May Weekend Away to the Welsh Coast
Saturday and Sunday (5th and 6th May).

A 54-strong party of Macclesfield RSPB Wildlife Explorers, RSPB Phoenix and their families spent the May Bank Holiday weekend based at Borth in Cardigan Bay.
The group took full advantage of the incredible wildlife in the area
and visited the best local locations for coastal wildlife and birds of prey.

Ynis Hir RSPB

We began our weekend with a visit to the RSPB reserve at RSPB Ynys Hir, the location for the BBC's Springwatch series.

Bev Dimmock and Monica Lloyd-Williams helped the group investigate the woodland, bog and pond habitats discovering a whole host of minibeasts and getting great views of woodland birds like Pied Flycatchers and Redstarts. We even played a board game on the board walk!

RSPB Phoenix members were treated to a guided birdwatching walk lead by bird expert volunteer Tony Allenby (who once also hailed from Macclesfield).

Explorers also visited the 'Tractor Shed' that will be transformed into a TV studio at the end of the month.

Despite the fine weather in the afternoon many Wildlife Explorers donned their Love Nature rain ponchos - some of the youngest members became fashion trendsetters, one wearing her poncho with a practical bustle! The group were guided by Jenny to complete a mapping activity and we then had fun pond dipping. We found a whole host of aquatic invertebrates including pond snails, mayfly nymphs, water beetles, caddis fly larvae and dragonfly larvae. We also caught an adult newt.

Some of the Phoenix group used their rain ponchos for a different purpose - to protect their clothes as they helped staff paint one of the hides. Everything must look smart in time for the TV crew to arrive!

Saturday late afternoon
Ynyslas Sand Dunes and Beach

In the late afternoon of Saturday we headed to the sand dunes at Ynyslas - the perfect venue for some games on the beach.
The group became human sculptures of marine creatures: Sea anemone - Starfish - Ragworm - Sea urchin - Jelly fish - Portuguese man o war and a couple of shoals of fish.

We completed an assault course and ran races. Even the Mums joined in the fun!

Saturday evening
Borth Community Hall

In the evening we met at Borth Community Hall. Wildlife Explorers played games to learn about rockpool life, the damage that litter on the beach can do and birds of prey. Proceedings stopped for a fish and chip supper! We made excellent wildlife keyfobs, created brightly coloured rockpool pictures and designed flags for the sandcastle competition.

Grace and Amber were presented with prizes for winning national RSPB competitions.

Robbie was judged the winner of the 'Make a weird Creature' playdough competition and won a signed copy of Nick Baker's Bug Book.

Sunday morning
Ynyslas Sand Dunes and Beach

On Sunday morning we headed back to Ynyslas where we learned about the incredible sand dune ecosystem as well as taking part in a 'wildlife friendly' sandcastle competition and attempting a beach assault course.

The rangers Miguel Sanchez and Gwion Elis-Williams gave an informative and entertaining talk. Miguel told us about the special adaptations of marram grass and Gwion even demonstrated the mesmerising dance of a stoat as it hypnotises its rabbit prey.

Sunday afternoon
Bwlch Nant yr Arian

The highlight of the visit had to be witnessing the feeding of wild Red Kites at Bwlch Nant yr Arian.

We arrived there in time for lunch and had time to explore the playgrounds. We then completed a wildlife quiz trail as the kites began to circle overhead. Just before the end of our walk we heard a wood warbler calling.

At 3pm feeding began and the families watched as over 100 birds swooped down to feed in a breathtaking display. Over the last 15 years the Red Kite has been successfully re-introduced after near extinction in the UK. These amazing birds of prey have a wingspan of over 5 feet and feed largely on carrion. Chris Harris from The RSPB explained the history of the Red Kite, from near extinction to the recent successful reintroduction programme. He also fielded lots of questions from the group.

Sunday afternoon
Borth rockpools

The finale to our trip was a visit to the rockpools at Borth. We made a huge sculpture of a whale (tourists even stopped to photograph it!) on the beach. The rockpools provided a wonderful glimpse into the diversity of life in our inshore waters. Children (large and small) discovered all kinds of marine creatures from sea anemones to prawns and jellyfish. The pools were teeming with life. We found snakelocks anemones, beadlet anemones, barnacles, crabs, comb jellies, honeycomb worms, mussels, whelks, top shells, winkles, limpets, chitons, rockpool fish (shanny), prawns and shrimps.

In summary
We had a wonderful time. The children had hands-on encounters with nature and learned so much about the wildlife and habitats we visited as well as having lots of fun playing outdoors. It's what Wildlife Explorers is all about.

May Weekend Bird list
Black headed gull
Great tit
Grey heron
Pied flycatcher
Blue tit
Herring gull
Red kite
House sparrow
Canada goose
Coal tit
Little egret
Collared dove
Little grebe
Willow warbler
Meadow pipit
Wood pigeon
Mute swan
Wood warbler
Great spotted woodpecker

Special Thanks to:
Bob and Ann Moore at Northfield Holiday Park.
Roy Jones and Borth Community Hall.
All the staff and volunteers at Ynys Hir.
The Team of Rangers at Ynyslas.
The Forestry Commission Rangers at Bwlch Nant yr Arian.
Chris Harris and Sarah Cookson of the RSPB at Bwlch Nant yr Arian.
Tim Wilson for location research.
Susan Wilson for everything!
Howard and Rosie Rowley for help with documentation and logistics.
Liz Mayer for making our playdough supplies.
Macclesfield RSPB Wildlife Explorers and their families. Macclesfield RSPB Wildlife Explorer Leaders and their families!. The Welsh weather for staying fine!

Food and Drink
Buxton Water - for keeping the whole team hydrated over our bus weekend with their enerous donation of bottles of Buxton Mineral Water.
Bwyty y Plas for excellent packed lunches at Ynys Hir.
Acorn Fish and Chips.
The cafe at Bwlch Nant yr Arian.

Donations Macclesfield RSPB Wildlife Explorers would like to thank the families from our weekend away for their kind donations to the group.