Whooper Swans, Otters and Starlings

Wednesday, January 16, 2013 Adam Tilt 3 Comments


This weekend was our annual trip to Aberystwyth and following last weeks slightly "twitchy" behaviour, the plan was to simply visit a few favourite sites and see what was about. First stop was Dryslwyn bridge where we were greeted by an over flying Peregrine Falcon and the sounds of calling Geese. The latter were feeding in sodden fields down by the river and were predominantly of the Canadian variety with a smattering of Greylags mixed in for good measure. Other than a Cormorant the water itself was pretty quiet but the small car park held a lively Nuthatch amongst the usual Tits and Chaffinches. There also looked to be several Thrushes in the area but they kept dropping behind hedges before we'd had chance to determine a positive ID. Thankfully one did eventually perch out in the open and we had our first Fieldfare of the year.

Next stop was Cilsan bridge a little further upstream, best known in these parts for its overwintering population of Whooper Swans. Last year I was just a little too late to catch up with them so I was very pleased to find fourteen individuals in amongst the fifty or so Mute Swans. As ever they were quite wary of passing traffic and positioned well off into the distance. I tried to get a couple of record shots but as with previous attempts they were pretty rubbish. Fortunately video once again came to my rescue and I was able to record some great feeding behaviour despite the strong wind.


We almost didn't bother checking the river which as it turned out would have been a very bad choice indeed. There were three Goosanders and a single male Goldeneye keeping a pair of Little Grebes happy, but that was nothing in comparison to the pair of Otters that were playing along the banks. I spotted the first in the middle of the channel before it headed to several large overhanging trees where it was joined by a second. They looked to be having the time of their lives and we watched them for a good twenty minutes or so before heading off. My first ever Otters actually in a river.

Cors Caron near Tregaron came next and has the honour of being the coldest place I have been so far this year. In sheltered areas it was fine but out on the bog a biting wind ripped away at any exposed skin. The birds didn't seem to mind with plenty of Siskins, Goldfinches and a Great Spotted Woodpecker on the feeders whilst out on the board walk we saw a Willow Tit and several Reed Buntings. A flash of blue also alerted us to the presence of a Kingfisher meaning that every day I've been out this year I've seen one. That's a record that I'd certainly like to continue.

When we finally made it to Aberystwyth there was just chance for a walk along the prom before the first couple of Starlings arrived to signal the start of Aber's greatest natural wonder. Within just a few minutes those couple of birds had grown into a flock of thousands and the murmuration was in full swing.

29151 - Starling Murmuration, Aberystwyth Pier

29139 - Starling Murmuration, Aberystwyth Pier

29149 - Starling Murmuration, Aberystwyth Pier

Unusually, for me at least, several of the arriving flocks would spend a few minutes out over the sea at incredibly low altitudes. They weren't quite touching the water but it was a close run thing. I can only imagine that this is a defensive action as any bird of prey would find it more difficult to attack them there.

29147 - Starling Murmuration, Aberystwyth Pier

Within half an hour the birds were mostly under the pier but there was still plenty of bickering and switching of places going on. The noise (and smell I might add) is incredible under there but for obvious reasons I didn't want to get too close. Fortunately a break in the clouds treated us to some superb lighting that really helped me capture the action.

29164 - Starling Murmuration, Aberystwyth Pier

29167 - Starling Murmuration, Aberystwyth Pier

29163 - Starling Murmuration, Aberystwyth Pier

29159 - Starling Murmuration, Aberystwyth Pier

With the Starlings tucked up and the sun set everything and everyone started to settle in for their evening rituals. For us that meant heading to the B&B which afforded us views right across the beach to where a small flock of Oystercatchers were roosting for the night. There can be no better sound than breaking waves to lull one to sleep.

3 comments:

  1. These Starlings are an amazing sight.
    I'm always awestruck when I see them.

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  2. Great set of pictures - seems like the otters in the UK are doing much better than in the past.

    The starlings pictures are splendid - they are a pest species here!

    Thanks for linking to WBW.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne.

    PS: sorry for slow reply - I've been out of internet range in Tasmania

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you for a really nice series of pictures! What an event for the Starlings!

    ReplyDelete

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