I wouldn’t consider myself completely addicted to patch birding quite yet, but by the end of this years Patchwork Challenge that could be a real possibility. As it was I headed straight from Bracelet Bay on Saturday to the windswept grasslands of Cefn Drum to see if I could locate my first new species for May. Two glaring omissions from this years list were high on my agenda in the shape of Dipper and Linnet. Both are usually regulars here and have yet remained elusive throughout the last few months. It was something of a relief therefore to hear and see one of the Dippers shooting upriver not long after I’d set off. Unusually instead of their usual haunt around the old colliery site this one was right down in the wooded lower section of the valley. Chances are that’s where they’ve spent the whole winter and I’ve just missed them as it’s such a difficult area to view. With one target down it didn’t take long for the second to fall with a lovely male Linnet a few hundred meters further on. Next time I really need to aim higher with what I’m looking for if birds continue to appear like this!
It seems wise at this point to include a map of my patch again as a refresher for anyone that missed it first time around. The long thin protrusion heading north east may at first glance seem like an odd inclusion, but let me assure you that it’s there for very tactical reasons. It follows the route of an old tramway that used to serve coal mines back in the late 1800’s and affords excellent views over the valley floor as well as another superb, though inaccessible, area of woodland. It also has the honour of being the only location locally that I’ve seen Redstarts, something which I’d love to repeat this year.
It is however a fair distance from home which has meant that thus far I haven’t given it as much attention as I would have liked. This trip was to change all that though with a thorough investigation from end to end. I had been hoping for my first patch Whitethroat but with the Bracken still barely peaking above ground I think they’ll be a while yet in coming. Instead I was left to enjoy a plethora of Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs along with a constant backdrop of yaffling Green Woodpeckers. The strong winds also seemed to be creating an interesting up-draft which was being enjoyed by a constant passage of Herring Gulls, three Buzzards, two Red Kites and the occasional Raven. At times all of the above were sharing the same airspace which unsurprisingly led to a few disagreements. It was the pair of Red Kites which really held my attention though as they performed what I presume to be a courtship display. It began with one of the birds appearing above the horizon with an item of prey fixed in its talons. The second bird approached from a short distance away which kick-started a series of flips and tight turns from both until I lost sight of them behind the hill. When they returned the prey was gone and they were both soaring together right above my head with frequent returns to the twisting and flipping display that I’d just witnessed. Now birds in flight has never been the strong point of my camera but I did my best to capture a little bit of the action.
In all I watched the Red Kites for well over twenty minutes before they finally drifted off again and out of sight. What a fantastic display from what I presume are the same birds that I see hunting around the house.
The ‘north east spur’, as I shall refer to it from now on, was otherwise pretty quiet although the aforementioned woodland did produce one call that I wasn’t able to identify. All that means is that I have another excuse to head up there again in the very near future, if not tonight. Oh dear, I think I may be addicted after all!