Golden Eagle Caught on Trailcam, Isle of Mull

Sunday, July 29, 2018 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

It seems like a lifetime ago right now but back at the beginning of the year we were enjoying a fortnight's break on the fabulous Isle of Mull. As always there was plenty of walking and wildlife watching to be had despite one of the coldest winters for many years refusing to release its icy grip. That's not to say that there wasn't plenty of sunshine of course but it was rarely ever what you'd call warm and towards the end of our stay we even experienced blizzard conditions and some epic snowfall. It was probably these harsh conditions which had led to the unusually high number of dead Sheep we'd encountered during our explorations, most well picked over but some still still looking very fresh. One in particular could only have been there for a day or so and with the possibility of eagles ever present I set up our trail camera on the off chance that something might turn up.


Gear Review - Wunderbird Birding Apparel

Thursday, July 26, 2018 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

Every hobby has its stereotypes and bird watching is no exception. Asked to conjure up an image of your typical birder for instance and I'm sure a lot of us would include someone dressed head to toe in camo gear. In fact I can go one better and confirm numerous such sightings out in the wild and, whilst I would be the last person to criticise another's choices, it's not really the look for me. Like most I've been making do with generic outdoor gear for years so when Wunderbird got in touch asking if I'd like to try out their new range of clothing designed specifically for birders, I had to say yes.

The Wunderbird collection includes ranges tailored for both men and women and being the former I've been putting one of their short sleeved Kestrel t-shirts as well as a Gyrfalcon hoody, despite the current heatwave, through their paces. Thanks to the excellent sizing guide on the Wunderbird website both fit perfectly which makes me wonder, why don't all clothing companies do the same?


Mynydd y Gwair Wind Farm - 18 Months On

Wednesday, July 25, 2018 Adam Tilt 1 Comments

mynydd y gwair now and then
Way back in February of last year we embarked on a photographic venture along the route of a proposed access track to the then still recently approved wind farm atop Mynydd y Gwair. As one of the few large remaining expanses of wilderness bordering Swansea the prospect of sixteen huge turbines marching across its open vistas was one which filled me with dread. We'd already lost neighbouring Mynydd y Betws a couple of years previous to another scheme so knew pretty much what to expect but this time it would be far more personal. You see in order to gain access to what is after all a relatively remote location the engineering firms involved would need to extend said track some 14km stretching from the A48 in Pontarddulais right through the very heart of my local patch. Country lanes would be widened, existing roads regraded and once green fields and open moors bisected. Back then all I had to go on were architectural plans lodged with the city planning office so I decided to document the works if not for posterity then at least to remind myself of what we once had.


Hunting Bioluminescent Plankton

Sunday, July 22, 2018 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

P1170579 - Oxwich Bay

It probably says a lot about our lives that standing on Oxwich beach at a little after two o'clock this morning, looking for plankton, seemed perfectly normal. Others may of course choose to disagree, imagining instead some lonely vigil shunned by the greater part of society, self-elected purveyors all of the conformist message. Happily they couldn't have been further from the truth. Bobbing head torches for instance revealed one family paddling and splashing in the gently lapping water on the very same quest as ourselves whilst further along quiet chatter emanated from around a small campfire where every now and again some talented soul would attempt a spot of fire spinning. In the distance remnants of an earlier wedding party were finally dispersing and around us, Gower at its absolute best. Even at this ungodly hour it was still light enough to see the shape of Swansea Bay, the steelworks of Port Talbot burning brightly as if in competition with an orange moon only now beginning to slip behind the mass of Three Cliffs. On the lightest of breezes I caught occasional murmurs from roosting Oystercatchers unseen, their normally dominant vocalisations replaced, for now at least, by the chirping of insects. What a time to be alive.

But hang on a minute, plankton?

Oh yes dear reader, but no ordinary plankton, for this plankton was bioluminescent. 

Our search had actually started over three hours earlier, not surrounded by Gower's natural beauty but instead set against heavy industry across the bay at Aberavon. Two nights previous this had been the scene of a stunning display with the sea lit up bright blue for long stretches at a time and being something that I've always wanted to see, it was time to try our own luck. The chemical process which results in this fantastic light show is all down to Luciferin and the plankton uses it to try and attract predators towards any creature which may be, how shall I put it, tucking in. This is probably the reason why disturbed water gives you the best possible chance of seeing the phenomenon. There wasn't going to be a great deal of that around tonight however with the sea almost flat calm but already there were people out all along the beach waiting hopefully. We had a brief look ourselves but something about the place didn't scream - stand here for the next couple of hours with your camera and see what happens. Perhaps it was the large number of police cars, blue lights flashing, or continual parade of boy racers. We may never know. 

Instead we headed over to Mumbles and Bracelet Bay, then Langland and Caswell before finally arriving at Southgate. A short walk brought us to the cliff edge where down below the white outline of breaking water could just about be seen. Torches extinguished it took a while for my eyes to become acclimatised and on a couple of occasions I thought I'd seen something but couldn't quite be sure. If you've ever searched the night sky for meteors you'll probably know the feeling well. Then all of a sudden there could be no more doubt. Despite looking at numerous photos the previous day nothing could prepare me for just how bright the flash of light was. It was as if someone had switched a torch on just beneath the water's surface, only for a second, before extinguishing it and sinking away. Then came another and another, seemingly random bursts so as you never quite knew where the next would appear. 

And then just like that it was gone. The display had probably only lasted a few minutes but in that time I found myself transfixed, giddy excitement that only comes from experiencing something truly magical for the very first time and oh did I not want it to end. With energy flagging we made one last push and threw everything we had at Oxwixh which, if I'm very much not mistaken, is right about where we came in.

Alas there was to be no encore however and we couldn't get even a glimmer despite Emma's best water agitation techniques (at least she now knows her old boots aren't waterproof any more) so no photos beyond the overall scene setter above. Even so what an experience and to think that until last year I wasn't even aware that this could be seen along our coast. Needless to say I'll be back out again on Friday so fingers crossed we can do even better. If only work didn't have to get in the way.


Pembrokeshire Camping - Grassholm, Gannets and Dolphins

Wednesday, July 11, 2018 Adam Tilt 1 Comments

P1160226 - Grassholm Gannets
We had a couple of unexpected visitors on our second morning camping in Pembrokeshire. First up was a Fox which ambled into our field, sniffed a post, then promptly left. Emma got great views but as I was deeply ensconced within my sleeping bag by the time I’d broken free it was far too late. No such issues with our second guest however which we were able to watch for some time as it hopped its way ever so slowly towards us. Quite where this Toad was heading is anyone’s guess but I carefully moved it into some nearby long grass where it would be safe as we broke camp.


Pembrokeshire Camping - St Justinian's to Porthselau

Tuesday, July 10, 2018 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

It seems like an absolute age since we last spent a night under canvas so straight from work on Friday we packed the car and headed west. Over the years we’ve stayed at a number of campsites in Pembrokeshire including one on the cliffs above Fishguard which although offering stunning views does have the drawback of being a tad exposed. Taking down a tent in the early hours thanks to gale force winds is one experience I’m not all that keen to repeat. Since then we’ve always looked for more sheltered locations in which to lay our heads and none fits the bill better than Brandy Brook just outside Roch. Nestled deep in a wooded valley it’s a place of serene calm and beauty, no more so than when you’re the only residents as we found ourselves to be on this occasion. It only took a few minutes to get our tent pitched and then there was nothing for it but to lie back and listen to the sounds of country life unfolding. From a mature tree nearby I could hear at least one Nuthatch calling whilst overhead both Red Kite and Buzzard soared only to be overshadowed by a Sparrowhawk passing along the hedgerow behind us. Butterflies danced their way across the grass and on the sun soaked fields opposite we watched a flock of sheep go about their business. Or at least they had been sun soaked until a bank of cloud rolled in dropping the temperature noticeably and offering a rare respite from the blazing sun. In two minds as to if it was worth venturing out on the off chance of a sunset we were in the end glad that we did. Somehow, no matter the weather, Newgale never manages to disappoint.

P1150937 - Newgale Sunset


Pencarnan Pied Crow

Monday, July 09, 2018 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

We’re just back from an outstanding weekend in Pembrokeshire, two days which saw us walking miles of coast path, watching Manx Shearwaters returning to their burrows and sitting just inches away from bow riding Common Dolphins. To say that we enjoyed ourselves would be an understatement and perhaps unsurprisingly I’ve got lots to share over the coming days. To kick off though let’s travel to Pencarnan campsite just north of St David’s, a gorgeous setting currently playing host to this chap.

P1160071 - Pied Crow, Pembrokeshire

Now depending on how closely you follow avian events this bird will either spark a pang of recognition or leave you scratching your heads. The former group will know it as the Pied Crow which first made landfall on these shores back in June, spending a week or so enjoying fish and chips in Cromer way over on the east coast. From there it moved across to Clevedon and on Wednesday last week turned up outside a caravan in Pembrokeshire. Not a bad little journey and one which has allowed plenty of people across the country to connect although it has to be said, not without a small degree of controversy. Being such an approachable individual inevitably raises questions as to origin with some calling this out as an escaped captive bird. Others favour a ship assisted arrival from the species’ native southern Africa. For what it's worth I didn’t really care and as we were in the area anyway it was a no-brainer to pop along for a look.


#30DaysWild - Paddle From St Brides to Martin's Haven

Sunday, July 01, 2018 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

Yesterday was one of those truly special days where everything falls into place to produce memories which last a lifetime.

We were up early, at least by our standards, and by eight had the kayaks loaded and strapped down without too much fuss. Given that we last took them out a little under twelve months ago I put this down either to a fluke or, less likely, that we kind of know what we're doing by now. The rest of our gear including paddles, life-jackets and paddles had been packed the night before so it was just a case of adding food and drink before we hit the road for our date with high tide. The drive over to Pembrokeshire was surprisingly smooth and devoid of traffic and as we pulled into St Brides I immediately knew that we'd made the right choice. Spread out before us the sea was a tropical blue rarely associated with this part of the world, not quite mirror smooth but with swell at an absolute minimum. A light breeze was keeping temperatures in check helped no end by the sweltering thirties of the past week having dropped to a much more bearable twenty one. It only took us a few minutes to get kitted and down to the waters edge, eager to be on our way.


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