On Saturday we made a long overdue return to the Gower peninsula to take on one of our favourite walks.
We set off from the small car park on Cefn Bryn, known locally as the backbone of Gower due to the way that the large sandstone ridge dominates the landscape, and were almost immediately surrounded by the calls of numerous Willow Warblers. As we waited and watched we began to pick out what looked to be a family group moving through the gorse though they never stopped still long enough for any photos. Equally uncooperative were a nearby pair of Skylarks whilst overhead the sky was alive with a mixture of House Martins, Swallows and the occasional Swift as well as a pair of Kestrels and a Buzzard. It was equally busy closer to the ground with what seemed like an endless supply of Butterflies. I think I have mentioned previously that this year seems to have been particularly successful for them and the sheer variety of species on offer certainly bares that out. From the same spot we were able to see Speckled Wood, Meadow Brown, Red Admiral, Common Blue, Large White and numerous Gatekeepers, one of which is shown below.
At Little Reynoldston there were several free roaming Gower ponies with relatively young foals in tow. With so many tourists in the area they were causing a bit of traffic chaos as everyone stopped to get out and take photographs, but that’s hardly surprising when they look this cute.
From here our route dropped down into the ancient woodland of Millwood, once part of the expansive Penrice Estate. Yet more species of Butterfly greeted us on our approach including Comma and Ringlet, both new finds for me this year.
We hadn’t ventured far into the cool shade afforded by the trees before a distinctive bird call caught our attention. We looked up to see a Marsh Tit sat on the end of a branch above us just before it flew off out of sight. Distinguishing Marsh from Willow Tit is always a bit tricky but having heard the call I consulted my iPod which handily includes a collection of bird songs for just such an occasion. As if on cue a second Marsh Tit piped up from a little further along the path which matched my iPod perfectly and confirmed our initial identification. I can’t remember the last time I saw a Marsh Tit it was that long ago so this was a really brilliant find.
Having picked up more woodland species including Treecreeper and surprisingly several Southern Hawker Dragonflies, we emerged onto the landscaped valley in front of Penrice house itself. The view that you see above was packed with birds including a flock of at least eight Mistle Thrushes, an adult and juvenile Green Woodpecker and a juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker. More treats were to be had in Nicholaston Woods where a loud screeching heralded the arrival of a Buzzard. This was not unexpected as we often see them flying through the trees here, but this one turned out to be a bit special. Clutched between its talons was a large snake, clearly still alive as it wiggled in an attempt to get free! Judging by the myriad of calls from our left I think the Buzzard was probably on its way to a nest with its kill. Having never seen Snakes taken as prey before I had now seen both Peregrine Falcon and Buzzard do just that in the space of two days. Never let it be said that nature is predictable.
The rest of our walk took us across Oxwich Bay and up through Penmaen before we were once again at Cefn Bryn, though the opposite end from which we had originally started. From here the view back towards the sea across Three Cliffs Bay is spectacular.
Also enjoying the view was this male Linnet which, unlike almost all other Linnets I have ever tried to photograph, didn’t fly off.
The final stretch back to the car across the top of Cefn Bryn coincided with some of the clearest skies I have ever had the pleasure to walk beneath on Gower. To the north we could see right across to our own house whilst to the south Devon looked within spitting distance across the Bristol Channel. All in all a great day out.