Fan Bay Deep Shelter

Tuesday, August 30, 2016 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

P1040561 - Fan Bay Deep Shelter
If I’m truly honest with myself the claim that our trip to Dover was all about the Adonis Blue may have been ever so slightly exaggerated. Yes it was my primary draw but one bolstered no end by the presence of so much history along that particular stretch of coastline. Being our closest point to France the White Cliffs formed an integral part of the country’s defences during both world wars and still carries scars from that period to this day. Gun emplacements, barracks and even a nineteenth century prison are all clearly visible at various points and represent exactly the way I like my history displayed. Museums and restored properties all have their place but for me nothing beats exploring an abandoned site that has been left to decay naturally over time. Instead of being presented with all the information up front you’re left to piece things together from what remains, something I’ve been enjoying since my very earliest days. The second world war is often the best period for this despite much work in the 1970’s to erase many structures as part of Project Eyesore, Fan Bay Deep Shelter being one of them.

P1040501 - Fan Bay Deep Shelter


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Chasing Blues Along The White Cliffs of Dover

Sunday, August 28, 2016 Adam Tilt 2 Comments

P1040473 - Chalk-hill Blue, Dover
A day after seeing the efforts our ancestors expended keeping the French at bay we found ourselves at a place whose whole existence is geared towards entirely the opposite goal. Dover. Surely one of the most depressing towns ever to greet a weary traveller (although I'm pretty sure Calais runs it a close second) yet also the access point for one of this countries most famous landmarks. Through the centuries the White Cliffs have seen despair, sorrow and war and today stand testament to Britain's resilience and will to carry on. The contrast between their instantly recognisable chalk profile and the modern port mere meters away couldn't be more stark.

P1040396 - Dover


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Birding The Royal Military Canal, Kent

Saturday, August 27, 2016 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

Slightly later than planned due to a couple of days under canvas sans technology in Pembrokeshire, it's time to head to Kent. As a little background this is not an area of the country I know well and thanks to a busy couple of days at work leading up to our trip I'd had scant time for any serious planning. As a result we were very much in the hands of our hosts, my sister and her husband (still sounds strange saying that even after three years), so when they suggested a walk along the Royal Military Canal last Saturday we were all for it. Completed in 1809 its twenty eight mile length had but one purpose - to fend off any attack from the French across Romney Marsh. A noble ambition for sure but one never tested in anger before the canal was eventually decommissioned in 1877. Since then nature has been allowed to take her course, softening once stark edges and slowly eroding defensive banks and other structures. Today a footpath stretches its entire length and we picked up the trail from Appledore before heading East. Even after two hundred years the original design philosophy is clear to see with kinks every five hundred yards, each marking the position of an artillery battery allowing a clear shot down its defended stretch of water. The result is that you walk through a constantly changing vista, each twist and turn opening up a new window on the surrounding landscape.

P1040394 - Royal Military Canal

The contrast between lush vegetation on the landward side and dry grassland and drained marsh on the other was stark, a boundary marked by the canal itself. This presented an intriguing mix of habitats which one moment had us watching a family of Spotted Flycatchers and the next Sand Martins and Stock Doves. Darting between the two like a bolt of lightning were Kingfishers, at least two but probably more. They were an almost constant presence along the three or four mile stretch we walked, occasionally perched up but more often than not seen disappearing around the next corner or over towards a parallel drainage ditch. I tried to keep a tally in my notebook but in the end settled on the slightly vaguer "several". If anyone is aware of just how large the local population is then I'd love to know.

Of course, being a canal there were the almost ubiquitous Mute Swans and Mallards but other than that the waterway itself was strangely devoid of bird life. The long-ago drained marsh was much more productive with a yaffling Green Woodpecker giving us more than the usual run-around as it perched alternately on ground, fence and then dead tree before settling on mocking us from positions unknown. All par for the course really. Slightly easier to track down were a pair of passing Grey Herons, one of which came close enough for another attempt at in flight photography. Definitely getting there I think.

P1040372 - Grey Heron, Royal Military Canal

All the time these events were unfolding we were never far from a Dragonfly or Butterfly with species seen including Common Darter, Brown Hawker, Migrant Hawker, Red Admiral, Small White and Speckled Wood. Of these my best photo came of a Common Darter and boy does he look pleased with his berry!

P1040387 - Common Darter, Royal Military Canal

There were also plenty of signs of unseen visitors as well for those taking the time to look. The most obvious were at least two large Badger setts and the most unusual these Woodpecker 'drillings'. I'm sure there's a technical term but for now it escapes me so instead I'll let the photo do the talking.

P1040376 - Woodpecker action, Royal Military Canal

Heading back into Appledore's well tended lawns and expensive housing I couldn't help wandering how often the locals use what's on their very doorsteps. We met not a soul heading out and only one single couple on the way back. According to my sister this is not unusual which was great for us but a shame to not see the canal being more widely enjoyed. Perhaps I'm being overly pessimistic so come on Appledore, next time we're down your way I expect to see far more people pondering the fruits of our long-standing feud with them over the channel.


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Weeting Heath and Wicken Fen

Wednesday, August 24, 2016 Adam Tilt 2 Comments

P1030575 - Small Skipper, Wicken Fen
We’re just back from a long weekend in Kent where there was sun, sea and rather more wind than proved ideal. Our reason for travelling so far East and braving the M25? My Dad’s 60th birthday present which was to have taken the form of a Tiger Moth flying experience. Unfortunately this bi-plane veteran of the second world war doesn’t take too kindly to gale force winds so it, and we, were grounded. A bit of a pain but with so many attractions within easy reach we weren’t exactly left kicking our heels. Far from it in fact as we managed to squeeze in early nineteenth century defences against French invasion, WW2 tunnels used in defence against Nazi invasion, nuclear power stations and a series of abandoned narrow gauge railways once used by fishermen. A varied selection even by our own somewhat random standards.

With appetites hopefully whetted let’s instead concentrate on something entirely different for now. Sorry about that. I’ve been wanting to fill in a few trips from my missing months of blogging and first up is a short break we took at the beginning of July to Cambridgeshire. Flying machines were once again a big draw, this time in the form of Duxford’s Flying Legends air display. No doubt a few photos from the day will make their way onto here at some point too but this post is all about the nearby reserves of Weeting Heath and Wicken Fen. Happy coincidence you might suggest? Nothing of the sort. Military like planning meant that after several years of failed attempts we were finally in the right place at the right time (just) to try and find Stone Curlews. This bird is one of the last UK species I really want to see and there is no better place than Weeting Heath if the internet is to be believed. In truth we didn’t know what to expect so were pleasantly surprised to find walking routes of several miles in length, a couple of decent hides and a promise that there were indeed Stone Curlews to be found. In fact the reserve warden couldn’t have done more to aid us in our quest, drawing up a map and pointing out the best viewing locations. Hopes were high but ultimately we came up short. A combination of tall vegetation and the wrong time of day meant zero sightings despite several hours of watching. We even made a last ditch attempt on our final evening to address the latter but still drew a blank. Probably the closest we came was the sound of a calling Curlew somewhere out on the grassland, a dead ringer for Stone Curlew but to untrained ears impossible to distinguish from its native counterpart. Frustrating but more than enough incentive to make a return trip early next Spring.

Thankfully the other residents at Weeting Heath were proving more than accommodating with two more target species, Hobby and Turtle Dove, both turning up exactly where the warden had said they would. The latter only gave brief flight views as it shot across a clearing in the woodland but its distinctive upper wing colouring was unmistakeable and represented a new life tick for my Dad. The Hobby on the other hand couldn’t have been more accommodating with several flight views near its nesting site. Also present were a good number of Yellowhammers whilst the raptors were added to by Buzzard, Kestrel and a trio of local F-15’s. Rather amusingly we were for a while convinced that the Kestrel was in fact a Stone Curlew, a statement that’s not as daft as it may first appear. For some reason the bird was running through the long grass and when virtually completely obscured it’s surprising how similar the two can look. Fortunately we were on our own in the hide when that particular misstep took place so we were saved our blushes, unlike the gentleman who was convinced he had one in his scope. Hurried shouts and barked directions later (all in a hushed tone of course) we all had the same cracking views. Of a Rabbits ears that is. Oh well.

If the birds were impressive then the number and variety of butterfly species proved even more so. Pretty much all the species we know were present including excellent numbers of Small and Large Skippers plus Small Heath, Small Copper and my very first Essex Skipper. Even a lifer couldn't outshine the discovery of this Pine Hawk-moth however, found atop a fence post whilst looking for those ever elusive Stone Curlews.

P1030534 - Pine Hawk-moth, Weeting Heath


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Carreg Cennen Castle - Cows and Clouds

Sunday, August 21, 2016 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

Back to last Sunday for this one where my parents luck with the weather continued to prevail. Remember all that sun and blue sky of late? Gone. Instead we had low, thick cloud casting a gloom more reminiscent of winter than the heights of summer. The only thing spoiling that illusion was our dual friends heat and humidity. It proved sweaty in the extreme each time we tackled one of the numerous ascents on our circumnavigation of Carreg Cennen. At least the castle itself looked suitably moody and menacing perched atop its limestone outcrop.

P1040207 - Carreg Cennen Castle

The plan had been to spend some time finding and photographing butterflies which have proved previously numerous along this walk. The dull light pretty much put paid to that idea though with only a solitary Speckled Wood and a couple of Green-veined Whites on the wing. Fortunately birds aren’t as picky about their outings and just above the source of the Loughor we stumbled across an absolute gold mine. Here woodland gives way to open hillsides and, as on previous occasions this summer, we found this to be ideal habitat for Redstarts. There were at least three individuals present, one adult and two juveniles, although we found many more further along our route. Keeping them company was a very active family of Spotted Flycatchers, my first for several months and a new species for me in this locality. They were doing exactly what they do best high in the treetops and proved impossible to get a decent photograph of that didn’t consist of a distant and slightly obscured silhouette. The same could be said of the juvenile Green Woodpecker which was lurking deep in one of the stunted Rowan trees, its plumage an intriguing mix of half speckled grey and half green. It issued a brief yaffle as it skulked off further into cover but a great find nonetheless. Also about were commoner species including Great Tit, Blue Tit and Chaffinch plus a constant presence of Swallows overhead. Talking of Swallows there were huge numbers around the farm beneath Carreg Cennen, many if not all as a result of the numerous nests within nearby barns. Birds were continuously passing in and out, several still showing their gape which marked them out as this year’s offspring.

And now, some Cows.

P1040203 - Carreg Cennen Cow

P1040198 - Carreg Cennen Cow

The photogenic calf and pregnant female above were in a field with other similarly pregnant animals, one of which was in the early throws of labour. As a ‘townie’ this proved terribly exciting and I whipped out the camera to capture whatever happened next. Mistake. Turns out giving birth is not beautiful or photogenic in any way and in the end we were saved from the full gruesome spectacle as her contractions seemed to pass and she settled back down. What was interesting to observe however was that all the pregnant females were frequently bending their heads back as in my photo above. Could they perhaps have been listening for sounds of their calf’s within? Whatever the reason it was clear that there was still a long way to go so we left the herd to some privacy and continued on our way. Certainly an interesting diversion though and excuse enough for one of the best alliteration post titles ever to grace this blog.


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Goldfinch Drama

Friday, August 19, 2016 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

High drama graced our garden last night following the discovery of a grounded juvenile Goldfinch. This is not a wise move in an area plagued by feral cats and our concerns were rightly raised that were it to stay there it would not be long for this world. Physically it looked in good health but simply refused to move or fly off at any approach. Keeping a careful watch our suspicions were raised that it was perhaps stunned, another casualty of our garage window which no amount of reflective devices seems to prevent.

P1040327 - Stunned Goldfinch

P1040334 - Stunned Goldfinch

I’ve dealt with these circumstances a number of times before and moving the bird to a quiet area and keeping an eye out for predators usually gives the unfortunate victim time to recover. Emma was our designated carer this time around and picked the Goldfinch up easily enough but it quickly became obvious that it was in no fit state to stay in the garden. It was continuously nodding off apart from a few brief flight attempts that proved rather less than successful. The first saw it landing on Emma’s chest with the next taking it over to a tree where it singularly failed to make a landing and tumbled to the ground. Worrying to say the least and a little sad as whenever the local Goldfinch flock flew over our juvenile would look skywards but was clearly unable to join them.

P1040346 - Stunned Goldfinch

P1040355 - Stunned Goldfinch

P1040359 - Stunned Goldfinch

Picking it up for a second time we transferred the bird to an old shoebox lined with towels, supplied some water and covered with another towel. Placed in a quiet corner of the house we left our new guest to recover, peaking in every now and again to ensure that all was well. I’m happy to report that initial checks looked promising with the Goldfinch firmly asleep, head tucked under wing. The only problem was that it was now dark outside so although the recommended recovery time is a couple of hours we decided to leave things as they were overnight. Nerves were definitely jangling this morning but everything turned out brilliantly. Our Goldfinch was already flapping about so we quickly took the box outside and released it. First stop was our neighbours tree and a few moments later it was gone, presumably joined with the rest of its flock as they once more passed through. A perfect result that improved my mood today no end.


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Sunset From Pen y Fan

Wednesday, August 17, 2016 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

P1040281 - Evening Climb of Pen y Fan
Last night's ascent of Pen y Fan was easily my best to date. A few colleagues and I had been kicking around the idea of an after work climb for the last couple of years but, as is often the case, great ideas tend to fizzle out unless someone grabs them by the horns and makes something happen. For us that kick up the backsides was an email last week, a welcome reprieve from the usual dross which fills my inbox. Weather forecasts were checked, rendezvous points chosen and before we knew it six in the evening had arrived and we were about to set foot on the lower slopes of Pen y Fan. Even after a few meters of climbing I instinctively knew that we had absolutely nailed this one. Conditions were perfect, warm with a light breeze, whilst overhead barely a cloud marred the sky. All around us Heather bloomed and best of all? We had the place virtually to ourselves. Stopping for a moment just to listen brought only the sounds of distant Meadow Pipts and the bleating of Sheep. Try the same thing on a typical weekend and the results would be far less pleasing on the ear I can assure you of that. Breathtaking doesn't really do the experience justice but it was probably the most relaxing and joyful climb I've yet completed. With great company and plenty of laughs we ate up the miles in no time, arriving at the summit just before sunset. That our timing was near perfect came as no real surprise on an evening where we could seemingly do no wrong.

P1040247 - Evening Climb of Pen y Fan


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Waterfall Country - The Return

Monday, August 15, 2016 Adam Tilt 1 Comments

P1040144 - Sgwd Gwladus
My parents were down last weekend which provided the perfect excuse for a return visit to waterfall country, an area in the South Brecon Beacons synonymous with falls of water. Ahem. We last walked this route from Pontneddfechan in September of last year and one of my regrets from that day was not photographing the remains of the silica tramway along whose route the path initially treads. Built in the nineteenth century its construction was crude by more modern standards using roughly cut stone sleepers into which rails would have been fixed. Though the rails are long since gone several sections of well preserved sleepers remain, easily overlooked but well worth spending the time to seek out.

P1040113 - Pontneddfechan Tramway


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The Glorious 13th

Sunday, August 14, 2016 Adam Tilt 2 Comments

Wow. Little did I realise when posting my views concerning the current campaign to ban driven Grouse shooting on Friday quite how quickly events would progress. Even as I hit publish the count 85,919 was immediately rendered out of date by a constant procession of new signees, all of whom were willing to make a stand and declare that the persecution of wildlife across our Grouse moors has to stop. By midnight we were only a few hundred short of the magic 100,000 mark, a target smashed early on Saturday and one which now recedes in our rear-view mirror with every passing hour. As of now this is where we stand and it warms my heart to think of so many other like minded individuals standing up for nature.

I should probably also apologise at this point to those readers who aren't used to seeing such campaigning on my blog, and who may indeed disagree with the goals of this very petition. I must admit to usually leaving this kind of thing to others but increasingly it's been getting harder and harder to step back and hope that others 'get the job done'. Social media is much to blame, not in the usual terms of glueing people to their phones but in opening many of our eyes to what is really going on in our countryside. At times it can make for rather depressing reading but where else would the Badger cull, Buzzard cull, Hen Harrier persecution, missing Golden Eagles and endless other wildlife crimes have got such wide readership? Certainly not in the national or local press, although coverage of this years inglorious 12th has been pretty darn good, and definitely not by the likes of the BBC whose impartial reporting I am increasingly beginning to question. But I digress. The truth is I see all this injustice and with it a large part of the population whose response is one of apathy. Not deliberate apathy let me make that clear, but one born out of a complete disconnect with our natural world and the challenges that it faces. The last couple of days has been a prime example where widespread information dissemination through blogs, radio, leaflets and interviews has managed to reach people who had thus far been disengaged but once better informed knew intrinsically that what was going on was wrong. This is indeed encouraging and shows the power of getting a message spread far and wide. For I genuinely believe that alone the wildlife organisations and their supporters cannot succeed. It takes that wider public engagement to really make a message heard and this one should hopefully be doing just that in the Houses of Parliament very soon.

All that brings us to what some are now dubbing The Glorious 13th, the date on which the petition to ban driven Grouse shooting surpassed 100,000 signatures. This means that it now has the chance to be debated in parliament and given its context and scientific backing there should be no reason for that not to take place. Yes there are other important issues on our governments agenda (here's looking at you Brexit!) but in the next six months I hope to see this issue debated in our highest house. The outcome? Hard to say, but given the vested interests of some of our MP's it could be an interesting and rocky road ahead. An important first step has been taken however. The Grouse shooting industry now knows they have a serious fight on their hands whatever happens. Campaigners will not back down and the ball is now firmly in their court to change their ways, step up to the mark or face consignment to the history books. The Inglorious 12th may stand for all that is bad about driven Grouse shooting but The Glorious 13th marks the day where we the public stated loud and clear, "No more".

Sign the petition to ban driven Grouse shooting


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The Inglorious 12th #notsoglorious

Friday, August 12, 2016 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

P1040215_2 - Red Grouse, Bleaklow
Image © Leauge Against Cruel Sports
Today is August 12th. Until a couple of years ago that meant nothing out of the ordinary to me, as I doubt it did a great proportion of the general public. And why would it? Unless you are one of a very small minority who enjoy the 'sport' of driven Grouse shooting then the fact that today marks the start of that particular season was neither here nor there. However, what has become hard to ignore over the years thanks to tireless campaigning by the likes of Mark Avery and others is just what a cost this minority activity is having on our native wildlife, particularly Hen Harriers. Being fortunate to live near a winter site for these elegant birds means that I get to see them often but did you know that this year only three pairs bred on Grouse moors in England? The true total should be in the hundreds and the primary reason for this is illegal persecution by those that manage these areas for maximum Grouse numbers and thus the biggest 'bags' on any given day. Because why would you want to shoot one Grouse when you can slaughter hundreds?

And it's not as if this is some exaggerated campaigning by a select few as part of what some see as a war against the upper classes. That couldn't be further from the truth. There is no longer any doubt that rampant illegal persecution of Hen Harriers and other raptors on Grouse moors is not only ongoing but actively encouraged as the only viable means to keep the industry going. This isn't about class. I couldn't care less if it was some inner city youths or the local Lords and Ladies. Illegal persecution and killing is exactly that. Illegal. And the perpetrators should be brought to justice for robbing the rest of us of the chance to enjoy our native birds of prey, whoever they are.

Perhaps if a civilised debate could have reached some meaningful way forwards with the operators of these moors then the current campaign for an outright ban on driven Grouse shooting could have been avoided. But what little trust there may once have been has long since been eroded by a seemingly never ending parade of atrocities and illegal acts which go unpunished. There are many examples easily accessible across the web but here are some of the headlines which stick out for me:

  • There should be 300 pairs of breeding Hen Harriers in England. This year there are three.
  • There should be 500 pairs of breeding Hen Harries on Grouse moors in the UK. A typical year now sees less than 20.
  • It is a fact that burning of heather on Grouse moors increases surface run-off leading to a greater risk of serious flooding in downstream areas and increased costs to water companies. These costs are passed on to each and every one of us in terms of increased water rates.
  • 36 Golden Eagles have been found dead or lost from Scottish Grouse moors in the last ten years.
  • Thousands of Mountain Hares are wiped out each year (legally but it really shouldn't be).
  • Illegal traps are set which indiscriminately maim any passing wildlife.
  • Wholesale wiping out of Foxes, Stoats and Weasels on Grouse Moors is commonplace. Basically kill anything that could possibly have any kind of an impact on Grouse populations.
I could go on but frankly it's a little depressing and if you want the full horrific picture then Mark Avery's blog and Raptor Persecution UK are well worth reading. I must warn you however that even a cursory scan makes you wander if we have really made any progress in this country over the last couple of decades, especially when it comes to raptor persecution.

Thankfully with increased awareness the wider public is finally beginning to realise what is happening in their own back yards. Atrocities that once went unnoticed on remote hillsides are rapidly becoming public knowledge, hitting the national press and instilling the outrage that such acts rightly deserve. Last weekend was the third annual Hen Harrier Day and it was bigger then ever with events up and down the country attracting thousands of ordinary people just wanting to share their outrage at activities against which the authorities apparently seem powerless to act. Only by speaking with one voice can we hope to make a difference, force a national debate on this issue and hopefully save some of our greatest bird species, particularly the Hen Harrier, from further population declines. 

The best way to add your voice to this growing campaign is to sign the petition to ban driven Grouse shooting. This is not a decision that many of us have taken lightly but in the face of limited options it seems the only course now open. As I write this 85,919 people have already signed and at 100,000 the petition will be considered for debate in the Houses of Parliament. If you do anything this August 12th I would encourage you to add your signature and help ensure that in future years we don't look back and wonder what more we could have done to save our Hen Harriers. Thank you.


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Big Butterfly Count and Little Stint

Thursday, August 11, 2016 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

A chance comment on a recent post alerted me to the fact that last weekend was our final opportunity to take part in the Big Butterfly Count. There was a time when I wouldn't have been able to think of anything worse but times change, interests shift and the prospect of doing some fieldwork sounded pretty dam good fun. Probably a good thing too as after Saturday's exertions we weren't good for much else. Llanelli WWT was our destination of choice and we picked out a series of likely looking spots covering a range of different habitats. First up were a couple of large Buddleia in full bloom which held probably one of our most striking species, the Red Admiral. There were three present during this initial fifteen minute survey and they were crying out to be photographed.

P1040075 - Red Admiral, Llanelli WWT


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Llangorse Three Peaks

Tuesday, August 09, 2016 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

P1030981 - Llangorse Lake Start: SO 148 268
End: SO 148 268

Distance: 11miles
Overall Altitude Gain: 2,800ft

Terrain: Well defined tracks onto open hillsides with three very steep ascents.

Difficulty: Medium - navigation difficult on open hillsides
Friday afternoons mean planning for the weekend, an exercise which typically includes preying to the weather Gods for a relatively kind forecast. A quick glance towards the Met Office promised they at least had the latter under control whilst the discovery of sorted the rest. I've not come across this website before so not sure how long it's been available but the quality of downloadable PDF's there make it a must use resource if you're considering a walk in the area.  One in particular named "Awesome Walks" grabbed my attention for perhaps obvious reasons. Covering various routes ranging in length from two to eleven miles we predictably went with the longest possible option, a self described strenuous walk over, or more accurately up and down, the three peaks of Mynydd Llangorse, Mynydd Troed and Pen Tir.


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High Tide Roost at Pembrey Harbour

Sunday, August 07, 2016 Adam Tilt 1 Comments

Friday evening's dual forecast of high tide and sunny intervals had Burry Port written all over it. The fact that I last managed to squeeze in an after work trip there several months ago was just added incentive and in the end I managed to arrive with about thirty minutes to spare. Already the tide was racing in, filling old Pembrey harbour at an alarming rate. At least if you were a Redshank that is, several of whose panicked flights and calls expressed more than a little displeasure at having their evening plans thoroughly disrupted. In no danger of getting their feet wet were a couple of tailless juvenile Meadow Pipits (anxious parents calling nearby) as well as several Skylarks whose brief bursts of song as they took flight were music to my ears. Looking further afield I could see the regular flock of Oystercatchers gathered off the harbour wall, their continuous shuffling movement to escape the ever rising tide surely one of natures greatest treats. Things were looking good and with the light just about perfect everywhere I looked was another photograph just begging to be taken.

P1030951 - Oystercatchers, Pembrey


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More Action From Those Dinefwr Badgers

Friday, August 05, 2016 Adam Tilt 2 Comments

P1030919_2 - Dinefwr Badgers
To round off what's turned out to be a surprisingly uplifting and enjoyable week, I thought I'd share one last video from those fantastic Dinefwr Badgers. This one includes probably my favourite set of clips showing several individuals going hell for leather in the hunt for that last elusive peanut.

There's still a couple of weeks left before the Dinefwr Badger Watches finish for another year, and if all goes to plan we'll try and fit in a second trip. If we do then fingers crossed for a lighter evening as the prospect of dappled shade in this setting is simply mouthwatering.


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Dinefwr Badger Watch

Thursday, August 04, 2016 Adam Tilt 1 Comments

If you've already read last nights post then you'll know that we spent Wednesday evening in the company of my new favourite species of British wildlife. I've always been fascinated by Badgers, right from the very earliest days of Springwatch where Bill Oddie invariably ended up staring at empty monitors despite undoubted weeks of preparation. Try as I might it seemed for the longest time that I too was going to be afflicted by the same bad luck, and certainly not for want of trying. Many hours have been spent walking nearby woodlands or driving around promising hotspots after dark yet somehow we never quite managed to connect. That's not to say we never came close, far from it in fact. One particular summers eve springs to mind when, walking near one of the innumerable local setts, we could clearly see something moving through dense Bracken off to our right. Fronds were waving this way and that as we tracked its progress but the culprit refused to show itself before slinking off never to be seen again. In fact the closest we ever came was when I was on my own driving on Gower, another trip out more in hope than expectation, only to spot a Badger in my headlights running along the road ahead. It couldn't have been visible for more than a couple of seconds but I almost burst with excitement, some of that fizzing energy no doubt coming through in my writings at the time. That was a long five years ago now though and, fearing we were never going to do it on our own, we booked onto one of Dinefwr's Badger Watch evenings. I first heard of these a couple of years ago but not always being the most organised of people we only thought to enquire further this week. What a decision that turned out to be!

Promised two hours in a hide next to one of the estates setts, I really didn't know what to expect. Would we be ensconced behind glass for instance to avoid the Badgers being disturbed? Would photography be permitted for similar reasons? We even had our binoculars with us not knowing if we'd be watching from some distance away. How wrong we were. The hide turned out to be a spacious structure for its ten occupants, situated in an elevated position overlooking a wide clearing in the woodland with several large fallen trees for added interest. Large openings allowed uninterrupted views and as for photography? It was a case of fill your boots. Our guide for the evening popped outside once we'd settled in to prime the area with a few choice peanuts and dollops of peanut butter as we began to wonder how long we'd have to wait for our first sighting. The answer turned out to not be very long at all. Even before our guide had finished two Badgers crept out from beneath the largest of the fallen trees and from that moment on it was non stop action. Two quickly became three and before we knew it there were up to nine Badgers on show at any one time, climbing on logs, bickering and generally giving this gob smacked viewer the time of his life.

P1030782 - Dinefwr Badgers


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Badger Badger Badger Badger Badger

Wednesday, August 03, 2016 Adam Tilt 2 Comments

What an epic way to spend a Wednesday evening, nestled in a shed with nine other like minded individuals watching the same number of Badgers go about their business. Badgers are for me one of the last great members of our native fauna that I had yet to see, barring a brief glimpse late at night many moons ago. Although we were assured of great things I had no idea quite how close we'd be, the length of time for which the Badgers would stick around and just how unconcerning they'd find our presence. The end result was an almost out of body experience, one you can't quite believe has happened after so many years of dreaming. The only other time I can recall such a feeling was after stumbling across a Skunk in Zion national Park. If that hasn't suitably whetted your appetites then I don't know what will so here are a couple of quick edits from tonight's selection.

P1030892_2 - Dinefwr Badgers


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Back In The Game

Tuesday, August 02, 2016 Adam Tilt 4 Comments

P1030679 - Wheatear, Rhossili
Ah yes. August. Over two months since my last published ramblings on here (could those at the back please keep the cheering to themselves) and if I do in fact still have a readership, I'd like to apologise. I know from my own browsing habits that there's nothing more annoying than a regularly updated blog that suddenly peters out, hopefully leaving its readers wanting more but bad form nonetheless. Although relationships across the web are often fleeting, I like to feel that the blogging community is a relatively stable one and I've genuinely missed being part of it this summer. In truth I needed time away to re-evaluate my priorities and where life was taking me, get a hold on some of the self doubt that dominates most things I do and discover once more what it is that makes me smile. 

Can I claim total success? No I can't. But what I have learnt is that this blog is important to me and sharing our daily adventures is something that I have truly missed. Hopefully that goes both ways as the number of people that have recognised me in real life from these pages is frankly remarkable and I hope that most of you have stuck around through my hiatus. I've also realised that my aim to craft every post into a masterpiece, or as near as I can make it anyway, is a hopeless goal that did nothing but sap my enthusiasm for sharing some truly remarkable encounters with nature. My writing isn't good enough, there's simply not enough hours in the day and, when all is said and done, not everything needs a thousand word essay to convey ones experiences. As a result I shall be trialling a range of new formats here over the coming weeks. Video will definitely start to feature more (for reasons which will soon become abundantly clear) as will a more photo heavy style for those 'big days' where words will simply never be able to do it justice. That's not to say that longer reads won't still by a regular occurrence, as this one is turning out to be, but there's nothing like a bit of variety to spice things up. On that front I've also implemented a few tweaks on the general look and feel of the blog, nothing major but just the odd thing here and there that's been bothering me for a while. The biggest of these has probably been my choice of fonts to hopefully present an easier reading experience. This is an absolute minefield though so I'd be grateful for any feedback you might have.

P1020789 - Cadair Idris Range

With that out of the way you may be wondering what else I've been up to. Sat around watching the TV perhaps? Well yes, admittedly Euro 2016 did take up a couple of weeks but I've also been on a non-stop whirlwind of holidays, long weekends and plenty of DIY. The latter need not interest us here but the rest definitely does. To try and tell the whole tale from scratch would probably take us until Christmas so instead here are just a couple of my personal highlights:

  • Cetacean watching by sailing catamaran off the Cornish coast
  • Scenery and shipwrecks at Land's End
  • Puffin therapy on Skomer
  • Week in Northumberland including the Farne Islands - epic doesn't do it justice
  • Camping in mid-Wales (the tent leaked) plus a footplate ride on the Talyllyn Railway
  • Hill walking in the shadows of Cadair Idris
  • Sea kayaking off Gower
  • Visit to the Flying Legends airshow at Duxford
  • Butterfly hunting around Wicken Fen
  • And lots more day trips besides
In short it's all been rather hectic but that's exactly the way I like it and how things should hopefully stay for the remainder of the year. Just last weekend we met up with a couple of friends for an amble over Rhossili Downs, the highlight of which was undoubtedly this juvenile Wheatear up at the old radar station. With our trips to Mull being more autumnal of late I've really missed these little guys.

P1030679 - Wheatear, Rhossili

P1030673 - Wheatear, Rhossili

P1030685 - Rhossili Downs

Also about was a family party of four Chough whilst down on the beach the rising tide was washing ashore scores of Barrel Jellyfish again, a seemingly regular occurrence along Gower's coast. I'd hoped to see a few of these in their natural habitat the following day as we kayaked from Oxwich to Three Cliffs but alas it was not to be.

P1030688 - Barrel Jellyfish, Rhossili

And just in case you thought I might go this whole post without mentioning the weather once? Not a chance. It's horrendous here at the moment, a typically British start to August but hopefully only a blip before the weekend. In the meantime I'll do a couple of featured 'catch-up' posts before we run headlong into whatever may lie ahead. I hope you'll stick around for the ride.


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