RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch

Monday, January 31, 2011 Adam Tilt 6 Comments


Sunday was our day of choice to take part in the annual RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, and it also represented the first time that we have done so in the new house. This annual voluntary survey of the state of our garden birds continues to go from strength to strength and is a great excuse to watch the goings on in your own garden. I'm always worried that we will chose an hour when the garden is completely deserted but thankfully this year we hit the nail on the head, probably helped along by the freezing conditions driving birds to the feeders. 

We watched from 12:30 to 13:30 and for the whole hour the garden was packed with most of our regular species as well as a couple of unusual extras. The previous weekend we had added a Niger seed feeder to our arsenal in the hope of attracting some Goldfinches which seemed to do the trick with a single bird turning up ten minutes from calling time. In all we recorded 17 species which I am very happy about, although we were missing Collared Dove and Bullfinch, both of which turned up an hour after we had finished of course. For me though the highlight was seeing behaviour in the garden that I have not witnessed before. For instance I now know that the Starlings are absolutely brilliant at hanging off our seed feeders, but for some reason the Chaffinches are less so. Talking of Chaffinches we had a female that appeared to be suffering from a parasitic infection known as bumble foot, and one that was lacking a leg completely. This is a condition that finches are particularly susceptible to but both of our birds seemed to be feeding and moving around perfectly well. Another interesting behaviour was the way in which both the Wren and House Sparrows are going under the metal sheeting that makes up my garage to look for insects. At one point we thought the Wren had actually made it all the way inside only for it to appear out of another location. It's all fine with me as it keeps the spiderwebs down on my mountain bike! Spring may also be in the air as we had pairs of Blackbird, Robin, Dunnock and Greenfinch present.

The final counts from our survey were as follows:

Robin (2)
Blackbird (2)
Blue Tit (5)
Chaffinch (7)
House Sparrow (7)
Jackdaw (5)
Starling (12)
Great Tit (2)
Dunnock (2)
Magpie (1)
Coal Tit (2)
Raven (1)
Greenfinch (2)
Goldfinch (1)
Wren (1)
Song Thrush (1)
Carrion Crow (1)

I popped into Sandy Water Park near Llanelli at the end of the day to look for the Bittern that we saw there late last year. I had no luck on that score but the Water Rail was still feeding in the ditch at the far end and had been joined by one male and two female Teal. I think that's probably the smallest area of water I have ever seen Teal in but I suppose needs must when open water is at a premium. There were good numbers of other waterfowl present including two Shoveller and numerous Gadwall, Tufted Duck and Pochard. Some of the Gadwall have now become so tame that they are feeding amongst the Mallards on bread thrown in by visitors. Two Little Grebe were feeding near the Sandpiper pub.

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A Gower Day - Three Cliffs, Pennard Pill and Rhossili

Sunday, January 30, 2011 Adam Tilt 14 Comments


Well what a weekend it has been. As I sit here going through my photos it is remarkable how after several years of exploring the Gower Peninsula it is still possible to find new species of wildlife, explore new places and experience a familiar location in a completely surreal state of affairs. As is often the case the main impetus for the step away from the usual was the opportunity to show some visitors why I love this place so much. On this occasion the guests in question were Emma's parents so on Saturday we headed for the beautiful Three Cliffs bay.

23885 - Three Cliffs Bay, Gower

Although I have been to Three Cliffs before, I have always arrived via the coastline from Oxwich Bay. This time however we chose to start at Parkmill and walk alongside Pennard Pill, traveling through the heart of the valley that eventually opens up onto the sea. A Buzzard and a very noisy Jay were the first birds of the day but our attention was very quickly drawn to the river as I glimpsed two unfamiliar waders flying back upstream past us. The quivering wing beats had me assuming a Sandpiper but of which species I was not sure. I quickly retraced my steps until one of the birds was in view and to my glee it turned out to be a Green Sandpiper, a new species for me on Gower and indeed Wales as a whole. An added bonus was the Little Grebe that popped up practically at my feet whilst I was stood on the bank before quickly diving again. I had begun to think that they had all fled for warmer climates after the cold weather so it was good to finally find my first one of 2011. Further along the river a couple of Ringed Plovers were also feeding.

The beach at Three Cliffs was as picturesque as always and once again had subtlety changed shape since I was last there. Six Oystercatchers were feeding along the waters edge on the incoming tide but they were soon forced to move along in the face of the ever approaching water. Also on the move was a small flock of five Sanderling that seemed to appear out of nowhere and which landed briefly on the sand. I tried to approach closer but they were soon off again. Thinking that was that we started to walk back the way we had come and stumbled upon them once more on the opposite bank of the river. They seemed very well settled so I paddled into the middle of the water to get a better angle to photograph from.

23882 - Sanderling, Pennard Pill, Gower
23884 - Sanderling, Pennard Pill, Gower

I am very happy with the results as photographing a small white bird on a dark background in full sun was certainly proving rather challenging. The visit was finished off rather nicely by a pair of Merlin that flew across the valley towards us, landed briefly in a tree a few meters away before heading back over to the other side once again giving brilliant views in the process.

To finish off the day we headed to Rhossili for a walk along the beach. I should say at this point that although it was very sunny the temperature had still not risen above zero by mid afternoon. When combined with overnight freezing temperatures the conditions had made a remarkable impact on the scene before us. The beach often has water draining across it from the hills behind and Saturday was no exception. What was unusual however was that it had all completely frozen resulting in vast swathes of the beach being turned into sheets of ice.

23890 - Ice on Rhossili Beach, Gower

I have never seen ice on a UK beach before so this was a completely alien experience as we slipped and slid our way along. I have several more pictures of the ice which I will share in another entry later this week. Also on the beach were a couple more Sanderling along with hundred of Gulls, consisting of predominantly Herring and Black Headed. The highlight though was a Red Kite that was hunting over the fields to the north of Rhossili village. I presume this bird is the same one that has been seen here on and off since Christmas but it was great to finally catch up with it myself.

23900 - Red Kite, Rhossili, Gower
23901 - Red Kite, Rhossili, Gower
23895 - Red Kite, Rhossili, Gower

I'll leave it there for now but I have plenty more to share throughout the week. Check back for more fantastic Rhossili ice, a Sea Cucumber, Sunday's RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch and a frozen walk up Cwm Dulais. Blimey, I think I need the next week at work as rest after cramming all that lot into a weekend!

14 comments:

Just Ticking Over

Thursday, January 27, 2011 Adam Tilt 2 Comments


After the splurge of outings that characterised the first few weeks of this year, the past seven days have been relatively quiet. Saturday was spent out in the garden putting up some Christsmas presents including a bat box and several new bird feeders. A Raven spent much of the day noisily patrolling the area, having a few battles with the resident Crows and Jackdaws in the process. During the afternoon two Red Kites were circling overhead for an hour or so which is the first time that I have seen them back here since before the cold snap. I also heard a Green Woodpecker calling from somewhere up Gopa Hill but unfortunately didn't have the time to go and search it out.

On Sunday I was working a few hours overtime which did have the advantage of delivering three Redwings feeding on the grass next to one of the paths. The local Peregrine Falcon was also seen from the office yesterday around lunchtime and another Red Kite was low over the fields at Pontlliw on my way in this morning. Not a bad collection of birds considering the circumstances.

This weekemd should be back to normal with a trip to Rhossili planned for Saturday (providing the BBC Torchwood filmcrew have left), and on Sunday I shall be taking part in the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch. I have high hopes that the new feeders will bring in the goodies for the hour that we will be recording, and weather permitting I am also going to try and photograph every species that we see. If you want more information on the event then click the picture on the left to be taken to the RSPB site.

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Mediterranean Gull White 3C78, Bracelet Bay, Gower

Thursday, January 20, 2011 Adam Tilt 8 Comments


Just before Christmas I found another ringed Mediterranean Gull (white 3C78) at Bracelet Bay on Gower. I duly sent my finding off to the relevant ringers and was amazed to find that this bird had originally been caught on the same day and in the same place as the last ringed Mediterrnean Gull I had found there (white 3P17). In contrast to that bird white 3C78 has been very heavily reported over the last eight years giving a superb overview of the migratory routes that these birds take. The full life history can be found below.

23772 - Mediterranean Gull, Bracelet Bay
Summary of rings for individual:                          14614
  Colour    Code of ring   Leg          Ringing scheme  Metal ring           Age of bird       Ringing date   Ringing location  Ringer
  Green     46E               left             Bruxelles     E188581         pullus             04/06/2002  Zandvlietsluis, Antwerpen, BELGIUM 51,2N 4,17E
  White     3C78             left             Bruxelles     E910138         >3CY              21/05/2006  Zandvlietsluis, Antwerpen, BELGIUM 51,2N 4,17E
Sightings for individual:                                       14614
  Green       46E         v            03/02/2003  Bracelet Bay, Mumbles, Swansea, Glamorgan, Wales, GB  51,34N 3,59W  Grenfell, Harold E.
  Green       46E         v            06/02/2003  Bracelet Bay, Mumbles, Swansea, Glamorgan, Wales, GB  51,34N 3,59W  Grenfell, Harold E.
  Green       46E         v            10/02/2003  Bracelet Bay, Mumbles, Swansea, Glamorgan, Wales, GB  51,34N 3,59W  Grenfell, Harold E.
  Green       46E         v            24/02/2003  Bracelet Bay, Mumbles, Swansea, Glamorgan, Wales, GB  51,34N 3,59W  Grenfell, Harold E.
  Green       46E         v            09/09/2003  Bracelet Bay, Mumbles, Swansea, Glamorgan, Wales, GB  51,34N 3,59W  Stewart, Barry
  Green       46E         v            28/11/2003  Blackpill, Swansea Bay, Glamorgan, Wales, GB  51,36N 3,59W  Bantock, Tristan
  Green       46E         v            12/02/2004  Blackpill, Swansea Bay, Glamorgan, Wales, GB  51,36N 3,59W  Howells, R.J. (Bob)
  Green       46E         v            10/03/2004  Bracelet Bay, Mumbles, Swansea, Glamorgan, Wales, GB  51,34N 3,59W  Tew, Ian
  Green       46E         v            22/07/2005  Bracelet Bay, Mumbles, Swansea, Glamorgan, Wales, GB  51,34N 3,59W  Stewart, Barry
  Green       46E         v            05/11/2005  Bracelet Bay, Mumbles, Swansea, Glamorgan, Wales, GB  51,34N 3,59W  Stewart, Barry
  Green       46E         v            03/04/2006  Le Platier d'Oye Plage, Pas-de-Calais, FRANCE  51N 2,02E  Duponcheel, Camille
  Green       46E         v            04/04/2006  Le Platier d'Oye Plage, Pas-de-Calais, FRANCE  51N 2,02E  Gibourdel, Severine
  Green       46E         v            04/04/2006  Le Platier d'Oye Plage, Pas-de-Calais, FRANCE  51N 2,02E  Huchin, François
  Green       46E         v            04/04/2006  Le Platier d'Oye Plage, Pas-de-Calais, FRANCE  51N 2,02E  Sauvage, Jean Michel
  Green       46E         v            06/04/2006  Le Platier d'Oye Plage, Pas-de-Calais, FRANCE  51N 2,02E  Gibourdel, Severine
  Green       46E         v            06/04/2006  Le Platier d'Oye Plage, Pas-de-Calais, FRANCE  51N 2,02E  Huchin, François
  White       3C78       v            21/07/2006  Le Portel, Pas-de-Calais, FRANCE  50,42N 1,34E  Duponcheel, Camille
  White       3C78       v            06/03/2007  Blackpill, Swansea Bay, Glamorgan, Wales, GB  51,36N 3,59W  Howells, R.J. (Bob)
  White       3C78       v            24/03/2007  Domaine du Marquenterre, Saint-Quentin-en-Tourmont, Somme, FRANCE  50,15N 1,34E  Sauvage, Jean Michel
  White       3C78       v            25/03/2007  Domaine du Marquenterre, Saint-Quentin-en-Tourmont, Somme, FRANCE  50,15N 1,34E  Decory, Patrick
  White       3C78       v            25/03/2007  Domaine du Marquenterre, Saint-Quentin-en-Tourmont, Somme, FRANCE  50,15N 1,34E  Equipe Parc du Marquenterre
  White       3C78       v            25/03/2007  Domaine du Marquenterre, Saint-Quentin-en-Tourmont, Somme, FRANCE  50,15N 1,34E  Sauvage, Elisabeth
  White       3C78       v            25/03/2007  Domaine du Marquenterre, Saint-Quentin-en-Tourmont, Somme, FRANCE  50,15N 1,34E  Sueur, François
  White       3C78       v            05/04/2007  Domaine du Marquenterre, Saint-Quentin-en-Tourmont, Somme, FRANCE  50,15N 1,34E  Sauvage, Elisabeth
  White       3C78       v            09/04/2007  Domaine du Marquenterre, Saint-Quentin-en-Tourmont, Somme, FRANCE  50,15N 1,34E  Sueur, François
  White       3C78       v            09/04/2007  Domaine du Marquenterre, Saint-Quentin-en-Tourmont, Somme, FRANCE  50,15N 1,34E  Sauvage, Elisabeth
  White       3C78       v            27/07/2007  Blackpill, Swansea Bay, Glamorgan, Wales, GB  51,36N 3,59W  Stewart, Barry
  White       3C78       v            08/12/2007  Blackpill, Swansea Bay, Glamorgan, Wales, GB  51,36N 3,59W                       read as ?C78  Howells, R.J. (Bob)
  White       3C78       v            26/03/2008  Oye Plage, Les Huttes d'Oye, Pas-de-Calais, FRANCE  50,59N 2,03E  Sibille, Alexandre
  White       3C78       v            29/03/2008  Oye Plage, Les Huttes d'Oye, Pas-de-Calais, FRANCE  50,59N 2,03E  De Smet, Walter
  White       3C78       v            29/03/2008  Oye Plage, Les Huttes d'Oye, Pas-de-Calais, FRANCE  50,59N 2,03E  Sibille, Alexandre
  White       3C78       v            01/04/2008  Oye Plage, Les Huttes d'Oye, Pas-de-Calais, FRANCE  50,59N 2,03E  Duponcheel, Camille
  White       3C78       v            01/04/2008  Oye Plage, Les Huttes d'Oye, Pas-de-Calais, FRANCE  50,59N 2,03E  Gruvier, Xavier
  White       3C78       v            07/04/2008  Oye Plage, Les Huttes d'Oye, Pas-de-Calais, FRANCE  50,59N 2,03E  Driencourt, Alexandre
  White       3C78       v            07/04/2008  Oye Plage, Les Huttes d'Oye, Pas-de-Calais, FRANCE  50,59N 2,03E  Gruvier, Xavier
  White       3C78       v            20/04/2008  Oye Plage, Les Huttes d'Oye, Pas-de-Calais, FRANCE  50,59N 2,03E  Sauvage, Jean Michel
  White       3C78       v            26/04/2008  Oye Plage, Les Huttes d'Oye, Pas-de-Calais, FRANCE  50,59N 2,03E  Sauvage, Jean Michel
  White       3C78       v            28/04/2008  Noordelijk Insteekdok, Oost-Vlaanderen, BELGIUM  51,17N 4,13E  Flamant, Renaud
  White       3C78       v            29/04/2008  Noordelijk Insteekdok, Oost-Vlaanderen, BELGIUM  51,17N 4,13E  Flamant, Renaud
  White       3C78       v            02/05/2008  Noordelijk Insteekdok, Oost-Vlaanderen, BELGIUM  51,17N 4,13E  Flamant, Renaud
  White       3C78       v            26/05/2008  Noordelijk Insteekdok, Oost-Vlaanderen, BELGIUM  51,17N 4,13E  De Smet, Walter
  White       3C78       v            08/03/2009  Bracelet Bay, Mumbles, Swansea, Glamorgan, Wales, GB  51,34N 3,59W  Grenfell, Harold E.
  White       3C78       v            26/07/2009  Le Portel, Pas-de-Calais, FRANCE  50,42N 1,34E  Duponcheel, Camille
  White       3C78       v            25/09/2009  Bracelet Bay, Mumbles, Swansea, Glamorgan, Wales, GB  51,34N 3,59W  Stewart, Barry
  White       3C78       v            20/03/2010  Pannel Valley, Icklesham, Sussex, GB  50,54N 0,41W  Hunter, Ian
  White       3C78       v            15/04/2010  Conchil le Temple, Pas de Calais, FRANCE  50,22N 1,4E  Sauvage, Jean Michel
  White       3C78       v            17/04/2010  Conchil le Temple, Pas de Calais, FRANCE  50,22N 1,4E  Sauvage, Jean Michel
  White       3C78       v            18/04/2010  Conchil le Temple, Pas de Calais, FRANCE  50,22N 1,4E                               female regurgitation  Sauvage, Jean Michel
  White       3C78       v            27/04/2010  Conchil le Temple, Pas de Calais, FRANCE  50,22N 1,4E  Sauvage, Jean Michel
  White       3C78       v            09/10/2010  Blackpill, Swansea Bay, Glamorgan, Wales, GB  51,36N 3,59W  Wydenbach, Eric
  White     3C78      v           18/12/2010           Bracelet Bay, Mumbles, Swansea, Glamorgan, Wales, GB  51,34N 3,59W     Tilt, Adam

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