When I look back on 2016 in a few months from now one thing will become abundantly clear – I was way too ambitious in what I planned to take on. There simply hasn’t been the time or quantity of free weekends available, particularly over the summer, to do everything I wanted to. Of those aspirations to have fallen by the wayside none hurts quite so much as the Patchwork Challenge. I’ve been an ardent supporter of this local patch birding initiative since its inception yet to my shame have not submitted a single score since early spring. I’d like to say that doesn’t mean I haven’t been out in the field racking up my tally but that would be a lie. Recent visits to my Cefn Drum patch can be counted on the fingers of one hand and as for the newly added Upper Loughor patch? The fact that I just had to refer back to old posts to see what it was called speaks volumes.
Still, all is not lost and with autumn migration picking up there is still chance for a late surge into year’s end. Indeed with that in mind I’ve decided to drop the Upper Loughor and concentrate instead on my home turf of Cefn Drum. To that end this week has already seen two after work trips, both revealing quite how rapidly day length is decreasing. Given this restriction there hasn’t yet been chance for a detailed picture to emerge but I’m happy to report that several scarce residents such as Bullfinch and Jay have both been recorded. Linnet numbers are also pretty healthy at present with a flock of at least twenty recorded last night on Bryn-bach-Common where we also found a newly arrived Wheatear. With the sun low any colours had taken on a lovely warm hue which when combined with a shallow depth of field resulted in a very pleasing image indeed.
Sticking with the migrant theme there was a good sized flock of twelve Swallows also present, my largest count on patch this year. Usually we only get a pair so I presume these to be birds gathering and feeding up before heading south. Swifts on the other hand haven’t been seen for a couple of months now and House Martins also seem to have departed in recent weeks. Our sky will be a lot poorer without them. As some degree of compensation we were treated to the unusual sight of 45 Canada Geese noisily making their way up the valley last night. This is by far the largest number I’ve ever recorded here and the first to make a full traversal up to the old colliery. My only conclusion was that they’d somehow flown up the wrong valley intending instead to arrive at the Lliw reservoirs one over. After milling around for a few moments that was certainly the direction in which they headed.
Other than that not much more to report apart from a couple of Stonechats and what for all the world looked like my very first patch Little Egret. I was very nearly having palpitations until it resolved into a feral duck from one of the nearby farms. Curses.
Something very hard to ignore is the deep sense of autumn which already prevails. I’ve mentioned changes elsewhere in recent posts but on Cefn Drum these are far more advanced. Bracken has turned a rusty red colour and is dying off, pools are starting to reform after what has been a relatively dry summer and there have been some very strange sunsets indeed. One evening was so still, humid and flat that it felt very much like the world had ended whilst another saw a fantastic display of God ray’s.
With three and a half months to go I’m still hopeful of ending this year’s Patchwork Challenge on a respectable note. All I need is some time.