Having missed much of Autumn due to moving house it was soon apparent that Winter was beginning to take a grip. The car park played host to a couple of Redwings, my first sighting this season since a flock of thirty or so streamed past my house. As ever though they were very skittish and soon disappeared off into the undergrowth with numerous Blackbirds. The feeders at the center entrance were relatively quiet, but the appearance of a Coal Tit and solitary Goldfinch added a dash of colour. It was very noticeable that there were no Greenfinch present, despite this being a favourite haunt in the past. On the walk down to the Michael Powell Hide a small flock of House Sparrows were being very inquisitive and kept flitting about a nearby bush whilst I stood and watched. Light levels were so low that photography was very difficult. The only picture worth sharing was actually taken with flash (once I had remembered that my camera actually had one), and shows just how wet and drab conditions really were.
The most notable sighting from the Michael Powell Hide was the pair of Spoonbills (one adult, one juvenile) who have been present on site for the last couple of weeks. The overwintering population of Widgeon were also in good voice, numbering a couple of hundred in total. Widgeon are one of my favourite waterfowl species and it is always a pleasure to see them arrive and moult into their full plumage. I was also treated to a superb sighting of what I presume is the resident Sparrowhawk. I happened to glance up from my binoculars to see the bird swoop just beneath the hide windows before flying around the side and off along the marsh. Not soon after a Kingfisher erupted from the pool bank and shot off out of sight.
The British Steel Hide produced the goods as always with a male and female pair of Pintails out on the main lagoon, along with a single Greenshank, several Shoveller, Redshank, Teal and several very noisy Greylag Geese. Out of the back of the hide a couple of Black Tailed Godwits were busy feeding along the grassy banks, whilst a Little Grebe explored the depths and eight Gadwall happily dabbled away.
Whilst I was walking around the back of the site a flock of Long Tailed Tits were busy racing up the path in the opposite direction. This species often seems to feed on set paths and it is possible to bump into the same flock a couple of times in one visit. The best aspect of this behavior is that the birds seem almost oblivious to your presence. The result is that you are able to stand and watch at relatively close quarters whilst they go about their business. As you may have gathered this is another of my favourite species.
Other species seen on my visit included good numbers of Bullfinch particularly around the collection pools, as well as several Song Thrushes and Wrens. The lack of vegetation at this time of the year certainly helps in picking out Wrens when compared to the Summer when their shrill call is often the only sign of their presence. One surprising discovery was a Chiffchaff in the Millennium Wetlands. Here in South Wales we are at the Northern most edge of their Winter range so there aren't many around to be seen. Equally surprising was the lack of Pochards. I counted seven in total which is way down on what I would usually expect. Kenfig NNR further down the coast has much healthier numbers so I presume that this site has fallen out of favour for the time being.
Thats enough from me for now as this has been by far the wordiest entry that I have written for a while. I know this sort of information probably isn't as interesting as the photographs, but without it there wouldn't be any photographs to enjoy. As an aside there are also only a couple of weeks left now until the end of the year. This year has seen my life list reach over 200 species which I never thought I would see. The year list isn't looking too bad either but I would like to add to it as much as possible. As a result I will be out and about as often as I can before 2009 takes its final bow, so look out for more regular updates from now on.