Saturday was pretty much a wash out when it comes to photography, mainly as a result of the appalling weather. I did however manage to explore a couple of new walks that will definitely be making it onto my regular itinerary. We started the day off by driving into the Black Mountains where we hoped to scale Garreg Lywd, one of the peaks of Mynydd Du. Upon arrival it was clear that we were going to have to change our plans as the cloud base was well below us and visibility was down to less than a couple of metres. Even though we had a map and compass we decided that to set out onto a mountain that we had never seen previously was more than foolhardy, so instead we retreated to the coast and Kidwelly Quay. By a stroke of luck we arrived just after high tide meaning that the majority of birds were still feeding on the upper part of the estuary that the quay overlooks. Almost one hundred and fifty Redshanks made for a fine sight as they probed the newly exposed mud, running one after the other to the waters edge every time a wriggling worm was pulled free. A lone Greenshank flying past was the only other wader of note, but a Curlew Sandpiper was reported from the same place a few hours later. Another fine example of why that species is my nemesis.
Leading away from Kidwelly Quay is Kymer’s Canal (shown above), the oldest canal in Wales and originally built in 1766 to carry coal from Thomas Kymer’s pits to the banks of the Gwendreath Fach for onward travel by sea. It served the mines well for over thirty years before chronic silting made the waterways too dangerous to navigate. In recent years the area has been restored and it is once more possible to walk along the canal, which is what we duly did. To my surprise the area was packed with birds, the highlight of which was a flock of at least seventy Goldfinch feeding in a field full of Teasels. Further along we bumped into a couple of Chiffchaffs as well as a female Reed Bunting and a Little Egret hunting, whilst over the marsh that borders the canal a Peregrine Falcon was half heartedly chasing a small flock of Feral Pigeons.
By now the weather, though still damp and dreary, had improved slightly and it looked like the Black Mountains could again be an option. We headed back up and were amazed to see the view from the car park where we had originally turned around earlier in the day. What had been a wall of mist had been replaced with impressive peaks and valleys as well as long abandoned Limestone quarries. We quickly kitted up and set off for the peak of Garreg Lwyd, mindful that the weather could break again at any time. To our relief we made it to the huge cairns that mark the summit still able to see our way, though as the photo of the OS trig point below shows we weren’t far from being enveloped by the clouds.
The reason for being up there was to look for migrating Dotterel on the way back from their breeding grounds in Scotland. A pair had been seen on the mountain the day before and it seemed rude to not at least attempt to relocate them ourselves. We spent a good hour or so criss-crossing the terrain but the odds were always against us and we drew a blank. We did however find plenty of Wheatears as well as a couple of Skylarks, and I can’t deny that it is ideal habitat for Dotterel.
One of our nicest finds was not a bird or anything else alive for that matter, but was in fact a fresh spring pumping directly out from the mountainside. I can’t remember the last time I saw a genuine spring such as this, which Emma can confirm was cold and flowing with some force.
As this post had been rather bereft of any wildlife pictures I’ll leave you with a photo of my only successful Dotterel sighting to date. This occurred just last year when a male and female pair spent a couple of days on Cefn Cadlan and were incredibly accommodating, much to the delight of local birders. My full account of that trip can be found here.
We are still early in the migration season so I am hopeful that we will be able to see some more Dotterel before the season is out. Fingers crossed.