Sunset at Machynys

Sunday, June 21, 2015 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

Another gorgeous evening on Monday found us walking the Millennium coastal path at Machynys. Emma got to paddle, I got to watch some birds, everyone left happy. Speaking of birds there was plenty about starting with a family of Starlings which were being brought up in the chimney of a nearby house. I always thought they looked perfect as nest sites when they were being built! Whitethroats and numerous House Martins provided the backing track whilst out on the estuary a single Mediterranean Gull, eight Eider (mostly immature birds), fifty or so Black-tailed Godwits, a pair of Mute Swans, three Whimbrel and a smattering of Little Egrets made for a decent haul. Despite scanning the passing gulls I couldn't pick out any terns but did find this rather smart Stonechat perched up on a sign.

P1130442 - Stonechat, Machynys

Down at the pond a single Pochard was accompanied by the calls of a Sedge Warbler but sadly the usual flock of Swifts that have entertained us in previous years were entirely absent. Does this match the generally low numbers being reported elsewhere? At least the Skylarks were still about and we watched two birds having a dust bath on the path right in front of us. I got the impression that they weren't entirely seeing eye to eye as in the midst of a deep clean there was still plenty of wing flapping and aggressive displaying going on. Also of interest was a Rabbit hopping about on the beach which I presume lives amongst the large rocks of the breakwater.


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Rhossili to Mewslade - Birds and Views

Friday, June 19, 2015 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

With so many caterpillars, butterflies, spiders and bees about on our walk from Rhossili to Mewslade you might have expected everything else to have taken a back seat. However, with views such as this out to Worm's Head that was never going to prove possible and the birds did their best to eclipse even the brightest and most interesting of insects.

P1130354 - Worms Head

Kicking off on the cliffs below Rhossili it was nice to see at least two pairs of Fulmars sitting in what looked to be perfect nesting sites along with another couple of individuals out over the sea and along the coast at Worm's Head. I couldn't find any signs of breeding yet but fingers crossed. A species that does seem to have gotten down to business early is the Jackdaw with several juveniles seen amongst the mobile flocks. I spotted one such bird some distance beneath me and just loved how different it looks from the adults. Sleeker and with a much more prominent eye it also still shows signs of the gape which would have helped feeding whilst in the nest.


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Rhossili to Mewslade - Caterpillars, Butterflies, Spiders and Bees

Thursday, June 18, 2015 Adam Tilt 3 Comments

There are various predictions floating about which say that this year we're in for a bumper invasion of Painted Lady butterflies. Millions of individuals have reportedly been amassing in Southern Europe just at the critical time for a mass summer migration to these shores. I mention this not purely for curiosities sake but also to get the news out that, on Gower at least, it seems as though they've already started to arrive! On Sunday we walked the coast from Rhossili to Mewslade and recorded more of these colourful visitors than I can ever recall seeing. Wherever there were patches of Thistles growing you could pretty much guarantee at least a handful of Painted Ladies, some looking rather tatty but others in pristine condition. Despite the breezy weather it wasn't too difficult to find a few individuals relatively settled and in the end we were spoiled for choice.

P1130387 - Painted Lady


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Relaxing In The Garden

Tuesday, June 16, 2015 Adam Tilt 9 Comments

Written 10/06/2015
It's on evenings such as this that I realise quite how lucky I am. Almost as soon as we were back from work it was straight down to the river to see if there were any fledgling Dippers or Grey Wagtails about. No luck on that score but we did turn up a young Goldcrest and came to the conclusion that just about every house in our village must have at least one pair of House Sparrows nesting within its roof. Furthermore the very fact that we were able to embark on such a hunt straight from our front door shows just what a privileged location we live in.

Back home (and boasting over) it was out into the garden to try and capture on camera any of the marauding Goldfinches which are currently eating me out of house and home. Not only do they seem to adore Sunflower hearts (expensive) but they're also incredibly picky eaters meaning that much of the seed ends up being thrown to the ground (annoying). Expensive tastes and finicky eaters lead to a rather large bill at the pet shop each week let me assure you of that. You'd think therefore that after so much pampering they'd be all too willing to pose for a couple of snaps. Yeah right. Instead they spent the first twenty minutes or so circling the house or doing quick flybys, all the time uttering a garbled series of clicks, squeaks and squawks. I really don't know how else to describe it. Eventually they seemed to get a good sense that I was no threat and finally began to perch on the feeders for more than a couple of seconds. By the time I called it a night you couldn't shift them for love nor money.

P1130330 - Goldfinch


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Everything Else - Bats, Hen Harriers, Lapwings and more Navelwort

Monday, June 15, 2015 Adam Tilt 3 Comments

It's been a hectic few weeks in these parts with time at a premium since our trip to Skomer. Nevertheless I've managed to keep this blog updated on a far more regular basis than I'd originally hoped yet there are still quite a few occurrences/sightings/events, call them what you will, that haven't quite made it out of the realms of social media. Those of you who follow me on twitter @adamtilt may have seen a few of these already but for everyone else here's a quick round-up of those things which didn't warrant a full post all to themselves.

Local Navelwort
Having been reacquainted with this species a fortnight or so ago I had planned to mention how Pembrokeshire seems to be the only location where we ever find any. Imagine my surprise therefore when we stumbled across a sizeable colony on our own road of all places. The habitat was similar being an old stone wall in good light and we have since found yet more plants at Mewslade on Gower. Just goes to show how much more observant we can be once there is a particular species in mind.

P1130310 - Local Navelwort

This week we've noticed somewhere in the region of eight very large Bats flying across the back garden at roughly half nine each evening. They always come from somewhere off to the south and head north, though as of yet we've not managed to identify either a roost or destination. All that we do know is that they are big. And by big we're talking large thrush size with long wings that flap to a relatively slow, looping beat. Short of that I'm a bit stumped with my only photo to date not revealing much more detail. Serotine is a potential candidate but I'll need to gather more reliable data before we can be sure.

P1130301 - Possible Serotine Bats?

Hen Harriers
If you've been watching Springwatch this year you may have seen the desperate plight of English Hen Harrier's highlighted in a couple of episodes, and may even have seen news reports concerning the mysterious 'disappearance' of five breeding males from English moorland. Sadly the BBC are too bound by their impartiality to have delved into the issue at any great depth but thankfully there are plenty of other outlets on the web where opinions and campaigns can be much more clearly expressed. One of the best is Mark Avery's blog here which has been one of the leading lights in bringing the conflicts between Grouse gamekeepers and Hen Harriers into the public consciousness. I highly recommend heading over and getting up to speed on the main issues and arguments before we really are staring another extinction event in the face.

Hedgehogs and Squirrels
Both our garden Hedgehogs continue to make regular visits and have been joined on occasion by a Squirrel. I've had to adapt the trail camera slightly to avoid footage being overexposed and will hopefully get a couple of new videos up in the near future.

Goldfinch, Great Tit and Greenfinches Fledge
It looks to have been a good year for our local breeding birds with juvenile Goldfinch, Greenfinch and Great Tit all seen on the feeders in recent days. Those first two represent new garden ticks and are hopefully a clear indication that whatever we are doing is clearly being welcomed by the birds.

Regular readers will probably recall that we have had a pair of Peregrine Falcons on our office block for several years now and, although they have been seen less frequently of late, they are most definitely still around. As far as work birding goes that must surely count as being right up there with the very best but it seems that they may soon have competition for my attention. Recently I have been treated to the sight of a displaying Lapwing above our work car park raising speculation that a breeding attempt may be in the offing. This isn't perhaps as strange as it sounds when you consider that this is an area of waste land rather than a tarmac desert. Sadly since then I have seen no further sign but I shall keep my fingers crossed that it and any potential partner are just keeping their heads down for now.


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June Sunsets

Saturday, June 13, 2015 Adam Tilt 1 Comments

After a week of gorgeous weather in which temperatures finally managed to climb above twenty it seems that today reality has returned. Grey, low cloud, drizzle. You get the picture, but where would we be in this country without a good old British summer about which to moan? Lift conversations would finally die out for starters which may, in fact, be no bad thing. But I digress. The good news is that we have at least been treated to a couple of decent sunsets over the last few evenings and I have been continuing my quest to find new viewpoints and compositions in my local area. This first selection were taken on Wednesday from a nearby hill and with no clouds to catch any lingering rays the whole thing was over in a matter of moments. Of the three shots included here I'm particularly pleased with the second as it captures perfectly the general ambience of the occasion.

P1130283 - Sunset


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Parc Slip - Lapwing Breeding Success and Peacock Caterpillars

Thursday, June 11, 2015 Adam Tilt 1 Comments

The last day in May saw us making a long overdue return to Parc Slip where remarkably the weather decided to play ball. Our previous visits have seen near hurricane winds and intense hailstorms so sunshine and a light breeze made for a very welcome change indeed. First stop was the North wetlands where it's clear that a lot of work has been undertaken in recent months to improve the habitat for breeding Lapwings. New fencing and careful management of the neighbouring meadow have all been implemented in the hope of reversing the decline in what used to be a regular breeder here, and I'm delighted to say that it appears to be working! We spotted three recent fledglings amongst the vegetation belonging to two different pairs, both of which were fiercely defending their territory from any potential intruder. Woe betide anyone straying into the meadow's airspace as let me assure you Lapwings can be pretty aggressive little blighter's when they want to be.

Also present on the main pool were a smattering of Tufted Duck and one Little Grebe plus families of both Coot and Canada Goose. A yaffling Green Woodpecker remained hidden but there was no difficulty in tracking down a noisy flock of Starlings over near the Bittern Hide. Both adults and juveniles alike were feeding avidly around the edges of a recently ploughed field which I can only presume had been sown with seed of some sort. They weren't the only ones taking advantage of this feast either with a lone Mistle Thrush, several Lesser Black-backed Gulls and, best of all, eight Stock Doves all present. Sadly there was no Bittern this time around and things were similarly quiet from the new raised hide and its associated scrapes but you can't deny that the area certainly has potential. Once nature has reclaimed the recent construction work it should hopefully prove to be very productive and I look forward to seeing how the area develops.

P1130267 - Robin, Parc Slip


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Martin's Haven - Swallows, Lackey Moth Caterpillars and Navelwort

Wednesday, June 10, 2015 Adam Tilt 2 Comments

Martin's Haven is, for all intents and purposes, a fairly innocuous looking cove located on Pembrokeshire's Dale Peninsula. If not for nearby Skomer island I doubt many of us would even have heard of it but with daily sailings across to the wildlife mecca it sees its fair share of footfall throughout the year.

P1130097 - Martin's Haven

Having arrived a couple of hours early for our own Skomer adventure we had plenty of time to kill and spent much of it exploring the rocky foreshore and neighbouring twentieth century Deer Park (a failed venture I might add). First port of call though were the toilets, not far any relief following a long journey but instead to watch the Swallows which build their nests within. Having these birds flying inches from your head or seeing a row of youngsters peering out of their nest whilst you do your business is certainly an interesting experience and one that raises even more eyebrows should you try and whip out a camera to capture the spectacle for prosperity. I can't imagine why. Thankfully there was no need for such antics on this occasion as the adults were still in the relatively early stages of nest building and were happy to spend time perched outside in the early morning sun. Watching them preen and chatter away to each other was an excellent way to start the day and I ended up getting my best photos of the species to date.


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Skomer Bluebells

Tuesday, June 09, 2015 Adam Tilt 3 Comments

Bluebells may not be top of your list when it comes to naming things most likely to be found on a small island with no trees, yet Skomer somehow manages to produce a display to rival any of our ancient woodlands. At this time of year whole swathes of the island turn purple-blue and we were lucky enough during our trip to catch the display near its peak.

P1130123 - Skomer Bluebells

P1130144 - Skomer Bluebells

P1130152 - Skomer Bluebells

Why though are there Bluebells here at all? To answer that question we have to travel back between two thousand and five thousand years to a time before human occupation when Skomer was covered in extensive Oak and Birch scrubland. Such conditions would have been ideal for Bluebell growth with the trees providing the necessary shelter from strong winds and bad weather which often batter the island. It was only with the arrival of early settlers during the thirteenth century that the landscape began to change as trees were felled to provide construction materials and to make way for new fields and grazing pasture. The end results of that process speak for themselves but somehow the Bluebells managed to hang on and today survive with Bracken providing the shelter once afforded to them by Oak and Birch.


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Skomer Razorbills and Guillemots

Monday, June 08, 2015 Adam Tilt 7 Comments

As good as Puffins are (and they really are very good let me make that quite clear) I must admit a soft spot for the other birds with which they share top billing on Skomer. I am of course talking about Razorbills and Guillemots of which there are thousands upon thousands nesting on the steep sea cliffs at this time of year. Probably the best known location to watch these argumentative colonies in full flow is from the Wick but there are several other locations around the island where, if anything, the density of birds packed in along perilously narrow ledges is even greater. Skomer Head and Bull hole are probably two of the best and it's simply not possible to appreciate how much life is present at each without focusing in on just a small area at a time. Only then does the overall mass begin to resolve itself into individual birds and you really start to appreciate the full spectacle to which are you are privy.

P1130168 - Guillemots. Skomer

P1130171 - Guillemots. Skomer

P1130188 - Guillemots. Skomer

If you want a close encounter however then the best place to see both species is, ironically, just as you step off the boat. The steep steps up to the reception point are, in my experience at least, always lined by a good selection of birds which are only too happy to demonstrate their bickering nature


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Skomer Puffins

Wednesday, June 03, 2015 Adam Tilt 2 Comments

After a couple of failed attempts we finally made it over to Skomer on Saturday, our first time aboard the Dale Princess for at least two years. Given that all sailings had been cancelled on the days either side of our trip it perhaps wasn't surprising that a long queue for tickets greeted our arrival despite it still being a full two hours before the earliest departure! Clearly the islands popularity and profile has been steadily on the rise and with only a set number of visitors allowed across each day there was definitely a sense of trepidation as we waited to see if we'd make it onto a boat. Fortunately we did (otherwise this would have been a very short entry) and enjoyed a remarkably sunny day amongst the thousands of sea birds which call Skomer home. I'll never tire of watching their antics and on this occasion we had the added bonus of millions upon millions of flowering Bluebells as well. Whole swatches of the island were covered in a thick carpet of colour, great for those of us with an eye to photography and perfect cover for fledgling birds and parents alike. The real stars though, as ever, were the Puffins and we certainly got to enjoy our fill.

P1130220 - Puffin, Skomer


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#pwc2015 That Was Spring That Was

Monday, June 01, 2015 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

Today is officially the first day of summer (that's why it's cold, windy and raining) and it also marks the next phase for my Patchwork Challenge. Last week I managed to find my final outstanding spring migrants (those I expect at least) with two calling Cuckoos on Tuesday and a pair of Blackcaps on Thursday. The latter had the decency to show very well indeed but alas this will probably go down as another year where my patch Cuckoo will be an audible tick only. They sounded so tantalisingly close as well but I've learnt from past experience that the sound of a Cuckoo can travel a very large distance indeed.

P1130054 - Bryn-bach-Common

At least the sun has been out which made for welcome relief following our mostly grey weekend in the Peak District, and with it a whole host of fledglings have begun to emerge. First up on Thursday were a family group of Coal Tits and a young Dunnock, quickly followed by the sight of a Wren visiting its nest and two Mistle Thrushes doing likewise a little further up the valley. From the sounds of it the latter can't be long from fledging and perhaps it's for that reason that a Buzzard had decided to sit close by when I returned an hour or so later. Whatever the reason it was driving the adults mad yet the Buzzard had adopted a look of complete and utter ignorance. I warmed to it immediately.

Also out and about were a couple of Goldcrests, two pairs of Bullfinch, a flyover Yellowhammer and what seemed like the counties entire supply of Song Thrushes. It sounded as if every tree had one of these raucous individuals buried somewhere deep within, each doing its best to imitate every other resident species. Entertaining for sure but not ideal where you're ears are trying to focus in on anything out of the ordinary.

Of course two new species this week (Cuckoo and Blackcap) means that I have stretched my tally yet further. There is a full list of the species I've seen on patch over the years here but for interest this is my full tally in 2015. Place your bets now on what will be my next addition as I genuinely have no idea.

Red KiteTawny OwlGrey Heron
Black-headed gullGoldfinchGrasshopper Warbler
Lesser black-backed gullBullfinchGarden Warbler
Herring GullMeadow PipitShelduck
WoodpigeonKestrelHouse Martin
Collared DoveStock DoveCuckoo
Song ThrushCanada Goose
Long-tailed TitSkylark
Blue TitChiffchaff
Great TitGrey Wagtail
Coal TitPheasant
JackdawReed Bunting
House SparrowTreecreeper
StarlingWillow Warbler
Carrion CrowSwallow
RookGreat Black-backed Gull
Mistle ThrushMallard
Pied WagtailGreat Spotted Woodpecker
Green Woodpecker
Tawny Owl

2015: 68 / 2014: 64


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