New Quay, Aberaeron and Aberystwyth

Thursday, March 31, 2011 Adam Tilt 6 Comments

Sunday dawned incredibly misty with visibility down to a few hundred feet at most. Although warm the forecast was for much the same all day so we decided to head up to the Ceredigion coast for a walk. Spoilt for choice we chose New Quay as our first destination, purely for the fact that it's about the only place I have yet to visit in that area. Upon our arrival the mist was still hanging heavy over the town though that wasn't stopping the tourists arriving in their droves.

24079 - New Quay harbour

After a brief walk along the harbour wall I could take the sound of screaming children no longer so set off to find the start of the coast path. On our way we encountered a pair of Dunnocks who are presumably very used to feeding on scraps left by visitors given their tameness. Even in the grey lighting they made a lovely sight.

24078 - Dunnock, New Qauy

Climbing steeply through farmland along the top of the cliffs we soon found ourselves looking down on the local fish factory. Here an incredible number of Gulls were either loafing around in the sea or sitting on rocks. The vast majority (several hundred) were Herring Gulls with the odd Black Headed and both Black Backed species dotted around. From what I can gather the factory was periodically releasing a waste discharge into the sea which must have had a good fish content to keep so many birds in the same place. A couple of Oystercatchers and even a Seal were also getting in on the act. A little further on and I spotted a small bird hopping though the bottom of some Gorse bushes. It took a bit of hunting before I got a clear view but once I did I was very happy to see that it was a newly arrived Willow Warbler, my first of the year. In the same area we found at least one more Willow Warbler and several Chiffchaff. The spring migrants are really starting to build up now.

At Birds Rock the Guillemots and Razorbills were back on the cliffs and preparing to breed with plenty of noise being generated. There was also a group of seven Shags nesting and at least thirty Kittiwakes. Seeing them reminded me that the Kittiwakes should soon be back on Mumbles Pier in Swansea, for what could possibly be their last season if the proposed developments there get the go-ahead. Moving our attention away from the cliffs we spotted three Stonechats and this well camouflaged Leaf Bug (apologies for the rather non-specific name).

24084 - Leaf Bug, New Quay

By this time the sun was beginning to hint that it might consider putting in an appearance so we headed north to Aberaeron. The tide was in meaning that the regular flock of six Turnstones were well out of camera range as they roosted on one of the breakwaters in the company of a Redshank. The harbour itself held nothing more interesting than a few Mallard but a look out to sea revealed four Gannets fishing on the horizon. We also spotted a couple of Starlings having a bath in a pool of water that had gathered in an upturned boat.

24085 - Starling bathing, Aberaeron
24086 - Starlings bathing, Aberaeron

Our final destination of the day was Aberystwyth where I was hoping that we might at last find the elusive flock of Purple Sandpipers that have apparently been present all winter but which I have now dipped on several occasions. A scan of the rocks in front of Old College finally put that failure to rest with twelve of them stood in plain view amongst several Turnstones. I made my way onto the beach and carefully approached what I thought was the closest Sandpiper. In the glare (the sun was now fully out) I somehow managed to completely misjudge the bird I was photographing and only came away with shots of a Turnstone. A major cock-up on my part but at least I did see the Purple Sandpipers even if I have no proof.

24088 - Turnstone, Aberystwyth

On the drive back south it was very noticeable how many Red Kites were out and about. Once upon a time it would have been Buzzards that we tried to spot from the car but it seems that Kites are now far more numerous. It just goes to show how much their population has recovered by in recent years.


Please note that comments will not appear immediately as after a surprising amount of spam I have had to enable moderation.

Some Other Sandy Water Park Residents

Monday, March 28, 2011 Adam Tilt 21 Comments

With most peoples attention focused on the Blue Winged Teal and Little Gull at Sandy Water Park it is very easy to overlook the more common species that call this lake home. During my visit last weekend I spent an hour or so walking its perimeter while waiting for the crowd of birders that were watching the Teal to disperse. Due to the constant presence of people with bags of bread many species that are usually to be found a good distance away are much more accommodating. A good example of this was the following male Pochard. Check out the intricate patterns on its back!

24049 - Pochard, Sandy Water Park, Llanelli

This pair of Gadwall (male top, female bottom) were a little bit more wary but still came much closer than I am used to.

24060 - Gadwall, Sandy Water Park, Llanelli
24062 - Gadwall, Sandy Water Park, Llanelli

My favourite birds on the water though were the Tufted Ducks. Somehow they always seem to have a mischievous look in that fantastic yellow eye, and with spring in full flow their tufts are in peak condition.

24053 - Tufted Duck, Sandy Water Park, Llanelli
24055 - Tufted Duck, Sandy Water Park, Llanelli
24058 - Tufted Duck, Sandy Water Park, Llanelli

Around the reed beds several Moorhen and Coot were skulking with at least one pair of Moorhen looking like they were starting to build a nest. Typically they kept out of view as much as possible with the exception of the following Coot who was not only stood out in the open but went through a whole series of stretching exercises and poses for the camera. Interestingly I have never noticed the red and yellow mark on the very top of a Coot's leg until looking at these photos.

24066 - Coot, Sandy Water Park, Llanelli

Waterfowl were not the only birds present. Overhead 16 Sand Martins were swooping and calling through the air as they fed on the swarms of flies that are now hatching out. It really is fantastic to have their calls filling the air once more. Chiffchaffs were also in fine voice though remained elusive in the vegetation, but I did clap eyes on several Reed Buntings. A pair of Goldfinch were in the same place as my last visit and posed superbly amongst some fresh buds.

24057 - Goldfinch, Sandy Water Park, Llanelli

The early part of the afternoon was spent walking along The Saltings, a large area of salt marsh between Burry Port and Pembrey country park. It was low tide during my visit so bird numbers were low, but I still managed to see a couple of Curlew, three Shellduck and eight Redshank. The main attraction though was in the shape of my first Skylarks of the year, a couple of which even took the time to get out of the air and sit on the grass for the camera.

24075 - Skylark, The Saltings

Meadow Pipits numbers were well up on my last visit to the area, and it was also very pleasing to see three Stonechats sat on the telegraph wires along with five Reed Buntings and a lone Chaffinch. The Stonechats seemed to be doing their best flycatcher impressions by periodically taking to the air to catch a juicy morsel. Rather disappointingly I didn't find any more Wheatears but the season is still young so I'm sure they will soon start to accumulate.


Please note that comments will not appear immediately as after a surprising amount of spam I have had to enable moderation.

More Blue Winged Teal at Sandy Water Park

Sunday, March 27, 2011 Adam Tilt 3 Comments

They say never go back but that is exactly what I did early yesterday morning. The Blue Winged Teal that first popped up last weekend has remained at Sandy Water Park ever since, and with better weather forecast I couldn't resist an attempt at some improved photos. The Little Gull was my first spot upon arrival (still flying around like a maniac obviously) but it wasn't long before I located the Teal feeding along the edge of the water in front of the Sandpiper pub. It appears to have become much more tolerant of people over its stay as a couple of photographers were right down on the bank getting some cracking views. Fancying a piece of the action I dropped down off the footpath and took a couple of shots before the bird moved away on one of its regular trips across the lake. Unfortunately the weather at this point was still overcast so the results weren't a whole lot better than last time.

I went for a walk around the lake while I waited optimistically for the sun to appear and saw a very nice assortment of birds in the process (photos to follow in a coming post). Just as I got back to the start a break in the clouds coincided with the return of the Teal and I got what I was after.

24071 - Blue Winged Teal, Sandy Water Park, Llanelli
24068 - Blue Winged Teal, Sandy Water Park, Llanelli
24074 - Blue Winged Teal, Sandy Water Park, Llanelli

The views were exceptional with the bird seemingly oblivious to our presence and happy to feed just a few feet away from us. As can be seen from the middle photo it was favouring the wet mud along the shore and was really getting its beak stuck in. It will be interesting to see how long it sticks around for or even if it will become a resident celebrity.


Please note that comments will not appear immediately as after a surprising amount of spam I have had to enable moderation.

Patch birding - Yellowhammer's and more

Wednesday, March 23, 2011 Adam Tilt 1 Comments

The pair of Yellowhammers that I first saw this time last week on Bryn-bach-Common were once again singing from the Rhododendron bushes on Tuesday evening. Interestingly the birds were on near identical perches as before with the female uttering the "little bit of bread and no cheeeeese" song whilst the male was using a shorter contact type call. They dropped off down the valley side after a while where it's almost impossible to view. I'm tempted to try a stake out in the hope of getting a photo or two.

I was back up there this evening but the sun seemed to have sent the Yellowhammers back into hiding. The garden however was full of Jackdaws with around five present.

24043 - Jackdaw, Pontarddulais

It's quite noticeable that now that our regular flock of Starlings has moved on the Jackdaws are visiting more frequently. Heading up Gopa Hill we saw a Pied Wagtail and Wren while surrounded by at least four calling Chiffchaffs. There was also a solitary call from a Green Woodpecker. There are still no Swallows in the valley but a skein of Canada Geese flying in from the east were a very nice sight against the setting sun. I have heard presumably the same birds flying over the house both early in the morning and late evening so we must be under their regular commuter route.

24046 - Canada Geese at sunset

With the sun dropping below the horizon it was time to head back. Unfortunately some numpty had decided to set fire to a section of gorse, presumably using an accelerant given the speed with which the flames had taken hold. The fire brigade were soon on the scene and had the fire extinguished within minutes but I fear that this is just the start. Last summer the Cwm Dulais valley suffered several such incidents but on no where near the same scale as the Gower peninsula. There large swathes of common land were razed to the ground with the orange glow visible from miles around at night. I really hope we don't see a repeat this year.

After that slightly sour note I thought I'd include a photo of one of our local lambs to lighten the mood.

24042 - Sheep and lamb, Bryn-bach-Common

We also bumped into a Fox on the walk home and saw at least six bats flying around the trees. A few suspicious screeches had me looking for owls but I couldn't spot any in the near darkness. We have Tawny's that call from around the house occasionally so I wonder if it was them?


Please note that comments will not appear immediately as after a surprising amount of spam I have had to enable moderation.

Feeders at WWT Llanelli

Tuesday, March 22, 2011 Adam Tilt 12 Comments

When I have had the odd hour to kill over the last few weeks I have been parking the car up next to the feeders in the WWT Llanelli car park and waiting to see what turns up. The variety has been great and when the sun has shone I have been in the perfect position to capture many of the species on offer. My favourites by far have been the Long Tailed Tits, not just because they are fantastic little birds but also because these are the first photos I have ever managed to get of the species.

24025 - Long Tailed Tit, WWT Llanelli

24024 - Long Tailed Tit, WWT Llanelli

Next up are the Chaffinches that always bring a bit of colour to proceedings and are by far the most numerous of the birds present.

24026 - Chaffinch, WWT Llanelli

24014 - Chaffinch, WWT Llanelli

Three Collared Doves are regular visitors although they tend not to stick around for very long as they are easily spooked.

24023 - Collared Dove, WWT Llanelli

There was also the odd surprise in the shape of a male Bullfinch and a very nice Reed Bunting, another photography first for me.

24015 - Bullfinch, WWT Llanelli

24019 - Reed Bunting, WWT Llanelli

I have loads of photos from the time I have spent there so far, and will no doubt include a few more in a future post.


Please note that comments will not appear immediately as after a surprising amount of spam I have had to enable moderation.

Blue Winged Teal and Little Gull at Sandy Water Park, Llanelli

Monday, March 21, 2011 Adam Tilt 2 Comments

It was a pretty quiet weekend for me in terms of birding due to spending most of my time facilitating the move of my 1961 Reliant Regal from North Wales to Swansea. On Sunday though I couldn't resist a trip out as news was circulating about a couple of quality birds that had turned up at Sandy Water Park near Llanelli. The first was a species that I have tried unsuccessfully to see a number of times in the past, most recently during the previous morning when another individual had been reported at Penclawdd on the high tide. Fortunately this one was sticking around for much longer and after a brief scan of the water in front of the Sandpiper pub I was on to a cracking first winter Little Gull.

24031 - Little Gull, Sandy Water Park, Llanelli

The Little Gull never stopped flying during our entire visit, behaving very much like a Tern at times with swooping dives and brief periods of almost stationary flight. It was a very entertaining display. Amazingly I even managed to get an in-flight photo as you can see above. It seems that my camera can perform against fast moving targets occasionally, even if I did have to bin a good number to get this one gem.

With my first lifer of the day under my belt I didn't have to look far to find the second. Swimming at times right underneath the flight path of the Little Gull was this Blue Winged Teal.

24035 - Blue Winged Teal, Sandy Water Park, Llanelli

After walking quickly around the lake a couple of times only to find that the bird was always on the opposite side I settled on a spot and waited for it to come to me. I didn't have to wait long before it swam slowly past giving great views. I always expected to see a Green Winged Teal first but I'm certainly not going to complain that its blue cousin won the race.


Please note that comments will not appear immediately as after a surprising amount of spam I have had to enable moderation.

Cwm Dulais Valley Sunset

Friday, March 18, 2011 Adam Tilt 3 Comments

This evening was absolutely glorious with the sun shining and the birds singing. I headed up Gopa Hill with the sound of Chiffchaffs and Jays in my ears while Long Tailed Tits and Chaffinches flitted through the newly budding trees. The Yellowhammers were nowhere to be seen but three Buzzards were making use of the stiff breeze as they glided down the valley at speed, wings swept back. I kept one eye on the sky in the hope of seeing my first Swallow (it's still a but early but the wind direction this weekend should hopefully bring a good influx) and in the process saw my first Linnets of the year with several small flocks on the move. Topping everything though was the fabulous sunset.

24009 - Sunset over Cwm Dulais

For those not familiar with my local area the photo above includes pretty much all of my local haunts. The valley to the immediate right is Cwm Dulais which I now consider to be my patch. Gopa Hill sits in the middle distance on the far right, behind which sits the village of Pontarddulais, my home. Further back still lies the town of Llanelli with its Millennium coastal park and favourite locations such as Burry Port, the WWT site and Sandy Water Park. The Loughor River snakes its way through the centre of the landscape before emptying into the Burry Inlet. The hulking mass in the background is the Gower Peninsular, the highest point being roughly where Cefn Bryn lies whilst the thin line of land stretching out into the water from its tip is Whitford Point. The side of Gower facing us includes Penclawdd and Llanrhidian Marsh with Port Eynon and Rhossili being on the opposite. It really is a fantastic place.


Please note that comments will not appear immediately as after a surprising amount of spam I have had to enable moderation.

Signs of Spring - Part 1 - Wheatear and Stonechat

Thursday, March 17, 2011 Adam Tilt 4 Comments

Time to make use of my time machine as we whisk ourselves back to last weekend. In contrast to the grey clouds that had dominated the day before, Sunday was awash with sunshine and clear blue sky for as far as the eye could see. After having already ticked off some spring migrants in the shape of Chiffchaff and Sand Martin, the cliffs along the Gower coast seemed like the best place to head to in the hope of an early Wheatear or two. We started off in Mewslade valley where the woodland was alive with birdsong and the ground carpeted in fresh Wild Garlic. A pair of Great Spotted Woodpecker were flitting through the treetops whilst from the farmland behind the distinctive call of a Green Woodpecker could be heard. Other calls echoing around the narrow valley included Goldfinch, Chiffchaff, Chaffinch, Great Tit and Robin, of which this individual was very tame.

23995 - Robin, Mewslade, Gower

Where open ground and Gorse takes over from the trees it was hard to miss the sound of bees buzzing around the freshly opened flowers. Bravely risking scratches and stings (how macho!) I poked my camera around to try and get a few macro shots. This Honeybee was gorging itself on the abundance of pollen and was using its legs to hold the petals of the flowers apart to allow even deeper entry. The yellow sacks on its legs are formally knows as Pollen Baskets and are what the bee uses to carry pollen back to the hive.

23998 - Bee, Mewslade, Gower

We moved on to Thurba Head next to see if the Fulmars had returned to the small breeding colony there. Initially all looked quiet but as we poked our heads over the edge we could see at least seven birds either already on ledges or gliding past on the light breeze. This individual looked well settled and I wouldn't be surprised to see a few eggs laid very soon.

23999 - Fulmar, Thurba Head, Gower

Although sited on the shady side of the head making photography a little bit more difficult, the Fulmars certainly aren't left wanting when it comes to the view.

24003 - Mewslade from Thurba Head, Gower

In the same area we saw a pair of Chough (probably the same birds that I saw last week gathering nesting material on Rhossili head) but they didn't stick around for long and were soon on their way toward Overton. We saw them on several more occasions throughout the day but they were always in the air. Something a bit less mobile were these 'Puffball' mushrooms that had already expelled their cargo of spores.

24001 - Mushroom, Mewslade, Gower

After an unsuccessful attempt to find Paviland Cave we spent a good hour scanning the fields around the nearby farm of the same name. An overwintering flock of Lapland Buntings has often been reported here but the closest we got was a family of Reed Buntings mixed in with a few Chaffinches. We did have a major success on a single section of fence that firstly delivered one male and two female Stonechats (my first of the year) before they were all scared off by a cracking male Wheatear.

24007 - Wheatear, Paviland, Gower

24008 - Stonechat, Paviland, Gower

It's really fantastic to find some Stonechats as their numbers have taken a real hammering locally after two very cold winters. I also look forward to another season of trying to get a few decent photographs of Wheatears. They never come quite close enough.

Our return route was further inland where a couple of small ponds that have presumably been built to water cattle held some rather unexpected birds. The first contained four Teal and four Gadwall, the second a Moorhen and the third a Grey Heron. I wonder if these are monitored on a more regular basis as they look like prime locations for the odd rarity to pop up in.


Please note that comments will not appear immediately as after a surprising amount of spam I have had to enable moderation.

Signs of Spring - Part 2

Wednesday, March 16, 2011 Adam Tilt 3 Comments

P1070613 - Gopa Hill sunset

Part two I hear you say, but where is part one? Well technically part one happened on Sunday but seeing as I haven't actually written that entry yet (it's coming I promise) this seemed as good a place to start as any. I have just got back from a very enjoyable ramble over the heath and farmland between Pontarddulais and Pontlliw, and for the first time in months there was still light in the sky past seven pm. I can't stress enough how refreshing and relaxing a walk after a day at work can be, and it will be great to be able to photograph some sunsets once again. Tonights was a bit of a washout as you can see above but there was plenty of bird life around to make up for it. Whilst climbing Gopa Hill I heard the first returning Chiffchaff to the valley utter a few snippets of song, while on Bryn-bach-Common the distinctive shout of "a little bit of bread and no cheeeeeese" alerted me to the presence of a Yellowhammer. Initially I couldn't locate it but after a bit of searching I found it sitting atop one of the many Rhododendron bushes that have colonised the valley sides. A few minutes later and another male bird showed itself, just as I disturbed a few Meadow Pipits from the undergrowth. Despite it posing beautifully there just wasn't enough light to attempt a photo. Something to try for this weekend possibly as I am on call from work and can't stray too far from the house.

Further down towards Pontlliw it was great to hear the Song Thrushes imitating the calls of some of our seabirds including the Oystercatcher. I imagine this is a trait limited to those individuals that spend much of their time along the coast, but has anyone ever heard a Thrush further inland using similar calls before? Despite their volume they were briefly drowned out as two Crows came in low overhead mobbing a Buzzard. The Buzzard quickly headed for the trees from where it called out in a rather pitiful manner, no doubt trying to reclaim some dignity.

I also saw my first couple of Bats of the year (Pipistrelle I presume?) hunting insects along a wooded section of lane. I told them to spread the word that I had a lovely new bat box in my back garden if any of their friends wanted accommodation. It was at this point I realised that my hunger had probably started to affect my mind so I hurried home for some food. I really must remember to take a snack with me next time!


Please note that comments will not appear immediately as after a surprising amount of spam I have had to enable moderation.

Avocet - WWT Llanelli (Penclacwydd)

Sunday, March 13, 2011 Adam Tilt 6 Comments

It has been another fantastic weekend here in South Wales with a bit of everything thrown in to keep us on our toes. Saturday turned out to be very much a case of being in the right place at the right time as a locally very rare Avocet popped into the WWT Llanelli centre at high tide. Though these birds have been steadily increasing in number over the last few decades this is only about the third individual to turn up at this site, and the only one that I have actually seen there. It was found shortly before our arrival by Rob Taylor on the NRA scrapes, but soon moved over to the main lagoon in front of the British Steel Hide. There it stayed for the rest of the day, feeding and preening in a very settled manner and only showing any inkling of moving on when the local Crows decided to fly overhead. Despite much verbal encouragement from the assembled local bird photography fraternity the Avocet kept its distance, but my somewhat technologically overshadowed Lumix superzoom (considering the company) came up trumps with the following picture.

23993 - Avocet, WWT Llanelli (Penclacwydd)

As is often the case with unusual wildlife encounters I filmed a short video to better capture the behaviour and habitat that the bird was in. The Avocet obliged brilliantly even putting in a superb wing stretch. Ever since first seeing these birds at the RSPB Titchwell reserve in Norfolk as a child, I have always been fascinated with the way that they move and their slightly exotic looks when compared to the vast majority of our more common species.

Elsewhere on the reserve we encountered a total of 48 different species (49 if you count the Muscovy Duck that has turned up in front of the main Observatory hide), an excellent showing for this time of year. After the Avocet the highlights for me were all to do with Spring, in particular seeing my first four Sand Martins of the year flying over around lunch time and also hearing my first calling Chiffchaffs. Elsewhere the Coots were busy battling it out with each other for mates whilst the Black Headed Gulls are assembling on their usual breeding islands in preparation for another very noisy season. In contrast there are still good numbers of Wigeon around that have yet to leave for their summer territories, although it looks like the majority of Pochard and Tufted Duck have already moved on.

Given that it was high tide during our visit plenty of waders had been pushed up close to the hides. A flock of 42 Redshank was by far the biggest I have seen at this location, with other species including 70 Black Tailed Godwit and 3 Greenshank. There was a surprisingly high number of Pintail on the freshwater pools, including 8 by the Heron Wing Hide. Shoveller were similarly high with 13 on the NRA scrape. Away from the water I was very pleased to find 3 Goldcrest dotted around the place, even though they refused to sit still to have their photograph taken. I am always amazed at how such a small bird manages to make it through the winter, especially after the one that we have just experienced. It's also worth mentioning that this was the first day of the year that I have seen Bees active once again. Time to get some practice in on the cameras macro settings I think.

P.S. I have been through my records to see what dates I first saw Sand Martins and heard Chiffcaffs calling last year and have come up with 20th March and 21st March respectively. Looks like they are about a week earlier this time around.


Please note that comments will not appear immediately as after a surprising amount of spam I have had to enable moderation.

Bosherston - Feed the birds....

Friday, March 11, 2011 Adam Tilt 6 Comments

One of the less well known attractions of Bosherston lily ponds is that at several locations the birds have now become tame enough to be fed from the hand. We took a bag of mixed seed with us and within a few minutes of standing with a tempting arm outstretched we were surrounded by birds. The boldest by far were the Great Tits, who were the first on the scene and would often sit for a good few seconds on the hand whilst they chose which seed to take.

23991 - Great Tit, Bosherston Lily Ponds

Next up were the Blue Tits. They tended to hold back until at least three had gathered on nearby branches, at which point they made a quick smash and grab sortie one after the other.

23990 - Blue Tit, Bosherston Lily Ponds

My favourites though were the Robins that had developed a completely different technique altogether. Instead of flying directly to the hand they would sit in a bush and sing to attract our attention. This inevitably led us to move our hands closer, at which point they would simply step off their perch and onto the hand or alternatively reach over and pick up a seed. Utterly charming. In complete contrast the Chaffinches couldn't quite get up the courage to make the leap into the human world, instead spending their time fluttering around in a state of constant indecision. They would probably have been better off following the lead of the Dunnocks and at one point even a Nuthatch who were hopping around our feet eating any dropped food.

If you ever the get the chance to visit Bosherston then don't forget to take a bit of seed with you. To feel how light these small birds really are and the strength in their tiny feet is a unique opportunity not to be missed.


Please note that comments will not appear immediately as after a surprising amount of spam I have had to enable moderation.

Bosherston Lily Ponds - Bittern and Fulmar

Tuesday, March 08, 2011 Adam Tilt 18 Comments

Last year we made a brief visit to Bosherston Lily Ponds as part of a day exploring Pembrokeshire, and were fortunate enough to have a very close encounter with an Otter (see here). On Sunday we headed back to spend a full day there in order to better appreciate the full range of habitats and wildlife that the area offers. Things got off to a great start with six Goldeneye and several Goosander feeding on the first lake we passed, while overhead a pair of Buzzards called loudly to each other. A very active Goldcrest came within a few meters of us but it was too dark to attempt any photography under the trees. Talking of light we had been promised a glorious days sunshine by the weather forecast but what we actually received was a bitingly cold wind and long periods of grey cloud cover.

Never one to be perturbed by yet another incorrect bulletin we left the relative shelter of the lily ponds and struck out along the cliff tops towards Stackpole Head. With the exception of a few Meadow Pipits and the odd Cormorant out at sea things were relatively quiet until we stumbled upon a pair of Fulmar's sat on the very edge of the cliff. I got on my knees and crawled over until I was as close as I dared, fearful of their sharp beaks and ability to spit out a foul smelling oil when threatened. Clearly I was not seen as a threat as they completely ignored me allowing me to watch one of my favourite seabirds at close quarters.

23986 - Fulmar, Stackpole Head, Pembrokeshire

While I was there they were vigorously defending their patch from the rest of the Fulmar's that kept gliding in on the wind. At times these passing birds were almost brushing my head with their long stiff wings they were so close.

23977 - Fulmar, Stackpole Head, Pembrokeshire

23983 - Fulmar, Stackpole Head, Pembrokeshire

On the odd occasion that another bird tried to muscle in on the pair they were soon sent packing with a few well placed nips from that impressive beak.

23978 - Fulmar, Stackpole Head, Pembrokeshire

Eventually the other birds seemed to get the message and my two were left to their own devices.

23988 - Fulmar, Stackpole Head, Pembrokeshire

It's not hard to see why these birds enjoy this section of coast so much when there are such fantastic cliffs to nest on.

23992 - Stackpole Coastline, Pembrokeshire

Eventually I had to drag myself away before I ended up with hundreds of very similar pictures. I once again failed to get an in-flight photo but I'm not going to complain after getting the shots above. We carried on along the coast spotting a Razorbill in the process, before turning back inland to return to the lily ponds. About half way there we passed a flock of four Chough feeding on farmland. Their numbers really seem to have been doing well in the last year or so as it is now very rare that I don't see them on the Pembrokeshire or Gower coast. Back on the lakes Goosanders seemed to be everywhere with other diving ducks included three Little Grebe and about twenty Tufted Duck. A couple of Wigeon were an unexpected surprise.

The best birds of the day (and indeed any other day for that matter) were to be found in the reed bed that grows where the lakes flow out into the sea. After a bit of searching we managed to locate three Bittern standing motionless and almost completely camouflaged.

23973 - Bittern, Bosherston Lily Ponds

If you are wondering there is one slap bang in the middle of the photo above; it's beak pointing vertically yet its eyes still managing to remain fixed on us. I imagine that these birds will soon be on their way back to their breeding grounds in the east of England as they only visit Wales during the winter. I wish them well on their journey and look forward to seeing them back again next winter.


Please note that comments will not appear immediately as after a surprising amount of spam I have had to enable moderation.

Rhossili - Birds, Birds and Seals

Saturday, March 05, 2011 Adam Tilt 6 Comments

What a brilliant day. For the first time in just about forever the weather gods looked down kindly on me and delivered a day of almost full sunshine with temperatures high enough to require the removal of some winter layers. Destination of choice had to be Rhossili as its hard to think of anywhere that looks more beautiful with a blue sea and a clear sky. Despite a lot of haziness on the horizon that is exactly what I got.

As we are getting closer to the tourist season I arrived nice and early to beat the masses and hopefully improve my chances of catching up with the wildlife before it moved off into the quieter corners. A quick look around St Marys churchyard delivered Song Thrush, Blackbird, Dunnock, Jackdaw, Pied Wagtail and six House Sparrows that were tucking into some of the new buds that are starting to appear on the bushes.

23938 - House Sparrow, Rhossili, Gower
23939 - House Sparrow, Rhossili, Gower
23941 - House Sparrow, Rhossili, Gower

Walking along the cliff tops towards Worms Head it was noticeable how quiet everything was apart from the cacophony of bird song. One of the prime culprits was this Dunnock who was singing his little heart out. If you look closely at the photograph you can just about see its tongue lifted upwards in the process of belting out another note.

23944 - Dunnock, Worms Head, Rhossili, Gower

Equally vocal though less tuneful I would argue was this Raven. Clearly defending or staking its claim to this territory it was patrolling the area throughout my visit.

23945 - Raven, Worms Head, Rhossili, Gower

Calls could also be heard coming from out at sea where a raft of seven Fulmars was floating a few hundred meters off shore. These are the first I have seen this year and it's great to have them back, even if once more I completely failed to get a photo of one in flight! Other signs of the changing seasons were a pair of Chough that had their beaks stuffed with dried grass, presumably to be used for nesting material.

My visit had rather handily coincided with low tide which meant that the tidal causeway that leads from the mainland to Worms Head was clear allowing me to cross. I still find it amazing how much the tide can drop by here in such a short period of time. A few hours later and all the rocks that you can see in the photo below would have been completely submerged.

23963 - Worms Head, Rhossili, Gower

One of the birds taking advantage of the newly exposed feeding areas was the Turnstone below, although this individual was nowhere near as tame as my favourite flock by Mumbles pier. Interestingly I also saw a Herring Gull fly past with a large Starfish in its beak, behaviour that I have only seen previously at Mumbles.

23947 - Turnstone, Worms Head, Rhossili, Gower

The highlight of the day was to be found on the North side of Worms Head itself, where several Grey Seals were hauled up on the rocks. They may look cute and cuddly but check out the claws on the first one.

23948 - Grey Seal, Worms Head, Rhossili, Gower
23951 - Grey Seal, Worms Head, Rhossili, Gower

On the Outer Head I was very pleased to see that the Razorbills and Guillemots are back, with at least a hundred birds present on the cliff and in the water. At the moment Guillemots are by far the most numerous but I couldn't get a good enough viewing angle across much of their nesting ledges to give an accurate assessment. There were also a few more Fulmars out there, including one that looked to be on a nest already.

With the weather forecast looking similarly promising for tomorrow I'm hoping for a very productive Sunday.


Please note that comments will not appear immediately as after a surprising amount of spam I have had to enable moderation.