Heath Fires on Gower

Wednesday, March 25, 2009 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

I have just got in from a quick trip around the Gower to get myself out of the house and came across two rather large heath fires, one in the area behind the airport and another at Reynoldston. I hope they aren't deliberate but the presence of two fire engines at each suggests otherwise. Hopefully they will be brought under control before too much damage is done.

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Cardigan and Newport

Sunday, March 22, 2009 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

On Sunday I felt an urge to travel a bit further afield and with the weather still holding it seemed like the perfect opportunity to head back to Pembrokeshire. The location was set for the Teifi Marshes, the headquarters for the South and West Wales Wildlife Trust. This reserve covers an area of 107 hectares and encompasses reedbeds, mud banks and open pasture amongst other habitats. Also of interest at the site are a herd of Water Buffalo that were sadly absent on our visit much to my other half's disappointment.

Further signs of spring were in the air with even more Chiffchaffs singing than we had heard the previous day. The best sighting though went to a flock of around twenty Sand Martins feeding over the river, another first for the year. Last year there was a colony at my local WWT reserve at Llanelli so I expect to see them back in the area soon given the proximity to Pembrokeshire. The river also presented a couple of female Goosanders, a small flock of Canada Geese and two Red Kite. One of the kites spent much of our visit hunting over the reedbeds offering some superb views at close quarters. Elsewhere on the reserve the number of waterfowl were sadly limited, with small numbers of Teal and Widgeon and a single Little Grebe. Sadly we didn't see the Kingfisher or Otter that are resident at the site but all things considered it was a very enjoyable few hours. We shall be paying a visit again in the near future, hopefully on a better tide in the hope that more birds are driven onto the pools (we were there at a very low tide).

After the Teifi, we drove the ten miles or so further down the coast to Newport in the hope of seeing the Cattle Egret that had been feeding in the area for the last week or so. As an aside whilst at university in Aberystwyth my house mate once caught a bus to Newport to get his passport sorted. Only when he arrived at a tiny village did he realise that he had traveled to the wrong Newport! To be honest I wasn't expecting any success given that I didn't really know where to look and the recent sightings had mostly been as the bird came into roost in the evenings. Fortunately the first road we turned down led to a bridge over the estuary. Within minutes of stopping an Egret flew into view over the nearby hill before disappearing from sight. The feet hadn't looked yellow to me (a sure sign that it wasn't a Little Egret) but at such distance I couldn't be sure. I needn't have worried though as the bird flew back into view and landed on the estuary just up from the bridge. Low and behold it was the infamous Cattle Egret. The bird spent the next half an hour or so feeding on the marsh unfortunately a bit too far away for my lens, so you will have to excuse the quality of the photos accompanying this post. Not a bad end to a very successful weekend.


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Spring Is Here

Saturday, March 21, 2009 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

Today dawned and for the first time this year the sky was clear and it was actually warm. To take advantage of the weather I decided it was time to do a decent length walk down on the Gower. We started off at Penrice castle, headed along the coast past Oxwich Bay and on to Three Cliffs. The return route took us inland along Cefn Bryn, which is what I like to think of as the spine of the Gower. The weather was incredibly hazy but I managed to get a few pictures. A return visit is on the cards so hopefully I will be able to properly portray the majesty of the views. On a clear day you should be able to see pretty much all of the Gower with the exception of the area towards Rhossili. Maybe a panorama is on the cards?

During the walk spring was definitely in the air with the area around Penrice fit to bursting with calling male Pheasants. Also making their presence heard were the Chiffcahffs, back in force from their wintering locations across Europe. Always a difficult bird to spot in the tree tops a few very obliging individuals came close enough to allow good observations. Unfortunately they were a bit too flighty for photographs so I will have to try again before the leaves start to appear on the trees and make the whole exercise futile. Also in the woods next to Penrice I saw my first Mistle Thrush of the year. I suspect that I saw at least another couple flying around in the area but the birds were using the extensive Ivy cover to their advantage. Along the cliffs we were treated to several Buzzards and a Kestrel who seemingly had no fear of humans as it flew past at head hight looking for prey. Further signs of spring were present up on Cefn Bryn with a couple of Skylarks singing their hearts out. Also seen singing for the first time this year were a flock of thirty or so Linnets in Mill Woods. They were very much still in their winter plumage but the red colouring was already developing on the males. Last year Rhossili proved to be a very good location to see these birds so I will be down their with my camera over the next few months.

Elsewhere on the walk were a few far less common sights. These included a bride and groom strolling out into a field on the hillside behind Three Cliffs, and a paramedic crew carrying all their gear and still managing to power up the hill to the top of Cefn Bryn faster than us. As it turned out a rider had been thrown from a horse and was clearly in some discomfort. We gave the area a wide berth as the horse looked and sounded like it was not in the mood to be messed with. It really is amazing the things that you see whilst out and about in the great British countryside.

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The Dipper Returns

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

I popped down into Penllergare woods at the back of my house again this evening and was very pleased to see that the Dipper from a couple of weeks ago has made a return. I caught up with it just below the splashpool from the waterfall seemingly sleeping on a rock in the middle of the river. I had a theory that it was probably still around somewhere further downstream and I am happy to say that I was right.

Elsewhere there was a good flock of around thirty Chaffinch coming into roost in the trees, and six Song Thrush's were certainly making themselves heard. At the top of the river a single Coal Tit was joined by a pair of Goldcrest's and four Long Tailed Tit's. For some reason the Long Tailed Tit's seem to be the tamest of all the small woodland birds, excluding Robins of course, and it may be my imagination but it appears that they actually seek you out and come closer for a look before moving on. In many ways their behaviour is not far off from that of Dolphins when a ship arrives on the scene and they come to play on the bow wave. I could of course be talking utter rubbish after a day stuck in front of the computer writing code, but either way they are my current bird of the moment.


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A Little Bit Of Iceland Comes To Gower

Saturday, March 07, 2009 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

Saturday dawned grey, wet and foggy which threw my plans for washing the car straight out of the window. But maybe all was not lost. A sighting on the Glamorgan website reported a first winter immature Iceland Gull currently residing at Bracelet Bay in the Mumbles. Armed with plenty of warm clothing I headed down, fog lights most definitely on. At the bay itself I headed over to the main car park in front of the restaurant and scanned the surroundings. Unfortunately it was high tide which meant that the rocks the gulls usually roost on were underwater. I was pleasantly surprised to see four Mediterranean Gulls in a small raft of Black Headed Gulls, but other than a couple of Herring Gulls the Iceland was no where to be seen. Three Turnstone flew in just as I was giving up due to the weather heading further downhill.

Just before I left I checked out the small cove behind the restaurant on a whim. There were a good number of Herring and Lesser Black Backed Gulls circling but the fog was proving troublesome. All of a sudden a large almost completely white gull arrived on the scene; it was the Iceland. Another new life tick. The most striking feature was the lack of visible markings or colour, markedly different from the usual gulls we see. Fortunately the bird soared right over to the car for a few minutes allowing excellent views of its topside. The beige wing inserts and large ivory tips clearly marked the bird out as different from the very similar Glaucous. To top off the identification the gull was mobbed by both Black Headed (smaller) and Herring Gulls (slightly large). All in all a rather successful outcome to an otherwise rubbish day.


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Can't See The Birds For The Scaup

Monday, March 02, 2009 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

I was looking forward to a good weekend in the great outdoors after having to attend a business meeting in London on Friday resulting in an extremely long day. Saturday was meant to be a day of shopping but a posting on the Glamorgan Birds web page bought my attention to a pair of Scaup that had been seen on the lake at Kenfig NNR. This has slowly been turning into my bogey bird over the last twelve months or so with missed opportunities on a number of occasions. The closest I came was back in January at Cosmeston Lakes where I thought I had hit the jackpot only to find out that I was in fact looking at the much rarer Lesser Scaup. This time however I was in luck. We quickly picked up the female way over on the far side of the lake easily identified by the large quantity of white at the base of the beak. It wasn't long before the male made an appearance in the small pool near the North hide. The size difference is quite marked when compared to the Tufted Duck and the beak shape surprisingly different. The male appeared to be courting the female Tufted Ducks which proved puzzling. Is there a history of cross breeding between these species or was he just being a bit optimistic?

Elsewhere on the reserve the usual suspects were present including a superb Snipe in front of the North hide and some huge fish around the South hide. It was also good to see a flock of around eight Goldeneye and a pair of Great Crested Grebe out on the water. A single Canada Goose was looking rather lonely with his efforts to make friends with the Mute Swans seemingly in vain.

Sunday brought blue sky and sunshine so it was off to Llanelli WWT we went after a break of some three weeks. Things didn't get off to a good start with very low water levels out on the scrapes and barely a bird in sight. Still a pair of Stonechat and two Curlew close to the hide provided a nice distraction. Elsewhere on the reserve numbers were proving much better. As spring is approaching the numbers of Widgeon and Greylag Goose are beginning to tail off, but Redshank numbers were the best I've seen for several months with over a hundred individuals being sighted. There were also a handful of Black Tailed Godwits dotted around. The Shoveller numbers are also on the increase as the breeding season approaches. It was great to see the first courtships of the year in action. A Grey Wagtail allowed me to get some record photos but they are far from the best I have ever taken. It was also good to see the Spoonbill sticking around.

The highlight of the day though has to go to a bird in front of the Heron Wing Hide that I can hardly believe was there. What should turn up but a male Scaup. Before you ask this was a different individual from the pair at Kenfig and has apparently been on the site for the last couple of weeks. So in the space of two days I had firmly cemented the Scaup as a definite tick. It is strange the way that things work out like this. Last year I had never seen a Phalarope before but over the space of a couple of weeks I picked up both Red and Black Necked varieties. I probably wont see either for another twelve months or so now. Here's hoping that I prove myself wrong.

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