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.
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!