Strumble Head Sunset

Saturday, September 19, 2009 Adam Tilt 1 Comments


I'll let the pictures do the talking, but needless to say this was one of the most impressive sunsets that I have ever witnessed.

11494 - Strumble Head Sunset

11490 - Strumble Head Sunset 11491 - Strumble Head Sunset
11489 - Strumble Head Sunset 11496 - Strumble Head Sunset

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Strumble Head - Lizards, Spiders and Seals

Thursday, September 17, 2009 Adam Tilt 0 Comments


Whilst exploring Strumble Head I saw a vast array of wildlife other than the birds detailed in the previous post. The highlight was a group of seven or so Common Dolphins swimming and feeding just off the head itself. This was my first Dolphin sighting for at least a year and was as exciting as ever. I find that there is still something almost child like about seeing Dolphins or Whales in the wild. I find myself shouting out to anyone nearby and getting quite animated much to some peoples amusement. I completely agree with Mark Carwardine on the BBC's "Last Chance To See" when he says that he needs his regular Dolphin fix to keep him going.

Also enjoying the rich waters around the coast were numerous Grey Seals. A couple were regularly exploring the bay just inshore from the lighthouse offering great views. Another individual was always sitting just around the corner from a couple of fisherman which I found amusing. Unsurprisingly I didn't see the fishermen catch anything. There were also several well grown pups around the area with a couple pulled up on the rocks at Porth Maenmelyn.

11451 - Grey Seal at Strumble Head 11514 - Grey Seal at Strumble Head

At one point during a walk to the north of the head I had to hop over a fence and look over the cliff edge as we could hear what appeared to be a human screaming and moaning. It turned out to be an adult seal with quite a severe wound on its neck. I have no idea what caused this but it was certainly a slightly unsettling moment.

The wildlife certainly wasn't limited to the sea as we came across the following Common Lizard out on a rock enjoying the sun.

11456 - Common Lizard at Strumble Head 11460 - Common Lizard at Strumble Head

The final and most unusual wildlife encounter was an ambitious Garden Spider which had managed to bag itself a grasshopper in its web.

11502 - Garden Spider Eating Grasshopper 11503 - Garden Spider Eating Grasshopper

At the time of photographing the spider was taking a break from the process of wrapping the grasshopper up. I'm not surprised really as the size difference between the two is quite impressive. Has anyone ever seen anything bigger in a spiders web before?

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Strumble Head - The Birds

Wednesday, September 16, 2009 Adam Tilt 0 Comments


Well I'm back from my couple of days at Strumble Head in Pembrokeshire and I have finally got the energy back to go through my photos and get a post up on here. The first thing to say is that the weather was absolutely gorgeous. We had clear blue sky each day with just the right amount of wind to keep the temperatures perfect for walking.

11444 - Strumble Head Lighthouse 11445 - Strumble Head Bird Observatory

Friday saw us up early and in place at the Strumble Head bird observatory (converted from an old WW2 listening station), hopeful of adding a few lifers to my list. Unfortunately I had made a bit of a schoolboy error in that the almost perfect weather was just about the worst possible conditions to see birds from Strumble Head in. What is needed is a storm or strong wind to drive the birds closer into shore and so within viewing distance. Determined not to leave empty handed we watched for a couple of hours and were ultimately rewarded with a sighting of one of my all time bogey birds, the Common Scoter. In all we saw twenty nine individuals in a couple of flocks which was simply superb. Also present were the usual Razorbills and Guillemots, as well as twelve Manx Shearwater and fifteen or so Gannet fishing in front of the observatory. Numerous Shag and Kittiwake were also giving regular fly pasts, and a female Peregrine Falcon even put in a brief appearance.

Outside of the observatory I was very pleased to finally locate the missing Wheatear's that I mentioned in my previous post. It turns out that they aren't scarce this year, they just all seem to have decided to stay on the Pembrokeshire coast instead. There were numerous individuals all along the coast path and their calls filled in a void that had been missing from my outings these last few months.

11455 - Wheatear at Strumble Head 11448 - Wheatear at Strumble Head

Our walk along the coast delivered five Chough both feeding in a field and flying overhead calling noisily. They really do have a very distinctive call and it was great to see these birds doing so well. We even had a couple fly over our campsite while we were cooking at the end of the day. You can't really get a better ending to a day than that!

For the first time we also had a walk along Fishguard harbor near to where the ferries dock. Whilst stalking some Oystercatchers I became aware of a small wader running right past my feet. I quickly switched my attention and was able to get some superb close shots of a Dunlin. The bird seemed oblivious to my presence and gave me a wonderful sequence of shots that really made my day. I was also able to get up close and personal with some Turnstones after crawling along the beach hidden from their view by a groyne. A slightly unorthodox method but one that certainly delivered the results.

11467 - Dunlin at Fishguard Harbour 11472 - Turnstone at Fishguard Harbour
Dunlin (above left and below) and Turnstone (above right)
11471 - Dunlin at Fishguard Harbour 11470 - Dunlin at Fishguard Harbour

One bird that did give me the runaround all holiday was the Stonechat. No matter how hard I tried I could never get close enough to get a decent photograph before they took flight. I did eventually manage to get a decent shot but it was right at the end of our final day. It was also great to see a family of House Sparrows feeding near to our tent.

11499 - Stonechat at Strumble Head 11477 - House Sparrow at Strumble Head
Male Stonechat (left) and Male House Sparrow (right)

All in all it was an excellent couple of days and a great break away from the stresses of buying a house. The next couple of posts will focus on the other wildlife that we encountered, as well as one of the most stunning sunsets that I have ever witnessed.

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Gower, Barmouth, RAW and off to Strumble Head

Thursday, September 10, 2009 Adam Tilt 0 Comments


This is a bit of a mismash of updates covering the last week or so and so must begin with an update on the ten Glossy Ibis which turned up at Old Pembrey Harbour at the end of last week. My previous post showed just how close these birds were to the road and how obliging they were in posing for photographs. I visited again late Saturday afternoon and all of the birds were still present and even closer, if you can imagine that, to the road. My parents were visiting for the weekend so this proved an added bonus as it was a life tick for both. The Ibis stayed on the field till around 6.50 am on the 7th September at which point they took flight after being scared by a dog and headed East. At the time of writing there have been no further sightings in the region so it can be presumed that they have moved on for good. If you live East of Swansea then it's probably worth keeping a good eye out just in case they decide to pop on your local patch. As for the origin of this flock, an initial report on the rings indicates that these were ringed in Doñana, some of them this Spring. I will update with any more information as and when I get it.

Saturday saw me take a walk from Penrice castle along the coast to Three Cliffs Bay, before looping back inland along the spine of Cefn Bryn. As expected for this time of year the birds on display were rather limited and the lighting was terrible for photography anyway. We did get excellent views of a Kestrel hunting along the cliffs, as well as a couple of juvenile Stonechats and a family of Blackcaps at Three Cliffs Bay. Also of note was a single Garden Warbler of which I managed to get a record shot. Considering this is supposedly one of the most common birds in the country, this is only the second individual that I have been confident in identifying. Up on Cefn Bryn itself I finally saw my first Wheatear of the year for Wales. On Mull around Easter they were everywhere but numbers seem drastically down in my part of Wales this year. I'd be interested to see if anyone has any official statistics or details concerning whether or not this has been a bad year elsewhere. A quick visit to Mumbles delivered another five adult and one juvenile Mediterranean Gull, whilst another couple were present at Sandy Water Park near Llanelli. This was another life tick for my parents so all in all it proved to be a rather successful day.

11421 - Mediterranean Gulls at Bracelet Bay, Mumbles 11422 - Garden Warbler

From Monday to Wednesday I went to Barmouth with some old school friends to wind down a bit. Birding was obviously limited but a walk over the railway bridge did deliver numerous Oystercatchers and Meadow Pipits. Strangely I didn't see a single Red Kite for the whole of my three day stay. Buzzards were present in good numbers though and were frequently heard calling from trees or overhead. The walk also yielded a superb Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus) devouring some freshly caught prey, as well as a Fox Moth caterpillar.

11440 - Garden Spider 11439 - Fox Moth Caterpillar
Garden Spider (left) and Fox Moth Caterpillar (right)

On my way back I popped into the Dyfi Osprey project near Machynlleth. However the two birds that were present have now moved on to begin their migration back to Africa.

I mentioned in the title for this post RAW. On a return trip to see the Glossy Ibis I decided to have a go at shooting RAW for the first time seeing as my camera has the capability. Taking the pictures was virtually the same apart from an extra second to store the picture onto the memory card. All good so far. However, when I came to edit them I just couldn't get the results that I was looking for. The pictures either weren't sharp enough, the colour was off or the whole thing just ended up looking a mess. I am using Silkypix to do the processing as this came bundled with the camera. I am sure that it is a very good program, but for a complete novice it is a bit daunting. I think that a lot more practice is needed. For now I will shoot in RAW + JPEG mode so that I can have a bit of a play without losing any shots due to my ineptitude with Silkypix.

And finally. At long last we have a high pressure sitting over the country for the next few days meaning good weather is on the cards. To make the most of it I am going to Strumble Head in Pembrokeshire to get a bit of sea watching in as well as walk a bit more of the coastal path. If I see even half of the species that have been seen over the last few days there then I am looking for at least five new lifers so I am rather excited. Wish me look and I will bring you all the news on my return.

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Glossy Ibis at Old Pembrey Harbour

Friday, September 04, 2009 Adam Tilt 0 Comments


Glossy Ibis at Old Pembrey Harbour near Llanelli. Yes you did indeed read that correctly and I was just as surprised as you are now no doubt when I first heard the news. I received a text at 10:30 this morning to let me know that twenty five Glossy Ibis had turned up in the field opposite the caravan park at old Pembrey Harbour. As I was at work I had to wait until the end of the day to head down, fully expecting the birds to be long gone. Upon my arrival I was encouraged by the number of people present looking through telescopes so assumed that the Ibis's were still present. What I wasn't expecting was to see the birds parading up and down on the field barely twenty meters away. In all there were ten individuals, many of which are ringed with rumors abounding that this group originates from the Camargue region of Southern France, and may be the same group spotted in Ireland a few days ago. The likelihood is that the strong winds we are experiencing has driven these birds onto our shore as we certainly aren't on any normal migratory routes.

For now I will leave you with a few photos and a map to find them for yourselves. I expect the Glossy Ibis to be around tomorrow so get down and have a look.

P1030005 - Glossy Ibis at Pembrey Harbour P1020997 - Glossy Ibis at Pembrey Harbour
P1020983 - Glossy Ibis at Pembrey Harbour P1030008 - Glossy Ibis at Pembrey Harbour


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A Typical Bank Holiday in Wales

Wednesday, September 02, 2009 Adam Tilt 0 Comments


Well what a washout this Bank Holiday turned out to be. Once again the so called "Barbecue August" that we were all promised failed to materialise. Given the weather and being on-call for work I had a very uneventful weekend with only a few small trips out. I did however make a startling realisation that I found time to correct. After living in Swansea and visiting Rhossili regularly over the last two years I have never actually made it down onto Rhossili beach itself. A quick trip out and another 'tick' in my life book was complete.

11373 - Typical Bank Holiday on Gower 11374 - Typical Bank Holiday on Gower

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