The big news from patch this week has been that, quite remarkably, I’ve just blasted my way through last year’s score despite it still being early May! One of my main goals for the Patchwork Challenge this time out was to make more regular visits and to gain a fuller understanding of which species call Cefn Drum and its environs home. This increased dedication has been paying dividends of late with both new breeders and completely new species all being discovered in the last few days.

Before I get ahead of myself however let me take you back to last weekend where conditions were, to put it mildly, a little mixed. With a wind and rain swept hillside not particularly appealing I instead set myself up in the living room for a spot of birding in comfort (I am getting older you know). In no time at all I’d already tripled my count of patch Mallards for the year as well as enjoying some stunning views of a Red Kite. There can’t be many places in the country where such a magnificent bird of prey can be watched at eye level from your couch! Even better was to come however as a Grey Heron lifted itself into the air from what I presume was a garden pond somewhere down in the village, a new tick and one which until that moment I hadn’t even realised was missing from this year’s tally. The next day I repeated the exercise in even worse conditions and managed to turn up our very first Swift of the year. It was battling against the wind and was only seen for a few minutes before shooting back towards the coast. Fast forward to Monday and a late afternoon visit to the far reaches of the valley turned up a reeling Grasshopper Warbler. Found in almost exactly the same place as one back in 2013 it finally confirms that this species is a regular visitor to these parts.

P1120669_2 - Shelduck

The Shelduck above gives a good hint as to our star find this week but the full story behind it is quite incredible. Baring in mind we are a good couple of miles inland here the sight of one of these flying over the patch is always cause for celebration. Their appearance has been almost annual ever since we moved in but until now I had no idea what they were up to. At long last that mystery has been solved having watched the individual above first circle around us before dropping down into an area of thick vegetation. From then on there was no further sign and with no possible way that the bird could have escaped unnoticed we were left with only one conclusion; we have nesting Shelducks on patch! There are a number of Rabbit burrows in the area and with Shelducks favouring these as a nesting site that probably explains the birds vanishing act. A fascinating discovery and, as I’ve already said, exactly the kind of knowledge I wanted to gather this year.

From new information on a regular visitor to a brand new species altogether, the same outing also delivered a pair of singing Garden Warblers. Both were found in scrubland along the valley bottom and have taken me into uncharted territory where the Patchwork Challenge is concerned. Sixty five points and counting.

Sadly in today’s society not all of us seem to derive the same enjoyment from our natural world and I was saddened to find another stretch of the valley has gone up in smoke.

P1120665 - More destruction

Looking at the debris this seems to be the work of arsonists once again. Depressing but that’s not going to stop me doing my best to document and protect this area as best I can.

2015: 65 / 2014: 64


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