On Saturday afternoon I headed out onto patch and managed to complete my largest circuit for some time. Starting at Goppa Hill there was once again a complete lack of Whitethroats but singles of Buzzard and Red Kite, quickly followed by super close views of two Sparrowhawks, more than made up. The latter were a particularly nice find as if memory serves me correctly it’s only the second time that I’ve seen them here this year. A little further on and it was the turn of a Yellowhammer to put in an appearance although unfortunately for me a passing car spooked it before I’d had chance to whip the camera out. More Yellowhammers could be heard calling from the slopes beneath Cwrt-mawr farm (which coincidentally is also the name of my first university halls of residence) but I didn’t fancy a diversion through the Bracken to try and find them. Still it’s very satisfying to see that they are once again present in good numbers. The same vantage point also afforded me a birds-eye view of the old colliery site and to my surprise it would appear that Welsh Water have already started work on their flood relief scheme for Pontarddulais.
I wrote about the planning application for this area back in February and was particularly interested in the phrase “creation of wetland habitat”. It seems that good progress is being made in that respect with the once barren area of cleared buildings and spoil already reshaped into a series of much more natural contours. There’s obviously a long way to go still but it bodes well for the future. The presence of these works has also had a surprising, and most welcome, side effect in that the quantity of illegal off-roading taking place on Cefn Drum has drastically reduced. Even while I was watching two separate vehicles arrived and quickly departed once it was obvious that their main means of access was blocked. I can only hope that once Welsh Water have finished a similar situation will prevail and the fragile slopes are given chance to recover.
By this point I’d already been out for well over an hour and my decision to not take a drink was beginning to look slightly foolish. As a result I very nearly didn’t climb the old incline that takes me onto the western spur of my patch, but in the end that overriding sense of potential that every patch birder must feel drove me onwards. I’m glad that it did because at the top I found more Golden-ringed Dragonflies, one of which even perched just long enough for me to grab a photo.
Returning via the lower slopes of Cefn Drum a single Wheatear was a welcome surprise. It would be interesting to know if this was a resident bird or one on passage, perhaps the latter given it’s very wary nature. Either way it quickly scarpered and I thought that was it from what had been a relatively quiet outing. As it turned out the patch had saved its best for last though in the shape of a single Spotted Flycatcher just behind Cwmdulais cottage. My initial views were very distant but its take off and landing from exactly the same perch immediately set alarm bells ringing and after a few minutes of working myself closer I had the identification confirmed. For me this is absolute patch gold and a real surprise find after having seen another single bird further down the valley last year. Back then I assumed that it must have been just passing through but now I’m not so sure. Admittedly a second individual twelve months later doesn’t disprove that theory but it would be nice to think that the small woodland on my patch has yet more secrets to reveal.
We both headed back out last night in the hope of perhaps seeing an owl but instead had to make do with Green Woodpecker’s (as consolation prizes go that’s never a bad one) plus great views of a Buzzard lit up beautifully in the evening light. There was also the unusual sight of a Grey Heron perched high up in the trees, no doubt attracted by the farm pond which was in very close proximity. Surprisingly that’s the first time I have ever seen a heron actually grounded on patch as opposed to simply flying over. Perhaps it was there, like us, to watch what turned out to be another stunning sunset.
On an unrelated note I also found my first Cinnabar Moth caterpillars of the year yesterday and will hopefully try and photograph them tomorrow.