Winter Thrushes

Wednesday, October 31, 2012 Adam Tilt 6 Comments

One of the problems at this time of year is that I don't get out of work until after dark. The upside is I can clean the house less often as energy saving light bulbs are simply too dull to show the dust, but it also means that evening walks around our local patch are on hold for the next few months. That's annoying as not only did I immensely enjoy those rambles, they also had a habit of turning up interesting subjects for this blog.

Of course with ever shortening hours of daylight decent weather becomes even more important, especially at weekends. Thankfully that was something the last one managed to deliver in spades. It made sense to use the opportunity to have a good forage on patch to see what was about, so Friday evening found me on a chilly Bryn-bach-Common with a stunning sunset over Gower for company. It was immediately apparent that the drop in temperature during last week had brought with it a large influx of winter thrushes, groups of which were on the move wherever I looked. For some inexplicable reason I'd left my binoculars in the house however so had to rely on my eyes and ears alone, something which I was pleasantly surprised to find myself rather adept at. Clearly I've managed to learn at least something over these last couple of years. The most recognisable call was that of the Mistle Thrush with at least three individuals feeding in fields to the north of the common. If I remember correctly this is the first time I've seen them in that particular area as they are usually to be found across the valley on the lower slopes of Cefn Drum. An occasional short and sharp 'sip' belied the presence of a Song Thrush nearby followed by brief flight views, whilst Blackbirds and a couple of startled Wood Pigeons were feeding on a rapidly diminishing berry crop. What I was really after though were Redwings and I did manage to spot a couple of likely looking birds, but in the failing light they were too distant to see clearly and remained resolutely silent. There was no such problem in picking out the also recently returned Starlings, hundreds of which were streaming south. If the coming months are going to be as cold as the forecasters think then I look forward to seeing them in our garden again soon.

11896 - Redwing from 2010
 Redwing from 2010

We spent Saturday morning on Mumbles Hill where we drew a blank searching for Ring Ouzels though it was nice to see several Red Admirals still on the wing. Stonechats, Kestrels and a pair of Ravens kept popping up along with brief glimpses of a Mistle Thrush, but somehow we managed to miss the migrants that others had seen earlier in the day. We had greater success locating geocaches before it was back home just in time to spot an incredibly pale Buzzard a few meters above our garden. That evening I was back out on patch with binoculars in tow and Redwings on the mind. It didn't take long to track down the birds I'd seen yesterday and I soon found two of my quarry feeding amongst Gorse. Great news and a new patch tick (though that's mostly to do with me not having visited the site at this time of year previously). A couple of Mistle Thrushes were still present along with a single Song Thrush, plus several Chaffinches moving across the common and down into the valley. One of them caught my eye and I just about had good enough views to confirm it as a Brambling. Needless to say I was pretty chuffed as it's only something like the fifth time I've ever seen one.

After such a great couple of days it should be no surprise that I was on patch again come Sunday, choosing this time to explore the valley itself (this may or may not have had something to do with a bitingly cold wind blowing across the exposed higher ground). A pair of Red Kites soaring overhead seemed to have no problem coping with the blustery conditions while all around the familiar sound of umpteen Long Tailed Tits filled the air. Less usual were two Lapwing battling south to become yet another new patch tick (incidentally I've now added a link to my patch list in the sidebar). Thrushes were thin on the ground until I got to the old colliery where a couple of Blackbirds and Song Thrushes could be seen feeding up the slope, but no matter how hard I tried I couldn't turn one into a Ring Ouzel. In the nearby trees a large flock of Goldfinches added a splash of colour to what was a rapidly darkening scene, which along with great views of a Green Woodpecker marked the end of my weekend birding. It all served to remind me just how much I enjoy this time of year. All we need now is some snow!


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Mediterranean Gull Red YHE8

Thursday, October 25, 2012 Adam Tilt 8 Comments

Back in September I photographed several Mediterranean Gulls at Bracelet Bay, one of which was ringed. Regular readers will know that this is a fairly common occurrence there and I have previously sent off details of my sightings to discover the life history of each bird. I did the same with Red YHE8 this time around, only to find out that I saw the same individual in the same place just under a year ago. Since then it has spent the breeding season in Hungary and is now back with us for the fourth year running. Fascinating information and a perfect example of why you should report ringed birds if you're lucky enough to see them.

25036 - Mediterranean Gull (YHE8), Bracelet Bay
September 2011

28808 - Mediterranean Gull, Bracelet Bay
September 2012
09.05.2009.    Palić lake,Subotica,Vojvodina(RS78),Serbia                     46º04'29"N ; 019º43'09"E    A.Žuljević & N.Spremo       
13.10.2009.    Bracelet Bay, Swansea ,(GBW?), Wales , UK                      51.34N 003.59W                 B. Stewart
19.10.2009.    Bracelet Bay, Swansea ,(GBW?), Wales , UK                      51.34N 003.59W                 B. Stewart
16.07.2010.    Bracelet Bay, Swansea ,(GBW?), Wales , UK                      51.34N 003.59W                 B. Stewart
02.07.2011.    Csaj-to,Tömörkény,Csongrád(HG43),Hungary                    46°34'29"N ; 020°04'41"E    A. Mórocz
16.07.2011.    Bracelet Bay, Swansea ,(GBW?), Wales , UK                      51.34N 003.59W                 A. John
23.07.2011.    Bracelet Bay, Swansea ,(GBW?), Wales , UK                      51.34N 003.59W                 A. John
24.07.2011.    Bracelet Bay, Swansea ,(GBW?), Wales , UK                      51.34N 003.59W                 B. Stewart
25.09.2011.    Bracelet Bay, Swansea ,(GBW?), Wales , UK                      51.34N 003.59W                 A. John
25.10.2011.    Bracelet Bay, Mumbles, Swansea ,(GBW?), Wales , UK     51.34N 004.00W                 A. John
16.03.2012.    Csaj-to,Tömörkény,Csongrád(HG43),Hungary                    46°34'29"N ; 020°04'41"E    G. Hajas
21.08.2012.    Bracelet Bay, Swansea ,(GBW?), Wales , UK                      51.34N 003.59W                 A. John
22.08.2012.    Bracelet Bay, Swansea ,(GBW?), Wales , UK                      51.34N 003.59W                 D. & M. Sawyer   
25.09.2012.    Bracelet Bay, Swansea ,(GBW?), Wales , UK                      51.34N 003.59W                 A. John
29.09.2012.    Bracelet Bay, Swansea ,(GBW?), Wales , UK                      51.34N 003.59W                 A. Tilt


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Midlands Fungi Forage

Tuesday, October 23, 2012 Adam Tilt 8 Comments

I was back in the Midlands visiting family this weekend which of course meant that the painful experience of watching Saturday night reality TV had to be endured. I could bore you with details of who danced the best Rumba or which wannabe singer actually managed to hit a note, but to be honest I couldn't care less. Instead I shall concentrate on the morning where we spent a couple of hours wandering around Ipsley Alders Marsh. It is one of the last remnants of a landscape that used to dominate the area Redditch now occupies, and despite being hemmed in on all sides by residential expansion still manages to feel isolated and ancient.

Our arrival was greeted by the calls of a large Long Tailed Tit flock so we paused to await their appearance. Listening to them approach was like waiting for a jet to pass overhead. Volume and intensity steadily increased with nothing visible through the still thick vegetation, until all of a sudden they were upon us. What had been a tranquil scene was suddenly a chaotic mass of swirling wings as the tiny birds moved rapidly from tree to tree, passing through within a matter of moments. Amongst them we glimpsed an occasional Goldcrest, Blue Tit and Great Tit whilst Robins and Wrens struggled to make themselves heard above the din. Out in the open and once again enjoying the peace we were pleased to see a Buzzard and a pair of Sparrowhawks above the trees. Their presence here no doubt explains my sightings of the latter species in and around a couple of local gardens. Other birds seen included a Goldfinch and Song Thrush, but still no sign of my first autumn Redwing. With a visit to Norfolk on the cards soon however it can only be a matter of time.

There was even more interest to be found on the ground where a fascinating array of Fungi were thriving in the damp conditions. Regular readers will know that this is an area where I have been trying to increase my knowledge recently so I set about photographing as many as I could. I've spent the best part of this evening trying to identify each in turn and these are the results.

28949 - Artist's Fungus (Ganoderma applanatum)
Artist's Fungus (Ganoderma applanatum)

28955 - Common Funnel (Clitocybe gibba)
Common Funnel (Clitocybe gibba)

28957 - Common Bonnet (Mycena galericulata)
Common Bonnet (Mycena galericulata)

28959 - Cinnamon Webcap (Cortinarius cinnamomeus)
Cinnamon Webcap (Cortinarius cinnamomeus)

28964 - Turkeytail

28967 - Scaly Earthball
Scaly Earthball

28969 - Yellow Knight (Tricholoma equestre)
Yellow Knight (Tricholoma equestre)

28972 - Candlesnuff Fungus
Candlesnuff Fungus

As always the above names are correct to the best of my abilities, but please let me know if I've got anything wrong.


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Slade Butterflies

Sunday, October 21, 2012 Adam Tilt 4 Comments

Our walk along the Gower coastline last weekend had the added bonus of, as I've said, some sun. With it came what was probably only the second decent butterfly display of the year, all concentrated in the small valley beneath Slade. The chilly breeze was completely absent from its damp confines and three Commas were making the most of conditions.

28911 - Comma, Slade

28907 - Comma, Slade

28913 - Comma, Slade

A pair of Red Admirals were feeding in the same bush but a lot higher up, though a little bit of patience soon found one in range.

28915 - Red Admiral, Slade

The third species spotted was a pristine Small Tortoiseshell but alas it was out of reach. This Large White on the other hand couldn't have been more obliging.

28921 - Large White, Slade

Let's hope that next year is a lot drier and gives our butterfly population a chance to recover.


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Burry Port High Tide

Friday, October 19, 2012 Adam Tilt 2 Comments

Strong winds and the highest tides of the year have combined this week to give our coast a battering. A quick scan of the local paper shows that some significant damage has been inflicted upon the defences at Blackpill and Langland, whilst huge volumes of sand have been shifted around to increase the height of Cefn Sidan's beach by up to six foot in places. I've always loved an angry sea and popped down to Burry Port on Wednesday evening to witness events for myself. Despite arriving at least half an hour before high water the harbour was already full to bursting and the Coastguard had closed off access to the main breakwater. Their reason for this soon became clear with waves breaking over and along its entire length. On the opposite side of the harbour we joined a group of like minded individuals and watched as the sea steadily rose until waves were regularly spilling into the car park. Each rush of water would be accompanied by the rumble of rocks being ripped from the protective mound in front of us, several of which were carried up onto the footpath and beyond. All very impressive considering this is the Burry Inlet and not the open ocean.

28941 - Burry Port High Tide

28945 - Burry Port High Tide

28942 - Burry Port High Tide

28943 - Burry Port High Tide

The Coastguard soon joined us to keep an eye on proceedings, their flashing blue lights only adding to the party atmosphere. Indeed if it wasn't for various people illuminating the water with their car headlights we wouldn't have been able to see much at all as it's almost pitch black there at night. Surprisingly the sea was at its highest for only a few minutes before dropping back down to a less invasive level. Even so there is a lot of clearing up to do over the coming days but recent improvements to the defences seem to have done a good job. We can probably consider ourselves lucky however as the wind was not as strong as first forecast and didn't coincide with the very highest tide. It would have been interesting to see the results if they had.


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Port Eynon to Oxwich Point

Tuesday, October 16, 2012 Adam Tilt 9 Comments

The coming of October heralds the return of free parking at Port Eynon, which may or may not have explained my sudden urge to visit there on the first of the month. That particular soiree ended in a very wet dash back to the car following a downpour that felt more like standing under a waterfall than in an autumn shower. I was steaming, literally and metaphorically, once I'd reached home at the loss of what had looked like a promising birding day. White Wagtails and a couple of Wheatears had been just a taster before rain, as they say, had definitely stopped play.

28898 - Port Eynon Beach

Fast forward to Saturday and it was round two between me and Port Eynon. Thankfully this time I had the weather on my side and set off along the beach towards Oxwich. Six Ringed Plovers and a calling Dunlin were doing their best to find a quiet stretch of sand near the lifeguard hut, whilst a Shore Crab was definitely regretting its discovery by one of the marauding Herring Gulls. All kept their distance until we spotted this Wheatear on the rocks.

28899 - Wheatear, Horton

As with other migrants at this time of year I'm constantly aware that each one I see could very well be my last until next spring. This applies even more so to our aerial visitors which made the presence of several small flocks of Swallows and a single movement of 26 House Martins that much more gratifying. It was a particularly nice surprise to see the latter as I don't think I'd seen any up to that point for at least a month. At ground level the sound of Robins defending their territory served as an ever present audio backdrop, but the hoped for first Redwing of the autumn failed to materialise. There were certain compensations though including this male Stonechat at Horton. For a species that I used to struggle to photograph it seems I can do no wrong at present.

28935 - Stonechat, Horton

The days star birds were to be found midway towards Oxwich Point and came in the shape of a pair of Kestrels. They were both hunting along the footpath and afforded us superb views both in flight and as they perched in an adjoining field. Better was to come though when one of the birds made a successful kill and started to devour its prey on a nearby fence post. With that position clearly not to its liking it instead took to the air and continued its meal on the wing. I've seen this behaviour before but never at such close quarters and it was spectacular to say the least.

28922 - Kestrel near Port Eynon

28924 - Kestrel near Port Eynon

28926 - Kestrel near Port Eynon

28927 - Kestrel near Port Eynon

By the time we finally reached the Point we'd added a couple of Curlew, a Grey Heron and six Oystercatchers to our list, along with a surprisingly large number of Wood Pigeons. Whether or not it was the same flock we kept seeing I can't be sure, but there were certainly more than I have ever seen there before.

A surprise was waiting in store for us at the top of the cliffs where a tumbledown wall and a chance stop found us face to face with a Weasel! It darted back between the stones before popping its head above the parapets again moments later. This went on for a good few minutes before it finally ran into a hole not to return, no doubt encouraged into hiding by the calls of a Buzzard drifting ever nearer. I last saw a Weasel on Gower well over two years ago and on that occasion didn't have my camera to hand. Thankfully this time I was a lot better prepared.

28930 - Weasel, Oxwich Point

28932 - Weasel, Oxwich Point

Our return route took us inland towards Oxwich castle where a Chiffchaff and probable (although very late) Garden Warbler were skulking through the trees. A Mistle Thrush could be heard calling from the other side of a hedgerow but remained out of sight. From that point on it was more of the same with a fly over Great Spotted Woodpecker rounding the day off nicely.


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Mewslade - Stonechats, Lesser Whitethroats and more

Friday, October 12, 2012 Adam Tilt 8 Comments

After our success in Pembrokeshire we kept things local on Sunday and headed down to Mewslade on Gower. A Yellow-browed Warbler had been reported there the day before so we spent a good while scanning through the trees in the hope that it was still around. Unfortunately the fine weather looked to have hastened its journey and we were left with just a couple of Goldcrests for our efforts. Heading into more open terrain we couldn't help noticing the number of Robins that seemed to be calling from almost every bush. Blue Tits and Long Tailed Tits were also quite vocal whilst a very bright Chiffchaff briefly got the pulses racing. Overhead a pair of Ravens made their noisy passage inland but apart from that things were pretty quiet. It seemed that our weekend of migrants had reached a premature end.

With a cool breeze blowing in off the sea we found a sheltered spot on the cliff edge and sat for a while to watch the world go by. The gorse slope splayed out before us initially looked deserted but a flash of movement alerted us to the presence of a cracking Lesser Whitethroat. A second wasn't far behind and I put my best stakeout techniques to the test. Of course that meant the Whitethroats chose to feed exactly where I wasn't, but I guess that's life. It was still great to see them though and they were a new life tick for Emma. A nearby family of Stonechats were much more obliging and I got to add a few more shots to my happily growing portfolio of these attractive birds.

28884 - Stonechat, Mewslade

28886 - Stonechat, Mewslade

Other than a couple of distant Choughs that pretty much rounded out our weekend on the bird front. However there was one more nice find in the shape of this Harvestman Spider. I've not been able to pin it down to an exact species yet but it was a real beauty to behold.

28894 - Harvestman Spider, Mewslade

28889 - Harvestman Spider, Mewslade

As the shots above show, we found it hiding in a crack amongst the exposed limestone above Mewslade Bay. It would only emerge when one or other of our hands got a little too close, behaviour which I'd rather attribute to a defence than an attack instinct. Either way a great looking thing and I'd be grateful if anyone could let me know the exact species.


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Strumble - Wryneck, Dartford Warbler and Seals

Tuesday, October 09, 2012 Adam Tilt 12 Comments

I'm fully aware that this is a day late but I'm sure no one has begrudged seeing that wonderful Wryneck sitting at the top here for an extra twenty four hours or so. The fact is that making promises concerning deadlines on the internet is definitely something I ought to avoid, but I guess that should have been obvious after the long running saga that is my on off home built moth trap (it'll be done this year I promise!). Anyway, I digress.

We arrived at Strumble Head just before eleven on Saturday and were pleasantly surprised to see that we had the place pretty much to ourselves. I'd thought that a rare blue sky day would have brought people out in their droves, but I guess Strumble just isn't as hip in other peoples eyes as it is in mine. Thankfully at least the Gannets were on my wavelength with upwards of thirty fishing in the turbulent currents. A short stroll down to the lighthouse gate delivered a couple of Wheatears over on the island as well as a single Guillemot swimming through the channel. Having not had any trips to breeding colonies this year it was good to see one up close again, but alas not quite close enough for my camera. The shaded rocks below did however house a few mammals who certainly offered no such proximity issues. I am of course speaking of Grey Seals who have evidently been quite successful this year in their breeding. There were at least three pups secreted away in various crevices amongst the rocks, one to such an extent that I doubt it could have moved even if it had wanted to before the return of high tide. It was a still downy individual right beneath us though that provided the real entertainment and presumably a headache to its anxiously watching mother. It simply would not sit still as it dove into the water, investigated seemingly everything and then climbed back out again. I swear it even contemplated a spot of cliff climbing before its lack of fingers finally became an issue.

28850 - Grey Seal, Strumble Head

28851 - Grey Seal, Strumble Head

28852 - Grey Seal, Strumble Head

Other adult Seals were also in the vicinity with at least one paying a visit to another of the pups. A frosty reception was quickly on hand for the large individual who happened to stray too close to our friend above however. A steely stare and a loud grunt seemed to get the message across and the intruder was sent packing. Further Grey Seals were seen all along the coast until we turned back at Pwll Deri, with the rocky beach at Porth Maenmelyn being a particular favourite. There we saw at least another six pups with as many adults dozing away the afternoon sunshine. If I'd thought about it at the time I would have recorded a few of their vocalisations as they really are an extraordinary sound.

28858 - Porth Maenmelyn

On the bird front a steady trickle of the common species including Stonechat, Wren and Meadow Pipit kept things ticking along, but I think we can all guess what happened next. The northern slopes of Porth Maenmelyn was the location and a family group of Stonechats the trigger. We'd understandably stopped to watch them go about their business when Emma piped up that there was a Dartford Warbler in amongst them. I obviously kept a cool exterior as my eyes darted frantically across the vegetation seeing nothing other than Stonechats. After what seemed like an age I finally spotted the immature Dartford in a Gorse bush. It was quick moving but I fired off a few distant shots from the footpath to at least get a record having never photographed the species previously.

P1030456 - Dartford Warbler, Porth Maenmelyn

At this point the inevitably large group of walkers talking at the tops of their voices emerged around the corner from a landscape that we'd had to ourselves for much of the last hour. Even standing with camera to eye offered no hint that a degree of discretion may have been in order, and of course the Dartford did one of their famous vanishing acts. Once the coast was clear I retraced my steps back the way we'd come a little and somehow managed to flush what I initially thought was a large Thrush. My general impression was of something with much more barred plumage however as I turned to Emma and said "I don't think you're going to believe this". The irony is that only a few minutes ago I'd joked that a Wryneck was definitely on the cards for the day, and here we were with one at our fingertips. But what if we couldn't find it for that conclusive id? I needn't have worried as I relocated it straight away on a nearby fence post.

P1030474 - Wryneck and Dartford Warbler, Porth Maenmelyn

As my previous entry has shown, the alarm calls of a Dartford Warbler indicated that the Wryneck was not a welcome visitor. It was with some surprise however that a male bird popped up to defend itself, taking our Dartford count to two. And no, I still can't believe our good fortune. That was not the end of our encounter with the Wryneck however as almost an hour later on the opposite side of the cove we were astounded to see it flying straight for us. It briefly alighted on the ground, decided that it had clearly made an error of judgement and headed straight back in the direction that it had come. Even a pair of Ravens dive bombing us and a quartet of Choughs couldn't better that. In fact the only thing that could was finding the Wryneck again on our return route in almost exactly the same place and this time even closer.

P1030493 - Wryneck, Porth Maenmelyn

P1030499 - Wryneck, Porth Maenmelyn

Simply outstanding and a day that will live long in my memory.


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Wryneck vs Dartford Warbler in Pembrokeshire

Saturday, October 06, 2012 Adam Tilt 7 Comments

Today we've been walking the Pembrokeshire coast path from Strumble Head towards Pwll Deri in what can only be described as full on t-shirt weather. My main blog entry covering events will be up on Monday, but I just couldn't resist sharing this little snippet right away. The reason I hear you ask?

Wryneck, near Strumble Head

I found this Wryneck in an area of Gorse just off the main path and couldn't contain my excitement as it hopped through the vegetation and from fence post to fence post. It proved to be incredibly approachable and is by far the best bird I have ever self found. Things were about to get even better though as one of two Dartford Warblers who were also in the vicinity took a distinct dislike to our migrant visitor. It got closer and closer until finally they came face to face.

Dartford Warbler and Wryneck, near Strumble Head

To see either of these species is always a treat, but to get them both together in the same photograph? That must be almost unheard of and I'm still buzzing now.


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Penclawdd Sunset

Thursday, October 04, 2012 Adam Tilt 5 Comments

With the terrible weather we've been having recently you would think that colourful sunsets were probably off the table. In fact the opposite seems to have been true as a couple of my recent posts on here can attest to. The occasional spell of evening sunshine has not only been working fantastically well in conjunction with the ever present storm clouds, but its scarcity has also encouraged me to get out there more often in the first place. As a result I've taken some of my most dramatic landscapes on Gower to date with Saturday providing another such 'golden' opportunity (I can hear your groans from here). Our chosen destination this time was Penclawdd where I was hoping the very high tide would provide some great reflections. The sea and moon definitely played ball on that front but alas the sun had clearly not read my memo. Instead of slotting down through the main channel it instead went into hiding behind the local church. It was too late to change position (Llanelli foreshore would have been ideal), but I'm still more than pleased with my results.

28837 - Penclawdd Sunset

28842 - Penclawdd Sunset

I've used the same locations several times now and am planning on trying out a few new sites in the near future. As I've mentioned previously the Bulwark on Llanmadoc Hill is definitely top of my list, but Port Eynon and even the Helvetia shipwreck are opportunities that I have yet to fully explore. Who knows, I may even attempt a sunrise sometime soon if I can just convince myself to get up early enough!


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Hermit Crab Battle Royale

Tuesday, October 02, 2012 Adam Tilt 4 Comments

I mentioned yesterday that we'd been blown away by the sheer quantity and variety of life in the rockpools out towards Mumbles Head. Our first find was this Shore Crab, easily the largest crustacean we've seen on Gower at around six centimetres in diameter.

28822 - Shore Crab, Mumbles Rockpool

In the same small pool a flash of movement beneath the water alerted me to the presence of a Rock Goby, which then rather handily paused out in the open and in a well lit spot. Normally they are off into cover at the merest hint of something approaching so this was a rare opportunity to get a good look at one.

28821 - Rock Goby, Mumbles Rockpool

The real action was provided by the Hermit Crabs however, of which there must have been hundreds across the pools we studied. The shallow water was absolutely teaming with them, large and small, but it was this individual attacking a partially opened Mussel that I decided to stay with.

28827 - Hermit Crabs, Mumbles Rockpool

At one point another larger Hermit Crab turned up on the scene and proceeded to try and claim dominance over the clearly valuable food source. They went hammer and tongs at each other for a good few minutes, and I'm still not sure who finished up victorious. All I can say is there wasn't much left of the Mussel afterwards.

28830 - Hermit Crabs, Mumbles Rockpool

Fortunately I remembered the video mode on my camera and took a few clips as the action above was unfolding. Together they portray the scene far better than a series of photographs ever could, and even feature a couple of other creatures joining in from the sidelines. Battle commences at the 1:47 mark, with a brief appearance from the Rock Goby a few seconds later.


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Crymlyn Bog and Bracelet Bay

Monday, October 01, 2012 Adam Tilt 6 Comments

We had to keep things local on Saturday due to the necessary evil that is my week on call from work. It did give us the perfect excuse to go and visit Crymlyn Bog though, a reserve we've been meaning to try out ever since seeing it on a recent TV series by Iolo Williams. Remarkably it is the largest area of lowland fen in Wales as well as a site of international importance, all despite being nestled on the outskirts of Swansea between the M4 motorway, an old oil refinery and the local rubbish dump. Its very survival should be celebrated let alone the abundance of rare plants and animals that can be found there.

28777 - Crymlyn Bog

We got a small taster of how special this place can be within minutes of leaving the car, when beneath a decent passage of Swallows a very healthy looking Fox ambled across the hill below us. It was by far the biggest and bushiest individual I have seen which must mean there is a decent food supply nearby (maybe that rubbish dump isn't a total disaster after all). Buzzards, Green Woodpeckers, Reed Buntings, Jays, a Sparrowhawk, Song Thrush and yet more Swallows were all seen in quick succession as we continued around the reserve, but it was a dragonfly that first fell under the gaze of my lens. This male Migrant Hawker was posing beautifully in the early morning sun and represents a new species for me.

28785 - Migrant Hawker, Crymlyn Bog

Back to the birds and a special mention should go to the numerous Great Spotted Woodpeckers who seemed to be flitting through every small copse of trees we passed. Apart from the individual we had in our garden a few weeks ago I've really not seen very many this year, so it was a real treat. One even posed out in the open just long enough for me to grab a shot.

28787 - Great Spotted Woodpecker, Crymlyn Bog

From Crymlyn Bog we headed over to Brunel Dock where there was lots and lots of mud. And a Redshank. But that was about it. From there it was over to Bracelet Bay in what is rapidly becoming our destination of choice when we have a few hours to kill. It was good to see that work is progressing well on the restoration of Mumbles Pier and that the works aren't having any discernible impact on the surrounding environment. In fact the rock pools out towards Mumble Head were filled with more life than I have ever seen, including a spectacular array of Hermit Crabs. I'll save those for a future post though. My real aim was to try and photograph the Turnstones that have been evading me ever since I upgraded my camera. Again they were pretty flighty due to the number of people present but I did manage to creep up on a pair that were very accommodating.

28796 - Turnstone, Mumbles

The shot above was the best of the bunch but I think I'll have to wait until later in the year to get some better results. Unusually there was also a Red Admiral butterfly on the foreshore. I guess everything likes to spend a bit of time by the sea.

28789 - Red Admiral, Mumbles

Back in Bracelet Bay itself and I was very pleased to see that there has been a sharp increase in the number of Mediterranean Gulls present. I counted at least nine individuals but it is likely that there were many more. Their favoured position, as always, was on the grass opposite the car park which is an absolute pig to photograph against. If you aren't dodging the road then they're off before you can get close. I did spot a few up by the coastguard station however which proved to be much more approachable.

28815 - Mediterranean Gull, Bracelet Bay

28811 - Mediterranean Gull, Bracelet Bay

28818 - Mediterranean Gull, Bracelet Bay

I also got a shot of one bird wearing a red ring that read YHE8. I shall send the details off to the relevant ringing body and will report back once I have its history.


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