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.
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.