If you read my last post here you’ll know that I managed to squeeze in a short stint out on patch before a few spots of rain turned into an absolute deluge. Needless to say I was forced to take shelter beneath the very Beech trees I’d been observing until, with conditions steadily worsening, I was forced to head for home. The next couple of hours saw visibility drop down to fifty meters or so with water cascading off the roof and a newly formed stream taking up residence down our street. It was scarcely believable therefore when early afternoon brought a clear sky and warming sunshine which rather nicely coincided with my arrival at WWT Llanelli. Some kind soul has been feeding birds in the centre’s car park of late allowing me to take some rather nice close-ups of this Blue Tit. It was perfectly content to sit just above my ahead, periodically flying down to grab another seed.
Walking out into the reserve proper saw conditions continue to improve bringing a Red Admiral onto the wing whilst overhead a flock of Jackdaws gave their typically raucous welcome. The usual commoner species such as Dunnock and Blackbird were quickly ticked off before meteorological conditions once again grabbed my attention with a powerful rainbow off towards town.
First stop was the Michael Powell Hide where a recent high tide and rain had left the lagoons fit to burst. Unsurprisingly wader numbers were relatively limited given the lack of suitable feeding areas on offer. What there was however were some 210 Wigeon, the first I’ve seen back here this autumn. Their high pitched whistling calls filled the air and made for a very welcome return. After all this was one of the spectacles which got me back into birding in the first place. Gadwall were also present in pretty good numbers with 8 dotted around, as were a few Teal, but unusually I couldn’t pick out a single Little Egret. Strange indeed for a reserve where their presence has pretty much become guaranteed in recent years.
Stepping outside the hide delivers you onto a small wooded area (above) which is always worth a look. Today the usual Blue Tits and Great Tits were joined by a pair of Jays who gave the impression of being willing to pose for photographs before legging it as soon as I touched my camera. Typical. Never mind as the time spent looking up put me onto a couple of Goldcrests to continue my good run with the species. One bird in particular was staying very loyal to a single tree so I spent a while beneath its branches attempting a photograph. As always with Goldcrests this was far from a simple affair with the tiny ball of feathers moving rapidly around the trees upper reaches while simultaneously managing to remain almost completely obscured. It’s a gift for sure. After many failures I did eventually manage to get something which I’ll refer to as arty rather than sub-standard. At least I provided some amusement for a passing family whose young children seemed particularly interested in what I was up to.
From the British Steel Hide a winter plumaged Spotted Redshank turned out to be the pick of the litter with a few Cormorants, Greylag Geese and Curlew providing backup. Over on the NRA scrapes however I was surprised to spot a male Blackcap flying by before alighting on nearby bushes. Nice to see a little reminder of spring with November fast approaching.
Over at the Boardwalk Hide there was plenty more evidence of increased waterfowl numbers with another 19 Gadwall, 13 Shoveller and 10 Teal. Best of all though was a stunning male Pintail, always a looker at any time of year.
Overhead a soaring Buzzard gave great views as it was continually pursued by an incredibly persistent Jackdaw. Given that both were flying in circles and at different speeds however it wasn’t always clear who was doing the chasing! Sometimes the Buzzard would catch up with the Jackdaw only for their positions to be reversed a few revolutions later.
I finally caught up with a few more waders at the Observatory where 7 Greenshank and over 40 Black-tailed Godwits were roosting out on one of the islands. More Gadwall and several Tufted Duck also featured before it was over to the Millennium Wetlands where again waterfowl numbers were significantly up on previous visits. Bragging rights though went to the Pintails with five females loafing about towards the rear, something which became a regular sight last winter. Away from the water a calling Cetti’s Warbler, two shreaking Water Rails and a late Swallow (probably my last of the year) rounded off what had been an excellent trip.