Evening Post Blog Entry - Llanelli WWT

Wednesday, July 29, 2009 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

As mentioned previously, I now have a blog on the South Wales Evening Post website from which I hope to encourage people who might not necessarily go searching for wildlife information to get out into the great outdoors. This is my first in a series of guides to the local area, and should be appearing on the Evening Post website in the next couple of days. Enjoy.

This post will start off a series of posts for the coming weeks where I aim to detail and explore some of the best places to go and view wildlife in the surrounding area. I will be covering not only those places that are relatively well known, but also those more secretive areas that can hold even greater delights.

To begin with I thought I’d take a look at the first site that I ever visited after moving to Swansea. This is the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust reserve at Llanelli, which is also known as the National Wetland Centre Wales. Covering some 66 hectares in total and bordering the nationally important salt marshes of the Burry Inlet, the reserve is a haven for wildlife of all kinds and includes various managed habitats to cater for a wide variety of species.

At key points large and comfortable hides are provided to allow excellent viewing opportunities without creating any disturbance. The largest of the hides is the British Steel Hide which overlooks the Burry Inlet itself. During winter huge flocks of Widgeon and Greylag Geese gather on the surrounding water, whilst Little Grebes, Shellduck, Gadwall, Redshank and Little Egrets are all year visitors. This hide has also delivered some superb rarities over the last few months including Spoonbill, Cattle Egret, Spotted Redshank and Curlew Sandpiper. The observatory hide at the centre of the reserve has large glass windows that again allow excellent views. Regular feedings take place by a warden in front of this hide bringing the gathered Pochard, Tufted Duck and the resident family of Whooper Swans even closer. If you are very lucky you may also catch a glimpse of one of the resident Otters on the water here, or at one of the other pools. The best chance to see them is very early in the morning before the crowds have had chance to scare them into hiding.

For the millennium celebrations the reserve was extended dramatically to create the Millennium Wetlands, a large area of reed beds and pools, the centre piece of which is the Heron Wing Hide. At this time of year this is a favourite site for several hundred Black Tailed Godwits. Throughout the year you stand an excellent chance of seeing waders including Snipe and Greenshank, as well as Mediterranean Gulls and Cormorants. This is another favoured site of those elusive Otters, and has been known to hold a Bittern or two in the past. I have never had the chance to see one for myself here, but I know people that have. I have also seen Grass Snakes enjoying a swim across the water, and you can never rule out a passing raptor or even an Owl. Reed Buntings and Chettis Warblers also favour this area.

Away from the hides the centre holds 600 captive examples of some of the world’s most spectacular ducks and geese, many of which are tame enough to be fed from the hand. And of course don’t forget the Flamingos that are sure to brighten up any day. There are also vast numbers of smaller wild birds such as Bullfinch and Goldcrest that frequent the site, as well as several species of Butterfly and Dragonfly.

If you get a bit tired of walking then why not take a trip on the canoe safari to get even closer to nature, or take a bike to explore a little quicker. I have only touched the surface of what can be found here, yet there is so much more to see. I regularly record 45 species plus of birds after a couple of hours. It is also important to remember that the WWT is a vital charity, doing great work to ensure that our wetlands remain healthy and intact not only to the benefit of the wildlife that uses them, but also to our own benefit as well. And don’t think that you only need to visit in fair weather. When the cold or wet comes in the visitor numbers dwindle and you stand an even greater chance of seeing one of those elusive Otters!

Visit the Llanelli WWT website here, and see the most recent sightings here.


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Sandwich Terns at Port Eynon

Monday, July 27, 2009 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

Having spent the morning watching the motocross event at Pembrey track, I had a few hours to kill before a BBQ in the evening. Despite being on the wrong side of the Burry Inlet I couldn't resist a trip down to Port Eynon on Gower in the hope of photographing some Terns. Last year my dad had a particularly successful outing on the beach with a tame flock of around twenty Sandwich Terns allowing him to get some superb shots. I didn't have a camera at that time and have been ruing the missed opportunity ever since. In fact that day was one of the main driving forces behind me taking up bird photography in the first place.

Unsurprisingly given the gorgeous weather, I found the beach packed with holidaymakers. I suspected that if any Terns had been present they would have long since vacated the area for pastures a little quieter. However, down on the exposed rocks I located an adult Sandwich Tern along with, to much excitement I might add, a juvenile in tow! This species is recorded as a regular passage visitor by official records, so I presume that these individuals have bred elsewhere and were simply stopping off for some food. Either way they let me get some excellent shots. I was able to always approach to the same distance before the adult bird began giving out an alarm call, causing the juvenile to rush towards it and become similarly vocal.

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Sandwich Terns at Port Eynon

The highlight however has to be the following photo which I rate as one of my best ever. I was trying to show how the Terns were coexisting with the people at the beach, when both Terns took to the air. I managed to snatch this picture which perfectly demonstrates what I was aiming for. Indeed, it is somewhat poetic that a human family in the background enjoying a day on the beach is so near to a Tern family doing exactly the same thing.

Nature reflecting our own lives

Elsewhere on the beach a Crow was enjoying some crustacean delicacies whilst a juvenile Starling was waiting to pounce on any chips that may have fallen astray.

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Spring Tides at Crofty

Friday, July 24, 2009 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

A quick check of the tide tables this evening revealed that spring tides were once again upon us with a 9.1m high expected. The first time that I discovered the effect of the high tides on the north Gower coastline was when I tried driving down a small road to find it cut off by the incoming sea. Coming from the Midlands this was something that I was not very used to. Floods yes, but not the sea itself. On a number of occasions I have stopped at Penclawdd to watch the incoming tide but this time I fancied something a bit more remote, so headed round to the west of Crofty and one of two old cockle picking tracks that provide a slightly raised walkway out into the midst of the marsh.

I arrived slightly early with the intention of watching the rising waters push the numerous bird flocks towards me in the hope of picking up a few rarities that I know to frequent the area. I wasn't to be disappointed as a nearby flock of Gulls steadily grew in size until it numbered over a thousand individuals. Before getting interested in birds I would have looked at the gathering and simply put them down as 'Gulls'. Now though I know better and got my telescope out for a good scan. The flock was mainly made up of Black Headed Gulls, but mixed in were approximately thirty or so Common Gulls. This is a species that I have seen on numerous occasions up on the Isle of Mull (indeed it seems to be one of the most prevalent species up there) but sightings on Gower had so far eluded me. A bit more searching and I found an adult and a juvenile Mediterranean Gull showing off their plumage. When you include the Herring and Lesser Black Backed Gulls that were also present you have pretty much got all of the UK common Gull species in one place. Pretty amazing and it just goes to prove that it is worth checking out those flocks of gulls that you come across as you never know what you might find.

Gull flock gathering ahead of the rising waters

The encroaching waters of the tide were as impressive as ever. I was sitting at the very end of the causeway and had a perfect vantage point as the waters slowly started to fill the surrounding channels. It is always surprising how fast the tide can approach and within an hour the grass before me had almost completely been submerged. Check out the comparison shots below to see how a landscape can change. The time difference between the two photos was only about forty minutes.

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I was very glad to have chosen some higher ground when I turned round to see the marsh behind me also completely submerged. I was of course aware of what was going on and had scoped out the area on a prior evening to ensure that I wasn't at any risk. However, it does go to show how potentially dangerous the sea can be.

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The thin strip of land back to safety

And on a final note, do check the depth of water before you drive your car into any floods. One person attempted to cross the submerged road near to where I had parked whilst I was watching. Needless to say they didn't get very far. To say she looked embarrassed is a bit of an understatement.


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Wildlife Of Rhossili Down

Thursday, July 23, 2009 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

I thought I'd post up a few pictures of just some of the wildlife that can be found around Rhossili Down on Gower. Although I have visited Worms Head on numerous occasions, the first time I properly explored Rhossili Down itself was a month or so ago when the Woodchat Shrike popped in for a brief visit. The best thing for me was the discovery of numerous Yellowhammer's, a bird that has sadly declined dramatically over the last few years. Anyway thats enough talk. Enjoy the pictures and be sure to check out my Flickr account for many more.

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Meadow Pipits - These were defending nesting sites vigorously

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Golden Ringed Dragonfly - Often seen over moors and heathland


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Late Breeding TTV

Wednesday, July 22, 2009 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

This past weekend I finally managed to get out and do my late breeding timed tetrad visit (TTV). The weather was much better this time around than last, though the species of birds on display was much the same. The number of different fledgling chicks that we found was quite amazing, and even included some firsts for me. The highlight was finding a nest of Little Egrets with three well grown young still being watched over by their parents. These are the first breeding Egrets that I have seen in this country at possibly one of only two known nesting sites on Gower. I'll keep its exact location secret for obvious reasons. Other recent fledglings included Pied Wagtail, Robin, Goldfinch, Dunnock, Blackcap, Blue Tit and Great Tit.

View from my tetrad

The main results are as follows and will be posted up to the official BTO website.

SpeciesCountBreeding Code

SpeciesCountBreeding Code
Green Woodpecker1HLittle Egret10FL
Pied Wagtail10FLGreenfinch2H
Carrion Crow25HChiffchaff4H
Song Thrush1SBlack Headed Gull2H
House Martin35UDunnock1FL
Wood Pigeon9HWren1S
Lesser Black Backed Gull3HBlue Tit6FL
Robin3FLGreat Tit3FL
Magpie3HHerring Gull3H

The breeding codes are as follows:
ON - Adults entering or leaving nest-site in circumstances indicating Occupied Nest (including high nests or nest holes, the contents of which can not be seen) or adults seen incubating
P - Pair observed in suitable nesting habitat in breeding season
S - Singing male present (or breeding calls heard) in breeding season in suitable breeding habitat
H - Species observed in breeding season in suitable nesting Habitat
FL - Recently Fledged young (nidicolous species) or downy young (nidifugous species)
FF - Adult carrying Faecal sac or Food for young


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Kestrel Close Encounters on Llanelli Beach

Wednesday, July 22, 2009 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

Last night I took advantage of a break in the weather at long last and went for a walk along Llanelli beach. This beach is ideal for waders and other sea birds, combining sand, mudflats, areas of shingle and larger rocks as well as the all important salt marsh. This evening proved to be no different with good numbers of Dunlin and Ringed Plover milling around. I was quite surprised to see two Little Egrets out on the recently revealed sand banks, no doubt taking advantgae of the ready supply of food. The highlight of the evening though came just as the sun was setting. Whilst walking across the dunes a Kestrel floated past barely feet away before beginning to quarter the beach. Before we knew what was happening the bird had a juvenile Ringed Plover in its talons and began to happily pluck away. With some careful movements I was able to get within range to film what I could on my camera. Due to the low light levels and the wind noise the video isn't of the highest quality, but it captures the moment superbly. Whilst I sat and watched, a small group of Ringed Plovers stood nearby calling as loudly as they could whilst looking forlornly at the scene before them. I couldn't help feeling a bit sorry for them but this was nature at its most cruel yet most amazing, and I felt privileged to be in the right place at the right time to witness it.


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Flickr and New Outings

Tuesday, July 14, 2009 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

This is just a quick update to let you know that I am still here despite my lack of updates over the past two weeks or so. I have done a lot of overtime at work recently and the stress of trying to buy my first house on top of this has rather limited my outings. As a result I haven't really had much to post up here. However, there are still a few things that I would like to mention.

Firstly, I now have a blog on the local newspapers (Evening Post) website. I hope to use this outlet as a way of reaching people in the local area who might not otherwise seek out information concerning the wildlife surrounding them. Having access to such a wide readership will hopefully allow me to promote the diversity of the South Wales area and encourage more people to get out there and explore it for themselves. I will be starting a series of blog posts there from this week detailing some key locations that are both well known and less well known, focussing on the wildlife that is present that otherwise may be easily overlooked. I will be cross-posting those posts over here as well for my readership here to enjoy. If you are interested in the Evening Post blog itself, follow this link.

Despite not getting out and about much recently, I have signed up to Flickr as a solution to displaying a collection of my photographs. My ultimate intention is to get a photograph up there of all of the regular UK bird species. On top of this I will also be posting pictures of the places that I visit and any other photographs that I am particulalry pleased with. I am already seeing the benefits of the sites expansive community as the number of people viewing my photographs has increased dramatically from previous solutions that I have used. I have added a gadget to the sidebar of this blog which links deirectly to my UK Birds collection. If you want to view all of my photographs follow this link. I will be putting many more photos up over the next few days. Please feel free to comment and let me know what you think. Any constructive criticism is greatly recieved.


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