In the two weeks since my first patch outing of 2014 I’ve only managed to add Lesser Black-backed Gull to my tally. It was a fly over bird while getting ready for work and up to that point was the only gull to have ventured our way. That’s surprising given the blustery conditions of late which in the past have tended to blow birds from the Loughor estuary up in this direction. More worrying however has been the complete lack of any Red Kites. Since moving here they’ve become a regular sight around the house and patch but so far this year have been notable by their absence. With birds of prey still suffering from persecution nationwide your mind tends to wander towards the negative meaning that on Saturday they were definitely target number one.
Having covered Cefn Drum and the valley floor exhaustively last time out it was the turn of Bryn-bach-Common to receive some attention. Our approach took us up Gopa Hill which as usual managed to deliver the greatest variety of species anywhere in my study area. Raven, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Herring Gull, Robin, Blackbird, Jay and a very nice count of at least eighty Starlings got us off to a good start before a scarpering Song Thrush added a second new species for the day (apparently I can’t count the farmers new flock of slightly dodgy looking Mallards). Stopping to relocate it had the added benefit of revealing what looks to be an ideal Great Spotted Woodpecker nest hole in one of the old Oaks. Given that this is a species I failed to find during the whole of last year I will be closely monitoring said hole for any signs of activity.
As the view above shows that stunning sunrise of a fortnight ago could not have been further from the drab and grey conditions this time around. Low cloud was actually obscuring the top of Cefn Drum whilst mist restricted visibility to pretty much the valley alone. As a result I wasn’t holding out much hope for getting any updates on the Red Kite situation so was suitably delighted to spot one gliding in from over Pontlliw. It stayed in the vicinity for at least half an hour and helped to relieve my worries, though it would still be nice to see a couple more.
Another missing local was located a short while later when a female Stonechat popped up to perch atop some Gorse. It was in the exact same location as the pair I’d seen just before Christmas though there was no sign of the male on this occasion. A quick check across an area of flooded grassland revealed nothing of the Common Snipe which I’m sure must reside there, a theory only reinforced by Emma startling one into flight a short distance away. As usual we were right on top of it and had no idea resulting in the customary shock as a ball of feathers shot into the sky from near our feet. Like the Woodcock this Common Snipe is another bit of patch gold as they are by no means an annual sighting here. Following in quick succession were flight views of a Green Woodpecker and Mistle Thrush plus a flock of white Doves which I think are close enough to Feral Pigeons for me to tick them off.
As you can probably tell the dull conditions meant that any chances for photography were slim apart from another flock of at least 160 Starlings which were sadly spooked by the local hunt and their hounds. I did manage to find one bit of colour though in the shape of this Common Jellyspot.
Back at the house it was time to take part in this years RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch which rather handily can also count towards the Patchwork Challenge. I wasn’t expecting to pick up anything unusual, and indeed we didn’t, but it was nice to see just how many birds are currently visiting our feeders. During the hour watch we missed out on a couple of regulars such as Blackbird and Collared Dove, but the eight species which showed did so in excellent numbers. Special mention must go to the Blue Tits with a rather impressive eleven individuals. I suspect the true count could be even higher as there was a constant stream in and out of the garden, but this was the highest total at one time. The final tally was as follows:
|Blue Tit (11)
|Great Tit (3)
|Coal Tit (1)
Those eagle eyed amongst you may note a complete lack of House Sparrows and no Greenfinches. The latter is a worrying trend that I believe may signal the return of trichomonosis although we have seen no sign in the rest of our visiting Chaffinches. A couple of years ago we were in a similar situation but during 2013 a regular flock of around seven Greenfinches made a return and seemed perfectly healthy. They’ve not been seen for a long time now though and only time can tell if they will return. Nevertheless it’s heartening to see other species doing well and with our feral cat population seemingly under control for a change I look forward to continuing good counts over the coming months.
37 Species / 38 Points