#pwc2016 Bluebells, Stonechat Fledglings and a Cuckoo

Friday, May 13, 2016 Adam Tilt 1 Comments


If only days contained twice as many hours I might actually have a sporting chance at keeping up with all my various activities plus the mundane intrusions of everyday life. As it is the three weeks since our return from Cornwall have flown by with barely a peep appearing on my various social channels or on this blog. That leaves me with another burgeoning backlog to conquer including the aforementioned Cornish trip which included such delights as watching Dolphins whilst under sail on a Catamaran, shipwrecks and scenery from the coast around Land’s End plus far too many pasties to count. It’ll be nice to relive those precious few days away having spent the intervening weeks up to my eyeballs in work and the every present call of DIY jobs, a list which sadly appears never to diminish.

The upside to all this work is that the garden looks as good as it ever has and is now nearing the vision we were originally aiming for. Admittedly this was always pretty vague but had at its heart the desire to create a wildlife haven increasing both the abundance and variety of species seen. To my surprise we seem to have managed that in spades with insects everywhere and a corresponding increase in birds (which let’s face it is what we’re really interested in). I mentioned the same topic on my last update but since then we've been treated to regular sightings of Siskins. With previous records here amounting to an occasional lone bird in the midst of winter our current trio (two males and a female) have been a real eye-opener in terms of what we might expect. They've been an almost constant presence over the last three weeks and, although prior to this I would scarcely have believed it, even manage to eclipse our Goldfinches for sheer volume. Having the Siskins often singing at barely arms length probably hasn’t helped on that score but such close proximity has offered some fantastic views. My favourite of these has been watching the males extending and then retracting their small crests when in full display mode, an aspect of their behaviour that up until now I had not been aware of. Photos of course would have been even better but all too often I found myself with arms in the pond or covered in paint at that crucial moment. My camera may be splash proof but I still err on the side of caution.

I had planned to continue a similar workload for the rest of this week and beyond but my resolve finally broke yesterday evening as I was reminded where my true passions lie. The result was a return to the Patchwork Challenge with my Cefn Drum patch the main target having managed to add the aforementioned Siskins, House Martins and a pair of fly-over Canada Geese in recent days. They were all knocked out of the ballpark though by a calling Cuckoo last Sunday evening, my first of the year and first ever from the house. Leaning on my back gate to try and locate its position another gentlemen walked past complete with binoculars, a real rarity around here. Turns out we were both after the same thing and walked up to Gopa Hill in the hope of getting a view. Sadly it was not to be with the Cuckoos calls dying away though we did get to enjoy a farting Horse and the early evening chorus.

Fast forward to last night and with a little more light left we were back up on Gopa Hill and once again listening to what I presume to be the same Cuckoo. For some reason I find their calls incredibly hard to place but we felt confident that it was somewhere down in the valley beneath us. Thick Rhododendron obscures much of the view there but a tantalising glimpse of a largish grey bird with pointed wings pretty much confirmed my suspicions. I’m almost confident that it wasn’t just one of the numerous Woodpigeons I’d glimpsed. Honest. We kept our eyes and ears peeled on the way up to Bryn-bach-Common but although the Cuckoo continued calling we never did manage another view. The same can be said of a Whitethroat which called briefly up near the farm, another new species for the year.

P1010305 - Bluebells

There’s a really nice Bluebell display up here this year, later than surrounding areas due to a higher altitude and more exposed surroundings. In fact they’ve just about coincided with the far less welcome Bracken which is now also on the march and will make walking in the not too distant future significantly trickier. For now though darting this way and that to look at bushes which at times seemed to be dripping with Willow Warblers is a relatively easy affair and led to us stumbling across my first fledged Stonechats of the year. There seems to be at least two pairs on the common at present, one of which had a pair of large fledglings with them. In surprisingly dull light given a heavy haze I managed a couple of photos of these highly photogenic birds.

P1010307 - Stonechat

It would have been nice to have had another go at the Wheatears as well but the four birds which were present for a week or two seem to have moved on. The large Linnet flock also seems to have dispersed although there was still one male in full breeding plumage present. Other regulars included a lone Mistle Thrush hopping away from us, singing Skylarks, perched Buzzards and a bump in Swallow numbers from one to five. That’s about full strength for my patch. Down in the valley Willow Warblers again appeared to be present in every bush but it was also nice to pick out the calls of a couple of Yellowhammers. It was another yellow bird, the Grey Wagtail, which finished off our evening nicely with a stunning male calling and feeding just beneath the old railway bridge. A real pleasure to behold.

Cefn Drum - 2015: 69 / 2016: 58
Upper Loughor 2015: 0 / 2016: 59

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