Reeling Grasshopper Warbler - Video

Wednesday, April 29, 2015 Adam Tilt 2 Comments


As promised here's the video from Tywyn Bach where we were treated to a reeling Grasshopper Warbler in full flow. Trust me, if you think it sounds loud here that was nothing compared to the volume we experienced out in the field. Truly spectacular.

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Tywyn Bach - Gropper, Sedge, Whimbrel, Reed

Monday, April 27, 2015 Adam Tilt 11 Comments


I really wasn't expecting much from Saturday. When we woke low, grey clouds were barely clearing the hilltops, there was a light spattering of rain falling and to top it all off I had to stay within easy reach of home and a mobile signal due to work commitments (a surprisingly tricky duo to pull off in Wales even in this day and age). No escapism for us this weekend then but with the Millennium coastal park just down the road we're never completely out of options and Tywyn Bach seemed like an ideal area to explore. The fact that it turned into a birding bonanza was a complete surprise with many of our long awaited migrants finally putting in their first appearances of the year. You'd never have guessed it from the empty, windswept beach which greeted us first thing.

P1120500 - Burry Port

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#pwc2015 And Still They Come

Sunday, April 26, 2015 Adam Tilt 0 Comments


P1120492 - Spring RobinAs promised in my last Patchwork Challenge update we were back out looking for the suspected Whitethroat on Tuesday evening. It didn't take long to confirm that the snatch of song we'd heard did indeed belong to the bird in question as we picked up a much more sustained outburst on Gopa Hill. A little bit of searching soon turned up a visual confirmation and we enjoyed good views as it hunted insects amongst a couple of small trees. Only once did it fully come out into the open and fortunately I was ready to capture the moment for prosperity. Certainly not an image that matches the quality of those in my last post but one that holds far more significance for it being a local patch bird.

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Whitethroats and House Martins

Friday, April 24, 2015 Adam Tilt 5 Comments


With good reports of migrants coming in last week from the Machynys area we decided to chance our own luck there on Sunday. Prime target was definitely a Whitethroat as after coming tantalisingly close on Gopa Hill a few days earlier we really wanted to see one in the flesh. As it turned out we didn't have to wait long with a bird in full song not far from the first slipway. Brief glimpses were all we got however as it stuck resolutely to the undergrowth despite our encouraging words. Not to worry as down by the pond another male was in even finer voice and this time showed no signs of any nerves. In fact as I tracked it through the trees it got ever closer until we were virtually face to face allowing me to get the great shots below. Pretty sure these are about as good a Whitethroat photos as I'm ever likely to take.

P1120465_2 - Whiethroat, Machynys

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Fan Fawr and Fan Frynych Walk - Part 2

Wednesday, April 22, 2015 Adam Tilt 0 Comments


This is part two of our walk up Fan Fawr and Fan Frynych. For part one click here.
If you've read part one of this walk then you'll already have a pretty good idea of the landscape surrounding Fan Frynych. Wide, open areas of upland grass may be seen by some as barren and boring but to me they offer the promise of solitude, big skies and a little reminder of my favourite place on Earth; Mull. This terrain also provides the chance to put ones navigation skills to the test as with few well defined paths the possibility of finding yourself heading off in the wrong direction is very real indeed. Not much chance of that today though as with excellent visibility it was simply a case of striking out towards Fan Fawr in the distance.

P1120398 - Fan Fawr and Fan Frynych Walk

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Fan Fawr and Fan Frynych Walk - Part 1

Monday, April 20, 2015 Adam Tilt 7 Comments


P1120397 - Fan Frynych Start: SN 987 200

End: SN 987 200

Distance: 8miles

Overall Altitude Gain: 1,600ft

Terrain: Well defined tracks onto steep, open hillsides

Difficulty: Medium - navigation difficult on open hillsides
Anyone who found themselves at a loose end these past couple of days definitely needs an introduction to the great outdoors as with weather conditions continuing to improve and migrants popping up everywhere, we really have been spoiled for choice. Just locally there's been a Great Spotted Cuckoo and several Dotterel (both of which we missed I might add) but for me it was the call of the hills which beckoned most forcefully come Saturday. Never one to resist an excuse for some high altitude shenanigans we headed up to Storey Arms along with what seemed like most of South Wales. There would be no clich├ęd ascent of Pen y Fan for us this time however as we had a new route planned which would instead take us to the summit of Fan Fawr. If you've never heard of such a peak just look across the road and you'll find it sitting there, unnoticed by the masses but just begging to be climbed.

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#pwc2015 Mallard and Swallow

Sunday, April 19, 2015 Adam Tilt 2 Comments


P1120303 - RavenIt's been another excellent few days out on patch this week with Spring migrants continuing to build in number. An influx of Willow Warblers in particular from Tuesday onwards has meant that we now only need open a window to hear their distinctive calls with the bushes up on Gopa Hill practically dripping with feeding birds. One in particular caught our attention as it did a very passable impression of a Hummingbird before vanishing from sight.

P1120294_2 - Willow Warbler

As hoped for we also found our first Swallow passing through up on Bryn-bach-Common and presumably the same bird down in the valley a little later. Any celebrations were however short lived as what must rank as the rarest species on my patch put in a totally unexpected appearance. Ripples down on the new pond were its calling card with the bird itself swimming into view a few moments later to smiles and cheers all round. I doubt the humble Mallard has ever had quite such a reception. If there was ever a sighting though to encapsulate the Patchwork Challenge then this must surely be it as to be honest I probably wouldn't have given him more than a passing glance if we'd been birding anywhere else. Out on my predominantly upland patch however a Mallard is absolute gold and finally confirms my hopes for this newly created habitat.

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Blustery Dinefwr

Friday, April 17, 2015 Adam Tilt 4 Comments


It was cold, grey and windy on Sunday, not really the ideal conditions for a walk around Dinefwr but having talked it up so much following our last visit my parents were eager to see what all the fuss was about. It was something of a disappointment therefore to arrive and be told that both the Deer Park and board walk were closed on safety grounds, another case of our modern day claim culture spoiling things for the rest of us. Even with these restrictions in place there was plenty to explore however and having spotted our first White Wagtail of the year in the car park we were soon surrounded by yet more recent arrivals. Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs were everywhere but it was to a male Blackcap that we must award bird of the day. It's been far too long since we last saw one. Running it a close second were the Treecreepers of which there were many dotted throughout the woodland. Often they'd disappear behind a tree trunk almost as soon as we'd spotted them but this individual paused perfectly giving me my first ever photo of the species. Not something I get to say too often these days.

P1120259_2 - Treecreeper, Dinefwr

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Urban Wildlife in Cardiff

Wednesday, April 15, 2015 Adam Tilt 4 Comments


After last night's negative vibes it's back to the good stuff today following a visit from my parents over the weekend. With them not having been down for a good six months or so we had plenty of new locations to share and first up on Saturday was Cardiff. Not perhaps your first port of call when looking for a place to walk and watch wildlife but as I've hopefully shown during our recent trips to Cardiff Bay, preconceptions can be well wide of the mark. Even better is that with Emma working in the city we have an extra set of eyes and ears hunting out those less well known spots and it was to one of these that we headed first. Junction Canal once connected Bute East and West Docks and although truncated today it's still a watery oasis and currently home to a pair of nesting Great Crested Grebes. When we arrived one bird was sat tight with the other fishing nearby.

P1120169 - Great Crested Grebe, Cardiff

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Grass Fires - The Depressing Reality of Spring in Wales

Tuesday, April 14, 2015 Adam Tilt 7 Comments


This blog will always aim to share all that is great and good from the natural world but sadly, every now and again, there are less pleasant topics which simply cannot be ignored. At this time of year nothing falls into that category more than the blight of deliberate grass fires, a scourge from which Wales in particular seems to suffer badly. Every year vast swathes of our countryside go up in smoke and with a local patch covering mostly open hillsides, the fear has always been that someone would choose to do something particularly stupid there. We've got away with minor fires in the past but last week suffered from the largest arson attack to date. What should have been a celebratory moment following the first Willow Warblers arriving soon turned to anger as the valley beneath me erupted into flames, quickly consuming a large area as tinder dry vegetation offered little resistance and plenty of fuel. As much as I despair at such mindless destruction of valuable habitat, especially in an area I try to promote, there was added risk here as the fire rapidly approached several houses. By the time the fire brigade arrived their garden hedges were alight though thankfully the properties themselves escaped unscathed.

P1120146 - Depressing

P1120293 - Depressing

It's hard to know what can be done to change peoples attitudes towards our countryside and the prospects for the future are increasingly disheartening. What worries me most though is not the apathy which could perhaps be excused but a rampant desire to actively instigate destruction for nothing more than sheer amusement. You could blame the politicians, parents or teachers but in truth it is society generally that, to me at least, appears at fault. An increasing lack of moral responsibility seems to be infiltrating every part of modern life with people out purely for themselves and sod the rest. From driving standards to simply holding a door open for another, daily life seems to have lost what little sense of togetherness may once have existed. There are however glimmers of hope. My twitter feed for instance is filled with like minded people fighting for change and similarly in the blogosphere there are those who have made great strides in pushing the agenda of both our wildlife and its environment. I would not for a minute be so pompous as to suggest that this blog would ever change the world but I hope that through it I have at least helped to open a few peoples eyes to what can be found right on our doorsteps and how we should value and cherish what we have or face losing it forever. I include myself in that category as before embarking on this journey (hate that word) I had no idea quite what a varied and complex patchwork of species and habitat existed, nor of the significant issues facing both. Through minor changes I have seen real benefits both to my own life and to that of our wildlife, so just think what could be achieved if more thought in the same way. Hopefully it's not too late for attitudes to change but based on current trends, I have my doubts. There is no silver bullet here and I have no solutions to offer, nor an adequate conclusion to this diatribe. All I can hope for is that by highlighting both the good and the bad I will perhaps cause pause for thought and maybe prevent a hillside near you suffering the same fate as ours. Perhaps.....

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#pwc2015 New Arrivals

Sunday, April 12, 2015 Adam Tilt 4 Comments


Gorgeous weather this week has meant plenty of opportunity for after work outings and in my continuing search for spring migrants I've spent them all out on patch. Tuesday evening saw us make a relatively brief outing up to Bryn-bach-Common where at least two Stonechats were perched around the pylons whilst a distant Red Kite briefly had me clamouring for something a little rarer. A trio of Reed Buntings feeding amongst last years Bracken fronds were a good record and I was surprised to find when I got back home that these were my first on patch this year. Result.

Wednesday saw us heading back up to the Common when a bird perched on the fence caught me eye. Could it be?

P1120138 - First Welsh Wheatear of the year

Yes it could! At last a Wheatear on patch and a pristine male at that. It only stayed still for a minute or so before heading out across the fields and beyond my reach. I did pick it up again briefly but it soon vanished, hopefully a long stayer rather than a bird on passage. With spirits considerably lifted we headed down into the valley where good views of Green Woodpecker, a Coal Tit collecting nesting material, several Mistle Thrushes and an overflying Sparrowhawk were crowned, quite unbelievably, by a Treecreeper. Regular readers will no doubt recall my lamenting of this species seeming disappearance from my patch, a loss I have been trying to overturn ever since the Patchwork  Challenge began. I knew the habitat was right and that they must have been present so to have my persistence pay off is fantastic. Now all I need to do is get one on camera for prosperity.

Judging from the sequence of arrivals seen elsewhere I had my fingers crossed on Thursday that our first Willow Warblers wouldn't be far behind, and would you believe it there were two singing up on Goppa Hill. Rather predictably they chased each other off but I got better views shortly after though nothing worth sharing on here just yet. As always I will be embarking on my yearly struggle to photograph warblers so fingers crossed for some good results. Red Kites in contrast are always willing to put on a show and this one over the garden was no different. What I hadn't noticed at the time was the tag in its wing but unfortunately my photo doesn't show it clearly enough to be able to read any details. Definitely a bird to watch out for though as it would be interesting to see where our local population originates from.

P1120141 - Red Kite

With four new ticks across three days I was feeling pretty pleased with myself but remarkably we managed to add yet one more on Friday. This time it was a quartet of Linnets feeding on seed heads amongst the grass, a welcome return for a species which abandons my patch over winter. Such great progress surely means that the Swallows should be here next week and from then on it's anyone's guess as to how the rest of this years Patchwork Challenge will pan out.

2015: 54 / 2014: 64

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Seaton Wetlands - At Last Some Migrants

Saturday, April 11, 2015 Adam Tilt 2 Comments


By the time we turned in on Sunday night the temperature was hovering around five degrees. A few hours later it was marginally above one and we were definitely feeling it inside our tent. Having joked about finding ice on the car before setting out on this trip it seemed as though we'd tempted fate but come morning a clear sky and warming sun quickly banished any lingering chill. For the first time this year it genuinely felt like Spring with even the air itself carrying that faint whiff of dried grasses and whatever else goes in to making this time of year so recognisable (terrible description I know). It didn't take long to get the tent packed away but in such glorious conditions we weren't ready to head for home just yet. Instead we crossed the border into Devon and set about exploring Seaton Wetlands. Covering three local nature reserves the work that's been put in to developing this area for wildlife is truly inspirational and exactly the kind of place I'd love to have on my own doorstep. We visited for the first time a couple of years ago and since then I've been keeping up with the various comings and goings through Steve Waite's excellent blog Axe Birding. For a relatively small area the wetlands have an impressive record at pulling in rarities and with Spring in the air perhaps it was finally time for those migrants to put in an appearance.

P1120102 - Seaton
Seaton Tramway runs alongside the reserve

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Lyme Regis to Charmouth Fossil Hunting

Friday, April 10, 2015 Adam Tilt 0 Comments


A sunny start on Sunday morning meant an early rise for us not least because of the added energy it seemed to have provided to the dawn chorus. Chiffchaff, Green Woodpecker, Blackbird, Robin, Dunnock and even a flock of Herring Gulls all leant their voices to what was surely a more pleasant awakening than any alarm clock could ever hope to provide. Being in a tent we were in prime position to enjoy the sounds and by just sitting at the door I was able to capture a few of the orchestra on camera.

P1120077 - Blackbird

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Radipole Bonaparte's and Portland Bill

Wednesday, April 08, 2015 Adam Tilt 0 Comments


It was distinctly grey and overcast on Saturday morning with a cold wind keeping temperatures on the wrong side of double digits. Hardly an auspicious start for a couple of hours at Radipole Lake but we quickly learnt that initial impressions can be deceptive. Walking down the reed lined paths we could hear numerous Cetti's Warblers calling from all sides with even our conservative estimates of at least nine birds probably nowhere near their true number. As ever it seemed as though they were to remain elusive however until a streak of brown between bushes betrayed the presence of our first individual. It disappeared just as quickly but the floodgates had clearly been opened as we enjoyed some spectacular sightings throughout the rest of our stay. From birds flying straight towards me along the path to individuals perched just a couple of metres away, I think it's fair to say that Cetti's Warblers have never been quite so accommodating. Sadly I never did manage to get my camera on to one in time but what an experience producing genuine smiles all round.

Thankfully our next species was even happier to show itself off as we enjoyed our best ever views of a Bonaparte's Gull. It was feeding almost continually at the back of the reserve in a manner not too dissimilar from Petrels with legs dangling and beak regularly dipping down to the waters surface presumably to catch insects. Only occasionally did it pause for rest with both behaviours allowing the key features of pink legs and black beak to clearly be discerned. It even landed next to a Black Headed Gull at one stage providing an ideal comparison opportunity between the two species though unfortunately it never came quite close enough to improve on these record shots. Even so what a bird and strangely the most common of the rare gulls in my repertoire with this being my fourth individual and second in a fortnight.

P1120042_2 - Bonaparte's Gull, Radipole Lake

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Camping and Fossil Hunting in Lyme Regis

Tuesday, April 07, 2015 Adam Tilt 5 Comments


Trying to judge the weather for a trip away is very much like backing a horse. You study previous form, expert advice and can even have some one on one time with the beast itself, but when push comes to shove you normally end up just taking a punt based on nothing more than gut feeling and instinct. That's exactly what we ended up doing for the long Easter weekend with no clear consensus emerging from the various forecasts on temperature, rainfall or indeed wind. As this was to be our first camping trip of the year all three held added significance but what's life without an element of the unknown? As it turned out our gamble payed off with mostly dry conditions, little wind and temperatures which, though far from toasty overnight, did at least stay on the right side of freezing. All perfect for a few days down in Lyme Regis with fossils, birds and a few nights under canvas on the cards.

With Friday being a bank holiday we set off early to try and beat the worst of the traffic and ended up making excellent time, arriving just after midday. Unable to pitch the tent for another couple of hours we instead headed straight into Lyme Regis where, despite a slight drizzle, we enjoyed wandering out along the Cobb. Those of you who have watched The French Lieutenant's Woman may recognise the location.

P1120014 - Lyme Regis

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#pwc2015 Rain, Sun and Yellowhammers

Saturday, April 04, 2015 Adam Tilt 2 Comments


Hard as it is to believe but March is already a fast fading memory and with it another month of the Patchwork Challenge has been and gone. I had hoped to have seen my first spring migrants by now but other than a couple of Chiffchaffs which have been singing fairly regularly, I've drawn a complete blank. No Willow Warblers, hirundines or Wheatears, the latter well over a week beyond my earliest sighting date from a couple of years ago. This delay doesn't seem to be localised to my own patch either with much of the country reporting a similar dearth of new arrivals. That's not to say there haven't been changes in behaviour and abundance from some of my patch residents though. Far from it. An evening stroll on the 26th for instance delivered a surprise flock of ten Yellowhammers just below Bryn-bach-Common and there are now appreciably more Meadow Pipits around compared to just a couple of weeks ago. One was even kind enough to pose against the setting sun resulting in probably my favourite photo so far this year.

P1110922 - Meadow Pipit at Sunset

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Pirate Turnstones of Penzance and a Solar Eclipse

Wednesday, April 01, 2015 Adam Tilt 4 Comments


The big natural event during our time away was of course the partial solar eclipse. Being so far South we were only forecast 85% coverage but even that would be better than the cloudy conditions which marred my viewing of the last total eclipse back in 1999. For some reason the build up to this one has been rather muted, so much so in fact that I almost missed it altogether and had no time to source viewing glasses or a polarising filter for the camera. Instead Emma used her ingenuity and created a pin-hole projector which worked remarkably well. Taking it down to the beach at Praa Sands we attracted no end of curious onlookers with which we were happy to share the event.

P1110847 - Solar Eclipse

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Levant, Botallack and Cape Cornwall

Wednesday, April 01, 2015 Adam Tilt 2 Comments


One aspect of Cornwall we really wanted to see more of during this trip were the engine houses which once fuelled a mining revolution. Prior to their introduction, or more accurately the steam engines housed within, the depth at which mineral extraction could take place was limited by fairly primitive drainage technology. From the early nineteenth century however that all changed with the new machines allowing man to go deeper than ever before. In all over three thousand of these iconic structures were built with around two hundred still standing today. We'd already seen a few during our walk to Porthleven from Praa Sands but a brief look at the OS map showed a section of coastline that looked even more promising. Stretching from Levant to Cape Cornwall there was an almost unbroken line of abandoned shafts, crumbling ruins and disused quarries. My idea of paradise.

P1110711 - Levant Mine

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