Our coach left Bath at 8.00 am on a dull, windy and cool morning with 24 members on board. Once we had left the motorway in Wales the scenery became more and more picturesque as we headed for the Elan Valley Visitor Centre on quiet country roads. Approximately 20 miles from our destination we suddenly joined a long queue of traffic a couple of miles from Builth Wells. A very slow crawl eventually brought us to the front of the queue caused by cars turning right into the local showground where an event called ‘Wonderwool’ was taking place.

Some people took the opportunity during the crawl to look at the trees at the roadside and found House Sparrows and other common birds, while two lucky ones managed to see a Treecreeper as well.

Traffic in Builth Wells © Dave Newman

Elan Valley © Dave Newman

Once past the holdup we soon arrived at the Visitor Centre albeit somewhat later than planned. We took the opportunity to use their facilities before we crossed over the river to reach the one mile long Blue trail shown on the maps provided by the reception staff.

Elan Valley map

Crossing the bridge we stopped and watched two Grey Wagtails feeding around the rocks. Reaching the other side we walked along the path which was sheltered from the very cold wind and we soon heard birdsong, mainly Nuthatch and Willow Warbler. Suddenly Tom Rogers saw movement which turned out to be one of our target birds, a splendid male Pied Flycatcher.

There were several males and a female in the trees on the steep hillside which provided us with very good views. There were Chiffchaffs and several Willow Warblers which also allowed close views as well as several overhead passes from Red Kites and other more common birds.

We then had a lunch break at the centre before crossing back over the river to tackle the longer two mile Orange trail which climbed higher up the valley. Not far into the walk movement above us stopped the group and we discovered a superb male Common Redstart which performed well, again giving everyone the opportunity to look closely at our second target bird. We climbed higher and higher, seeing Blue, Great and Coal tits and another male Redstart and more Pied Flycatchers. Reaching the top of the steep path we rested to get our breath back scanning the fields and trees. Some of the group were lucky enough to see Siskin, Goldcrest, Treecreeper and Swallow. Unfortunately our other target, the Wood Warbler, was not seen or heard. Maybe we were too early or perhaps the cold windy conditions were not to their liking.

The path now dropped downward to the Reservoir and dam area. We watched Raven, Red Kite and Buzzard fly along the top of the hills opposite. The end of the path opened out, giving panoramic views of the reservoirs which supply Birmingham with water. After carefully negotiating the long flight of steep steps we retraced our way to the Centre, finding Pied Wagtail, and boarded our coach for the return trip. The sun was now beginning to come out, shame it hadn’t earlier, but at least it did not rain on us during our time in Wales.

On our trip back to Bath several more birds were seen from the coach windows along with deer and a hare.

©Helen Daniels

© Dave Newman

Although not a great number of species were found, hopefully everyone at least managed to have good views of the target birds.

We all enjoyed the company of the others in our group and we had plenty of magnificent scenery to take in, which helped to make our day memorable.

Species seen on the day: Mute Swan, Mallard, Feral Pigeon, Collared Dove, Wood Pigeon, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Sparrowhawk, Red Kite, Common Buzzard, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Raven, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Barn Swallow, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Nuthatch, Goldcrest, Wren, Treecreeper, Starling, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Robin, Pied Flycatcher, Common Redstart, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Chaffinch, Glodfinch and Siskin.

Dave Newman