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 Buzzardsand 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.