Rhossili Delivers The Unexpected

Saturday, January 24, 2009 Adam Tilt 0 Comments


Apologies for the lack of updates over the last couple of weeks. I came down with a rather nasty virus that put me out of action for a while. I did however manage a quick trip down to Rhosilli last weekend for what was intended to be a quick walk to get some fresh air. I should have known better than to go there without binoculars and the wildlife soon proved me right.

On the cliffs at Rhosilli headland a group of five Fulmars were roosting, whilst another individual circled the surrounding area, seemingly unable to choose a place to land. After several failed attempts he did manage a landing.....right on top of the other birds. They didn't seem to mind and after a bit of commotion they soon settled down. As soon as we looked up a pair of Choughs swooped over the headland before being lost to sight in the direction of Mewslade Bay. I would love to know if this is the same pair that we have seen at various points along this coastline now, but I have no data on how many birds are present. Can anyone fill me in?

The final bird of note to be seen was a Great Crested Grebe far out in the sea off Rhosilli beach. I never used to think of these Grebe's as sea going before I started getting into birding more seriously, but there can be no doubt now.

As I am feeling better this weekend I should be back out in the field weather permitting. Expect an update on Sunday or Monday hopefully with some new pictures.

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Spoonbill and Friends

Saturday, January 17, 2009 Adam Tilt 0 Comments


With a weekend of very changeable weather forecast we decided to go and explore the Lliw reservoirs that sit in the hills at the back of Swansea on Saturday. The number of birds on offer was relatively disappointing with nothing on the water in terms of waterfowl with the exception of the usual Mallards. Even they had left by the time we went home. It was nice to see the Red Kite quartering the hillside around the Lower Lliw, and a Buzzard further up the valley gave a nice display unwilling as it was to take flight. A very noisy Raven was also seen at the Upper Lliw reservoir. The best spot of the day though were two Nuthatches feeding by pulling moss off from the branches of various trees. I have only ever seen this species singularly so to see a pair was a nice surprise. Overall the valley was very quiet bird wise. I can only think that the cold weather from the last couple of weeks has driven the birds down to lower altitudes. I will revisit in a month or so to see if the situation has improved.

On Sunday we paid our regular visit to the WWT site at Llanelli. The birds were in no short supply here with two Redwing, a male Bullfinch, a singing Goldfinch and a Song Thrush all on the first few meters of path. Over at the British Steal Hide it was nice to see four Greenshanks and around thirty or so Dunlin. Also present were the usual Widgeon and a not so usual Spotted Redshank. Outside Goodhalls Hide a male and female Pintail were having a good sleep along with several Shoveller and Teal. Elsewhere on the reserve the numbers of Shellducks and Lapwings each reached over one hundred individuals. The number of Little Egrets has fallen further with just a single bird seen all day.

The highlight of the day though was the single Spoonbill that I first sighted on the marsh scrapes before it relocated over to the observatory pool. Fortunately it was close enough to allow me to take some photographs but they are not as sharp as I would like given that they had to be taken through glass. I wish hide designers would take account of photographers as well as the glass hide is becoming more and more common. The Spoonbill was seen feeding and roosting for at least a couple of hours and was still present when I left. The bird did not appear to be ringed so I assume this is a different individual from the one that I have seen at this site previously.

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The Cold Weather Continues To Bite

Saturday, January 10, 2009 Adam Tilt 0 Comments


On Saturday we headed over to Ogmore River for a walk up the estuary and the surrounding areas. Once again the weather was bitingly cold with a stiff breeze not making the conditions any more pleasant. The beach held the normal collection of Black Headed, Herring and Lesser Black Backed Gulls mixed in with Crows and Mallards. Just up the river past the large sandbank the first of many Ringed Plovers and Redshanks were visible feeding on the far bank. On the near bank however was the main reason for our visit, an immaculate male Goldeneye. The duck was very wary of our presence and swam off into the middle of the river but allowed some excellent photos to be taken. In all the river held thirty Goldeneyes made up from eighteen females and twelve males. A few of the males appeared to be courting with the females with similar neck movements to those used by Eiders.

An very nice surprise was a Kingfisher sat on a rock on the near shore of the river where the first island is present at low tide. I assume this is the same bird that I have seen on a number of occasions up at Ogmore Castle. As to why it was so far downstream I can only speculate that the cold weather was a factor.

Elsewhere on the river there were three Goosanders (one male and two females), a single Little Egret and a very secretive Snipe. In terms of ducks there were a large number of Mallards, mixed in with circa ten Teal and five Gadwall. The waders were well complimented by a couple of Curlew, two Dunlin and two Oystercatcher on Portobello island. Unlike previous visits the Whooper Swan appears to have vacated the area perhaps for warmer climates, and the Little Grebes were nowhere to be seen. Also of note was a large flock (approximately 155) Canada Goose just past the bridge at the sewage works.

On the way home we stopped in briefly at Kenfig NNR. The lake was still completely frozen over to a depth of several inches in places. Unsurprisingly the bird life was limited with a couple of Tufted Ducks and a single female Goldeneye. The Coots were well represented though with a flock of several hundred feeding in a field just off the shore, whilst the entire lake was surrounded by several flocks of Long Tailed Tits. No sign of the Bittern that had been sighted earlier in the week.

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Bearded Tits, Scaup and The New Year

Thursday, January 01, 2009 Adam Tilt 0 Comments


Now that I am back at work I thought I would provide a little update on where I have been since new years day. Firstly it is worth mentioning, just in case you hadn't noticed, that 2009 so far has been bitterly cold. Everywhere that I have visited has been frozen solid with even the very large lake at Kenfig NNR being frozen solid across much of its expanse. This does seem to have effected the numbers of birds around with particular emphasis on waders. I have no idea where they all go when it's this cold but I imagine that they must find it difficult to get much food.

On New Years day I attended the tick and twitch event at WWT Llanelli. This was an event aimed primarily at getting this years bird sightings off to a good start. My previous best for the site had been fifty species a few weeks ago, but due to the cold we were advised to expect only around thirty five. Indeed many of the waders were absent, in particular the usual mass of Egrets, Redshank and Godwits. However the cold weather really seemed to bring out the smaller birds and a very unusual flock of Canada Geese for this site. Highlights included a single male Pintail at the observatory and a single Redpoll mixed in with a flock of Goldfinches and Siskins out on the Millenium Wetlands. I also finally saw my first Water Rail at this site feeding very close to one of the board walks in the wetlands. Having been visiting for the last eighteen months or so the appearance was certainly due. We also heard another couple calling in the reeds. Cold weather certainly seems like the best time to see these birds after my sightings at Upton Warren as well. In all we managed to see fifty three species which is absolutely amazing. Unfortunately the best count of the day was sixty two but I have no hard feelings.

A couple of days after I headed back to Cardiff to visit Cosmeston Lakes. Things got off to a flying start (excuse the pun) with a Water Rail feeding on the board walk at the centre entrance. Just off in the reeds in the same location the elusive male Bearded Tit turned up feeding on bent over reeds seemingly oblivious to our presence. The Bearded Tit really is a magnificent species, and helped to brighten up a very grey day. On the opposite side of West Lake a single male Lesser Scaup was roosting in a large flock of Tufted Ducks. This was a life first for me. If you want to catch up with the Scaup I believe it has now moved over to Cardiff Bay. After Cosmeston we drove over to Cardiff Bay again on the hunt of the Slavonean Grebe. We were again denied but were treated to eleven Goosanders out on the water and a small flock of roosting Lapwings on the nearby waste ground.

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