Glossy Ibis at Kidwelly Quay

Friday, September 30, 2011 Adam Tilt 4 Comments

A Glossy Ibis was found at Kidwelly Quay yesterday morning and fortunately it was still there when we rolled up just after six that evening. In fact we managed to time our arrival to perfection as we parked, walked the short distance to the appropriate flooded field, found the bird and watched it for a couple of minutes before it flew off in the direction of Kidwelly Marsh where I presume it is roosting. The brevity of our encounter resulted in nothing more than a couple of seconds of video, but it serves as a good record of this spectacular bird.

The discovery of this individual means that Glossy Ibis has now been recorded in Carmarthenshire during September for the last three years running, a trend started by the amazing flock that spent a couple of days feeding at Burry Port back in 2009. Although I missed out on the 2010 birds I did see one that year flying over Kenfig NNR. Having such an exotic bird as an almost regular visitor to the area is very exciting and something that I hope will continue.

After the Ibis had departed we used the last of the remaining light to have a quick scan over the estuary. The Redshanks were out in force again and had been joined by a single Lapwing and two Common Sandpipers. Just out of range from my telescope was another wader, asleep and with a prominent white line above its eye being the only discernible feature other than its comparable size to a Redshank. I didn't think much more of it until I got home to find that a Long Billed Dowitcher had been seen that evening in exactly the same location. Had I possibly seen it but not realised what I was looking at, or was it just another Redshank in failing light? If only I'd had a little more time to wait and see if the bird showed its beak. Another of those great birding what ifs.

What isn't in doubt is that we were treated to another spectacular sunset as this tropical (for us at least) weather continues. Enjoy.

25095 - Sunset, Kidwelly Quay

25094 - Sunset, Kidwelly Quay


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An Indian Autumn?

Thursday, September 29, 2011 Adam Tilt 4 Comments

After being promised Indian summers for the last two years that have then completely failed to materialise it would appear that we are instead to be treated to an Indian autumn. In a move completely out of character for the last week of September, temperatures have been soaring into the mid twenties and clear blue skies are the norm. Even the plants seem to have been taken aback if the new blooms on my herbs are anything to go by. I dread to think what effect this unseasonal weather will have when we crash back into winter as expected in a couple of weeks time.

We have been making the most of the mild evenings with a combination of painting the exterior of the house (I wont bore you with those details here) and excursions down to the coast whenever possible. Tuesday evening found us back at Llanelli in scenes that can only be described as jubilant. Give the British a hint of sunshine and they'll be paddling in the sea and eating ice cream before you can say "desperate". Walking along the dunes I noticed that the area now holds a sizable population of Sea Holly, a coastal plant that has declined over recent years due to habitat loss and removal for use in peoples gardens. Though not at its best at this time of year it looks to be well established.

25086 - Sea Holly, Llanelli

The number of people on the beach meant that roosting bird numbers were nowhere near as impressive as those from a week or so ago, but seventy Turnstones, a couple of hundred Redshank and three Ringed Plovers were certainly not to be sniffed out. Out on the breakwater a pair of Grey Herons were bravely standing against the incoming tide whilst the channel markers were home to a couple of Cormorants. In the river off Copperhouse a Little Grebe and a flock of seventeen Teal were to be found. Back on the beach and the single Wheatear from our previous visit had been joined by five more of its comrades, all of which were busily feeding on the insects that swarmed through the Marram Grass and across the sand. As usual they were incredibly flighty but using one of the dunes as cover I was able to capture one of the birds in the lovely evening light.

25087 - Wheatear, Llanelli

25088 - Wheatear, Llanelli

As the sun set deeper and deeper into the Bristol Channel the sky began to light up and we were treated to our best sunset for a very long time. The aforementioned Marram Grass proved to be an excellent foreground, and Emma wasn't bad either.

25089 - Sunset, Llanelli

25093 - Sunet, Llanelli


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American Invasion on Gower

Tuesday, September 27, 2011 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

Last week was something of a red letter day for the birding scene on Gower with an invasion of American waders. Following up on reports concerning a couple of suspicious looking birds, Barry Stewart and Mark Hipkin were amazed to find both a Pectoral Sandpiper and a White Rumped Sandpiper feeding in the same small area of Llanrhidian Marsh. Next day a Buff Breasted Sandpiper had joined the party to complete the hat trick, which when combined with the nearby Curlew Sandpipers, Great White Egret and Little Stint made for a spectacle the likes of which have rarely been seen locally. 

Unfortunately for me work commitments and a seemingly insatiable desire for water to enter my house in places where it was not welcome meant that I was forced to watch events unfold from the sidelines. It wasn't until Sunday that I was finally able to venture out to look for our new celebrities myself. On the way I stopped off at Penclawdd on the off chance that something interesting may have been overlooked. A good count of twenty five Redshank and singles of Lapwing and Little Egret were my rewards, along with the resident Black Headed Gulls.

25067 - Black Headed Gull, Penclawdd

25068 - Black Headed Gull, Penclawdd

Moving on I chose to park at Landimore and walked across the fields to Weobley Castle instead of taking the direct route out to the marsh. This proved an inspired move with Red Kite, Buzzard, Blackcap, Mistle Thrush and Goldfinch all making it onto my list. From the castle I set out along the arrow straight causeway that stretches from Terra firma to the main channel of the Burry Inlet, a route that was absolutely inundated with Wheatears. A couple of Linnet flocks with at least a hundred birds in each as well as a pair of Reed Buntings were very nice to see but they couldn't make up for the news from a returning birder that the only wader that had been seen all day was the Buff Breasted, and even that had gone missing about an hour previously. I still spent a good couple of hours searching the area but apart from a mixed flock of Dunlin and Ringed Plover, as well as a passing Peregrine Falcon, I was out of luck.

Finding myself already so far out onto the marsh and with a very low tide it seemed like an ideal opportunity to push on even further to satisfy one of my ambitions for the area. Sitting almost in the middle of the Burry Inlet is an old watchtower, a legacy of the world war two defences that once littered this coast and somewhere that I have longed to reach. Now little more than a shell it serves as a stark reminder of the very real invasion threat that hung over Britain during the war years.

25080 - Watchtower, Llanrhidian Marsh

25077 - Watchtower, Llanrhidian Marsh

The signs warning of unexploded bombs, both old and new, are not to be taken lightly. I found an old artillery shell at nearby Whitford Point a couple of years ago whilst the discovery of Mustard Gas on the same beach in 2009 made national news.

25076 - Watchtower, Llanrhidian Marsh

25084 - Watchtower, Llanrhidian Marsh

Back to the birds and it would appear that our American invasion is, for now at least, over.


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Wryneck at Newport Wetlands

Wednesday, September 21, 2011 Adam Tilt 9 Comments

There are a few species of birds that have yet to make it onto my UK life list that I really think ought be there. One of these is the Wryneck, an autumn migrant that occasionally pops up around the Welsh coast and has probably the most cryptic plumage of any of our feathered friends. Last week a particularly accommodating individual was found at the Newport Wetlands reserve and to my delight it was still around come the weekend. As a result a very wet Sunday morning found us driving along the M4 heading east, probably with far too much enthusiasm considering the conditions.

Upon arrival we headed over to the Wryneck's last known position and started the search. A couple of other birders were also present but it wasn't looking promising as the latest band of rain was driven in from the Bristol Channel. After about half an hour a friendly gentleman informed us that he had last seen the bird flying out towards the coast and hadn't had any further sightings. Not too disheartened we decided to walk around the rest of the reserve in the hope of stumbling across it. The Wryneck was soon forgotten however with a Whinchat, Stonechats, Reed Buntings and even a pair of Bearded Tits more than making the trip worthwhile. It was only as we were walking back towards our original location that our primary purpose came flooding back to me. I suddenly became aware of a flapping bird on the path just in front of me and looked down to see the Wryneck staring back at me. I had very nearly stepped on it! Needless to say it was less than impressed and shot off into the edge of some nearby reeds where I snatched a record shot.

25057 - Wryneck, Newport Wetlands

It only sat still for a minute or so before flying further back into the reeds where it was lost from sight. By now we had attracted the attention of the other birders and were all busy watching the area of reeds that the Wryneck had disappeared into, hopeful that it would show itself again. You can therefore probably imagine our surprise when a lady beckoned us further down the path to one of the screens that serves as a bird hide. Sat on the end post was none other than our Wryneck. Somehow it had given us the slip and had probably been laughing at us looking in the wrong direction.

25061 - Wryneck, Newport Wetlands

25062 - Wryneck, Newport Wetlands

The views were beyond spectacular and have to rank as some of the best I've ever had whilst getting a new life tick. Even when it was disturbed the Wryneck didn't move far and seemed intent to feed along the edges of one of the main footpaths. This presented a stream of photographic opportunities that even the damp and dull weather couldn't spoil.

25063 - Wryneck, Newport Wetlands

25064 - Wryneck, Newport Wetlands

In the end we had to leave the Wryneck to its feeding before I ended up with more photos than I cared to process. A great encounter to round off a great weekend.


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Owl Telescopes and Ynys-hir

Tuesday, September 20, 2011 Adam Tilt 4 Comments

We took a trip north on Saturday to the wonderful RSPB reserve at Ynys-hir. It's new found fame after featuring on the BBC's Springwatch series was much in evidence with a tripling of staff in the shop (to three) and the highest visitor numbers that I have ever seen. I may have complained at the lack of space in the hides but in reality it's a great indictment on the British public that a wet and windy day had managed to draw so many out into the great outdoors.

P1090740 - RSPB Ynys-hir

As if to reward the efforts of those hardy souls the birds put on a great show. The feeders at the entrance were engulfed with Chaffinches whilst Greenfinch, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit and a pair of Nuthatches added to the spectacle. A visit from a male Great Spotted Woodpecker was the highlight for me although a Squirrel trying to outwit the Squirrel proof feeders and failing spectacularly ran it a close second.

Walking down to the Marian Mawr Hide we kept our eyes peeled and scanned through the treetops, but as with every visit over the last five years we failed to spot one of the elusive Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers. I know that they are there as sightings are reported every so often but we have yet to find ourselves in the right place at the right time. We did however see a small group of Goldcrests as well as a passing Song Thrush. From the hide itself two Red Breasted Mergansers were swimming along the Dyfi on the incoming tide and seemed oblivious to the arrival of a juvenile Peregrine Falcon. The Peregrine didn't seem to have hunting on its mind though and spent at least an hour just sat out on the grass. A recently arrived flock of over two hundred Barnacle Geese could be seen at distance out on the edge of the estuary and were another sure sign that autumn is definitely with us. I had also expected to find a collection of waders but apart from a few Curlew and Oystercatcher we were pretty much out of luck.

On our way over to the heronry we were surprised to find a young Newt in one of the shallow puddles that dominates the muddy path, and had to step a lot more carefully from then on as a result. The hide there was occupied by three couples who were relative newcomers to the hobby which made it all the more satisfying that I was able to get them onto a female Hen Harrier quartering the reeds on the opposite side of the river. This was my first individual of the autumn and it put on a prolonged display as it regularly dropped to the ground before reappearing to continue its hunt. Similarly enjoyable was the pair of Little Grebes who popped up in front of the hide just as the sun broke through the clouds. A Wheatear and a Treecreeper were also in the vicinity.

A stunning male Redstart was at the farm and showing well from its perch on a nearby fence, whilst a Cormorant swimming in one of the field drainage ditches was certainly unusual. Other woodland birds seen included Long Tailed Tit, more Treecreepers, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler. Out on the estuary seven Black Tailed Godwits and the usual Gull species were as far as things went.

By now it was late afternoon so we headed into Aberystwyth for a walk along the promenade. A couple of Mediterranean Gulls were roosting on Castle Rocks and a Rock Pipit was in the harbour along with several more Cormorants. An amusing photo opportunity arose (a scarce event for the day as you have probably gathered) when I came across a Herring Gull sat atop one of the ubiquitous "Owl Telescopes" that are a feature of so many UK seafronts. Clearly Gulls aren't the best when it comes to reading signs. 

P1090744 - Herring Gull, Aberystwyth

Conditions throughout the day had led to a number of rainbows, none of which were better than the one that appeared over the town during our walk along the outer breakwater

P1090743 - Rainbow over Aberystwyth

Definitely a nice way to round off the day I'm sure you'll agree.


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Mumbles Turnstones

Friday, September 16, 2011 Adam Tilt 4 Comments

Having spent some time with the Mediterranean Gulls at Bracelet Bay it would have been rude not to make the short walk down to Mumbles Head and its ever accommodating Turnstones. The flock there is by far and away the tamest that I have ever found which makes it a perfect place for a spot of photography. On this occasion though I was amazed to find their numbers swelled to well over a couple of hundred. Wherever you looked, from beneath the pier (which still held a few Kittiwakes from this years breeding season) right out to the head itself, groups of Turnstones were busy feeding ahead of the incoming tide. Whilst this made for a great spectacle it did make a silent approach difficult as with so many eyes even the stealthiest of movements did not go undetected. In the end I resorted to crawling behind taller rocks and sticking the camera over the top so as to avoid any disturbance, and managed to come away with a couple of keepers.

25043 - Turnstone, Mumbles

25044 - Turnstone, Mumbles

With constantly shifting clouds and brief but sharp showers lighting conditions were far from perfect. The gloomy weather did however provide an excellent backdrop against which a sunlit Mumbles lighthouse stood out brilliantly.

25045 - Mumbles Lighthouse

Bringing things into the present we spent an hour or so this evening walking around the Machynys Peninsular, an area of coastline south of Llanelli that was once home to the steel industry. Now reclaimed it offers a fantastic way to take in the Burry Inlet. Being close to Copperhouse I was hopeful that we would again find the Grey Phalarope from earlier in the week, and indeed we did see what I presume was the same bird flying along the coast before it was lost to sight towards the WWT reserve. On the beach several Wheatears were hopping around, no doubt waiting for the wind to subside before starting their migration. Out on the mud a sizeable flock of Dunlin was feeding whilst the odd Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail and Magpie made the most of the grassy areas. A large pond on the nearby golf course briefly caused raised heartbeats as we mistook a juvenile Coot for a Slavonian Grebe. In our defence it was distant and the light was failing. Easier to identify were four Pochard, six Tufted Duck and at least eight Gadwall, whilst a brief outburst belayed the presence of at least one Cetti's Warbler in bushes along the waters edge. Little Egret, Grey Heron and hundreds of Redshank made for a very satisfying evening.

I should also mention that on the way out we spotted a Harris Hawk in a tree near home. Harris Hawks are definitely not a native species to the UK but they are a very popular bird amongst falconers. As a result I imagine that this was another escapee although I could see no sign of tethers on its legs. After the Peregrine a few weeks ago it seems I have become a magnet for missing birds. If you've lost a bird of prey, if no one else can help, and if you can find me, maybe you can hire.....the A(dam) team!


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Mediterranean Gulls at Bracelet Bay

Thursday, September 15, 2011 Adam Tilt 7 Comments

A look around Bracelet Bay on Sunday turned up at least twenty Mediterranean Gulls split between their usual piece of roadside grass and the beach below. As always I studied each one to see if any were ringed and found three that were. The first was a juvenile bird (Green 3T9) which was ringed as a chick this year at Barb√Ętre in Western France.

25038 - Mediterranean Gull (3T9), Bracelet Bay

Next up was White 3K80, hatched in Belgium in 2006. The second photo of this bird gives an excellent comparison with the similar but far more numerous Black Headed Gull. Key identifying features are a thicker blood red beak on the Mediterranean as well as white tail feathers.

25034 - Mediterranean Gull (3K80), Bracelet Bay

25033 - Mediterranean Gull (3K80), Bracelet Bay

The final ringed bird was Red YHE8, a Serbian breeder.

25036 - Mediterranean Gull (YHE8), Bracelet Bay

The three birds above were also present on the 4th September when Barry Stewart recorded them. I have borrowed their family histories from his blog but will be sending my sightings off as well to help build the migratory knowledge of this species. I also took photographs of a couple of unringed birds which probably hail from similar localities as those above.

25035 - Mediterranean Gull, Bracelet Bay

25039 - Mediterranean Gull, Bracelet Bay


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Cave Spider and Hornet on Gower

Wednesday, September 14, 2011 Adam Tilt 5 Comments

I warn you now that if you are at all adverse to anything with many legs or a vicious sting then this post is definitely not for you. The creatures of which I speak were all discovered last Saturday, another typically wet day that led us to Parc le Breos and the impressive Cat Hole Cave. It's a location that I have visited on a number of occasions but never fully explored, so armed with a torch we headed into the caves deepest recesses to see what was what. To my surprise the cavern was much larger than I had anticipated and replete with many Stalactites and Stalagmites that were glistening in the moist air. You may imagine that geology was all we would find in somewhere starved of all natural light, but a passing Bat was a mere hint of what might have been hiding in the numerous nooks and crannies. On a smaller scale, but equally unnerving to see illuminated in a torch beam, were the Cave Spiders that hung from almost every surface. Despite initial impressions they are surprisingly beautiful up close, especially with their bodies covered in tiny water droplets as a result of the almost one hundred per cent humidity within the cave.

25022 - Cave Spider, Gower

Reading up on Cave Spiders I wasn't surprised to find out that they are strongly repelled by light, but I didn't realise that their offspring are actively attracted to it as a way of forcing them to seek out new areas to colonise. I can definitely vouch for them being the UK's largest spider though, and I must admit I wasn't too disappointed when we were back out in the open.

25032 - Parc Le Breos, Gower

While we had been ensconced in the very fabric of Gower the clouds had cleared and the sun was finally shining. We decided that this would be the ideal opportunity to try out a new walk so mapped a route right around Parc le Breos and out to Broad Pool beneath Cefn Bryn. Apart from some rather damp conditions underfoot it was a great success with sightings of hundreds of Swallows, the odd House Martin (despite me saying I thought they had all gone), Linnets and a fantastic area of woodland that held Marsh Tit, Nuthatch, Siskin, Long Tailed Tit, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler all in the same mixed flock. The most unusual find though was a hollow tree that I originally thought had a wasp nest built inside it.

25027 - Hornet Nest, Gower

After a couple of minutes observing it soon became clear that the inhabitants of this particular nest were in fact Hornets, the UK's largest wasp and a nice partner to the UK's largest spider above.

25030 - Hornet Nest, Gower

25031 - Hornet Nest, Gower

There was a constant stream of arriving and departing individuals during our stay but thankfully they completely ignored our presence. Hornets are definitely a new species for me in this country, and I think the nest may be a significant find for Gower itself. The local wildlife blog mentions that the first ever Hornet sighting on the peninsular only occurred back in May this year, so a nest shows just how quickly they are colonising the area.


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Grey Phalarope at Copperhouse, Llanelli

Tuesday, September 13, 2011 Adam Tilt 11 Comments

The remnants of Hurricane Katia have been battering the Welsh coast over the last couple of days resulting in a relatively high number of Grey Phalarope making landfall. At least two individuals have been present at Kenfig today along with another at Ogmore and a possible sighting in Cardiff Bay. Llanelli's addition to the roster was found on Sunday by Wendell Thomas whose rapid dissemination of information allowed us to get distant views that afternoon in conditions which made holding binoculars steady almost impossible.

Phalaropes are such great little characters that we thought we would try our luck again this evening and headed back to Copperhouse on the Llanelli coastline. With strong winds whipping up the sea the most likely place for the bird to be feeding was once again along the river channel, protected as it is from the worst of the weather. To my joy we were spot on and soon had the Phalarope relocated, and boy did it deliver.

P1090731 - Grey Phalarope at Copperhouse, Llanelli

For the next quarter of an hour we enjoyed views down to a couple of feet as the bird swam and fed with a sense of urgency that only a Phalarope can muster. As the sun had just set behind the nearby dunes any decent photography was impossible, so out came the video mode which I think captures the behaviour of these birds far better than a still shot ever can. Once again I am simply staggered by this species lack of fear when it comes to humans. (I recommend watching the video below in HD).

What little was left of the beach proved equally rewarding, packed as it was with waders trying to find a safe roost for the night. Exact numbers were difficult to ascertain but I estimate there were at least 150 Redshank, 2 Greenshank, 4 Dunlin, 170 Ringed Plover, 80 Turnstone and 2 Knot, not to mention hordes of Black Headed Gulls intermingled with the odd Lesser and Great Black Backed Gull. A single Wheatear looked to be contemplating the start of its migration, but a drenching from a breaking wave must surely have dampened its enthusiasm.

I'll leave you with a couple of shots taken slightly earlier in the day of the sea conditions out in the Burry Inlet. This is probably the roughest I have ever seen the water this far up the channel and it was certainly spectacular to watch.

P1090722 - Llanelli Waves

P1090725 - Llanelli Waves


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Wet Times on Gower

Thursday, September 08, 2011 Adam Tilt 5 Comments

Wet Penclawdd

If your weather has been anything like ours this past week then I think you'll be able to relate to the photo above. We have had four days of heavy rain and wind broken only by light rain and stronger wind. The Mint in the garden that had been standing tall all summer has been battered to the ground and the untraceable leak around my bedroom window has returned after six months of absence. Yes my friends autumn is definitely upon us.

What we lose in blue skies however we gain in birds so I have been out doing a bit of birdwatching from that most useful of mobile hides, my car. Yesterday evening I spent a couple of hours at Penclawdd (the boats of which can be seen through the rain above) hoping for something unusual to turn up in the gull roost. There were plenty of Black Headed Gulls spanning a wide range of ages as well as good numbers of Lesser Black Blacked Gulls, but a couple of Common Gulls were as rare as things got. A small flock of nine Lapwing were another sign of the changing seasons, the first I have seen on the Burry since early in 2011. The usual Redshanks were making their presence heard whilst a pair of Greenshanks were a very nice surprise indeed. As I watched them they walked closer and closer until they were feeding right in front of my open window. Their rapid forward movements with beak under water contrasted nicely with the more sedate methods of a nearby Little Egret whose feet were busy shuffling through the mud in the hope of disturbing a few tasty morsels. 

Today I was a couple of miles further along the coast at Llanrhidian Marsh where I picked up my first passing Osprey of the season. Ospreys are a fairly regular visitor to our area at this time of the year as they pause to rest on their long journeys south. A series of wooden posts serve as excellent perches, upon one of which my bird was sat. Other birds preparing to start long migrations of their own are the Swallows, several of which were hunting low over the damp grasslands. As far as I can tell they are the last of the hirundines left here now and it will be a sad day when they finally leave for the year. One thing I miss about winter is their incessant chatter overhead so I will definitely be savouring their presence for as long as I can.


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Work Peregrine Falcons

Tuesday, September 06, 2011 Adam Tilt 6 Comments

Over the last couple of years I have been very fortunate to share an office with a pair of Peregrine Falcons. Most people at their place of work have nothing more interesting to stare at than their PC monitor but our concrete tower block offers panoramic views of Peregrines both at play and on the hunt. We have witnessed courtship rituals including food passes between the two adults in mid air as well as chases involving the resident flock of Feral Pigeons. As the birds fly up to perch on the window ledges they are often only a few inches away giving us unprecedented views of these killers in action, not to mention a great opportunity to see what sort of prey they are catching. The best of these kills by far has to be the Grass Snake which was carried in a couple of months ago, with possibly the most gruesome being a Mallard whose severed head graced the campus for almost a year before finally being cleared away. The remains of Woodcock have also been discovered along with the usual array of small birds that you would expect from our location on the divide between city and countryside.

You'll have noticed that I referred to adults above, and with good reason. The mainstay of our population has been a pair of fully grown birds who each year have produced a pair of offspring. I originally presumed that the Peregrines were actually breeding on our building but as of yet there has been no proof found to support this theory. I now believe that the nest is elsewhere and that their presence here is purely for its excellent location as a hunting base.

The past two or three months have been absolutely brilliant with all four birds visible at times. This years youngsters have been particularly playful, often partaking in practice hunts or just simply messing around. They have also been incredibly vocal to the extent that we have been able to hear them clearly through double glazed and sealed windows. As I left the office today they were circling the building and I managed to record a short clip of their calls on my phone. (The volume may be a bit low so it's worth turning your speakers up).

Hopefully the family group will stay together for a good while to come but it is inevitable that the youngsters will eventually move on. They have been such great entertainment that I will be very sad to see them go. Until then I will continue to enjoy their antics and of course curse the ban on cameras that prevents me from getting what would be some fantastic photos.


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Upper Loughor Knot

Monday, September 05, 2011 Adam Tilt 4 Comments

I spent a couple of hours walking along the Upper Loughor estuary late yesterday afternoon. It's a location that I should really have visited a lot more frequently than I have done, but as ever time is always a factor. The first birds we saw were a couple of Reed Buntings flitting through, as their name might suggest, the reeds. With strong wind and an increasing drizzle they were keeping themselves well hidden so we moved on. A trio of Common Sandpipers erupted from the river bank before a scan of one of the many shallow pools that cover this low lying area revealed a cracking Knot, amazingly my first one of the year. That is not a comment on the relative abundance of this species in the local area but instead the effect of my spending far too little time around mudflats since Christmas. Amazingly the Knot was incredibly approachable allowing me to get a couple of photos in the increasing gloom.

25012 - Knot, Loughor Estuary

I popped down to the Loughor again this evening in the hope of reconnecting with the Knot, but alas it was not to be. Instead my efforts in often torrential rain resulted in four Green Sandpipers, a new tick for me at this site. There were also plenty of Pied Wagtails present with mixed family groups feeding around the deepening puddles. With failing light there wasn't much chance of spotting much else but a flock of twelve Mistle Thrush in a nearby field finished the day off nicely.


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Friendly Kestrel and Escaped Peregrine Falcon

Sunday, September 04, 2011 Adam Tilt 19 Comments

My best wildlife encounter by far last weekend involved a very friendly Kestrel. And when I say very I do mean very. We were having a spot of lunch sat on the rocks just around from Oxwich Point when Emma indicated that I should turn around pretty sharpish. I duly did and found that a Kestrel had landed on the adjacent rock outcrop, a position from which it was now studying us closely. It obviously liked what it saw as it allowed me to approach to within a couple of meters, something that is almost unheard of with any bird species let alone Kestrels.

Only on two occasions did it take to the wing while we were present. The first was to snatch a passing butterfly straight out of the air, and the second was to catch a Lizard that had been sunning itself on a nearby rock. The Lizard in particular was very impressive partly because I hadn't even realised that it was there and secondly because I caught the whole thing on camera. Those of you who don't wish to see a reptile being torn in two may want to look away now.

24985 - Kestrel, Oxwich Point

24984 - Kestrel, Oxwich Point

24983 - Kestrel, Oxwich Point

Simply amazing and definitely up there with my all time best nature moments. Eventually though all good things must come to an end and in this case we were the ones to end the spectacle as we needed to get a move on. One of our party was keen to get some fishing in so we moved about a mile further along the coast and set up at a likely looking spot. Barely ten minutes later and who should pop up again but the Kestrel! This time it had landed just next to our bags and if anything was even closer than previously. I'd like to think that it had followed us out of curiosity but we will never know for certain. Whatever the reason I consider myself incredibly fortunate.

24964 - Kestrel, Oxwich Point

Along with the usual Curlews, Oystercatchers, Cormorants and Grey Herons, Oxwich Point had one last surprise to throw at us. Whilst watching the wreck of the Solar emerge from its watery grave on a lowering tide the following immature Peregrine Falcon landed up on a nearby cliff.

24956 - Peregrine Falcon, Oxwich Point

Though not as tame as our fantastic Kestrel it was still way more accommodating than I have ever known another Peregrine to be. The reason for this soon became clear as with every step the bird took an accompanying bell would ring. A clear view of its feet explained everything. Unless evolution has taken an extremely strange twist then this is an escaped falconry bird, most likely from the nearby Perriswood Falconry Centre. So not truly wild but great to see nonetheless.


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Swansea Seals

Friday, September 02, 2011 Adam Tilt 7 Comments

24895 - Swansea Barrage

Swansea barrage (shown above) was built in 1992 with the aim of creating a new marina to extend the leisure facilities already offered by the old industrial docks. One of the main environmental considerations during the project was to ensure that fish could still move freely both up and down the river even at times of low tide. The solution was to construct an impressive fish ladder to the left of the main weir, but it isn't just fish that are making use of it. A couple of the local Seals have caught on to the fact that the ladder concentrates fish into a very small area, and have basically been pigging out ever since. Last weekend two of these intelligent mammals were hunting there at low tide, often diving right into the lowest "step" itself. Although I didn't see them catch anything while I was present a passing walker did mention that she had seen one devour a huge Salmon the previous day. How many other cities can boast this sort of spectacle right in their centre?

24890 - Seal, Swansea Barrage

24893 - Seal, Swansea Barrage

Overall the weekend was a great success for Seals in general with us spotting individuals off Oxwich Point, Fall Bay, Bracelet Bay and at least twelve lounging around on the rocks and in the sea off Worms Head. For once the lighting was actually favourable and I was able to get my best ever Seal photos. These are some of my favourites.

24902 - Seal at Worms Head, Gower

24903 - Seals at Worms Head, Gower

24905 - Seal at Worms Head, Gower

24909 - Seals at Worms Head, Gower


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