It’s hard to believe but yesterday was my last opportunity of 2014 to get out onto the patch in an attempt to push my current Patchwork Challenge score a little higher. Despite a less than attentive year I had still somehow managed to draw level with my previous comparative species count, though not score (lack of Grasshopper Warbler this time out really hurt me), but 63 species is never the less still something to be proud of. Yes it may pale into insignificance against some of the big hitters but for my little area of Wales it’s a hard earned result and one which represents many enjoyable hours spent out in the field. Along the way there have been some notable highlights including a strengthening in the Grey Partridge population to at least six individuals (still the only birds recorded anywhere in the Gower area as far as I am aware) as well as several new finds including Common Gull and White Wagtail. Even better were a continued increase in Raven and Red Kite numbers though the shocking decline in Green Woodpeckers continues unabated. In complete contrast the local Tawny Owls seem to have gone from strength to strength with one particularly noisy individual keeping us awake on numerous occasions, often early in the morning. Certainly beats being woken by an alarm.

Out in the garden our feeders felt relatively quiet for much of summer and autumn but the recent cold snap has changed all that. I’ve no idea where all our Chaffinches and House Sparrows have been hiding but they are back now and have been devouring the sunflower seed as quickly as we can supply it. Arriving alongside them have been other welcome returnees in the shape of a single Greenfinch and Starling so it seemed a suitable place to start this final outing.

P1100578 - House Sparrow, Garden
P1100577 - Blue Tit, Garden

Moving to Gopa Hill things were relatively quiet with no sign of the Goldcrests which had been so active just a couple of months ago. Instead we were treated to numerous Blackbirds and Song Thrushes, a pattern repeated on Bryn-bach-Common where they were joined by two Mistle Thrushes and upwards of thirty Redwings. The latter were particularly pleasing as they represented my first sighting of the species on patch this year having previously only been heard flying over the house at night. As ever they were particularly hard to get close to so instead we simply enjoyed watching them and in doing so spotted a male Reed Bunting moving through a nearby hedge. Though an occasional patch species it was the first one I’d seen all year and the much needed nudge to put me on a par with last year’s comparative score (64 species and 65 points if you were wondering).

P1100579 - Gopa Hill
P1100583 - Bryn-bach-Common

Hoping for further success we moved onto the high level road which delivered some lovely frosty views (above) but not a lot else. It wasn’t until we’d dropped back down into the valley that I spotted a single Goldcrest and one very pale Red Kite which was soaring almost directly towards us. Up on Cefn Drum a couple of Stonechats showed that the species is still doing well here but there was to be no last hurrah from the Grey Partridges. Next year I must make a concerted effort to get them on camera again as up close they really are rather nice.

Descending once more we entered what can only be described as a winter wonderland with the ground and trees around us completely encrusted in frost and ice. At this time of year the narrow wooded valley floor gets little to no sun and after two days of sub-zero temperatures that lack of warmth was clear to see. With each crunching footstep we delved deeper and deeper into a world devoid of light, heat or even colour.

P1100588 - Cwmdulais
P1100591 - Cwmdulais

And with that another year of the Patchwork Challenge draws to a close. I’ve already mentioned that I would have liked to have made a few more visits but despite missing out on a couple of months still managed to beat last year’s species count and draw level with my comparative score. More importantly perhaps I furthered my understanding of the ecology right on our own doorstep whilst keeping fit and having fun at the same time. You can’t really ask for more and so unsurprisingly I’ve already signed up for what promises to be an even bigger and better event in 2015. Will this finally be the year in which I find a Treecreeper on patch? Only time will tell.

64 Species / 65 Points


Maude Lynn · December 31, 2014 at 4:08 am

Splendid shots!

betty-NZ · December 31, 2014 at 5:28 am

What lovely little birds–they look so content. I love to see snow and ice shots but sure don't want to be in it all!

Margaret Birding For Pleasure · December 31, 2014 at 7:43 am

Hi sorry to did. Not equal you score this year but for me it is not al about keeping scores. It is about being outside in nature seeing what birds are going to turn up. Lovely shots in this post . May I wih you a very HAPPY NEW YEAR and perhaps next year you will see the Treecreeper.

Adam Jones · December 31, 2014 at 8:45 am

Still a very commendable effort. I will be joining the Patchwork Challenge next year. Lovely crisp shots.

eileeninmd · December 31, 2014 at 11:47 am

Pretty birds and photos.. Your patch looks great for birding.. Wishing you all the best in 2015! Happy New Year!

Irma · December 31, 2014 at 3:36 pm

Beautiful images of birds and landscape.
Perfect photographed, my compliments.
I wish you and all your loved ones a very happy and healthy 2015.
Best regards, Irma

Rohrerbot · December 31, 2014 at 5:57 pm

Nice report! Glad you have a patch that monitor. Pretty nice birds for your area. Happy New Year! That Grasshopper Warbler is out there:) · January 1, 2015 at 1:42 am

Beautiful photography, what crisp pics of the birds! Thanks for sharing. I have no clue what the Patchwork Challenge is, just know you`ve captured great pictures! Phyllis

A Colorful World · January 1, 2015 at 5:19 pm

Very nice post! Beautiful photos! Great luck in the new year with your sightings!

Stewart M · January 2, 2015 at 9:43 am

Great shots. And patch watching really is a good effort – it actually is a measure of what's about, rather than a measure of how far you are prepared to drive!

Cheers and a Happy New Year – Stewart M – Melbourne

Adam Tilt · January 25, 2015 at 5:46 pm

Thanks everyone for your very kind comments. Here's to Patchwork Challenge 2015!

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