Angry Sunset at Llanelli

Saturday, September 29, 2012 Adam Tilt 4 Comments

I popped down to Llanelli foreshore after work on Thursday and managed to luck into that magic hour that only comes with a high tide and the setting sun. And yes I do mean sun as after another week of rain we did get a few late rays before the cloud once again moved in. The view out across the Burry was dramatic to say the least.

Angry Sunset at Llanelli

Angry Sunset at Llanelli

Out on the water a pair of Great Crested Grebes were fishing close to shore, whilst an evening roost of twelve Little Egrets reminded me more of the Florida Everglades than South Wales. As I walked over to the Machynys development a Grey Wagtail called loudly from the rocks below before my attention was taken by a flock of two hundred plus Oystercatchers flying up channel. They looked stunning in the evening light and were unusually quiet for what must count as one of our most vocal waders. With them lost from sight I stepped down onto the beach just in time to see a large flock of Dunlin vacating the same area. Unfortunately the presence of several dogs off the lead had led to their disturbance and they spent the next few minutes circling the small bay in an agitated state. They never did manage to land and instead disappeared over the breakwater back towards the foreshore area. Whether they all made it or not is in question however as a Sparrowhawk shot past me in stealthy pursuit. Once I'd clambered to the top of the breakwater I could see it perched on the other side of the channel, so we may indeed be one Dunlin down. Further along and three female Wheatears were hopping across the sand, quite possibly the last I will see here this year. Several Gadwall were also nearby against a soundtrack of calling Curlews just starting to take advantage of some freshly exposed mud. Who needs TV when we have even better dramas playing out on our doorsteps.


Sea Stock (matthiola sinuata), Rest Bay

Thursday, September 27, 2012 Adam Tilt 4 Comments

Sea Stock (matthiola sinuata), Rest Bay

Regular readers will know that plants and flowers aren't really where my photographic interests lie, but last weekend I had to make an exception for the specimen above. It caught my eye at the top of the sand in Rest Bay, and thanks to fellow blogger Jeremy I now know it to be Sea Stock (matthiola sinuata). At first I wondered if there could have been two different plants growing from the same spot, but it turns out that the area to the left is actually the flowering part of the plant and would have been awash with small pink flowers a month or so ago. I suspect that it has grown apart from the leafier section in this manner to avoid the strong winds that frequently blow in along the coastline here (the sea is situated directly to the right of the photo).

Considering its distinctive appearance I was surprised that I'd never seen any growing elsewhere in the UK. The reason for this may be explained best by the following map, which plots sightings of Sea Stock since 1930.

 Map Credit: BSBI Maps Scheme

As the large areas of white space can attest to, Sea Stock is most definitely a rare plant on these islands and we represent the very northern edge of its range. Indeed it seems that our little piece of South Wales is one of the few areas where it is particularly abundant. Even here though the population seems somewhat variable and was actually thought to be extinct in Glamorgan from 1848, only to be rediscovered again in 1964.


Whinchats at Kenfig

Monday, September 24, 2012 Adam Tilt 19 Comments

Kenfig hasn't featured very regularly on this blog during 2012, but that's likely to change over the coming months as autumn progresses and the pool once again fills with wintering birds. Those arrivals seemed some way off on Saturday though with the current residents amounting to nothing more than a few Coots, three Mute Swans and a smattering of Black Headed and Herring Gulls. It was a little better in the neighbouring fields where Swallows were gathering before the start of their onward journeys, and an overflying Grey Wagtail added its voice to those of numerous Meadow Pipits. Up by the old boat house a Canada Goose and a Greylag Goose were closely associating with each other, the latter sporting a metal ring on its right leg. I've tried my best to read it but there isn't quite enough detail in my photo which is a shame.

Greylag Goose, Kenfig NNR

Canada Goose, Kenfig NNR

Thankfully the somewhat quiet start was not to be representative of the day as the surrounding vegetation proved to be alive with birds. A male Blackcap near the visitor centre was just one of at least three seen across the reserve, whilst spring seemed to have made a comeback with several singing Chiffchaffs seen and heard in various locations. Cetti's Warblers were calling in close proximity to both of the hides but remained elusive, not something which was a problem for the large flocks of Goldfinches that were constantly on the move. Out in the dunes I was surprised to find a calling Reed Warbler, but not as surprised as a Grey Heron was to see me emerge over the top of a ridge. Given that it was nowhere near any water I wonder if it could have been hunting Lizards or something similar. The dunes also held huge numbers of Grasshoppers and Common Darters, several of which seemed to dart out from beneath every step I made. The individual below was photographed on the boardwalk behind the North hide.

Common Darter, Kenfig NNR

I had planned to make a return visit to Kenfig Castle to see if anything had been left on show following Time Teams recent dig there, but soon abandoned that having spent a quarter of an hour pretty much going around in circles. Instead I struck out to the coast and followed the haul road onwards to the river mouth. I'd just about missed high tide but there was still a flock of ninety Oystercatchers present. The salt marsh behind held a solitary Little Egret whilst above a Kestrel and Buzzard hunted. There were also a couple of female Wheatears scurrying through the dunes, no doubt not long for these shores.

From the river mouth it was a long and enjoyable walk back along the beach to Sker Point. On the way a flock of nineteen Sanderling briefly alighted on the sand but they were gone almost as quickly as they'd arrived. Slightly more immobile was the wreck of this coal carrying vessel. It's been a good few years since I last saw her and in that time the sand has buried most of the remains. Nothing a good winter storm can't fix though I'm sure.

Shipwreck, Kenfig NNR

At Sker Point itself things initially looked pretty quiet with most of the exposed rocks being occupied by fisherman. In Rest Bay though I was happy to see a roost of two hundred Oystercatchers and seventy Golden Plovers huddled together. I started feeling a bit adventurous at this point and decided that it looked like a perfect day to find a Lapland Bunting. I set off to where a very obliging individual had entertained us all a couple of years ago and unsurprisingly drew a blank. I did however put up a couple of Skylarks and spotted a pair of Stonechats in the Bracken. Looking back towards Sker Farm I then thought I'd seen another Stonechat before quickly realising it was in fact a female Whinchat. Even better was to come though as another joined it a few moments later. I've never managed to photograph this species before so crept as close as I could using the vegetation as cover. The result below may be a bit distant but it represents a first both for the year list and my camera.

Whinchat, Kenfig NNR

A quick check of Sker Farm resulted in nothing of interest so I headed back to the car via what turned out to be a very ill advised short cut. Who knew that Bracken could reach above head height? I did make it eventually with the added bonus of this pristine Small Copper along the way.

Small Copper, Kenfig NNR

Sunday was a complete washout here as anyone in the UK can probably attest to. We did however have a Jay visit the garden for the very first time, albeit briefly. Fingers crossed it comes back again.


Local Stonechats Finally Play Ball

Friday, September 21, 2012 Adam Tilt 3 Comments

It's amazing what a bit of sun and some great birds can do to lift the spirits, and thankfully we got both in spades this evening as we wondered around our local patch. Up on Goppa Hill the mixed flock of Tits, Chaffinches and Goldcrests were still to be found in the same area they have occupied for the last month or so, although this time the Long Tailed Tits were showing particularly well.

Long Tailed Tit - Goppa Hill

Long Tailed Tit - Goppa Hill

There were no signs of the Green Woodpeckers up by the ruined house but a Grey Squirrel represented something of a rarity here, being only the second I have seen locally in the last few years. Sadly it hopped off before I got chance to take a photo, perhaps hiding from the Red Kite which drifted over our heads shortly after. As we moved on to Bryn-bach-Common it became evident that there had been an influx of Meadow Pipits with their numbers way above the recent norm. It's always hard to put a figure on exactly how many are about, but given that we seemed to disturb a couple every twenty meters or so I'm going to say lots! It was a male Stonechat that really stole the show though by perching on an electricity pylon almost within touching distance.

Stonechat - Bryn-bach-Common

Stonechat - Bryn-bach-Common

Stonechat - Bryn-bach-Common

I've been trying to get close to these birds for a while now and these are easily the best results that I've had. The bird was completely oblivious to my presence just beneath it and indeed started to preen on a couple of occasions. It only moved on when another pair turned up nearby and they decided to chase each other off, but not before I'd managed to grab a quick shot of one of the culprits.

Stonechat - Bryn-bach-Common

Elsewhere on the Common things were pretty quiet with no Yellowhammer's seen or heard, much to my disappointment. I swear they only turn up in bad light. There was however a distant Buzzard and rather curiously a flock of Chaffinches that kept taking to the air before resettling a little further off. This isn't a species that I normally see in such large numbers away from the woodland on Goppa Hill, so I wonder if they too could have been recent arrivals. Rook numbers were also relatively good with at least twelve individuals seen including this one silhouetted against the setting sun.

Rook - Goppa Hill

We rounded off the day nicely with a Raven over the back garden which went some way to make up for the lack of Swallows in the sky. At the risk of repeating myself yet again, autumn is definitely on its way.


Hill Forts, Badgers and Autumn

Monday, September 17, 2012 Adam Tilt 2 Comments

On Thursday evening we headed over to the Bulwark on Gower after work. Remarkably it's the first time I have ever visited the huge Iron Age hill fort there and boy am I sorry about that. Occupying a huge site just beneath the summit of Llanmadoc Hill it offers stunning views down the Burry Inlet towards Loughor and across to Llanelli. Although we were there just a few minutes before dusk, the patchwork of marshland, sand and water looked fantastic and is definitely a candidate for a future sunset/sunrise shoot.

Burry Inlet at Dusk

The main reason for our visit was to try and see Badgers, another in a long line of forays around our local area that ultimately left us empty handed. Disappointed we may have been but certainly not disheartened, safe in the knowledge that there is a healthy population out there and that one day we'll hit lucky. Sadly this is a state of affairs that may not last much longer as in recent weeks the government has announced plans to go ahead with a cull of Badgers in England. The justification for this needless slaughter is to prevent the spread of TB (which some Badgers are known to carry) to cattle. No one can argue that bovine TB is not an issue and I sincerely sympathise with the anguish of farmers who are faced with the disease each year. However, a cull of Badgers is not the answer, nor will it ever be. The science simply doesn't stack up. Although the transfer from Badger to cattle has been established, the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB ruled in 2007 that a widespread cull would not have any meaningful effect on transfer rates after they themselves slaughtered 9,818 Badgers. Here in Wales we faced a similar threat a couple of years ago but thankfully overwhelming public opinion saw that shelved and a cattle vaccination program adopted instead. Why the same approach can't be taken in the rest of the UK where similar public outrage is being expressed baffles me. Instead we find ourselves on the brink of a precipice with the future of our Badgers at stake.

So what can we do? As Andy Rouse has pointed out on his blog here, individually we are alone. Together however there might just be a chance that we can make our voices heard. Firstly I recommend heading over to the Team Badger website where many of the organisations involved are coming together to speak with one voice. Have a read of the information there and hopefully you'll agree that the Badger cull is something that simply cannot be allowed to happen. Secondly sign the petition on the Direct Gov website so that this government can truly see how unpopular their Badger cull is. If we don't make a stand now then who knows what the future may hold for the rest of our native British wildlife.

With such serious issues hanging over our countryside it was perhaps appropriate that we managed to get out and enjoy it for a few hours on Saturday. I was feeling a little bit defeatist after my talk of not being able to identify a juvenile Garganey in a past post, so it was back to the Llanelli WWT reserve for round two. From the British Steel Hide we were treated to large flocks of Redshank, Black Tailed Godwit, Greenshank and even a Ruff, whilst out with the Cormorants the long staying Spoonbill continued to snooze (I swear that's all it ever does). On the NRA scrapes things were relatively quiet apart from a few Wigeon and several Gadwall, not forgetting of course the three juvenile Garganey! As it turns out they stand out really rather well in the flesh (feather?) and we had no trouble picking them up as they swam from cover to cover. They represented both my second, third and fourth sightings of Garganey as well as Emma's first. Elsewhere signs of autumns advance continue to present themselves with much reduced Swallow numbers, an increase in Wigeon to 150 individuals and the reappearance of two Kingfishers from both the Michael Powell and Peter Scott hides. Saying that, it is still raining almost every day here so defining 'seasons' is becoming something of a mute point.


Hummingbird Hawk-moths in Kent

Wednesday, September 12, 2012 Adam Tilt 5 Comments

Ferry House Cottages, Kent

On Saturday I woke to the calls of several Red Legged Partridge beneath our bedroom window, quickly followed by my sister screeching at frequencies normally only discernible to dogs. Oh yes it was wedding day and for the next few hours the cottage became a swarming mass of women fussing over nothing in particular. I made the wise decision to remove myself from the theatre of conflict and took my camera to explore the flowerbeds outside. On our arrival the previous evening I'd spotted a swarm of Hummingbird Hawk-moths right next to the main door and it was to there I headed first. Unfortunately they were conspicuous by their absence but I did spot a Garden Spider sitting in the middle of its web.

Garden Spider, Kent

Moving to the opposite side of the cottage where temperatures were already racing into the mid twenties, I found a couple of Small Tortoiseshells and one of the elusive moths. Watching it move from flower to flower was absolutely fascinating as it hovered at each to feed for just a few seconds. This behaviour was however a nightmare to try and photograph with my camera positioning and autofocus taking almost exactly the same amount of time as for the moth to move on. Needless to say I got a lot of shots featuring nothing but empty flowers. In the end I had to try and anticipate where it was going next and managed to get a couple of passable shots.

Hummingbird Hawk-moth, Kent

Hummingbird Hawk-moth, Kent

To my surprise the moth then landed on one particular leaf and proceeded to sit completely still. Although the vivid colours of its flight plumage weren't visible, it did at least give me the opportunity to take some photographs of its upper wings.

Hummingbird Hawk-moth, Kent

The rest of the day was, as you'd expect, taken up with the wedding itself which couldn't have been any more perfect. The evening reception in particular will live me for a long time, partly due to the Irish jigs (once a student always a student) but mostly due to its fantastic position overlooking the Swale. I never did see that Osprey again though!

A full English breakfast on Sunday morning set us up nicely for another couple of hours down at Oare Marshes. This time we headed west along the sea wall to a copse that seemed to have been a hive of activity recently judging from local reports. On our way we got superb views of a Hobby hawking for insects near the west pool, plus a couple of passing Stock Doves. More Linnets and Starlings as well as doubles of Wheatear and Stonechat welcomed us to the copse itself where I was over the moon to spot a Turtle Dove perched in one of the trees. It only stayed for a few seconds before heading off high into the sky and over to the other side of the estuary. Another case of being in the right place at the right time!

With time ticking on and a long drive ahead of us we started to head back to the car, but not before picking out a single Whimbrel on the mud and yet more Stock Doves. I also got an opportunity to photograph another Common Darter, though this time a male.

Common Darter, Oare Marshes

Having seen so much in such a short amount of time consider Kent, and the Isle of Sheppey in particular, well and truly planted on my list of places to return to. Now how long until my next long weekend ............


Adventures in Kent

Tuesday, September 11, 2012 Adam Tilt 14 Comments

Kent is a county that's never really featured very highly on my list of places to visit, but with my sister getting married there on Saturday it seemed like an ideal opportunity to at least give the place a chance. I'd heard good things from her about Oare Marshes so we travelled down early Friday morning to sneak in a few hours birding before my family duties began. Believe me when I say that the sight of the Swale estuary was a very welcome one after having spent four hours driving on what must count as some of Britain's most boring motorways (M4 and M25 I'm looking at you).

Oare Marshes

With no clear idea of where was best to head, we simply set off along the sea wall to do a loop of the main reserve. The reeds on our landward side were alive with Linnets, Goldfinches and several large flocks of Starlings as well as a couple of Reed Warblers (what was that about me never having much luck finding them?) and brief glimpses of a Sedge Warbler. Reed Buntings were also numerous with all of the individuals we saw being either female or juvenile birds. Out on the Swale a few Ringed Plovers were poking their heads above a muddy bank but it was to the sky that our attention was rather abruptly drawn. We'd only been there for a little over twenty minutes and here was a magnificent Osprey heading straight for us! Momentary paralysis was quickly overcome as I whipped out my camera and fired off a couple of shots at its now retreating form. It was clearly looking down to the water but a constant barrage of attacks from the resident gulls precluded any hunting attempts. What a bird though and definitely a case of being in the right place at the right time.

Osprey, Oare Marshes

Following the excitement a spot of lunch seemed necessary, so we retired to a nearby hide which at least offered some respite from the unrelenting heat. Let me assure you that the green and lush hills of Wales had never seemed so distant from amongst the parched landscape of the south. Rather embarrassingly we somehow managed to miss a flock of 59 Avocet's roosting on the mud in front of us, an error only rectified after overhearing someone else in the hide talking about them. I blame the heat.

Moving on we came to the east flood which was packed with thousands upon thousands of waders. I'll leave exact counts to the sadists out there but my rough estimates came in at over 900 Redshank, 1500 Black Tailed Godwit, 91 Lapwing, 600 Golden Plover and 7 Ruff. Dotted amongst them were singles of Greenshank and Little Egret as well as a few eclipse plumaged Teal and yet more Starlings. We also spent a long time deliberating over a small wader which we eventually recorded as a juvenile Curlew Sandpiper. It should have been much simpler to pin down given that we knew a couple were present, but I get so little opportunity to observe the species that I never feel confident in going with my first instincts and proceed to second guess myself into oblivion. I'd have loved to get it on camera but the light was in the wrong direction and distances too great, so instead here's a couple of general views showing the gathered birds.

Oare Marshes

Oare Marshes

Crossing to the west side of the reserve we spotted a Green Woodpecker making itself scarce before arriving at a hide that was doing a passable impersonation of a sauna. Our brief ensconcement within delivered a Green Sandpiper and a large but unidentified green caterpillar, and no I don't know if you had to be green to appear there. Outside dragonflies were everywhere, as indeed they had been across the site, but this Common Darter was one of the few I saw settled.

Common Darter, Oare Marshes

A quick stop at the church to check on preparations didn't take long given that it borders and overlooks part of Oare Marshes, so it was off to the RSPB's Elmley reserve next. We only had chance to drive along the lengthy approach track, but even that was enough to deliver at least three hunting Marsh Harriers and a Yellow Wagtail. Five more Marsh Harriers were soon in sight as we approached our cottage for the weekend at Ferry House, a couple of which were at times flying right next to the car. I just about managed to grab my camera in time to take this image, but of course by then the bird had moved a lot further away.

Marsh Harrier, Isle of Sheppey

The cottages themselves turned out to be a series of stunning converted barns surrounded by open farmland for as far as the eye could see.

Ferry Inn Cottages, Isle of Sheppey

After such a great day it was hard to imagine that things could get any better, but somehow the natural world managed to pull something extra special out of its bag of tricks. As night fell a Barn Owl started to call from a modern barn located just across the yard from our cottage, an activity which continued for several hours. I poked my head through the door but couldn't see anything in the almost total darkness, so instead recorded some audio for you to enjoy.

I had hoped to see the owl out and about early next morning but it would appear that my definition of 'early' is not really adequate. A couple of our guests who went for a run at six reported seeing a Barn Owl hunting nearby whilst another was perched in the barn, so perhaps our noisy individual was a juvenile calling for food. Having listened to various calls on the internet it certainly sounds highly likely.


Something for the Weekend

Friday, September 07, 2012 Adam Tilt 4 Comments

Well I don't know about you but I've got a packed weekend coming up. There are a couple of new reserves that I'll be visiting for the very first time as well as the small matter of my sisters wedding to attend to. Hopefully this means I will have many tales with which to regale you next week, but for now here are a few more shots from the past few days to tide you over. Have a great weekend.

Llanelli Sunset

Goppa Hill

Llanelli Foreshore

Llanrhidian Sunset, Gower

Llanrhidian Sunset, Gower


Llanelli Sunset

Thursday, September 06, 2012 Adam Tilt 2 Comments

On Tuesday evening we were treated to the most glorious of sunsets from Llanelli foreshore. Under a clear sky and with the tide rapidly rising, it was hard not to marvel as the natural world put on one of its best displays this year.

Llanelli Sunset

Llanelli Sunset

Llanelli Sunset

Llanelli Sunset

And in case you were wandering, yes the tide really did come in that fast!


It's (Yellow) Hammer Time

Tuesday, September 04, 2012 Adam Tilt 4 Comments

I spent a couple of hours yesterday evening wandering around part of my local patch, and was delighted to find what must rank as the tamest Yellowhammer in history. In the end I was able to get within a couple of meters and the bird still showed no signs of discomfort. Perhaps the dark conditions were masking my outline as with fog rolling up the valley and thick cloud obscuring the sun, even I was having trouble seeing very far. I did my best with what limited light I had but obviously an SLR would have been a big advantage in such conditions.

Yellowhammer, Bryn-bach-Common

Yellowhammer, Bryn-bach-Common

Down on Goppa Hill the Green Woodpeckers were showing very nicely though still remained difficult to approach. It's great to see them again as despite hearing yaffling almost every day it's actually been a good while since I've clapped eyes on one. Elsewhere Swallows were on the move in good numbers with the usual patch trio boosted by a couple of hundred new arrivals. They filled the air above Bryn-bach-Common and its surrounding fields, yet another sign that autumn is coming. I was particularly pleased to see a few juveniles on the fence behind our house as well as several House Martins, although it looks like the local Swifts have already left for warmer climes. The common also seems to be holding at least two family groups of Stonechats at present which is more positive news.

A Kestrel and two Buzzards accounted for the local raptors with one of the latter being particularly vocal. I originally thought it was a juvenile but its colouration appeared to be too dark, but who knows given their penchant for plumage variation. Other 'big stuff' included a single Raven heading over to Cefn Drum and a large flock of Jackdaws and Rooks feeding on ground to the north. Special mention should go to the mixed flock of Chiffchaffs, Goldcrests, Blue Tits and Long Tailed Tits which have spent the last week or so on our back lane. They've been providing excellent entertainment as they squabble amongst themselves, and yesterday the Blue Tits looked to be entering the final stages of their "who can hang upside down from the thinnest branch" competition.


Redshank Revolution

Monday, September 03, 2012 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

Remember the good old days when I used to spend a whole weekend birding various locations across Wales? If not then I don't blame you as I'm struggling to do so myself. For various reasons this year, the weather being one and life being another, I just haven't been able to enjoy the same freedom as I've been used to. The result has been an ever increasing sense of frustration with a few snatched hours here and there having to suffice. On the odd occasion that I have had a whole day free I've been more concerned with walking a decent distance to keep fit than hunting around to see what birds I can find. This weekend I'd had enough and finally gave in to my withdrawal symptoms. Yes the forecast was once again horrendous but this time I was not going to be beaten.

Rainy Kidwelly Quay

Come Sunday morning I was to be found stood on the wharf at Kidwelly Quay with a blanket of cloud barely above sea level and a fine rain blasting horizontally into my face. It may sound bleak but I couldn't have been happier, for spread out before me in the expanding mudflats were hundreds of Redshank in a feeding frenzy. I lost count after 155 with the birds still continuing in every direction for as far as the eye could see. Dotted amongst them were fourteen Curlew and a single female Teal, whilst out towards the Burry three Little Egret and a pair of Grey Herons were standing sentry. Right beneath us a Black Headed Gull was providing great entertainment as it first battled with and ultimately ate a small crab, quickly followed by a worm that any fisherman would have been delighted to use as bait.

In the small car park I was very surprised to find a still occupied Swallows nest amongst the rafters of a dilapidated metal shed. Both parents were making regular visits with food but surely it can't be long before the chicks fly. Speaking of fledging it has obviously been a good year generally for the local Swallow population with at least thirteen young birds sat on the nearby telephone wires. Up towards the sewage farm (oh yes we are going to all the glamorous locations today) I was disappointed to find just a Magpie family on the filtration beds. Normally this is a prime location for Reed Buntings and other small birds, but apparently not this time. Fortunately the surrounding vegetation made up for it with at least three juvenile Chiffchaffs, one Goldcrest and a male Blackcap sheltering from the weather.

Next stop was Pembrey harbour, scene of many a successful Tern watching experience. As the tide had been dropping rapidly for the last couple of hours I expected most, if not all, of any gathered birds to have long since dispersed, but it seemed our luck was in. Out on the furthest sandbank we picked up a flock of 74 Sandwich Terns with a single Common Tern sat slap bang in the middle.

With the rain intensifying we made a quick retreat to the car, grabbed a bite to eat and continued on to Sandy Water Park. As I set off for a quick loop of the lake I had to pass an angry group of over thirty Mute Swans who were clearly unhappy that I was not going to be feeding them. Out on the water things initially looked pretty quiet with just the usual Tufted Ducks and gulls for company. A family of Great Crested Grebes with two large but still striped ducklings spiced things up, but it was left to a small brown bird to really get my juices flowing. A flash of brown alerted me to the presence of a Reed Warbler, remarkably my first of the year for a species that I never seem to have much luck with. Needles to say I broke the news to Emma who had stayed with the car in typically sympathetic fashion.

A brief pause on Llanelli foreshore revealed another 220 Redshank before we arrived at the local WWT reserve. By now the rain had stopped and the sun was even trying to put in an appearance, so it was with new vigour that we started scanning the water in front of Goodall's Hide. Eleven roosting Greenshank were a pleasant surprise, as was the recently arrived flock of Wigeon. With another flock of Wigeon on the NRA scrapes accompanied by twenty Lapwing and even more Teal, it would appear that autumn is definitely with us. Speaking of the scrapes there have apparently been three juvenile Garganey there for the past week, but try as we might we couldn't find them ourselves. They were probably roosting in the long grass but even out in the open I may have struggled to pick them out. Why can't we have a stonking male rarity instead of juveniles? It would make life far easier. Fortunately the long staying Spoonbill stood out a mile amongst the roosting Cormorants, as did yet another gathering of 150 plus Redshanks (who knew we had so many!). A final treat came in the shape of a Buzzard devouring some unidentified but most definitely deceased creature.

The day finished off nicely at midnight with screeching from one of our local Tawny Owls. It's been a while since we've heard or seen them so it's good to know that they are still around. Now how do I go about getting one into the garden I wonder ........


All Consuming Cinnabars

Sunday, September 02, 2012 Adam Tilt 4 Comments

Regular readers may recall that upon moving into our current house a couple of years ago, we discovered that the garden was already home to a small population of Cinnabar Moths. By small I mean no more than a couple of caterpillars and even fewer moths. Since then I have been trying to do as much as possible to increase their numbers, mainly by allowing a few Ragwort and Groundsel plants to grow. Both serve as food for Cinnabar Moth caterpillars and both are classified as weeds in the UK. Ragwort in particular receives a bad rap due to the risk its toxins can cause to the health of grazing animals. As a result gardeners and farmers alike do their utmost to eradicate them which must have an effect on Cinnabar Moth numbers. Fortunately my efforts seem to be paying off and this year we have had a bumper crop of caterpillars.

Cinnabar Moth Caterpillars, Garden

Cinnabar Moth Caterpillars, Garden

Cinnabar Moth Caterpillars, Garden

The plant in the photos above has since been stripped completely bare and the caterpillars have moved on to pastures new. I look forward to their emergence as moths next spring.


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