About this time of the year, I try to locate some pied flycatchers, usually in the middle of Wales. I have some favoured locations, though this time I thought I'd try somewhere new. Gilfach Farm is a Wildlife Trust reserve, a short distance from Rhayader, nestled in steep-sided valleys, with a stream running through it, and woodland, farmland and heathland around.
Finding it was easy enough, and after speaking to previous visitors, I knew roughly what to do when arriving. The first surprise of the day though, was seeing Bob in the car park - he'd already been there for several hours, and happily showed me some fantastic shots of redstarts and pied flycatchers. As he did, I could hear several redstarts calling nearby, so things looked very promising.
I have to say at this point, that this reserve is one where photographers are very much looked after. So many reserves are solely aimed at birders, with hides miles from the action, making getting good shots a case of good fortune. Having heard tales of actions of some stupid togs, I can see why, but Gilfach Farm very much favoured us lot, and the wardens actually apologised when their duties took them close to the birds!
And what birds! There were about 3 common redstarts, flitting around the courtyard, dropping down from the trees for the mealworms laid out, plus a rather brown-looking male pied flycatcher, also after the food.
With the birds landing in shaded, then bright sunlit areas, and never staying still for long, the auto-ISO feature on the camera came into its own, and even shots at 1600 ISO came out well.
After filling my boots with shots of the redstarts, I had to stroll down the lane to the Otter Hide, which overlooks a stream, cascading over rocks, and between several gnarled old trees, to which several nestboxes had been nailed. Guarding these were a pair of male pied flycatchers, who seemed very tolerant of one another.
With lichen-covered branches, old wood and moss galore, I was able to get some gorgeous shots of the birds, as they seemed to enjoy posing on different perches for shots. They were too close at times, and I had to drop back to the straight 500mm lens, and even stand back in the hide to get the bird in focus too!
Wonderful, and I stayed there for hours, I have to admit! There was supposed to be dippers around too, but I never saw them, though a pair of grey wagtails skipped and hopped, and wagged of course, their way up stream.
Eventually I dragged myself away from the hide, and back to the car, for a quick drive into the Elan Valley for a look around. Not much about, apart from martins, the odd buzzard and red kite, plus a wheatear that posed on the dam wall. But stood at the top of a dam, with breath-taking scenery, hardly a breath of wind, sunshine and the smell of Spring blossom, it was very, very hard to get back into the car for the drive back to Birmingham!