A chilly breeze last night meant that it felt more like winter than spring but the sight of my first Swallow of the year served as a timely reminder that somehow, and I know I’ve made this remark several times already, April and its migrants are well and truly here. Our long distance friend was spotted near the top of Gopa hill and joins the list of other recent arrivals headlined by numerous calling Chiffchaffs and a trio of pristine Wheatears. I first heard the formers distinctive song late afternoon on March 27th with the Wheatears arriving a few days later on April 2nd. Considering we’d still been experiencing the occasional snow shower earlier that week they must be wondering if they haven’t made some kind of terrible mistake. Nevertheless arrive they have and, as tradition dictates, that requires me to engage once more in the battle between man and bird. Stalking Wheatears is never an easy task, especially on open moorland where cover is virtually non-existent, but in the end perseverance paid off and I got a few respectable shots. Put it this way, I’ve certainly taken worse.
This trio were feeding up on Bryn-bach-Common and if memory serves represent the single largest gathering I’ve yet recorded on patch. How long they stick around for is yet to be determined but another male was fresh in last night and looked, if I’m being honest, utterly stunning. In late evening light its plumage positively shone yet idiot boy here didn’t have the camera with him as its battery was flat. As if that wasn’t bad enough we then had a close and prolonged encounter with a Fox in a neighbouring field, again in perfect light. I’ve never had the pleasure of watching a wild Fox for any length of time previously so was fascinated to see this one take a couple of jumps high into the air before diving onto something in the long grass. It reminded me a lot of the antics displayed by Arctic Foxes as they dive into the snow and in reality both have the same goal in mind. The magic was only broken by a passing cyclist, the noise from which alerted the Fox whose gaze then settled on us. A few glances passed between us before, quick as a flash, it turned and vanished into the undergrowth.
Pretty magic by anyone’s standards and not the only close encounter we’ve had whilst wandering my local patch of late. One of the local female Sparrowhawks immediately springs to mind as we’ve had it both shoot out of a hedge right in front of us and watched it patrolling field boundaries in recent days. Then there was the Kestrel which flew just overhead, seemingly enjoying the breezy conditions, not to mention Buzzards and Red Kites of which we seem to have an endless supply. Meadow Pipits have also increased dramatically in numbers since the weather has begun to warm and no walk across the common is now complete without at least a few of these diminutive birds erupting from our feet. Slightly more visible have been the flocks feeding on closely cropped fields where Pied Wagtails, one of last year’s hard to find species, are also being particularly showy.
Other new arrivals for the year include singing Skylarks whose sound epitomises this season like no other, plus a drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker and small flocks of both Linnets and Stock Doves. The former was an audio tick only but the Linnets were showing well, again on Bryn-bach-Common. Hopefully with a little patience I should be able to get some decent photos this year all being well of both species. I’m also happy to report that the resident Stonechats and Mistle Thrushes seem to have made it through the winter leaving just one unanswered question. When will the first Willow Warbler get here? I’ve seen some further along the coast already but thus far my local patch remains bereft. Last night seemed promising but I think the wind kept any that were here hunkered down, but tomorrow? Fingers crossed.
Cefn Drum – 2015: 69 / 2016: 52
Upper Loughor 2015: 0 / 2016: 53