Aberlady Seabird Extravaganza

Monday, November 30, 2015 Adam Tilt 3 Comments


Words and images from 22/11/2015
As promised it was an early start this morning with Long-eared Owls our goal and a desire to make the most of what limited daylight hours we were to be afforded given the time of year. Our destination was Aberlady local nature reserve, the very first area to be designated as such in 1952 and today an absolute haven for birds and birders alike. Encompassing a wide range of habitats from beach through to dunes and grassland beyond we were greeted by the sight of hundreds of Wigeon feeding along with a similar number of Teal and a smattering of Shelduck. Mixed in amongst them were several Redshanks and a flash of blue signalling the passage of a Kingfisher, first downstream and then back the way it had come. Curlews and Oystercatchers were also present in good numbers and, standing on the wooden bridge that grants access to the reserve proper, I already had the feeling that this was going to turn out to be a very good day indeed.

P1160236 - Aberlady

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Edinburgh Bound - Snow, Sun and North Berwick

Sunday, November 29, 2015 Adam Tilt 3 Comments


Words and images from 21/11/2015
I could little have anticipated that just a few weeks after driving the six hundred or so miles back from Mull I’d be heading North of the border once more. But here I am, in a cottage just East of Edinburgh, contemplating the tragic loss of a family member who was taken from us far too soon. With the funeral taking place in a couple of days there is much to be sad about, but at the same time I feel the greatest respect I can pay is to continue with his love of nature and try not to regret that we never had the chance to explore it more fully together. To that end we will be spending the next week walking and birding an area of the country which neither of us know all that well, walking in his footsteps and wondering about what conversations we might have shared had things worked out differently.

Our mammoth drive from Swansea to Edinburgh began last night where, upon leaving Wales, we had no idea quite what the weather Gods had in store for us. The mild and wet conditions which have, not to put too fine a point on it, plagued us since the beginning of November suddenly and quite dramatically gave way. In their place came a bitingly cold wind accompanied by rain, sleet and finally blizzards which made driving considerably more attention sapping than usual. There is, after all, only so long you can pretend that the snowflakes rushing towards you are reminiscent of the Millennium Falcon making the jump into hyperspace. But I digress. Needless to say that after a good night's sleep at a Travelodge on the M6 we awoke this morning to a light covering of snow. Nothing to get too excited about you understand but after a distinct lack of the white stuff over the past couple of winters I couldn’t help cracking a little smile. The only minor concern was that the car park was an ice rink, we had no idea what the motorway would be like and there was still another couple of hours travelling ahead of us before Edinburgh.

P1160185 - Scottish Snow

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Sunsets over Mull

Thursday, November 26, 2015 Adam Tilt 2 Comments


Something I've always struggled with photographically on Mull are sunsets but with such short days during our most recent trip I often found myself still out and about as the sun bade us farewell. This meant a whole host of new opportunities presented themselves and I'm more than happy with the resultant images. Most come from a single evening on the road from Calgary to Treshnish where the hills positively burned in the dying light. Epic conditions even if the short days did have our body clocks completely confused.

P1160051 - Isle of Mull 2015

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Isle of Mull - Eagles, Harriers and Dippers

Tuesday, November 24, 2015 Adam Tilt 0 Comments


Regular readers of this blog should by now know just what a special place the Isle of Mull is when it comes to wildlife. A typical day for us normally involves eating breakfast whilst watching a pair of Golden Eagles stretching their wings, often followed by a walk where Otters and Seals are all but guaranteed. Evening comes with Hen Harriers and Short Eared Owls quartering the hillside opposite and never rule out the evocative tones of a thrumming Snipe once dusk starts to fall. With our visit this year being so late in the season I fully expected to see a change in the wildlife we recorded and that proved to be just the case. All of the spring migrants had long gone which meant no Wheatears, no Swallows and sadly no Short Eared Owls either. In their place were a plethora of autumn migrants including my first ever sighting of Redwings and Fieldfare on Mull. Even better though were the large flocks of Whooper Swans passing through, often on days with the worst weather, battling their way into Loch Tuath against sometimes severe head winds. Their ghostly forms were easy to pick out against the vast seascape and we even got great close-up views of a lone individual resting on Mishnish Lochs. More waterfowl migration came in the form of a flyover Brent Goose (another Mull first for me), two Greenland White-fronted Geese and a lone Barnacle Goose feeding with a large flock of feral Greylags at Croig.

The Golden Eagles were still very much in residence with at least one adult and one juvenile bird seen over the house at least twice a day. These birds seem to have replaced the pair that held this territory for many years and with the arrival of fresh blood hopes have to be high for a better rate of breeding success in the future. They were kept company on most days by a White-tailed Sea Eagle which we often spotted travelling along the coastline presumably on the hunt for fertile fishing grounds. Now this is a species we've been seeing more and more regularly in our area but thus far they appear to be having no impact on the Goldies. I'm very glad about that as who can complain when the Eagle was happy to hover directly above our heads whilst we gazed on in awe.

P1150993 - Sea Eagle, Isle of Mull 2015

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Autumn Colours on Mull

Saturday, November 21, 2015 Adam Tilt 1 Comments


It was a late trip to Mull for us this year but our reward was definitely worth the wait. Autumn was in full flow and every direction we looked delivered another assault on the senses as a kaleidoscope of reds, oranges and yellows shone like nothing I've ever seen before. Even the Bracken, normally a scourge to be endured, managed to take on a more attractive hue covering Mull's hills in a bronze blanket that leant even familiar views a little something extra. Though we didn't see all that much of the sun, when it did shine we made the most of things and these are just a few of my favourite landscape shots taken during an all too brief stay.

P1150998 - Isle of Mull 2015

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Broad Water, Tywyn

Thursday, November 19, 2015 Adam Tilt 0 Comments


Back to September for this post and day two of our mini camping adventure to mid Wales. As a recap we'd spent Saturday walking from Abergynolwyn to the enigmatic Castell y Bere and when we last spoke our tent had been pitched and we were safely tucked up for the night. In truth the weather had looked a little iffy as darkness fell so it was a pleasant surprise to wake to blue sky and a bone dry tent! How often does that happen? Never if you've got my luck let me assure you of that. As a result the tent was packed away within a few minutes, breakfast consumed and our feet already set on the days walk before most of our fellow campers had shed their dressing gowns. We even heard an overflying Chough as if to reinforce the unusual sighting of the day before. As least this time the sea was actually in sight and what a joyous spectacle it made. There are those who don't rate Tywyn that highly but for me it is the epitome of a quintessentially down at heel British seaside resort, and where else would this coastal devotee feel more at home.

P1150869 - Tywyn

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Last Hurrah of Summer

Tuesday, November 17, 2015 Adam Tilt 0 Comments


Before the Harriers, Owls and Egrets stole our weekend we'd spent an enjoyable couple of hours exploring Llanelli WWT. Given the time of year I fully expected to be soaking up the sights and sounds of Wigeon for as far as the eye could see, perhaps with the resident Godwit flock for company. As it turned out there were just 22 Wigeon present and a complete absence of the latter which came as rather a large surprise, especially considering that other waterfowl such as Pintail (two males), Shoveller and Gadwall were all present and correct. Perhaps the very mild conditions of late are to blame although my first Welsh Redwings of the autumn had managed to turn up. As ever they proved incredibly flighty with every raise of my camera greeted by a flurry of wings and a complete absence of migrant thrushes. Not to worry as just seeing them was, for now, good enough for me. 

Back to the subject of our mild autumn and nowhere was this more apparent than in our sighting of at least three Red Admirals and a pair of Common Darters along what I affectionately refer to as the back straight. Both are on the wing at this time of year but I've seldom seen as many at once or being quite so active in November. A rather nice reminder of summer and hopefully enough to tide us through the coming barren months.

P1160146 - Red Admiral, Llanelli WWT

P1160137 - Common Darter, Llanelli WWT

Elsewhere on the reserve a calling Cetti's Warbler, at least three male Bullfinches and a very showy Goldcrest were best of the rest and we also spotted our first Little Grebe at the site for quite some time. Lapwing numbers were also pretty healthy with 38 birds present but Pochard? Not so much. Given that they are now classed as a vulnerable species this is not good news and I shall be making an extra effort to note where we record Pochard going forwards.

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Breezy Burry Brents

Sunday, November 15, 2015 Adam Tilt 0 Comments


Our first proper autumn storm has left South Wales bedraggled and de-leaved over the last few days and despite a few hours of dryness today, conditions remained grey and very wild indeed. Having spent an hour or so attempting to curtail the formation of a new pond in my car boot I took myself off to Burry Port (or more accurately Pembrey Harbour) to see if I couldn't blow away a few cobwebs. On that score I was mostly successful and managed to include the added bonus of at least 150 Brent Geese. The gaggle were spread out across a large sandbank off Tywyn Bach and if memory serves represent the largest single gathering of the species I've yet seen along this stretch of coast.

P1160179 - Brent Geese near Burry Port

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Abergynolwyn to Castell y Bere

Monday, November 09, 2015 Adam Tilt 0 Comments


This year was supposed to be all about the camping. We had plans for several weekends away, a couple of longer trips plus perhaps our first wild camp somewhere up in the Brecons. If you've been following this blog since January then you may have noticed that, thus far, we have fallen well short of those seemingly reasonable goals and with wind and rain battering South Wales for the second week in succession I think it's fair to say that any further opportunities are pretty much none existent. As ever life has a rather nasty habit of springing surprises on you and 2015 has sadly had its fair share. That's not stopped me from dreaming however and one particularly tedious September day in the office I was gripped by a sudden desire to head to mid Wales, Abergynolywn in particular, and walk to Castell y Bere. A slightly random choice you might think but the route was once a favourite of mine as a child and I wanted to share it with Emma. Must be getting soppy in my old age. The only problem was that given the distances involved we would only be able to drive up on the Saturday morning and with work again on Monday that meant a one night camp. Ah. Now I've always maintained, rightly or wrongly, that it simply wasn't worth the effort to pitch the tent for such a brief stay but having lost so many other opportunities this year I was not going to forgo another. As it turned out we had an absolutely brilliant time despite the weather being a tad damp on our arrival. Just like I remembered it from family holidays of yore.

P1150764 - Abergynolwyn to Castell y Bere

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Harriers, Owls and Egrets at Llanrhidian Marsh

Saturday, November 07, 2015 Adam Tilt 0 Comments


P1160158 - Llanrhidian Marsh

I've had some pretty special evenings watching the birds come in to roost at Llanrhidian Marsh on Gower, yet none have ever come close to the spectacle we witnessed today. We pulled up at a little after half three and immediately spotted a Short Eared Owl hunting. Barely had I chance to focus the scope before a Great White Egret dropped into the reeds, quickly followed by a second. Then the Hen Harriers appeared, two ringtails, with the action continuing until the sun had set and we could barely pick out the ghostly shapes of birds through the murk. I'm not going to lie, it was something really rather special with on occasion all three of the aforementioned species visible at the same time. Then of course there was the supporting cast which included Red Kite, Buzzard, Kestrel, Common Snipe and thousands upon thousands of Starlings which grouped together over Weobley Castle before following the Burry inland.

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Waterfall Country - Pontneddfechan

Thursday, November 05, 2015 Adam Tilt 0 Comments


It appears to be November. The clocks have gone back, my office is almost permanently in the clouds and I've just returned from a fantastic week amongst the Red Deer on Mull. Before I embrace the coming of winter however I wanted to share a few trips from the end of last summer which up until now had never quite made it onto the blog. Coming up we've got our first ever single night camping trip to mid-Wales, my favourite castle and then of course that aforementioned trip to Mull (technically in autumn not summer but whose keeping track). Kicking things off though is a sweltering walk through another side of the Brecon Beacons that seems as far removed from the likes of Pen y Fan as it's possible to get.

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Waterfall country. The name alone evokes images of water crashing over towering drops and there can’t be too many areas that offer quite such a concentration of these natural wonders as can be found along the Neath valley. A couple of years ago we spent a grey winter’s day exploring a series of cascades around Ystradfellte and September 6th saw us returning, though this time to walk the banks of the Afon Nedd-Fechan up from Pontneddfechan (great names all). Despite it being September conditions were very warm indeed and it was a welcome relief to enter the dappled shade afforded by thick woodland, a landscape which was to accompany us for much of the day. Once, like many valleys in the area, this seemingly timeless habitat would have appeared very different with mining and manufacturing both leaving their scars. The passage of time has managed to restore much of what was lost but even today you don’t need to look that hard to see remnants of a lost age poking through. Fenced off mine entrances are perhaps the easiest features to spot yet even the path beneath our feet was once a tramway bringing raw materials (principally silica) down to the railways beyond. Its broad, well graded character belies this earlier purpose with several sections still showing the original stone sleepers along which the rails would once have run.

P1150694 - Waterfall Country

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Cabbages, Choughs and Coastline

Wednesday, November 04, 2015 Adam Tilt 0 Comments


Words and photographs from 20/10/2015
It's pretty difficult to find a new vantage point from which to photograph Rhossili these days with most angles having been done to death not only by myself but also by the thousands of visitors who walk these cliffs each year. I was rather pleased with this effort from the afternoon of October 20th as a result which shows the scene looking North across the Vile (an ancient medieval field system in case you were wondering). There was more than a faint whiff of Cabbage in the air, can't imagine why, and I'm particularly pleased with the way in which I'd arranged for a para-glider to leap from Rhossili Down at just the right moment. In fact the only thing missing was one or two of the Cabbage Whites which were fluttering across the field from time to time.

P1150957 - The Vile

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