#pwc2016 High Tide Goodies

Monday, February 29, 2016 Adam Tilt 3 Comments

P1000287 - Blackbird, Coead Bach Park
At risk of repeating myself as another month reaches its conclusion, where on earth has the time gone? It only seems like yesterday that I was bemoaning my lack of visits to both local patches and yet, with March knocking at the door, I find myself in little better shape. Actually that's not strictly true as I did manage to squeeze in one highly successful outing to the Upper Loughor a couple of weeks ago, notable both for its birds and complete lack of light. Honestly, a torch would not have gone amiss. Admittedly that might be a slight exaggeration but it was nevertheless seriously dull and despite a brief moment where the sun threatened to break through, that was how things remained for the rest of the day. Quite what effect this would have on the days birding was anyone's guess but things got off to a promising start with a flock of some thirty thrushes feeding on festival field. Most were Redwing with a couple of Song and Mistle Thrushes thrown in for good measure, yet once again Fieldfares eluded us. They weren't the only ones up and about either as a Nuthatch and several Goldcrest made their presence felt in hedges bordering the main road. Never let it be said that nature does not make use of every opportunity afforded to it, no matter the surroundings. More Redwings greeted our arrival at Castell ddu Farm with at least eight individuals spread out beneath the conifers though none were willing to entertain anything like an approach.

All this though was just a precursor to the main event which today was led by an extremely high tide. In fact there was only just enough dry land to squeeze around onto the footpath, an exercise which caused the mass exodus of Teal and Shelduck in their hundreds. I'd always presumed that such conditions would have brought the birds in but I never expected quite as high a density as this and quickly found myself in second heaven as I scanned through the masses. Over four hundred Lapwing, thirty Canada Geese, Little Grebe, four Little Egrets, singles of Redshank and Greenshank, seven Cormorants including a couple in stunning breeding plumage, Great Crested Grebe, Curlew and all the usual Gull species. I could see my patchwork tally ballooning before my very eyes, and yet more was to come. Perched out in the reeds was a grumpy looking Peregrine Falcon, overhead Buzzards called and from the muddy shore shot a quartet of twittering Skylarks. For someone who has spent the last four years flogging a rewarding yet often slightly barren patch this felt like finally hitting the mother-load. Yet within an hour it was all done, the tide having dropped at least a couple of meters taking with it most of the birds. If I'd not been so engrossed in my birding I'd have taken a photo or two of the gathering but instead will have to make do with one from after the event had finished. At least it should give a sense of where we were and I promise you'll be seeing a lot more from here over the coming months, hopefully accompanied with a little sun if the weather gods decide to play ball.

P1000265 - Upper Loughor


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Gower Burns

Sunday, February 28, 2016 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

A quick glance across the Burry early Friday evening showed clearly that all was not well over on Gower. Even from a distance of some fifteen miles I could see the flames and their surrounding glow, each growing in both ferocity and height with each passing minute. As it turned out we were heading over that way anyway, on a fish and chip run no less, so decided to detour across to Cefn Bryn to see what was happening. You can probably guess. After a couple of weeks of frankly miraculous dry weather it seems that someone thought it would be a fantastic idea to set a grass fire. Combine that with a stiff Easterly breeze and within an hour the flames had spread rapidly from below Arthur's Seat to the vicinity of Oldwalls. By the time we passed there were two main fronts burning, the smoke and ash from which were being spread far and wide.

P1000394 - Gower Burns

Regular readers of this blog have probably seen my previous reports on incidents such as this and felt my anger towards those who would willingly cause such wanton destruction. On this occasion though, all I felt was sadness. Sadness that we live in a world where people would rather destroy than create. Sadness at a society who all too often seem to place so little value in our environment and natural heritage. Sadness for Gower which is once again scarred by acres of barren blackness. Sadness for Wales which seems almost unique in harbouring a small element whose very culture seems to deem this kind of behaviour acceptable. Sadness for us all that, at least for now, we are powerless to prevent hundreds more grass fires throughout the summer. Sadness that this is likely to be just the beginning.


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RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2016

Friday, February 12, 2016 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

Yes it's that time of year again when the nation comes together to conduct the biggest and longest running citizen science project the world has ever seen. Its premise is simple. During an hour of the designated weekend count the highest number of birds seen in your garden at any one time, per species, then submit your results to the RSPB. Once the number crunchers and statisticians have done their business we're left with a remarkably accurate view of the current state of some of our commonest species. Starling decline? Farmland birds moving into urban settings? Both recorded and presented through the Big Garden Birdwatch as well as much more besides.

This year's event took place on the last weekend of January and, as you can probably guess by now, the weather was pretty dire. It was dark, dull and grey with intermittent showers meaning that once again my plan to photograph everything visiting had to be put on hold. The conditions didn't however discourage the birds themselves which arrived in typically healthy numbers keeping alive what has been a remarkable run for our garden feeders. The highlight was undoubtedly finally being able to record Starling after a couple of years absence from the BGBW but a lack of Greenfinch tells its own sorry story. Then there was the presence of two Robins, happily coexisting, a consequence perhaps of our mild winter which has already seen birds beginning preparations for Spring. In total we recorded thirteen species, three more than in 2015 and five more than in 2014. Clearly we've been getting something right when it comes to making our garden more wildlife friendly. Time for a graph I think.

Chaffinch (4)
House Sparrow (7)
Blue Tit (5)
Great Tit (3)
Blackbird (1)
Coal Tit (2)
Starling (1)
Goldfinch (6)
Robin (2)
Dunnock (1)
Jackdaw (1)
Wren (1)
Collared Dove (1)
What these figures don't include are the birds seen overflying or just outside our garden boundaries. For the hour in question these included a lone Woodpigeon, two Ravens, an extra four Jackdaws plus singles of Herring Gull and Red Kite. A few hours later and both Pied Wagtail and the Long-tailed Tit flock had also been added further bolstering the impression that our garden birds are doing well. However, that lack of Greenfinches is again a real concern and at present I can't see their downward spiral being reversed any time soon. Such a shame.


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On Motivation, Dinefwr and Fallow Deer

Monday, February 08, 2016 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

P1000246 - Nuthatch, Dinefwr
It's fair to say that motivation is proving a little hard to come by of late. I could have accepted the first month or two of relentless rain, grey skies and wind (it is winter after all) but month three really started to push my patience. What had once been a novelty with each hour grabbed between downpours a moment for celebration, had by now turned into a repetitive story of missed opportunities and frustratingly curtailed outings. Long walks were fast becoming a distant memory and as for the hills, I can't remember the last time we set foot on the Brecon Beacons proper. Still, at least February would offer a bit of relief surely. Sadly not. Once again one rainy day has bled into the next with odd moments of brightness almost always coinciding with time spent at work. Come the weekend and if a couple of hours of dryness happen to pass your way then count yourself lucky as chances are that's the last you'll see for several days hence. For someone who loves the outdoors this has not been conducive to making me a happy chappy, my feeling of despair only heightened by being struck down with man flu over the weekend just gone. This is a serious condition afflicting those of us carrying the XY chromosome combination and has led to me being mostly bed-bound ever since. In fact that's where I'm writing this from having been too unwell to drag my crippled carcass into the office where I could have shared my carefully cultivated infection. I did briefly open the curtains but that was a mistake as all that confronted me was someone called Imogen who had decided to batter South Wales with 80mph plus winds and yet more, yes you guessed it, torrential rain. Add in a busted PS4, too many weeks until my next holiday and, oh, everyone's gone.

If you are still with me then apologies as I realise that I am not alone in having had to endure what has to be one of the wettest, dreariest and downright depressing winters for a good few years. It's certainly the worst I can ever remember. Thankfully I have something decent to share from the weekend before last where a frankly remarkable dry morning on Saturday meant we could squeeze in a trip to Dinefwr. Even stranger was that it actually felt cold, properly cold, necessitating the breaking out of hats and gloves for the first time in what seems like an age. Best of all though was that there was actually some sun, genuine brightness from a golden orb that I'd genuinely feared lost to the human race. Looking skywards through bare branches to the blue sky beyond was a genuinely uplifting moment that's carried me ever since.

P1000200 - Dinefwr


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#pwc2016 Cefn Drum Round Two

Monday, February 01, 2016 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

Catch-up time here on My Life Outside I’m afraid after other projects kept me well and truly occupied last week. It’s surprising just how time consuming building a giant model of the Millennium Falcon can actually be! But I digress. Let us instead travel back to Saturday before last where a spell of dry weather meant that I could finally give my Cefn Drum patch its first proper going over of 2016. As on my previous aborted outing it was our garden feeders which showed the greatest promise early on with all the regulars present including new for year Greenfinch, Pied Wagtail and Nuthatch. All three were only seen briefly yet cover probably the trickiest trio of species to see locally, especially Nuthatch which, although seemingly getting more common, is still a tick which I fear slipping through my fingers each year. Up on Gopa Hill Starling numbers were looking particularly healthy with a flock of at least fifteen exploring nearby farmland, a small section of which are sure to be our regular garden birds. No sign of the Goldcrest though, replaced instead with larger species such as Jay, Raven and Red Kite, all new year ticks once again.

P1000189 - Kestrel, Bryn-bach-Common

Up on Bryn-bach-Common I was particularly pleased to find a distant Kestrel hunting from various fence posts, an exercise which was proving very successful indeed with at least two small mammals caught whilst I watched. Again this is a species which is not always easy to see here so it was good to get one in the bag so early on. Looking further afield the barren grasslands which typify this area during winter more than lived up to their name but I did manage to eke out a solitary flyover Meadow Pipit and pair of Stonechats.

Dropping down into the valley delivered a pair of Buzzards but, other than almost ubiquitous Robins and Wrens, the overcast conditions delivered literally nothing of note. With prospects up on Cefn Drum likely to be similarly hard work I opted instead to head off along the Northern spur in search of fame and fortune. I found neither. Instead the first sun in what seems like weeks found me and I had a properly enjoyable walk along the old tramway with nothing but my thoughts and the sound of gunshots for company. Sadly the latter signalled the end for my next year tick, Pheasant, though the six Mistle Thrush that flew over were hopefully out of range.

P1000196 - Cwmdulais

P1000191 - Cwmdulais

With views improving all the time I couldn’t resist a couple of landscape shots as a break from the dreary images which have adorned this blog of late, in the process disturbing a superb Woodcock which shot off across the valley giving great views. As with Snipe who have a similar knack for erupting out of the grass I’m not sure who was left most startled, the bird or me. Either way that signalled the end of new sightings for the day with no sign of any Dippers along the river (probably a bit too early in the year) and not much going on in the woods either. A good haul nevertheless and remarkably my final outing for this challenge in January. Quite where the last few weeks have gone is anyone’s guess but I’m going to have to up my efforts considerably this month as my scores for the Upper Loughor patch below show all too clearly.

Cefn Drum - 2015: 69 / 2016: 36
Upper Loughor 2015: 0 / 2016: 30


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