#pwc2016 First Willow Warbler and Marshy Goodness

Friday, April 22, 2016 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

As predicted Willow Warblers have now arrived on mass and fill the valley of my Cefn Drum patch from top to bottom. Each evening I've been out since last week has been accompanied by their song though I think Chiffchaffs are just about winning in terms of sheer numbers. Actual counts? Impossible to say but we are easily into double figures for both species. The surprising thing is that my very first Willow Warbler on patch was actually seen in our own back garden on April 9th, a new garden tick and an unexpected one at that. It was busy feeding at ground level and necessitated me dragging myself out of bed from what I had planned as a nice lie in. That's how serious I'm taking this years competition.

P1000906 - Collared Dove

On the subject of garden birds I'm pleased to say that we are still enjoying a great variety of species though the Starlings have not been seen for some weeks. Regulars include plenty of Goldfinches, House Sparrows, Collared Doves, Blue and Great Tits, plus up to four Dunnocks (a garden record) and the local Wren which seems to have taken up residence. Then there's the occasional visit from a couple of Greenfinches, Long-tailed Tits each morning and evening not to mention an occasional flypast from the Sparrowhawk. We've also born witness to some interesting behaviour such as a Carrion Crow playing dead whilst being mobbed by several Ravens. Not seen that one before! All good stuff but it's new discoveries that I need to challenge last years total and slow but steady progress is now being made. Following the Willow Warblers I've also added a pair of Yellowhammers off Gopa Hill in recent days and and am happy to report that presumably the same lone Swallow is still about. The rest of the hirundines can't be far behind.


Gales at Craig Cerrig-Gleisiad

Wednesday, April 20, 2016 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

P1000890 - Craig Cerrig-Gleisiad

Strange to think that the day before this had all been covered in snow, a far cry from the warm sunshine which greeted my arrival at Craig Cerrig-Gleisiad on Sunday. In its place were near gale force winds, the effect from which was to make the surrounding cliffs roar like nothing I've ever heard. My main reason for visiting was to try and unearth a Ring Ouzel or two but with conditions such as they were I was having trouble picking out even a Stonechat. Clearly I needed to find some shelter and ended up tucking in behind the wall of this ruined farmers hut.


Symonds Yat and The Wye Valley

Monday, April 18, 2016 Adam Tilt 1 Comments

Bluebells, Wye Valley
One thing I hadn’t been expecting Saturday before last was a blizzard, but that’s exactly what we encountered whilst travelling up through the heads of the valleys. What had started out as light rain rapidly deteriorated (or improved depending on your point of view) into heavy snow which began settling almost immediately. Before our very eyes the warm and sunny days of recent weeks were rolled back to something more akin to mid-winter, with temperatures to match! Of course now being four wheel powered we had no issues making progress but did discover that both cruise control and collision detection systems really don’t like the snow. Should have been obvious really but sensors can't function all that well when covered in a blanket of the white stuff. Anyway, the reason we were up this way in the first place was to meet up with friends at Symonds Yat, somewhere I last visited many moons ago. It first came to my attention in the early 1990’s as a fairly reliable place to see nesting Peregrine Falcons. It seems strange now but back then the Peregrine’s population was still at dangerously low levels and to catch sight of one was a real cause for celebration. Now I can watch a pair from my office desk on most days yet, because of those early experiences, every sighting is still one I cherish. Getting back therefore was definitely something I wanted to do. We had a seven mile walk planned for the day taking in both banks of the River Wye yet initially the weather looked like it was going to continue to prove difficult. Although there was no snow on this side of the border we were still subject to torrential rain with low cloud rendering the view from Yat Rock almost non-existent.


First Willow Warblers And a Cross Tufted Duck

Saturday, April 16, 2016 Adam Tilt 1 Comments

P1000821 - Willow Warbler
The weekend before last was mostly given over to DIY (boo I hear you cry) but that didn't stop me squeezing in a trip to Cosmeston late Sunday afternoon. Spring migrants were once more on my mind and judging from how busy the place was, most of Cardiff must have shared my urge to find their first Willow Warbler of the year. Before that though I spotted the Tufted Duck/Pochard cross (see what I did with the title there) just off the board walk and couldn't resist taking a few shots. Despite its somewhat dodgy lineage it really is a rather nice bird up close and I'm sorry to say put the 'standard' Tufted Ducks in the shade.

P1000793 - Tufted Duck x Pochard


Walking the Marloes Peninsula - Plus Harriers

Thursday, April 14, 2016 Adam Tilt 1 Comments

P1000724 - Martin's Haven Deer Park
Thankfully Easter Monday saw the return of good weather so we took the opportunity to spend some more time over in Pembrokeshire, exploring the Marloes Peninsula and walking a few new sections of the coast path. Bank Holidays are fairly well renowned for appalling weather so the views that greeted us upon arrival at Martin’s Haven had the dual impact of being both unexpected and utterly stunning. If there is a heaven then surely it must look something like this.

P1000709 - Martin's Haven

P1000711 - Martin's Haven

First stop was the old Deer Park which, although still missing its hirundines, was overrun with singing Skylarks, battling Meadow Pipits and displaying Stonechats. Out at sea three or four Gannets were stretching their wings as they soared on the light breeze whilst down below a lone Shag flew along the cliffs and a Grey Seal was busy doing what they do best i.e. not a lot. Singles of Fulmar, Rock Pipit and Raven were also about before we kicked off what was to turn into a day overrun with birds of prey. Starting simply we picked up a Kestrel above Martin’s Haven itself before what I first took to be a Sparrowhawk flew in from the direction of Skomer. However, having consulted further and following other similar sightings from the day I now believe it may in fact have been a Merlin. This is another species I see very rarely so am not all that familiar with its features but in retrospect it probably fits the bill much better for what we saw than a Sprawk. I just wish that I’d taken a closer look at the time!


Sandy Water Park, Kidwelly and Llyn Llech Owain

Tuesday, April 12, 2016 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

P1000678 - Tufted Duck, Sandy Water Park
As expected Saturday was a complete washout so it was time to break out the Xbox and ignore the sound of battering rain which seemed to be assaulting us from all directions at once. A surprisingly common occurrence in Wales of late. Thankfully Easter Sunday looked a little better and despite heavy showers moving through we decided to head out and take our chances. First stop was Sandy Water Park where by a stroke of luck we arrived just as the sun broke through. With an expanse of tranquil water stretched out before us it’s hard to imagine this place as the steel works it once was.

P1000676 - Sandy Water Park


Early Evening at St Govan’s

Monday, April 11, 2016 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

Having finished our walk around Bosherston and the Stackpole estate we found ourselves with a good couple of hours daylight left to enjoy. I’d already checked the following days forecast so knew that it was heading for a washout and as a result wanted to make the most of whatever time we had left. The obvious choice, being just down the road, was St Govan’s chapel and in the face of a rapidly strengthening wind that was where we headed next. Despite somewhat blustery conditions the light was pretty much perfect and with a crowd already at the chapel we instead walked the mile or so down to the old lookout. As with earlier in the day there were Choughs aplenty with at least one pair giving great views as they fed on the closely cropped grass, though always at a distance too great for my camera. Wheatears on the other hand were conspicuous by their absence though Skylarks were again both numerous and vocal. Birding complete it was time for the chapel and apart from another couple, we had the place to ourselves. That meant ample opportunity to take in this tranquil setting, sheltered from the wind, as well as trying out a few new settings on the camera. I wanted to see how it coped with areas of deep shadow and bright sunlight and I hope the results speak for themselves.

P1000666 - St Govan's Chapel


Bosherston, Stackpole and More Choughs Than You Can Shake a Stick At

Sunday, April 10, 2016 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

The Easter weekend is traditionally our first opportunity of the year to fetch the tent out of storage and enjoy a couple of nights under canvas. Still being relatively cool that usually means a trip down to the south coast with Lyme Regis current destination of choice, though that may have to change soon as I'm pretty sure we're just about out of places to store any more fossils. Indeed that was the plan for this year too but a certain storm Katie soon put paid to that. I've cut enough camping trips short in recent years due to bent poles and sprung guy-ropes to last a lifetime, trust me. Instead we ended up staying at home with the plan being to travel wherever the weather looked best on the day, a strategy which ended up paying off big time. Kicking things off on Good Friday (and yes I know these entries are horribly late) was a trip to Bosherston and the Stackpole Estate in Pembrokeshire, coincidentally the filming location for a special episode of Springwatch which was to be aired that very same day. OK, perhaps not that much of a coincidence as finding that out was in fact our inspiration but please, allow me a little writers license. Unfortunately it seemed that a lot of other people had also had the same idea meaning that our car park of choice was full (no money for the National Trust this time) forcing us to hunt around for an alternative. As it turned out this was a great piece of fortune as we ended up finding somewhere for free within touching distance of eight arch bridge. If we'd known that a couple of years back it would have saved several forced marches around the lakes having stayed late to watch Otters. But I digress. The important thing was that we were here, the weather was rapidly turning into a gloriously sunny day and there was a flock of fifteen Chough here to greet us. Wait, what?


Ceredigion Coast Path - Aberystwyth to Wallog

Friday, April 08, 2016 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

Little did I realise quite what a big impact that first visit to the Isle of Mull would have on my life. Those few days spent amongst the Eagles rekindled my love for nature, and birds in particular, whilst also providing much of the inspiration for creating this blog. Some nine years and numerous visits later and the island is still finding unexpected ways to creep into our everyday lives. This time it’s been our choice of car which has necessitated the purchase of a brand new 4x4. The inevitable starting a family/moving to Chelsea comments followed but in truth this move is brought on more by necessity than desire (although it does look really cool if I'm being totally honest). The family holiday home on Mull is at the end of a mile long rough track which includes, just for a bit of extra drama, two very steep switchback curves. These have always been a challenge to negotiate in our existing fleet but with a lot of scrabbling and thrown rocks we’ve just about managed it in the past. However, the experience is neither particularly kind to the cars nor our nerves as being so isolated means that getting stuck for a couple of days is a real possibility. Throw in the need to move a couple of kayaks and carry a fortnights worth of food and we weren’t left with many options.

As a result we’ve now taken delivery of our new transport and I must say, I’m very impressed. With excellent road manners and an extremely easy drive it should positively devour the long journey and then continue to conquer everything we throw at it on Mull itself. At least that’s the plan and early signs are indeed promising after dealing with a muddy Pembrokeshire car park over the Easter weekend with ease. Clearly we needed a proper shakedown though so headed to Aberystwyth a couple of weeks back. To some relief the car performed faultlessly and as an added bonus we lucked into a gorgeous day with clear blue skies and a warm breeze. A complete contrast to the grey and drizzly conditions we’d originally set out in. Not wanting to waste this opportunity we walked the coast path around to Wallog with its shingle spit, enjoying some simply stunning scenery along the way.

P1000570 - Wallog


#pwc2016 Chiffchaff, Swallow and Wheatear

Thursday, April 07, 2016 Adam Tilt 1 Comments

A chilly breeze last night meant that it felt more like winter than spring but the sight of my first Swallow of the year served as a timely reminder that somehow, and I know I’ve made this remark several times already, April and its migrants are well and truly here. Our long distance friend was spotted near the top of Gopa hill and joins the list of other recent arrivals headlined by numerous calling Chiffchaffs and a trio of pristine Wheatears. I first heard the formers distinctive song late afternoon on March 27th with the Wheatears arriving a few days later on April 2nd. Considering we’d still been experiencing the occasional snow shower earlier that week they must be wondering if they haven’t made some kind of terrible mistake. Nevertheless arrive they have and, as tradition dictates, that requires me to engage once more in the battle between man and bird. Stalking Wheatears is never an easy task, especially on open moorland where cover is virtually non-existent, but in the end perseverance paid off and I got a few respectable shots. Put it this way, I’ve certainly taken worse.

P1000783 - Wheatear

P1000774_2 - Wheatear


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