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Friday, 11 June 2010

In Search of Fried Piecatchers - on 10th June, 2010

I have been trying to get to Gilfach Farm in Central Wales for some time now - the main reason being the Pied Flycatchers, which is a bird that I had yet to see (well, I am a novice!). Having done my research, and contacted the farm (pronounced 'Gilvack' - it's Welsh!), who informed me that Pip, the resident warden, was a fount of all knowledge, and having seen a relatively good weather forecast for Thursday, I made an early start. My intention was to spend the early part of the day at Gilfach, and then move on to nearby Gigrin Farm for the 15.00 Red Kite feeding session. The journey is exactly 120 miles each way, but cross-country, so about three and a half hours in duration. I was already thinking about turning back by half-way, as it was dull, with incessant drizzle. I decided, however, to continue - and how glad I am that I did!!

As usual, you can click on the images below for enlarged versions.

I arrived to find I was the only person around, and the drizzle stopped. It stayed very dull all day, with low cloud covering the hills, so photographically it was almost a washout. But what a day I had! I started by exploring the upper area by the Visitor Centre, where I found Siskin, GS Woodpecker, and either Marsh or Willow Tit by the feeders. I could not, however, find where the famed Redstart location was.

Marsh or Willow Tit

Siskin (youngster or female?)

I was getting concerned as to where I was supposed to be looking for the Redstart when a couple arrived in a car. Fortunately for me, this was Pip and his wife. Pip immediately put me right as to what the situation was, went and filled up a tray with mealworms, and left me with the words that the Redstart will be down in less than a minute if it spots the mealworms - but the Nuthatches might get them first! After more than half an hour it looked as if the Nuthatches and bad light (I was having to work at 800 ISO and 60th exposure at F5.6
- the 'fastest' my lens will go at 400mm) would win!


I was beginning to think that this was not going to be my lucky day, and then, suddenly the Redstart was there. It collected meal worms and then took them off to the nest, returning every 5 to 15 minutes. However, when it did arrive, it spent most of its time actually at the feeding tray (not at all photogenic), and very little time where a pleasing image could be taken. I guess I spent a total of about an hour and a half at this spot.

Redstart (male)

Realising that I'd not yet attempted to find my main objective of the day, I took my hide back to the car, ready to set off on foot down the lane to Otter Hide. Whilst sorting out at my car, I spotted a female Pied Fly hunting from a tree only about 15 metres away. Immediately coincident with spotting it, one of the Wildlife Trust's rangers drove a noisy vehicle out of the garage beside me, and sent it packing!! That's life! - but at least I'd seen my first Pied Fly!!

I settled in at Otter Hide, and glued my eyes to the nest hole that Pip had faultlessly described to me. Pip had also told me that a visitor on the previous day had told him that a chick was showing its head from inside the nest hole, so it looked as if they would be going very soon. I was even more concerned at light levels here - to get any sort of image I was working at 1000 ISO and 80th to 160th exposure at F5.6. It was coming up to well-over half an hour and no Pied Fly had appeared, when I realised that I was a day too late. I then started to get distracted, and noticed a Dipper in the river below. By now I was getting really cold (even though I was wearing a fleece).


At last, after over an hour of waiting, a Pied Flycatcher came into distant view - only some record shots obtained, but this was a 'lifer' for me, so better than nothing! I waited another hour and a half in the hope of closer views but, apart from a very brief showing on a post only about 20 metres away (no time even to point the camera at it), Pied Fly was not seen again. The chicks must have fledged and gone, and the adults with them. Ah well!!

Pied Flycatcher (male)

By now it was after 15.00, and too late for Gigrin Farm, so I headed back home again. My heartfelt thanks to Pip for making the day totally brilliant, in spite of the cold dull weather. I shall certainly return - soon I hope!!


  1. Looks lke you had a great day in Wales Richard. I would say Marsh Tit as there seems to be a white patch on the base of the upper mandrill......who cares anyway either is a pleasure to see and great image. The rest of your images from the day are superb, especially the Redstart. You should check out Coombes Valley near to Stoke, a little nearer home and an excellent site for Pied Fly Catcher, Dipper, Redstart and if you are lucky Wood Warbler.

  2. Thanks for the comments, and the tip on Coombes Valley, Paul. I went there four or five years ago, when I had only just started taking a real interest in birds, and didn't see much at all. At that time I knew even less than I do now, so I was probably looking in the wrong place, and possibly even at the wrong time of year!

    Explanation about the silly title of the posting. Whilst telling my wife what I'd seen on the day, she thinks I might have had a senior moment and 'spoonerised' the birds name - or it might have been her hearing that had a senior moment!


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