Longer Days

Sunday, March 27, 2016 Adam Tilt 1 Comments


Hopefully it won't have escaped your notice that last night the clocks went forwards an hour which, for those of us who enjoy the great outdoors, marks the start of an exciting time. Longer days mean extra hours of daylight and for the first time in what seems like forever I'll be able to get home from work and still spend a couple of hours out walking. Top of this renewed agenda will be a thorough going over of my two local patches for the Patchwork Challenge and I'm also hoping for plenty more sunsets like this.

P1000550 - Sunset

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Cwm Clydach Walk

Saturday, March 26, 2016 Adam Tilt 0 Comments


The forecast looked very good indeed for Sunday before last providing the perfect excuse to tackle a walk which has been on my 'to-do' list for far too long. Our planned route would be the Cwm Clydach walk, a nine mile circuit heading out along the Lower Clydach River before returning across high, open moorland. In the process we were promised birds aplenty, naturally, plus historical remains covering man's use of this valley over the preceding four thousand years. All this in a stated time of four hours and ten minutes according to the Swansea council website. Clearly they hadn't taken account of my tendency to linger and wander however and in the end even those apparently arbitrary final ten minutes weren't enough to prevent us spending an entire day out amongst this seemingly little walked area. Despite it being a gloriously warm and sunny day the only people we met were a couple of local farmers and dog walkers making use of the RSPB reserve, which is where our journey begins.

P1000477 - Cwm Clydach

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Brambling Hunting at Pembrey

Tuesday, March 15, 2016 Adam Tilt 0 Comments


After our success with finding Firecrest the weekend before I took to twitter on Saturday morning to proclaim that we were off to locate Brambling, one of those species with which we seem to have had little luck over the years. Our last proper sighting came from Ynys Hir back in 2011 when a pair gave great views just behind the visitor centre there. That was followed by a particularly stringy fly-over bird on my own local patch a couple of years later but since then, not a sign. Given that track record my public statement of intent may have appeared foolhardy but I was not without some local intelligence. Over the last fortnight I've been keeping my eye on reports of up to six individuals feeding in Sea Buckthorn at the entrance to Pembrey country park and fancied getting in on the action myself. Sightings were far from guaranteed however though upon arriving at the designated location things initially looked promising. A mixed flock of Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Goldfinches and various Tits were all feeding on remnants of the berry crop yet of the Brambling, there was no sign. In fact I was about to give up when we finally spotted our quarry buried deep within the Buckthorn. Result! The bird, a female I think, was only visible for a brief moment before hopping out of sight and despite much searching we failed to relocate it. That's even after trying to get a better vantage point from the opposite side of the thicket which my legs still haven't forgiven me for. Sea Buckthorn is a very thorny plant, take it from me.

Thankfully there were plenty of distractions to take my mind off perforated shins including a pair of Great Crested Grebes, male Red-breasted Merganser, Little Egrets and umpteen Redshanks whose constant calling could be heard across the Saltings. In fact their only real competition on the audio front were Skylarks, several of which were in full song in the clearing sky above us. Fulmars last week, singing Skylarks this week. Spring moves on apace. It seemed as though the Reed Buntings wanted to get in on the action as well with this noisy male calling from a nearby reedbed.

P1000463 - Reed Bunting, Pembrey

Overhead singles of Red Kite and Buzzard circled whilst we took our leave of the Buckthorn and headed out to the beach instead. What had been a very high tide earlier in the day had now retreated dramatically to reveal an absolutely huge expanse of sand. In fact the only evidence of the sea being present at all was the sound of breaking waves way off in the distance, a walk which we decided to leave for another day. Instead we followed the strandline for a mile or so in the search of bird skeletons mainly but finding plenty of Sea Potatoes and Cuttlefish instead. There was also a sizeable colony of Goose Barnacles washed up, a crustacean which is seemingly becoming a common sight on both sides of the Burry.

P1000470 - Goose Barnacles, Pembrey

Skylarks were still an almost constant presence amongst the sand dunes, either singing overhead or feeding on the ground, yet none could be encouraged to pose for me or my camera. The same could be said of a pair of Ringed Plovers that flew towards and then beyond us across the sand. Perhaps they were also wandering where the sea had disappeared off to.

Returning to the park we had a final attempt at seeing the Brambling but once again could only manage the briefest of glimpses. What I hadn't expected to find was a Woodcock which, presumably disturbed by our presence, shot out of the Buckthorn and proceeded to do a couple of wide circuits before disappearing off into the trees. As a result we had fantastic views of a normally secretive species, a great way to round off what this morning at least had seemed like a very ambitious mission indeed.

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Rhossili to Mewslade - Firecrest, Black Redstart and GND

Monday, March 14, 2016 Adam Tilt 3 Comments


As you can probably guess from the title of this post, Saturday before last found us walking the Gower coast from Rhossili to Mewslade stumbling across a series of top quality birds in the process. In fact I might go as far as saying that it's probably the best days birding I've had on Gower for several years, and that's in the face of some stiff competition. It all kicked off as soon as we'd left the car with a trio of Fulmars circling the cliffs below Old Castle fort. If ever there was a sign that we're starting to drag ourselves out of winter then this is it and I couldn't help but crack a smile as we watched their seemingly carefree antics. Scanning the wider bay picked up a lone Great Crested Grebe before several scattered flocks of Common Scoter popped into view. The largest probably numbered only forty or so individuals but all were far closer than normal. Usually to catch a sight we're straining off towards Cefn Sidan so something had clearly brought them in. Perhaps they were after the same thing that had attracted Gulls in huge numbers, several thousand of which were concentrated on the beach below. Most were Herring with sadly no white-wingers amongst them but it's the biggest gathering I can recall at this particular location.

P1000437 - Rhossili

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Manorbier and Swanlake Bay

Friday, March 04, 2016 Adam Tilt 0 Comments


Last weekend was significant for two very good reasons. Firstly it was dry for two straight days and, if you've picked yourself up off the floor and can take another shock, the sun even managed to shine consistently and at some length! I know, we couldn't believe it either and for the first time in what seems like an age got some proper walking done covering about twenty miles of glorious Welsh countryside in the process. First up on Saturday was a local route from our very own front door taking in large swathes of upland common before dropping down through the Lliw valley with its twin reservoirs. Throughout we were treated to glorious, wide open views, many of which we've not seen since last summer and best of all, we met barely a soul all day. Given the time of year it's perhaps not that surprising that birds were a little thin on the ground but excellent views of a Green Woodpecker, displaying pair of Great-spotted Woodpeckers and the almost constant accompaniment of Red Kites, Buzzards and Ravens was good enough for me. The real surprise though was finding a Grey Wagtail just outside our garden gate when we returned. Not bad, not bad at all.

Come Sunday morning and things were looking even better with a cloudless blue sky creating a real sense of Spring. The birds were singing, Gower looked fantastic off in the distance and we were raring to go. It was only once you stepped outside however that the bitingly cold wind became an undeniable presence, but was that going to stop us? Hell no. Instead we drove out to Pembrokeshire for the first time this year to walk a route focussed on the village of Manorbier. The coastline here is stunning at the best of times with the view across Swanlake Bay particularly appealing.

P1000399 - Swanlake Bay

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Wintry Pen y Fan Ascent

Wednesday, March 02, 2016 Adam Tilt 0 Comments


P1000370 - Pen y Fan, Feb 2016
Even by this winter's standards the weather today proved variable in the extreme. It all kicked off in the early hours as gale force winds started battering the house before a heavy band of rain added its own percussive soundtrack. By the time I was woken at six to deal with a work related issue things hadn't let up and we were soon being treated to snow, hail and yet more rain. The fact that it was glorious sunshine as I finally left for the office was therefore considered par for the course and it's been just as unpredictable ever since. That brief sight of some of the white stuff did however serve as a timely reminder that I'd yet to share our most recent walk up Pen y Fan, a windy and snow filled expedition that ranks as probably one of the most enjoyable days I've yet spent in the Brecon Beacons. Initially conditions looked bleak on the morning of the 14th but we decided to persevere and arrived at Storey Arms to find an almost full car park. This I think confirms that with its increased popularity there is now officially no such thing as a quiet day on Pen y Fan. At this altitude the ground was clear of snow but temperatures were only just hovering above freezing and of the peaks above us, there was no sign. A thick bank of low cloud looked threatening but given that we'd come this far and had all the kit we thought what the hell, lets take our chances.

P1000299 - Pen y Fan, Feb 2016

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