With just the morning free today there was only time for a short walk along the Llanelli foreshore before work once more beckoned. Luckily our visit had coincided with the high tide however allowing excellent views of the varied waterfowl still present along this stretch of coast. First up was a rather nice female Pintail on the Afon Lliedi with a Little Grebe and female Red-breasted Merganser further upstream. Prize find though was a female Goldeneye diving beneath the surface at rapid intervals, a species Emma had been eager to catch up with since my sighting of one last week. Around the corner and two small beaches bordering the Machnys development delivered two Curlew and a male and female pair of Red-breasted Mergansers out in the Burry. Closer to home I can’t deny a brief moment of excitement at the sight of several small birds along the strand-line, though my hopes for Snow Buntings were quickly dashed. Instead we found at least five Reed Buntings feeding presumably on sand flies or something similar. Even stranger was to come however with the arrival of several Greenfinch (my first of the year) and a single Robin. Definitely not the sort of birds you’d typically associate with this type of habitat.
Towards the end of the second beach a large lump out on the rapidly expanding sands caught my attention. A quick check through the binoculars seemed to show a Guillemot sat down but surely that couldn’t be right. Closer inspection confirmed that it was indeed a Guillemot and given its lethargic state it was clear that all was not well.
There have been numerous reports from across the south-west in recent days of seabirds being washed ashore due to the winters violent storms and it seemed that this poor individual was just the latest victim. Not entirely sure of what to do for the best (we couldn’t catch it as the bird had already scarpered away on initial approach and we were a good distance from the car) Emma began to search for the RSPCA’s phone number. While she did that I kept an eye on several dogs in the near vicinity but couldn’t react quickly enough to stop one darting in and snatching up the Guillemot. Some encouragement with my foot managed to get the dog to drop its catch but sadly the damage had already been done and the bird died in front of us.
This sad spectacle was made all the worse by the response from the dogs owner. Despite Emma calling across he refused to quicken his pace or call back his dog and still did not move it away from us after several times of asking. Even worse was his reaction upon seeing our obvious displeasure at what had just unfolded. Instead of perhaps apologising or just moving on he stated that it was only a bird, and an injured one at that, so what did it matter? That kind of attitude is just typical of society these days and one that seems to be spreading at an alarming rate. Another of the “If there’s nothing in it for me then why should I bother” brigade. My only consolation is that when he did finally leave it was considerably more briskly than his approach so perhaps a degree of guilt had been stirred.
Since then I’ve been playing events back over in my mind and wondering if we took the correct course of action. Should we have just left nature to its own devices? Should I not have photographed the bird or approached at all? Should we have tried again to pick the bird up and take it to safety despite the stress this would have caused? In truth there’s no way of knowing but I have now added the RSPCA number to my phone and will be better prepared in the future. A sad end to one of my favourite bird species but hopefully lessons have been learned for all involved.
Attempting to regain some of the lost joy from our day we continued along to the large pond at Careg-fach where we found a pleasing array of waterfowl comprising two Pochard, six Tufted Duck, two Gadwall and a smattering of Coot. Meanwhile the rocky shore opposite held a sizeable roost of at least 160 Ringed Plovers, a decent count for this stretch. Turning for home another couple of small Reed Bunting flocks were seen feeding on the beach, perhaps confirming that this is a regular activity for these birds, before we finished off with a final scan of the Afon Lliedi. One Little Egret and two more Gadwall had arrived along with a good count of Lesser-black Backed Gulls but sadly nothing out of the ordinary. All in all a pleasant walk though tarnished by the irresponsible actions of another.