Sunday was the latest in a long line of cracking winter days with clear blue sky and sunshine.
Despite promising the other half that I would fix the garden gate, the lure of the Bitterns at Kenfig was too much and I was soon sitting back in the south hide waiting for their expected appearance. Overnight there had been a significant refreezing of the lake with all four cuts in front of the hide now completely solid. The couple of Moorhens that had been feeding well here were now reduced to bickering amongst themselves, but more importantly the Bitterns seemed to have done a bunk. I had arrived at about eleven but people had been sat in the hide since eight and hadn’t had a single sighting. I began to wonder whether they had moved off to try out another lake or if they had relocated to Kenfig saltmarsh where the water was likely to be be less frozen. Instead of waiting around I decided to go and explore the far northern reaches of the reserve, something I had never done before.
First port of call was Kenfig Castle which I eventually found thanks to my phones GPS. Without it I would probably still be wondering around aimlessly searching now. There has been a castle on the same site since 1140 when a wooden construction on a motte surrounded by a moat was built, followed in 1185 by a stone tower after the original castle had been destroyed in an attack. Over the years the castle was involved in several more battles resulting in extensive repairs and enhancements. Ultimately though it was the ever shifting sands that finally engulfed the area and caused the abandonment of Kenfig around 1485. Partly excavated in the 1920’s the sands are once again encroaching on what is left of these ancient ruins. They are still guarded however by a small herd of Highland Cows. I’m sure their stare is worse than their bite but I didn’t want to take any chances and kept my distance.
Once you get onto the ruins they are a lot more substantial than it would first appear. Several large interior spaces are visible along with thick sections of walls, one of which includes an excellently preserved pointed archway through which it is possible to squeeze and gain access into the castles inner sanctum.
The thing that struck me while I was there is just how close the castle is to having been completely obliterated. To the east lies the M4 while to the north land once used by the steelworks is a mere stones throw away. The castle really stands as a last defiant symbol that Kenfig is to be left alone.
Moving on I followed the river down to the saltmarsh. Common Snipe seemed to be erupting from everywhere as they took advantage of the unfrozen river banks, whilst the trees were alive with Chaffinch, Blackbird and Song Thrush amongst others. A Buzzard greeted my arrival at the marsh just as a Little Egret glided towards me over the reeds. As expected the water was relatively unfrozen and was providing ample feeding opportunities for twenty Teal, five Gadwall and a couple of Mute Swans. I was hoping for a Marsh Harrier but was out of luck. However while scanning with my binoculars I spotted a Bittern fly up out of the reeds before settling down again a moment later. There was a report the previous week of a Bittern here so this may have been that individual as opposed to the missing birds from the lake. Either way it was great to find another one at a different location.
On my walk back to the Kenfig pool I was passed by a Merlin and also came across some rather interesting cow pats. Normally I wouldn’t take so much interest in them but these had holes in that I believe have been caused by Snipe looking for a meal. The shape and size were certainly suitable. What do you think?
Back in the hide and it turned out that one Bittern had been spotted briefly but that was all. I haven’t seen any reports since then so I wonder if they have moved off or are just being elusive and saving energy. If I get a chance this weekend I will pop down for another look but my time will be limited as I am back in the Midlands on Saturday and Christmas shopping on Sunday. Lets hope for some snow in the meantime.