Yesterday marked the start of our Christmas break (bah humbug) and, having tried to make the most of it, we’re left with three main points to discuss. The first of these, and probably the most obvious if you’ve been a regular reader or resident of the UK lately, is the weather. Once again South Wales was swathed in a band of heavy and persistent rain which at least attempted to add a little variety by blowing from every conceivable direction during the course of a single day. This resulted in not only the destruction of one golf umbrella but also made attempting to predict conditions from one moment to the next pretty much impossible. Then there’s the temperature which hit a giddying fourteen Celsius by midday, heat which we’d be more than happy with in the middle of summer let alone a few days before 2015 calls it quits. Quite what our wildlife thinks of all this is anyone’s guess but there have been reports of both Swallows and Sand Martins in recent days, plus early flowering Daffodils. My own garden has started to bloom again this week and, judging from its length, I have my doubts that the lawn has even contemplated going into hibernation quite yet. Cutting grass in the middle of winter once seemed a crazy idea but now, I’m not so sure.
On a more positive note Saturday also saw the long overdue reappearance of Starlings on our garden feeders! It’s been at least two years since our last sighting here of what used to be a regular visitor, happy days when flocks numbering double digits were not unusual. Since then they have entirely disappeared along with 79% of the UK garden visiting population meaning photo opportunities like the one above from 2010 are getting rarer and rarer. The three individuals which turned up out of the blue were therefore very welcome indeed. Normally I’d say that freezing temperatures were to blame but, as we’ve just covered, that’s clearly not the case this time. My best guess is that the sudden availability of a plethora of fat based products proved too tempting as they were back again this morning. Let’s hope this is the start of a resurgence as they are one of my favourite garden birds.
Finally we come to the main event itself which was, for fear of becoming slightly repetitive, another trip to Cwm Ivy Marsh. In such dismal conditions the hide there seemed like a great place to while away an hour or so and who knows, there was always a chance of seeing that Otter again. By some miracle we actually arrived in the dry but that soon changed as waves of horizontal, driving rain obscured all but the closest features. Bird-wise what we could see was broadly in-line with previous visits including Little Egrets, Crows and what sounded like a Goldcrest just out of sight. More unusual was the single Chiffchaff actively foraging through the brambles directly opposite but he too soon vanished into the murk.
With the weather steadily worsening we ended up having to close the hide windows as a strengthening wind blew rain directly into our faces before finally we gave up and headed for home. Other than a couple of floods the journey was uneventful but it was nice to see a flock of at least forty Lapwings over nearby fields. Not a complete washout but pretty damn close.