I have been mentioning the coming of spring on this blog off and on now for the last couple of weeks, but after last Sunday I feel confident in saying that for me at least spring has definitely arrived. The first clue has been the increasingly vocal displays from our local House Sparrows who have now retaken their perches on the guttering and have been engaging in verbal warfare with the next territory over. As we left the house on Sunday morning they were at it again and so distracted that for once they didn’t pop out of sight as soon as they saw me standing below with the camera.
Our first destination of the day, and the focus of this entry, was Dryslwyn Castle a few miles away in the neighbouring county of Carmarthenshire. We visited the same location earlier in the year while looking for Whooper Swans, but this time it was Tree Sparrows that we had our eye on. Tree Sparrows are the much rarer relatives of my noisy friends above, so we were pretty amazed to find three feeding in a mixed flock of Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Great Tits and Blue Tits in the small castle car park when we arrived. Unfortunately something must have spooked them as they disappeared over the hedge a few moments later and were not seen again despite the other species returning. The birds were being attracted to seed that had been spread on the ground, a feeding position that left them somewhat exposed and probably accounted for their flighty nature. Only this Robin and couple of the Blue Tits ventured towards us.
Walking up to the castle we had a commanding view of the river valley beneath us where flocks of Canada Geese, Greylag Geese and Mute Swans were taking their fill from the surrounding fields. Much like our last visit some hundred plus Wigeon were chilling out on the river banks along with a couple of Cormorants and three Great Black Backed Gulls. Above and around us a pair of Ravens were defending their territory in the only way they know how, which much to my annoyance didn’t involve flying past suitably slowly for my camera focus to get a lock. Fortunately there was no such problem with the view which was as stunning as ever and moved at a speed much more to my liking.
Back down on the lower slopes and some freshly flowered Gorse held the real signs that spring was upon us. A brief glimpse of an unidentified butterfly was accompanied by plenty of pollen laden bees, so out came the macro as I started my reacquaintance with just how spiky a Gorse bush can be. Most of the open flowers already looked to have been plundered so the bees were actually forcing their way past the closed petals of the rest. It was a fascinating spectacle to watch up close, and it definitely looked like several legs were a distinct advantage to tackling the job at hand. The first photo below shows a Honey Bee, but the identity of the next two is a mystery.
Also to be found amongst the foliage were several Seven-spot Ladybirds. These are our most common ladybird species and usually seen from March onwards, so these were a little ahead of the game.
I had hoped to take some shots of Daffodils and Snowdrops with the castle as a backdrop, but it seems that we were a little too early for them despite the same species having flowered a couple of weeks ago back at home. It just goes to show how variable conditions can be within a few miles of each other. Instead we headed further up the valley to our second castle of the day, Carreg Cennen.