Considering the fact that I live in Wales this blog has been sorely lacking in castles over the last couple of years. Thankfully I am able to rectify this frankly obscene oversight with the inclusion of a photo of Dryslwyn Castle, built in the 1220’s by the princes of Deheubarth and captured by the English in 1287. It was ultimately burnt to the ground in the 15th century to stop it falling back into Welsh hands and has sat watch over the Towy valley ever since.
History aside (although I am a big fan of castles) we were at Dryslwyn not to relive ancient battles but to have a look at the river Towy in the hope of spotting a Whooper Swan or two. Anyone that reads the Carmarthenshire Birds sightings page will probably have noticed that together with Cilsan Bridge this is the best location locally to see these overwintering birds. Sadly we were out of luck on this occasion but made up for it with superb views of a Sparrowhawk circling the castle along with a pair of Ravens and a Red Kite. Out in the flooded fields Curlews, Wigeon, Canada Geese, Lapwings and Mute Swans (of which there were 69 at Cilsan!) could be seen feeding whilst the surrounding bushes were packed with Blackbirds as well as the occasional Redwing and Mistle Thrush. The view wasn’t bad either.
This tree also grabbed my attention, not because it contained the mega that I am sure I will discover one day but simply because I liked its shape and the dark clouds behind.
Having taken our fill we headed on up the coast to Aberystwyth, my old university town and our base for a relaxing couple of days away from it all that was to include a fantastic evening talk by Chris Packham. The weather upon arrival rather set the scene for the whole weekend with very strong onshore winds and a menacing sky. It was a shame that the high tides weren’t at their maximum as even with reduced height the waves were crashing over the promenade.
In such harsh conditions and with all the main feeding areas covered the beach was dotted with small gatherings of Turnstones and Ringed Plovers waiting it out. The best roosting site though has to go to the seven Purple Sandpipers that were tucked away on the sea wall itself where the large facing stones offered a couple of tiny ledges. If you look closely at the picture below you can just about see two of the birds (the white dots) where the walls intersect.
Photographically they couldn’t have picked a worse place to be. The lighting was already terrible out in the open and they were in the shade, the wind was so strong that it was an effort to walk in a straight line and every so often a plume of spray would come shooting over any unsuspecting person who was daft enough to be in the way i.e. me. Nevertheless I persevered and despite pushing my bridge camera to the definitely not recommended heights of ISO400 and hand holding the equivalent of a 400mm lens at 1/30 of a second, I came away with some pleasing results.
That was about it for bird photography though there are a couple of sightings that I must mention before I go. The first was a Raven that we spotted carrying an egg in its beak at Clarach Bay, which if you want a clear example of how warm our autumn has been you wont find one much better. The second involves the famous Aberystwyth Starling murmuration at which I finally saw a Peregrine Falcon make a successful catch. The Peregrine is a regular visitor but always seems to be outmanoeuvred, a tradition that looked as if it was to continue on this occasion. That was until it tried a different tact of retreating and then coming in after one of the much smaller straggler groups. The result was one dead Starling and a rather chuffed looking Peregrine. A fantastic town and fantastic birds. What more could you ask for?