I had a real yearning for some ‘proper’ birding weekend before last. Not a walk with some birds thrown in for good measure but a full on, telescope out, find as much as we possibly can expedition. Ideally that would have involved a trip to my favourite reserve on the planet, Titchwell, but given that Norfolk and Wales are about as far apart as you can get without travelling abroad there simply wasn’t the time available. Instead we headed over county lines to Kidwelly Quay where a falling tide meant raised hopes for a decent wader or two. Even a few drops of rain couldn’t dampen my enthusiasm as we clapped eyes on our first birds of the day, a flock of 33 Greenshank in their seemingly favourite haunt just beyond the railway bridge. That seemed to open the floodgates with a good couple of hundred Redshank noisily scurrying over the rapidly expanding mud, up to 40 Dunlin and another lone Ruff (they must prefer their own company) quickly in the bag. Dotted throughout was the occasional Curlew whose calls brought a comforting air of familiarity to proceedings before we spotted the first of at least three Whimbrel creeping through the marsh, another sure sign of autumn being almost upon us. Scanning further out over the estuary added Oystercatcher and a small roost of 9 Little Egrets before good fortune found me focussed on a distant channel just as a streak of blue shot through the scene. There was barely time to shout Kingfisher before the bird was gone, not to be seen again. Further wader action came in the shape of two Common Snipe flying high above the car park, possibly disturbed by the local Sparrowhawk which we’d spotted upon arrival. Rather surprisingly there wasn’t a single duck to be found, no Shelduck, Teal or even a Mallard. There were however a couple of skeins of Geese flying overhead, the first consisting of twenty Brent Geese and the second eighteen Canada Geese. The first was definitely best.
A pretty decent haul but numbers don’t always tell the entire story. What they find hard to portray is the sheer volume of movement we bore witness to with waders in particular almost constantly on the go. Both Redshank and Greenshank were regularly flying past allowing some great in-flight views but alas never quite close enough for any decent photographs given the dull conditions. The Redshank’s weren’t just mobile in the air either as when they’d land it was quickly up onto the mud for a worm before heading back to the water for a brief rinse and down the hatch it goes. Quite fascinating behaviour to watch as it turned out.
With the quay itself starting to run dry (both metaphorically and physically) we took to a path along the high tide line in search of more. Sandwiched between pasture and marsh this little strip of land is well vegetated and we were soon enjoying the sounds, if not sights of Blackbirds, Robins and Goldfinches. Movement in one particular thicket had cause to make us pause a while longer as we searched for its culprit only to have a Lesser Whitethroat pop up for the briefest of moments. Gone in the blink of an eye it had been so close as to prove unmistakeable, my first for the year and probably last as well. Despite hanging around the bird never showed itself again but instead we were treated to a flock of Long-tailed Tits passing through in addition to a multitude of Linnets. In truth the latter had been with us all day but this was the first opportunity I’d had to actually get close to one, always a challenge with these seemingly camera shy birds. With a little of the cloud starting to burn off it was considerably brighter than when we’d arrived but that just made photographing against a white sky that much harder. As a result I’m pretty pleased with this one.
It was at this point we became aware of a series of loud splashes coming from the estuary behind us. Optimistically hoping for an Otter we instead found large chunks of the sandy banks being undercut by the retreating tide before collapsing. Talk about erosion in action. The spectacle proved a worthwhile diversion as we finally found our first Teal of the day and briefly got excited by what ultimately turned out to be a Dunlin. For those that have read my entry from Llanelli last weekend you’ll know that we were on the lookout for a Curlew Sandpiper but this individual proved not to be.
It would be fantastic if this path linked up with the one exiting Pembrey but unfortunately it does not so we were forced inland to return back along Kymer’s Canal. It didn’t take long to hear the unmistakable call of a Cetti’s Warbler followed soon after by good views of a male Blackcap and several Willow Warblers. Keeping an eye on the canal itself I was really after a Water Rail but instead turned up several of these.
Yes that is indeed a Crab, a Shore Crab to be precise, perfectly at home in the canal’s brackish waters. I’ve not seen this species since a trip to Llangennech many moons ago so it was good to reconnect. We counted at least six but there are likely hundreds more hidden down in the murk. Slightly brighter and easier to spot was this hoverfly though don’t ask me to pin it down to an exact species. That way madness lies.
Back at the Quay it was time for another look at the waders but with the tide now well retreated most birds had moved much further away. Instead we headed into Kidwelly, crossed the river and explored Glan yr Afon local nature reserve a little. This proved worthwhile as we added Common Sandpiper to round out an excellent days birding. That Titchwell itch hasn’t gone though and will need scratching before the year is out.