Leaping Salmon and Dippers at Cenarth Falls

One thing that's been on my to do list for several years now has been to go and watch Salmon leaping. It's an annual phenomenon occurring each autumn as fish head back upstream to spawn and requires a few key ingredients. The first, a river, is in no short supply around here but the other two, good timing and a suitable obstacle, had thus far eluded us. It was with that in mind that we'd been keeping a close eye on reports from across our area in recent weeks with initially Cardiff looking the most promising option. That was of course until we stumbled across a tweet mentioning Cenarth Falls, not only somewhere we'd been meaning to visit in any case but also a location which looked to offer easy access to the water and a nice natural setting for photography.

P1120622 - Cenarth Falls

Hurricane Ophelia Arrives in South Wales

P1120638 - Hurricane Ophelia at Burry Port
For those of us living in the UK, yesterday morning was definitely a little out of the ordinary. For starters it was dark, seriously dark, with sunrise seemingly delayed until well after eleven. I realise that wasn't actually the case but it sure felt like it with a thick bank of cloud robbing us of almost all light and providing this reluctant early riser another excuse to hit snooze. When I did finally drag myself to the window the colour of the sky was almost indescribable. It ranged continually from deep purple to black through to an otherworldly red tinge which not for the only time that day would have me heralding the coming of the end. For those of you lucky enough to have had clear skies the sun would also have been tinged red thanks to the arrival of a plume of Saharan sand, most of which seemed to end up coating my car and which indeed still does.

Cefn Sidan Portuguese man-of-war

We were back on the hunt for a Portuguese man-of-war come Sunday, our efforts refocussed on Cefn Sidan. The thinking went, rightly or wrongly, that with these creatures moving in from the south-west perhaps a beach facing in that general direction might prove more productive than we'd found Whiteford the day before. Warning signs at the car park hinted strongly that we might be in luck and it only took a few minutes of walking the high tide line to turn up our first ever man-of-war on British shores.

P1120529 - Portuguese man-of-war, Cefn Sidan

Cwm Ivy Osprey and a Jellyfish Stranding

My plan for today was a simple one. After last weekend's rain blighted forty eight hours I wanted nothing more than to get outside and escape, to forget the day job and immerse myself completely in whatever delights mother nature had to offer. Destination wise I didn't really care but living where we do it was almost inevitable that we'd gravitate towards Gower and mid-morning found us gazing over the new marsh at Cwm Ivy, dawn drizzle thankfully dispersed and in its place warm autumnal light.

P1120452 - Cwm Ivy Marsh, Gower

Autumn Colours

Unless you wish to hear tales of my exploits with a pressure washer then the weekend just gone was pretty much a bust. Two days of at times torrential, occasionally biblical, rainfall meant plenty of time spent indoors with any brief break in the weather being used to tackle garden jobs. Needless to say this proved immensely annoying with even the enticing news of a Booted Warbler on Gower not sufficient to drag me further afield. A decent wader or raptor perhaps but skulking warblers just don’t really do it for me I’m afraid. In hindsight that makes my decision to venture out for a long walk on Thursday evening all the more valuable as without it I fear my mood would have been at an even lower ebb than it is currently. It’s not even as if I travelled particularly far. Just along our valley beneath Cefn Drum where the autumn colours are already in full flow.

P1120436 - Autumn Colours

P1120444 - Autumn Colours

P1120440 - Autumn Colours

If there’s anything good to be said about Bracken, and there usually isn’t, it has to be that when the sun is low at this time of year those dying fronds really do help the hills take on a lovely bronze hue. Add in a trio of calling Buzzards over the hills, battling Pheasants and a couple of Jays and you pretty much had the perfect evening. If there was one tiny negative however it was only at the sight of twenty or more Swallows streaming south, almost certainly starting their migration away from these lands and a precursor to our skies falling silent for another year.

Not wishing to dwell on what we were losing however I chose to focus on what we still have which around here is some pretty impressive scenery and, when the weather allows at least, a seemingly endless parade of dramatic sunsets. This night’s would be no different and I made my up to the fallen trig point atop Mynydd Pysgodlyn to take it all in.

P1120445 - Fallen Trig Point

Up here I was completely alone, the distant sight of Swansea obscured and in its place more calling Skylarks than I’ve seen since early summer. I suspect that they too will soon start their move to lower altitudes so for now I took the time to take in every detail, every sound, conscious that there won’t be many more opportunities to enjoy these birds this year.

Llanrhidian - Marsh Harrier, Plovers and a Rainbow

Don’t you just love those cold, crisp autumnal days when the air is so clear that everything in the landscape seems that much more alive? If only Sunday had been such a day. Instead we were faced with mild and humid conditions, probably my least favourite of all the weathers, to which we were soon able to add light drizzle for good measure. Were we deterred? Of course not. After our success with the Red-necked Phalarope we were eager to find one of its grey compatriots and with an individual being reported from Weobley on the previous high tide, that was exactly where we were headed next.

Now this walk is traditionally one for the drier months thanks to the ground between Landimore and Weobley tending to get waterlogged, so we were already a tad damp before the heavens opened for real. Having come so far already it seemed a waste to head back however and thus we pushed on, a screeching Kestrel overhead and the nearby sound of yaffling Green Woodpeckers our reward. Then the rain suddenly passed leaving behind a misty vista split by one of the shallowest rainbows I think I’ve ever seen. Stretching a good way along the Burry Inlet it made for an impressive sight but lasted only a few moments before vanishing as conditions continued to clear.

P1120397 - Causeway, Llanrhidian Marsh

That seemed to signal the starting gun as suddenly everything came alive. Off to our left a juvenile Marsh Harrier lifted above the reeds before gliding silently a short distance and vanishing back to ground. I presume this to be the same bird that was reported over the Millennium Wetlands yesterday and is our first for quite some time. On a slightly smaller scale there were at least three Wheatears out on the marsh proper as well as a flock of eight Skylarks which were noisily feeding along the old track, continually fluttering ahead of us at the last possible moment. From one of the old gunnery mounds we got distant views of a Peregrine Falcon heading upriver as well as several Little Egrets scattered about but as for the Phalarope? No sign I’m afraid. I suspect our chances were dealt a blow by the tide being well out but that didn’t stop us picking up a pair of Golden Plovers and flock of twenty or so Ringed Plovers, both seemingly in a rush to get somewhere else.

P1120400 - Watchtower, Llanrhidian Marsh

And that was as good as things got before the next downpour arrived lasting well into the evening. Odd really considering the forecast had promised cloudy but dry all day ………………
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