The UK Tour

Wednesday, December 31, 2008 Adam Tilt 0 Comments


Given that it has been Christmas it was time time for the all too necessary tour of the country to visit those parents and relatives that need to be kept primed for gift giving. Me a skeptic, surely not?! As my other half is from Leeds and I am originally from the Midlands this did at least offer the chance to check out a few sites away from my normal birding area.

In Leeds we visited a small Wildlife Trust reserve at Golden Acre park, and enjoyed a very nice walk around Fewston Reservoir. The reservoir offered up the expected waterfowl including Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Teal, Canada and Greylag Geese. A nice surprise was a huge flock of several hundred Lapwings feeding in a field nearby. The reserve at Golden Acre park was much more varied including my first Marsh Tit of the year. Also present were a good number of Teal and a couple of Whooper Swans out on the main lake. The biggest surprise of the day however went to the Red Kite that drifted over the site as we were preparing to leave. These birds really can be seen just about anywhere these days. On the mammal front it was nice to see a group of three foxes enjoying a lazy afternoon down by the waterside. I don't think the birds could say the same thing though.

Back in the Midlands we spent a very cold few hours at the Upton Warren nature reserve. The temperature completely failed to get above freezing all day with all the vegetation covered in a layer of frost and ice. This did however seem to bring the birds very close to the hides. Our first stop showed up approximately fifteen Great Crested Grebes and a hundred or so Coots on the grass in front of the hide. A Sparrowhawk briefly put everything up into the air and a single Snipe was sat very still no doubt wondering why he couldn't get his beak into the ground anymore. Further round the reserve a very active Goldcrest was observed at incredibly short distances hovering in an attempt to reach the underside of vegetation. I can't help but think that the energy it was expending in search could not possibly be made up for by the presumably meager findings. The next hide provided the highlight of the day with no fewer than three separate Water Rails seen running across open ground before entering the reeds and disappearing. The feeders here also brought out a couple of Reed Buntings and an extraordinary fight between a Dunnock and a Robin. I have seen birds have disagreements before but this one was full on with feet locked together and beaks going for eyes. At one point I seriously thought that one bird would be seriously injured but the Robin eventually broke free and quickly retreated. Over in the second part of the reserve a single Redwing was visible along with several more Snipe at the main feeding station.

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Christmas In South Wales

Saturday, December 20, 2008 Adam Tilt 0 Comments


And in rest of the world as well I would imagine. Despite my best efforts in the week leading up to Christmas I am still battling to get my digital photography collection properly organised and input into Google Picasa (see my other blog for details on this). As a result I am afraid to say that this will be another post that sadly has no photographs to go with it. However it will hopefully be my last.

On Christmas Eve I went down to Rhosili to walk over the moors in the direction of Llangennith before heading back to Rhosili along the lower coastal path. The highlight was my second pair of Choughs in as many weeks. Whilst this pair were no where near as obliging in terms of getting close enough to take pictures, they put on a wonderful display feeding and calling to each other as they moved along the ground. The Chough really does have a very distinctive call that I had not really heard before. Unfortunately the birds legs were completely obscured so I had no chance to see any rings to help identify any particular individuals. Whilst watching the Choughs a first for me on the Gower popped up; a Red Kite. I know that these birds have been doing better and better in terms of their population over recent years but this is the first bird that I have seen this far down on the Gower. I believe the closest beforehand had been in the proximity of Loughour bridge. Unfortunately the viewing was cut short by a Crow mobbing the Kite until it retreated out of the area. The other notable sightings on the walk were a Buzzard and a Kestrel sat on adjacent fence posts. Despite the Kestrels best efforts it could not chase away the Buzzard much to its annoyance if the calls were anything to go by.

A couple of days earlier I paid a visit to the Cardiff bay area in the hope of seeing the Slavonian Grebe that has decided to overwinter in the area. We parked at the barrage and walked the entire length of the Penarth side of the bay. A few Little Grebes gave cause for excitement but were not to be. Surprisingly there were several Turnstones along the bank which surely can't have been having much luck given that all of the stones were concreted in! As it turned out the Slav has been spending the last few days on the other side of the bay by the ice rink so another visit may be on the cards in the new year. Other species seen included Rock and Meadow Pipits and Pied and Grey Wagtails. There was also a very large number of Cormorants in the area.

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Birds In My Garden

Monday, December 15, 2008 Adam Tilt 0 Comments


I haven't posted much about my back garden here before so I thought that now was as good an opportunity as any. Given that I currently rent a very modern house the garden is very small with a single large shrub as a token gesture towards planting. I have done my best to attract birds in with a large frame that holds three feeders for black sunflower seeds and a single peanut feeder. Elsewhere in the garden there are a couple of other feeders and a large birdbath.

The normal species that I get are as follows: Chaffinch (10+), Greenfinch (10+), Coal Tit (2), Great Tit (3), Blue Tit (4), Blackbird (1+), Dunnock (2+), Robin (1), Wren (1), Collared Dove (3+), House Sparrow (2+) along with assorted Wood Pigeons, Jackdaws and Bullfinches with odd visits from Goldfinches, Bullfinches, Siskins, Nuthatches, Long Tailed Tits and a suspected Sparrowhawk.

This week has seen a few notable new entries to that list. At least two different Bramblings have paid a visit to the garden, feeding in the hedges behind my back fence and on the feeders themselves. It appeared that they had associated themselves with the flock of Chaffinches as they were moving around with them. Also paying a visit was a single Redwing feasting on the berry crop again in the hedges. Hopefully these birds will stick around for the rest of the winter but it just goes to show what variety can be accomplished with a little bit of encouragement.

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Cosmeston Lakes

Friday, December 05, 2008 Adam Tilt 0 Comments


I have seen a lot of people talk about how good Cosmeston lakes are so I decided to take the trip over on what turned out to be one of the coldest days of the year so far. It took twenty minutes to get into the car after freezing rain had completely encased the car in ice. I couldnt even move the door handle let alone try and prize the door open! Cosmeston lakes used to be a limestone quarry before closing and being used as a land fill site for the surrounding area. However, you wouldn't believe it these days after seeing how well the site has been regenerated into a lush and green landscape.

The main point of interest at the site over the last week or so has been a single male Bearded Tit who has taken up residence in the reeds just beyond the visitor centre. The bird has been very obliging allowing some excellent photography opportunities. Unfortunately he was not showing at all when I was around, being kept low down in the reeds by the very cold conditions. Not to worry though as a Cettis Warbler was in the same area offering excellent views sometimes as close as a meter.

Elsewhere on the lakes the usual assortment of waterfowl were present including three Great Crested and four Little Grebes. There were also a large number of Mute Swans and a couple of Canada Geese clearly waiting to be fed. The highlight though was the large number of Redwings that were present in numerous locations affording outstanding views. Only when you see these birds close up can you really appreciate quite how elegant they are. Over on the east lake a single Fieldfare was also seen. The thrush trilogy was finished off nicely by three or four Song Thrushes out on the old landfill site.

Sunday was mostly used up for more mundane tasks but I did manage a quick trip down to the Gower. I was rather surprised to park up next to a first winter Mediterranean Gull in a Mumbles car park where I had headed to have lunch. Over the summer I saw several adult birds in the general area so does this mean that they have bred? I'm not too sure but if you do know then please let me know. Further along the coast at Port Eynon a good number of Ringed Plovers were feeding along the beach along with a few Oystercatchers and Curlews.

This weekend also saw me purchase my new camera after much musing and browsing of reviews online. I have gone for a Panasonic Lumix FZ28 with an 18x optical zoom. The result is that I should hopefully be able to start posting many more photos up on this blog and the main part of the site.

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The Gower Comes Up Trumps Again

Tuesday, December 02, 2008 Adam Tilt 0 Comments


What a weekend for birding this one has turned out to be. On Saturday we headed down to Mewslade bay to have a walk in slightly less windy conditions than last time. The usual tits and finches were flying around the farm at the car park and a very bedraggled looking Kestral was perched atop the cliffs half way down the valley. That is until it took a dislike to a Magpie and decided to chase it off. All was proceeding as expected until we had walked about a mile along the cliffs. What should pop up but a Dartford Warbler! The bird proceeded to flit around the gorse regularly perching out in the open affording superb views. Unlike my previous possible sighting at Worms Head there was absolutely no doubt about this one. It's great to see such a rare bird so close to home. But that was not the end. On the walk back we bumped into two Choughs just off the main cliff top footpath. According to records there is a single pair in this area so I suspect that these birds were most likely the same ones that we saw a few months ago in roughly the same place. This time however they were much tamer and allowed us to approach quite close to take photographs. Both birds were ringed so I will try and track down the history of them if I can. Other species of highlight include a male Peregrine Falcon perched high up on the cliffs surveying the surroundings, and a male Stonechat.

On Sunday we visited the WWT site at Llanelli and finally managed to break my previous single day species record for here and recorded a total of 50 different species within the site boundaries. Things kicked off well with a solitary Redwing on the grass outside the Micheal Powell Hide, as well as four Coal Tits and a male Bullfinch at the feeders there. Also nearby was a flock of eight Dunnocks feeding next to a small pool. I don't know if it is unusual for flocks to be seen this large but it is certainly a first for me. Out on the scrapes the large number of Lapwings and Widgeon remained (200+ of each species) and were joined by six Snipe and a couple of Dunlin. Redshank numbers were way down from a few weeks ago with a single bird present but the rest could well have been feeding out on the estuary. Outside the British Steel Hide a Water Pipit was showing well with a Buzzard going in for a kill in the long grass at the back of the hide. The feeders at the entrance bought out a Great Spotted Woodpecker with the usual Long Tailed Tits and Goldcrests seen at various points. It was also good to see a Little Grebe at the Heron Wing Hide. The Bittern has been sighted from this hide last week but there was no sign when we were present. I spent most of last winter looking out for it to no avail but you never know.

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