Yesterday was my final birding day of the year as a result of an unfortunate shortfall in my annual leave that has put me back in the office this morning. The places I could have visited were wide and varied but I eventually plumped for an old favourite in the shape of Whitford Point. The high tide would coincide very nicely with my arrival to hopefully push some waders and waterfowl closer in.
It was a glorious day and the woods around Cwm Ivy were heaving with birds. Long Tailed, Coal, Blue and Great Tits were all about, as were a couple of Ravens and a very noisy Jay. Song Thrushes seemed to be everywhere popping out of the grass as I walked, while a singing Robin seemed almost alien after the quietness of the last few weeks. Just as I reached the sand I heard the familiar call of Chough and spotted three on the dunes. Overhead a flock of Skylark made their presence known. Down on the shoreline a couple of thousand Oystercatcher were feeding and a mixed flock of Ringed Plover, Dunlin and Sanderling were patrolling the beach. A quick scan of the Burry Inlet revealed ten Great Crested Grebe, one male and two female Red Breasted Mergansers and three immature Eider. Further on a Grey Heron and a single Bar Tailed Godwit were to be found.
With the tide rushing in the muscle beds around the old lighthouse were mostly under water but enough was left to house a flock of some 130 Turnstones and twenty Redshank. I got my scope out for a more detailed scan in the hope that I would finally find my first Purple Sandpiper of the winter. And I did! With its head tucked under its wing it blended in well but the markings were unmistakeable. Eventually it did wake up briefly to let me see its beak and confirm the identification. A brief sighting of three Grey Plovers flying past meant that I had now seen the species three days in a row on Gower. Not bad considering my complete lack of sightings of this species there previously.
Berges Island Hide
The tide was by now almost at its maximum so I made my way round to the hide at Berges Island to see what was about. What there was were masses of birds as far as the eye could see. 144 Brent Geese were in close feeding just in front of the hide as well as forty more Eider. Exact counts of the other species can be seen on the Glamorgan Birds Page by some fellow birders in the hide, but a brief run down included another Grey Plover, Redshank, about twenty Dunlin, Pintail, Wigeon, Shellduck, Teal and about two thousand Knot. Out over Burry Pill the waders were briefly put into the air as a Merlin went on a hunting trip. A Peregrine Falcon could be seen at distance near the old military look out post.
What I really wanted however was my last bogey bird for Gower i.e. a species I consider that I should have seen on the peninsular. The bird in question was a Slavonean Grebe and I was a bit miffed to hear that I had been looking at a stretch of water earlier where there had been two at exactly that time. Fortunately the others in the hide picked up one feeding out in the bay so I continually scanned the area until I finally caught sight of it. Although distant the views were pretty good leaving me very happy. A great way to round out the year.
On the walk back along Whitford Burrows I picked up a few Curlew out on the marsh before being assaulted by a cacophony of noise. I looked around for the source of the commotion just as three Peregrine Falcons shot overhead. Two adult birds were attempting to steal a kill from a younger individual which looked to be a Redshank. I’m not sure who won the battle as they were soon lost to sight behind the dunes.
I finished off the day with a brief stop at Penclawdd. The usual culprits were all present but unusually so was a Little Grebe fishing around one of the boats. Three different Grebe species in a day is always the sign of a great trip. I look forward to many more of them during 2011.