeline in the last light of the day.