With my January Patchwork Challenge scores submitted (and very healthy they looked too) it was straight back out on the first of this month to try and nudge that tally along a little further. Almost straight away we hit pay-dirt with a male Sparrowhawk crossing the fields beneath Gopa Hill. Given that it was a female who took one of our Long-tailed Tits the day before this suggests that there are at least two individuals still on patch, possibly the same pair which I saw together here last year. We spotted the male again at the old railway cutting where it was sat up high keeping a wary eye on our progress but my attention was towards the river where for the second outing in succession a Dipper could be seen hunting. As usual it only stayed briefly before moving on upstream but great views none the less. In fact seeing it down in the deep river valley reminded me that I’ve been dying to get down to water level for several years now so following a slippery traverse over mud and through Brambles that’s exactly what I did.
With the old Graig Merthy branch line several meters above me and almost out of sight the valley resembled something more akin to what must have been its natural state before the miners moved in. Thick, lush vegetation and ancient trees line both sides and as you can see from the rarely seen view above it’s no surprise to find Dipper’s here. A far cry from what must have once been a fairly polluted watercourse.
As ever we were keeping a close eye on the trees in the vague hope of spotting that ever elusive Treecreeper (no luck once again) but in doing so did manage to pick out a female Bullfinch and three Goldfinches, new year ticks on both accounts. A very vocal Coal Tit was roughly associating with the more numerous Blue and Great varieties before it was out of the woodland and up onto the bare flanks of Cefn Drum. Whereas our last patch visit had taken in Bryn-bach-Common and the northern spur this time out we were firmly focused on Cefn Drum and all that it had to offer. In reality this is usually relatively little especially on cold and breezy winter days such as this but a Jay and Green Woodpecker were nice additions to the list along with a couple of Meadow Pipits plus the regular Ravens, Red Kites and Buzzards. All remained quite distant so instead I turned my camera to this friendly pair of ponies who are currently taking advantage of the extensive grazing opportunities that Cefn Drum provides.
As I’ve already mentioned weather conditions were definitely a tad on the chilly side and as we neared the top of Cefn Drum an increasingly menacing looking cloud started to drop the first of what was to be several light flurries of snow. None amounted to anything significant but the passing of each weather front certainly provided varied lighting conditions. From near dark to full sunshine in barely a couple of minutes and vice-a-versa.
Our lofty position also provided spectacular views out to the snow covered Brecon Beacons. I’ve got to get out there again next week so fingers crossed temperatures stay at their current Arctic lows.
From Cefn Drum we headed onwards to Twyn Tyle where a lone Stonechat was our only company until a passing Kestrel brought another new year tick. It was gone in a flash over towards Llandremor-fawr and again I presume this to be the same individual which held territory here last year. Another speciality of this particular locality is the Stock Dove, a small flock of which can often be seen around the cliffs at Gellig-gwm Rock. We hadn’t been able to see them from over on the opposite side of the valley however so it was somewhat of a relief when four birds shot out from the crags below. One challenge for the summer definitely has to be to try and get one on camera as thus far I have drawn a frustrating blank. You’d think they’d be happy to sit around a little longer with such stunning views as these to enjoy.
Turning for home a couple of Mistle Thrushes could be seen feeding on the valley floor along with several Starlings and a brief flash of what might have been a Great-spotted Woodpecker. Sadly our views weren’t good enough to be certain but there’s plenty of time to bag one before the spring migrants start arriving and my patch can once again really start to liven up.
2015: 42 / 2014: 64