A couple of weekends ago we were at the height of the summer heat wave and the coast seemed like the most comfortable place to be. As regular readers will know I have been aiming to walk around the entire coast of the Gower peninsular, although obviously not all at once, for a while now. One key stretch that has been missing is the path between Mewslade and Overton so that was chosen as our destination for the day.
All I can say is my god it was hot. We were instantly sweating as soon as we started to move as the humidity levels were so high. Even the slight breeze that was blowing was hot and offered little to no relief at all. In all honesty I expected to see little in terms of wildlife and that we would give up and just sit on the beach. We pushed on though with copious amounts of water in our backpacks and were soon rewarded. A juvenile Green Woodpecker and a female Great Spotted Woodpecker were very welcome sightings in Mewslade woods, as were the large number of juvenile Jackdaws that were making a hell of a racket. The valley itself was full of singing Whitethroats, Chiffchaffs and even the odd Yellowhammer. I saw recent fledglings of all three species but was particularly fortunate to find a family group of Chiffchaffs very close to the footpath. I got a couple of brilliant shots that certainly surpass my previous efforts with this species.
While watching the Chiffchaffs a Buzzard soared in over the Nitten Field and really gave the Jackdaws something to shout about! We climbed out of the valley and watched a Raven watching the masses that had trekked down to the beach to enjoy the sun. A family of Magpies were also enjoying the commanding views from the cliff tops.
To the left of Mewslade beach as you look out to sea is the prominent Thurba Head. A short detour from the path had us at its tip watching the Fulmars and Herring Gulls soaring around beneath us. I was very pleased to find a Fulmar sat on a ledge as it allowed me to finally get my first ever photo of this species. There had been a couple on the Isle of Lunga during my holiday to Scotland but in my excitement for the Puffins I sadly missed them. This therefore went some way to make up.
What was very noticeable on the head is how dry everything was. The grass was universally brown and crinkled under the foot, whilst the Sea Thrift had long since given in on its battle for survival. Even the Gorse seemed to be struggling and there was already evidence of a few small grass fires. Hopefully the rain that we have had over the last week will have helped the plants recover.
The rest of the walk to Overton was full of life with Swifts, Swallows, House Martins, Sand Martins, Linnets and Whitethroats lending themselves and their voices to proceedings. We also saw a single Greenfinch, several Goldfinch and my first couple of Stonechats on Gower of the year. I have previously mentioned on this blog the population crash in this species after the exceptionally cold winter so it is great to see them starting to make a comeback. There were also numerous day flying moths on the wing along with several species of Butterflies. I am not entirely sure on the specific names of the vast majority of them but it was certainly one of the best days I have seen for insect life on Gower.
We finally reached Overton a few hours later and several litres of water lighter and sat down to have lunch. There was a fair bit of commotion coming from the cliffs behind us, part of which was emanating from a couple of Kestrels. The other calls had the unmistakeable characteristics of a Chough. A quick scan soon had us on the culprits but it wasn’t just a single bird. There were in fact five! Even better was that two were clearly this years juveniles as they were continually begging for food and being served by the two parents.
We could see the yellower legs and shorter beak of the young as they clambered about the rocks. This is the first time that I have seen evidence of breeding Choughs on Gower and I will be passing the details on to the local recorders so that they can update their records. All in all a very satisfying day, even if it did take the best part of a week to recover from the associated dehydration and hay fever.