Climbing Gopa Hill on Saturday morning you couldn’t help but notice the rapid advance of spring compared to even a couple of weeks ago. Daffodils, Snowdrops and even a few Crocuses are now all in flower, our garden Robin is once again tolerating the presence of another and best of all the birds in general are singing at the tops of their voices. Step outside and an aural assault greets you led by our resident House Sparrows, who have a volume second to none, but backed up by Blackbirds, Great Tits, Dunnocks and perhaps most pleasingly of all our recently arrived flock of Goldfinches. What started out last week as just a couple of individuals has now grown into an eleven strong raiding party who seem to adore the sunflower hearts we’re now feeding (expensive tastes). Their varied calls could still be heard as I arrived at the old ruin from where the mornings supertide could be seen making its presence felt along the Loughor.
A pair of Red Kites were attempting to hunt low over one of the fields here but several Carrion Crows soon drove them off. Perhaps they should have taken a leaf out of the Buzzards book and stayed high in the clear blue sky from where their haunting calls could still clearly be heard. A single Rook was relatively unusual this far down the valley as was the flock of seven Redwings still feeding just off Bryn-bach-Common. Presumably these are the same birds which have been here most of the winter and seem to have great affinity for one particular stretch of hedgerow. If so it must be delivering the goods as this has been the most productive spell I’ve ever had on patch for this species. They weren’t alone either with a female Sparrowhawk shooting through low against the ground.
Looking across the valley Cefn Drum was clearly still wearing its winter coat but it can’t be long now before Bracken once again starts to emerge and walking its flanks becomes ever more difficult. Conscious that I still wanted to explore some of the harder to reach nooks and crannies on its far side I had my afternoon plan sorted but before that I needed to drop down to the valley floor. One of the characteristics of my chosen patch is that it takes in two valleys and the hillsides either side meaning that any traverse involves a significant amount of effort. This time though the descent and subsequent climb had an added motive in that I was hoping to pick up another new species for 2015, Yellowhammer. These are one of the star species locally but since Gorse was cleared from Bryn-bach-Common I see them less and less. Fortunately they don’t seem to have gone far though with a kind local keeping them well fed. The only issue is that viewing is somewhat tricky given everyone’s right to privacy but I managed to spot four individuals as I walked past. Also present there were a large number of Blue Tits and Great Tits, probably the greatest concentration (for obvious reasons) anywhere on patch.
Spilling out onto the valley floor it felt far warmer than the day had any right to be but we are still a ways off from this place really springing back into life. As a result there wasn’t a whole lot to report on until a couple of distant Ravens once I’d regained the high ground atop Cefn Drum. From there I was surprised to see that the snow level further inland had actually dropped again from last weekend, a sure sign that we aren’t out of the woods just yet.
From the summit cairn it was a steep descent down the northern flanks of Cefn Drum to reach the low lying grasslands between here and Graig Fawr. It’s not an area I visit all that often thanks to relative inaccessibility but I have enjoyed exploring the remains of numerous adit mines which litter the hillside for as far as the eye can see. An old tramway provides the best means of transit and today brought with it a startled Woodcock. To be fair I was pretty surprised myself as it turns out they’re rather big birds when erupting out of the undergrowth less than two meters from your face.
Composure restored I had a good look around one of the best preserved mine entrances (above) before threading my way back through the Gorse and out once more on to Cefn Drum. I had hoped to stumble across the Grey Partridges but no such luck. In fact that Woodcock had pretty much drawn the days birding to a close until a very obliging Goldcrest and two Long-tailed Tits turned up back down in valley woods. Sadly no photos as they wouldn’t come out of the shade but I did have more success in the garden a little later.
2015: 44 / 2014: 64