The Celtic Rain Forest RSPB Gwenffrwd-Dinas

Common Redstart (Male)

One of the most unique and incredible places to birdwatch in Wales has to be RSPB Gwenffrwd-Dinas (Dinas)

The reserve is situated around a hill named "Dinas" in mid-wales a few miles outside the town of Llandovery.

The hill ( I can't help but call it a mountain) which is 331 meters high has steep slopes that are covered in predominantly Atlantic Oak and Alder Trees and other areas covered in scrubland.

I did some research about Atlantic Rainforests and according to the Woodland Trust, this type of habitat is found in places that have high rainfall but with low variation in temperature throughout the year.

I have been visiting Dinas with my three amigo friends for the last couple of years and I must admit it is one of the only places that I have been to that has thousands of Oak trees densely packed around a mountain like this. When I walk into the woodland I imagine I am in something out of J R Tolkiens Lord of The Rings. It really is magical.

Dinas attracts lots of birdwatchers at this time of the year and I think it is fair to say that by the end of the month just about nearly every South Wales and Gwent based birder would have turned up to try and catch sight of the spring migrants that have arrived to breed at the reserve.

Yesterday the three amigos made their annual visit to the reserve. We were very lucky with the weather. The skies were blue with only a smattering of clouds and whilst it was a cold start to the day the sun was starting to warm everything up.

The day's birdwatching kicked off with breakfast on the picnic benches whilst watching the bird feeders.

There was an incredible amount of Chaffinches. I don't recall ever seeing so many on previous visits. The males were looking fantastic in their breeding plumage. Siskins were the second most numerous species to pay visits to the feeders. Disappointingly we did not see any Yellowhammers or Marsh Tits.

Chaffinch (Male)

After a little refreshment, the walk around the reserve commenced. As you enter Dinas there is a really nice boardwalk through a moss-covered and damp Atlantic Oak filled wood that runs close to the river Towy. This area really is magical and it's full of birds.

It did not take us long to see our first target bird of the day - a Common Redstart. The bird was a male and looked very striking in its Black and Red Plumage.

Common Redstart (male)

As we progressed along the boardwalk a Greater Spotted Woodpecker began to drum just above our heads on a tree trunk which was really cool to watch. Then we caught sight of a pair of Pied Flycatchers that were popping back and forth to a nestbox with sheep's wool and moss to line their nest.

Pied Flycatcher

I headed further into the reserve to a quiet section along the river. A Dipper zoomed past down river and a Grey Wagtail called from a rock on the river.  Almost every where you look there is something of interest.

The bench next to the River Towy

On the River Towy side of the reserve, we noticed that the Bluebells have not started to bloom yet. Give it a week or so and there will be a huge carpet of purple. 

This time we avoided doing the whole circular route along the river and decided to take the clockwise route around the reserve. We bumped into some friendly faces. It was good to see "Welshy Paul" and his wife and have a catch-up.

We walked to the eastern part of the reserve and hoped we would find some more Redstarts, flycatchers and perhaps a Tree Pipit.

I ended up splitting from Paul and Nicola for an emergency "biobreak" and ventured further up the wooded slopes. I did chuckle to myself as I found somewhere to contemplate the "meaning of life" every time I stopped in the middle of nowhere there were photographers in camouflage popping out from behind trees.

I started walking along a sheep trail as I had a cunning plan that on my return journey to meet up with Paul and Nicola I could cut down through the cave and take a shortcut along the gorge path. After about thirty minutes I discovered the plan had been a really bad idea as I was scrambling up a very steep slope going only where sheep can normally go

Eventually, I made it to a small clearing in the trees that was three quarters up the hill and overlooking the river Towy where it joins a second tributary named the Afon Doethe.

I really was quite high up and the view was pretty good despite the trees.

The view from the clearing

Eventually about another thirty minutes later and after a good walk, I found my amigos again.

We started to walk back through the reserve and finally, we managed to get some photographs of a Wood Warbler that put on quite a show for us. These birds are quite small but really do have a great song and are an iconic woodland bird species.

Wood Warbler

As we walked nack through the reserve another friendly "South Wales" birder spotted a Tree Pipit in the amongst the bluebells on the eastern side of the reserve. It was a good find and the bird was not easy to see or even photograph as it moved through the woodland undergrowth.

Tree Pipit

Our day at Dinas finished with another sorte through the boardwalk and some more time spent watching the feeders.

Species List for the day

  1. Chaffinch
  2. Siskin
  3. Dunnock
  4. Nuthatch
  5. Great Tit
  6. Coal Tit
  7. Blue Tit
  8. House Sparrow
  9. Raven
  10. Blackbird
  11. Raven
  12. Carrion Crow
  13. Wood Pigeon
  14. Pied Wagtail
  15. Song Thrush
  16. Common Redstart
  17. Pied Flycatcher
  18. Dipper
  19. Grey Wagtail
  20. Buzzard
  21. Red Kite
  22. Cuckoo(heard)
  23. Treecreeper
  24. Chiff Chaff
  25. Willow Warbler
  26. Wood Warbler
  27. Tree Pippit
  28. Canada Goose
  29. Robin
A hare was seen on journey from Llandovery to Dinas.


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