My twitter feed this week has been full of people detailing their influx of spring migrants and today I was hoping to grab my little piece of the action. With only Swallow, Wheatear, Arctic Tern and an admittedly hard to beat Hoopoe on the list so far, there was certainly plenty of scope for improvement. As usual the main issue was which part of this multi-faceted region to visit until we remembered a circular route that we’d tested last year from the Ogmore Valley across to Dunraven. Back then the weather had offered nothing but drizzle and fog so today was a great improvement.
Within a few minutes of setting off I’d already spotted our first Swallow of the day as it disappeared over the Gorse lined coastal footpath. Another few meters and it was the turn of a stunning male Wheatear to grab our attention while all around the calls of Dunnocks, Skylarks and even a singing Stonechat filled the air. That last was particularly pleasing as I can’t recall the last time I’ve heard one do anything other than ‘chat’. It was another angry sounding call that belied the presence of our first Whitethroat of the year, a very smart male which posed well before dropping back down into the undergrowth. Although I knew it was futile I couldn’t resist an attempt with the camera but sadly couldn’t relocate it. Not that is until I’d put the camera away at which point it popped up relatively close by. Different year but this species still manages to give me the run-around! It was a similar story with the Linnets which I’ve decided definitely have it in for me.
It wasn’t until we got to the old walled garden at Dunraven (above) that our next fix of migrants was delivered. The trees there were absolutely packed with Chiffchaffs and at least one, though undoubtedly more, Willow Warbler. From our picnic spot we had grand views as they hopped from tree to tree, frequently fly catching and occasionally calling. Amongst them were a multitude of other species including our first pair of Blackcaps this year, singles of Goldfinch and Collared Dove plus heard but not seen Green Woodpecker, Pheasant, Jay and Raven. A perfect oasis hidden away from the hustle and bustle of the nearby beach.
The walk up to the old ruins delivered Chiffchaffs by the bucket load but they all stayed true to form and away from the camera. Definitely something I need to work on this year after 2012’s abject failure with the species. Overhead a passing flock of four Chough was very nice indeed before I was led a merry dance through the forest by my first Common Blue butterfly of the year. It got away but back at the entrance gates we were treated to a superb Brimstone and this Comma. Great to have them back on the wing.
Our return leg via St Brides Major followed a similar story with warblers everywhere plus at least another five Blackcaps. Over the village pond we watched several Swallows hawking for insects which reminded me just how much I’ve missed their antics during the winter months. Indeed their fly catching prowess seemed to be catching as on the way down to the river we observed a Chaffinch giving it a go himself. As it turned out the river was almost totally devoid of life bar a solitary Oystercatcher and the usual Mute Swans and Shelducks which was something of a disappointment. I couldn’t complain though after such an enjoyable day where thirteen Celsius has never felt so warm.