Weekend Away In Pembrokeshire

Monday, February 23, 2009 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

With good weather forecast for the weekend I decided that it was finally time to head over to Pembrokeshire to see what was what. We booked ourselves into a very nice B+B just up the road from Abereiddi. Things got off to a good start just after we arrived with a quick walk from Whitesands beach around to St David's head. My first Kittiwake of the season was a juvenile individual on Whitesands beach itself. It was further complimented by another two juveniles on the return leg who proved very obliging allowing me to get close enough for some decent photographs. Out on St David's head two Choughs landed close by, and the Meadow Pipits were out in force with flocks of thirty plus present at times.

Saturday saw us walking from the B+B around the coastal path to Porthgain, an amazing hundred year old industrial port. Things began well with numerous Fulmars and huge flocks of Guillemot traversing the coast. A few Oystercathchers were present but by and large waders were completely absent. Highlights from the walk included another couple of Choughs around Porthgain, as well as my second Black Redstart of the year. The raptors were also putting on a good show with three Peregrine Falcons and a Merlin giving an excellent acrobatic display as it attempted to catch a Meadow Pipit. It failed. Out to sea I was also surprised to see a few Gannets flying past. Spring must be on its way. The most surprising sighting of the day was what I believe was a Water Rail running across the ditch running alongside the B+B entrance.

On Sunday we spent a few hours at the Llys-y-fran Reservoir. I was pleasantly surprised to find it an excellent location and will definitely be back in the near future. Out on the rather choppy water were eight Great Crested Grebe, two Little Grebe, two Goldeneye and a good twenty or so Canada Geese. All in all a very enjoyable weekend with a few worthy additions to my yearly species count.


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Magic Moments on the Burry Inlet

Sunday, February 15, 2009 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

Saturday saw me experience not one but two magic wildlife moments whilst out walking on the Gower. We had decided to visit Whiteford Point with the aim of finally locating the hide there that has remained elusive on previous visits. Things got off to a good start with two Snipe and several Curlew seen flying over Ivy Marsh. These were quickly followed by three Buzzards and numerous Dunnocks and Blackbirds. Also present was a huge flock of Lapwing in the distance spreading across much of the horizon such was its size.

The walk through the forest was relatively quiet until we reached the very last clump of conifers. I heard a pine cone drop and stopped to look up thinking it was most likely a squirrel. As we listened the silence was absolutely total. That was until my ears started to pick up tiny crunching noises, interspersed with more cones falling to the ground. After a great deal of hunting a few small birds could be seen flitting through the tree tops, occasionally issuing high pitched calls. I had my suspicions but before I could get a good sighting they were off. Feeling a bit disappointed we headed on reaching the hide not long after. Unfortunately we were there at low tide so the birds, with the exception of some Shellduck and a few Ringed Plover, were way too far away. Definitely a place to return to though given a rising tide! On the return leg we stopped at the same location in the hope that the mystery birds had returned. As the silence closed in the familiar crunching sound returned. After what seemed like an age I got the view that I was after. First a bright red breast showed through the branches, followed soon after by the beak. At long last I had found a flock of Crossbill, only my second sighting ever. Soon after spotting the male a female came into view. The less dominant lower mandible was clearly visible. In all I estimate that the flock must have numbered upwards of twelve individuals with a mixture of male, female and some juveniles given the range of colouring. To say I was chuffed would be an understatement.

For the return leg we headed onto the beach to find a nice surprise of eight Brent Geese mixed in with the normal flock of Oystercatchers. What followed next was another awesome moment. A flock numbering at least a thousand Dunlin swooped over the dunes and right overhead. The sound from the wings was amazing and something I wont forget quickly. The day was only topped off by the appearance of several Grey Plover on the beach.

Sunday was rather curtailed by household duties, but in the afternoon I took my first visit of the year to Kidwelly Quay. The river provided twenty Teal and the usual good numbers of Redshank and Curlew. As with Saturday the number of Lapwings on offer was very impressive. The car park provided a couple of Redwing as well as a solitary Goldfinch. The sewage works just up the road also came up trumps with a couple of Goldcrest, fifteen or so Pied Wagtail, a Grey Wagtail and a male Reed Bunting. The next stop was Pembrey Port. Usually this is an excellent spot for Oystercatcher but the low tide meant that only a single individual was present. Once again there were good numbers of Teal. There were also personal best counts for this site with twenty nine Ringed Plover and thirty nine Cormorant present on the various sandbanks. In the water itself a male and female Merganser were observed for some time fishing. Just too far away for a positive ID however was what appeared to be a flock of thirty Eider asleep on a sand bank. There was clearly a mix of predominately white males and all brown females, both very stockily built. These are the only birds that I can think of that have this appearance, and after researching their range believe that it was more than likely that they were indeed Eider. Not a bad end to a weekend at all.


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The Calm Before The Storm

Sunday, February 01, 2009 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

With the weather forecast looking decidedly dodgy for the forthcoming week, last weekend saw us head back to Rhossili in the hope that the Fulmars would still be around so that I could get some photographs. Unfortunately this was not to be and the reason soon became apparent. A male Peregrine Falcon swooped down and landed on the cliffs in the exact spot that the Fulmars had been using a week before. We had excellent views that were only interrupted by a dark Robin shaped bird hopping around the cliffs not far away. Low and behold it was a Black Redstart. This is a bird that I have tried to see on a number of occasions but I have always turned up on the wrong day. I would never have expected to see one at Rhossili so it came as an excellent surprise. Thinking that would be the highlight of the day we decided to go for a walk across the tidal strip of land to Worms Head. We didn't get far.

At the far edge of the landward side of the causeway my eyes were drawn to a single Ringed Plover combing the shore. Whilst watching nothing less than a Water Pipit flew into my telescopes vision. Considering I had never seen one of these until the end of last year this was something like my fourth individual. I can only assume that there has been a considerable influx this winter or I have just got better at picking up on the subtle differences when compared to the Rock Pipit. No sooner had I identified the Pipit than a group of four waders walked onto the scene. And blow me if they weren't Purple Sandpipers. My only previous sighting of these birds was a single individual on Port Eynon beach last winter. This time I was much better prepared. For a start I actually knew what the birds were (always helps), and I also had my camera with me. For some reason the Sandpipers are incredibly tolerant of people and I was able to get within five meters or so. Unfortunately it was rather dark and blowing a gale so the quality of the pictures did suffer a bit. Even so I got a couple that I am proud of and those can be seen in this post.

On Sunday we went to the WWT at Llanelli. The highlights were two Spotted Redshank and a Greenshank feeding very close in to the Michael Powell hide. Elsewhere on the reserve there was reported to be a Scaup but we had no luck in tracking it down. It was however nice to see a Little Grebe back on the site for the first time in a couple of months.


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