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