Despite a valiant effort this month I have so far failed to add to my Patchwork Challenge tally. Inclement weather has undoubtedly played its part with patch observations limited to the garden alone. One upside to this has been an increase in sightings for our sporadic flock of Long Tailed Tits with a maximum count of five being recorded early on Sunday. As usual they didn’t stay around for long but were seen again on Monday at a similar time. We’ve also been observing more Lesser Black-backed Gulls, no doubt being blown up from the Loughor, and the Ravens have become a regular fixture as they patrol across neighbouring farmland. Fortunately these meagre offerings were finally subsidised with a good few hours of patch bashing on Saturday afternoon though the results were nothing to write home about. Strong winds have typically been the death knell for birds on the exposed hills around Cefn Drum and this outing was certainly to be no different. Gopa Hill only managed to deliver the usual woodland species with a pair of flyover Mistle Thrushes being a nice addition whilst one Meadow Pipit also passed overhead. Probably a resident rather than the start of any spring migration however.  Up on the Common last months surprise Snipe was nowhere to be seen despite even more suitable habitat having been created as a by-product of waterlogged fields. There was however plenty of Turkeytail fungi with this example showing a colour range I’ve not previously observed.

P1060851 - Turkeytail Fungi

Looking down into the valley finally kick-started our day with a Buzzard quartering the ground beneath us. Viewing these birds from above really does add an extra dimension and a brief spell of sun showed it off to great effect. A few minutes later and it was the turn of a trio of Red Kites to add some excitement, by far our highest count locally this year. I can’t be sure if they were actually associating with each other or just happened to arrive at the same time but they quickly dispersed and went their separate ways. One bird did stay around the valley though offering me a good opportunity to finally photograph a patch bird (my Patchwork Challenge blogs were starting to feature more fungi than actual birds!). As the camera shutter closed I’d been vaguely aware that the Red Kite had lifted its feet though it wasn’t until I viewed this image later that the reason became clear. All I can say is that I’m glad the bird wasn’t right overhead!

P1060852 - Red Kite doing its business

The high level road allowed good views of the local Rook flock feeding in fields before it was time to drop down to the valley floor. Welsh Water have been making excellent progress here on the flood relief scheme for Pontarddulais though the new wetland has so far failed to attract anything. I still have hopes for this area though they may not be realised until final landscaping has been completed. In addition it’s good to see that the Dipper habitat has been left intact so lets hope that they breed here again in the coming months. Saying that I haven’t seen the adults for several months though they do seem to move further downstream during winter.

And now, as the saying goes, it’s time for something completely different. Working in my office one night last week I heard rustling sounds coming from behind a bookcase. Fearing that some sort of rodent had managed to gain access I moved a couple of things to see what was there. To my surprise out popped a slightly groggy Small Tortoiseshell butterfly looking completely alien against the setting it now found itself in.

P1060848 - Small Tortoiseshell Hibernating

Undoubtedly this individual entered the house late last year in search of a suitable place to hibernate and has been here ever since. Presumably the heating and warmer ambient temperature finally woke it from its slumbers, perhaps a little earlier than would have been preferred. Clearly I couldn’t leave it where it was so instead have taken it to a sheltered wood pile in the garden. After a few hours of resting it has since vanished so hopefully it has either crawled further into shelter or gone off in search of food. Whatever the outcome I shall officially class this as my first sign of spring, a season that has never before been quite so anticipated after such a dreadful winter.

37 Species / 38 Points