Storm Desmond and a Great Northern Diver

Saturday, December 12, 2015 Adam Tilt 2 Comments


Since returning from Edinburgh we have seen a recurrence of the dismal conditions that plagued much of November and made it one of the wettest months on record. It has rained almost every day, heavily, and where once I used to joke about the fact that we are now naming our storms, I laugh no longer. Storm Desmond was our fourth such winter weather system and one needs only look at the devastation wrought across Cumbria to witness the power it unleashed. One day rainfall totals were smashed, flood defences over-topped and thousands of homes inundated with water. Familiar locations such as Keswick appear changed forever and historic bridges have been simply washed away. Here in South Wales we thankfully missed the worst with just gale force winds to contend with as the main bands of rain passed a few miles to our North. Wanting to make the most of conditions a good coast walk seemed the best option so we headed down to Mumbles. The stretch of coast path from there to Pwlldu remains the last section of a complete Gower circumnavigation that I’d yet to complete and now seemed as good a day as any to finally tick it off.  Being the middle of winter parking was plentiful in Mumbles for a change and within a few steps of the car I spotted a familiar looking shape diving beneath the waves. Hurrying over (never running of course) revealed a blank canvas of murky grey water which stayed that way for what seemed like an age. Then the bird reappeared, a little further out, and my original suspicions were confirmed. There in front of us was a cracking Great Northern Diver, winter plumaged and giving great views as it continued to fish.

P1160728 - Great Northern Diver, Mumbles

P1160734 - Great Northern Diver, Mumbles

The second image above shows that the Diver’s efforts were being well rewarded with what I think was a small Spider Crab being the largest item of prey we saw caught. It did have a job on its hands to keep hold of it however as a Mediterranean Gull did its best to steal something away. Dive bombing seemed to have a modicum of success though I’m sure the Gull would have liked to come away with something a little more substantial than just a leg.

Around the corner at Bracelet Bay we were confronted with the full force of Storm Desmond. The sea was a raging mass of white water and crashing waves and I was surprised to hear the fog horn from Mumbles lighthouse blasting its way through the murk. It proved difficult to scan the sea in such conditions but when we did there didn’t seem to be a whole lot on the move. I know others had more success down the coast at Porthcawl so perhaps we just weren’t willing to put the time in with our focus more firmly set on a lengthy walk. What we did see though were another couple of Med Gulls in their traditional car park roost before it was time to set out for Pwlldu.

P1160738 - Bracelet Bay, Gower

What followed was mile after mile of enjoyable yet tiring walking. Being so close to Swansea much of the route was tarmac surfaced making it tougher than normal on the legs but that was more than made up for by the scenery. If we weren’t watching the waves roll in we were dodging walls of spray which were continually being thrown into our faces, coating everything in a layer of salt. Then there were those moments where the wind was literally so fierce that you couldn’t take a breath, instead having to turn your back until conditions had subsided. Needless to say the sea was being whipped into an absolute frenzy and the narrow bays at Limeslade and Langland were thick with foam. Each new gust would lift a substantial quantity into the air which when scattered this way and that resembled more than a little the snowstorms which I hope aren’t too far away. Photography was more than a little tricky without risking my cameras life so hopefully these few images give a flavour of the day.

P1160746 - Gower Coast

P1160743 - Bracelet Bay, Gower

By the time we reached Pwlldu light levels were already failing despite it only being around two in the afternoon. There was just time for a quick lunch but with temperatures dropping we weren’t too eager to stay stationery in any case. The pools behind those distinctive shingle banks held nothing (much to my disappointment) but there were plenty of Blackbirds about. They seem particularly keen on the bushes here and are numerous throughout the year.

P1160751 - Pwll Du

Our return route was simply a case of retracing the way we’d come but with the tide now higher there were at least three or four blow-holes which were displaying to full effect. I’ve shared a couple of these previously here so didn’t try to better that footage. Something for a calmer day perhaps. At least now I can rightly claim that we have walked the entire Gower coast making the next logical step repeating that feat but in one single go. I had planned on attempting this during 2015 but it looks like time has beaten me once more. One for 2016 then, if it ever stops raining of course.

2 comments:

  1. Excellent images as always Adam; love the GND shots. Not seen one yet this year.
    This continuous rain has been soul destroying. Wales and Cumbria have had more than their fair share.

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  2. Great shots - most of my views of GND have been rather more distant!!

    I have friends who were flooded in the Lakes - it's not easy to sit here and watch it on You Tube, and not really be able to do anything. I sent wine!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

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