Spring, is that you?

P1240117 - Lambs at sunset
After one of the wettest and as a result longest winters for many years it's heartening to find spring finally putting in an appearance. The past few days in particular have seen glorious sunshine and actual warmth in the air whilst migrants have begun to arrive in decent numbers. Most notable have been the Chiffchaffs whose calls now ring out across our valley from dawn to dusk. Wheatears too are trickling through and we were fortunate to spot five down at Rhossili just before the situation in this country took a rather dramatic turn. The resultant lockdown means that we're now limited to a single outing each day but with the hills literally on our doorstep that's no real hardship. Longer daylight hours have also opened up the option for that most important of daily rituals, the post work (from home now of course) walk, and we've been making full use of every opportunity to do just that. As is tradition that has included a sunset photography session at my favourite tree.

Polish Black Headed Gull

Two gull related posts in almost as many weeks is worrying news indeed but I'm finding it hard not to get dragged into their world. I of course blame fellow blogger Gavin over at Not Quite Scilly (an excellent read by the way) for my increasing inability to pass gull flocks without giving them at least a cursory once over, even though juvenile plumage still baffles me. This new found interest is however starting to bear fruit as while waiting for the pub to open last Sunday my attention was drawn to a lone Black Headed Gull. Nothing out of the ordinary there you might assume but this particular individual was carrying with it a little extra bling.

P1230483 - Black Headed Gull, Mumbles

P1230478 - Black Headed Gull, Mumbles

I'm well used to finding ringed Mediterranean Gulls around the corner in Bracelet Bay but this is the first such Black Headed Gull I've come across. A quick bit of research indicates that the bird originates from Poland and has been spending its winter in the Swansea area since at least 2014. I've been in touch with the relevant ringing scheme and hope to hear of its full history soon.

Ultimate Adventure Bucket List

Way back at the beginning of the year I breathed new life into this blog with a reflective look at my current motivations and attempted to set a course for the new decade which would see me focussing on what I enjoyed and discarding that which I didn't. Since penning those words I've been doing my best to live up to the commitments I made including plenty of photography, writing and walking, plus a daunting dive into the world of nocmigging for which a series of dedicated blogs will be heading your way soon. That being said perhaps the section which excited me most from that rambling entry was where I listed a few of my long held dreams, experiences rooted in the natural world which one day I hope to fulfil.

Inevitably the idea of putting together a more thorough list began to form (I am a birdwatcher at heart after all) so when Alikat's got in touch asking if I'd like to take part in their Bucket List Challenge, now seemed like the perfect opportunity to do just that. Before we proceed however I want to make it clear that this list is not simply there to allow items to be ticked off. I mean obviously that's part of it but not my sole motivation. Instead my bucket list represents a set of experiences and memories yet to be made, things which I hope will enrich me as a person and push me to live life to its fullest.

Walk Offa's Dyke

Back in 2013 I completed my first long(ish) distance walk with a two day assault on the Gower Way. At thirty five miles this was by far my greatest walking challenge to date and despite a few aches and pains it well and truly whetted my appetite. So much so that I went straight to the bookshop and purchased a guide covering the Offa's Dyke Path which stretches 177 miles along the Welsh/English border. Unfortunately that's as far as things went and after seven years without any long distance walks, this one is right up there on the 'to-do' list.

Climb Ireland's highest mountain

Last summer we successfully climbed Ben Nevis rounding off the three highest peaks in Britain having summited Snowdon and Scafell Pike previously. Next in our sights is Carrauntoohil, Ireland's highest mountain standing at 3,407ft.

P1050975 - Climbing Ben More, Isle of Mull

Watch the Northern Lights dance

Honeycomb Worms at Bracelet Bay

Contrary to expectations we actually enjoyed a break in our recent appalling run of bad weather last Sunday, brief respite from the rain and wind which has become an almost constant presence this winter. To take advantage we headed down to Mumbles for a mooch around Bracelet Bay and spent a happy couple of hours doing nothing more than simply watching the tide come in. It might be my advancing years (what do you mean mid-thirties isn’t old!) but I find that where once the idea of simply sitting filled me with dread I now find myself increasingly looking for opportunities to do just that. This was to be no exception but before the foreshore had chance to disappear beneath the waves once more I couldn’t help but notice an impressive colony of Honeycomb Worms and went in for a closer look.

P1230519 - Honeycomb Worms, Bracelet Bay

Easily spotted at low tide these are, as the photo above suggests, a reef-building worm which constructs for itself a protective tube from sand and shell fragments. These interlocking tubes create the distinctive ‘honeycomb’ structures from which the species takes its name and can house tens if not hundreds of thousands of individuals. Found where there is hard substrate upon which to build and a ready supply of sand, our local coastline makes for almost perfect habitat and it’s no surprise that they are relatively widespread here.

The Black Mountain

P1230107 - Tair Carn Isaf
Search the internet for Black Mountain and you’re likely to find yourself faced with a slew of possibilities from across south Wales. Of these the Black Mountains east of the Brecon Beacons National Park are probably most widely known and which, rather confusingly, also contain a summit called Black Mountain. I’ve explored there numerous times but today our interests shall be focused further west where The Black Mountain range (as opposed to the Black Mountains and not the individual peak of the same name – keeping up?) straddles the county border between Carmarthenshire and Brecknockshire. Like most of our walks we were drawn to this area after spotting its interesting features on an OS map, principally the number of cairns around Tair Carn Isaf and Tair Carn Uchaf. Intrigued we headed up just before New Year on a typically overcast and windy day.

Storm Dennis Batters Porthcawl

For the second weekend in a row Wales has been battered by gales and persistent heavy rainfall, last nights deluge resulting in severe flooding across communities both local and further afield. With the ground already sodden and rivers filled to capacity there was simply nowhere else for the water to go other than straight through the increasingly fragile illusion that we are masters of our environment. Thankfully we've escaped relatively unscathed here and spent yesterday locked inside watching sheets of water being blasted up the valley whilst willing our internet and electricity not to cut out (they didn't). We woke to slightly improved conditions this morning and in need of some fresh air headed down the coast to Porthcawl. Even if you've never visited the town yourself you'll have probably seen images of waves crashing over its breakwater and lighthouse, iconic symbols of extreme weather which of late has become ever more common.

As soon as we arrived a huge wave sent almost unfathomable amounts of raging white water skywards, mother nature flexing her muscles as if it was nothing. The gathered crowds stood in awe as barrage after barrage was thrown landwards, the sea a boiling cauldron with waves breaking in any number of directions and the wind whipping up foam to be thrown like projectiles. I've seldom experienced such raw power and hopefully a little of that comes across in the following images.

P1230356 - Storm Dennis, Porthcawl