As we enter those magic few days before 2016 throws in the towel, where no one really knows the day let alone the date, Christmas already feels like a lifetime ago. I hope dear reader that yours was an enjoyable one, surrounded by those you love in a celebration that gave a firm middle finger to all the negativity and heartache that the last twelve months has wrought across the world. We certainly did just that spending the big day itself at home along with enough food to open the next convenience store in Tesco’s relentless march towards world domination (other faceless corporations are available). As is tradition that also meant squeezing in a quick trip to Rhossili between another perfect meal (thanks E) and the perpetually disappointing seasonal episode of Dr Who. Despite the weather doing its best to remind us of winters presence i.e mild and wet, we managed a brisk but largely dry walk out to Worm’s Head and back. There really is nothing better for clearing the head and preparing ones second stomach for pudding and if there’s the chance of a decent bird or two? Even better. With conditions as blustery as they were we didn’t fancy searching for a lingering Lapland Bunting on the Vile so instead stuck to the cliffs where I surprised even myself such was my enthusiasm at seeing a pair of Fulmars soaring off Kitchen Corner. They are one of our favourite coastal birds and it’s always a joy to see them, though whether these are individuals that have stuck around since the summer or are early returnees checking out their nesting sites for next year I can’t be sure. Even better was to come though with an eagle eyed shout from my better half getting us both on to a Black-throated Diver out in the bay. Actively fishing about forty to fifty meters offshore it was easily identifiable thanks to its dark winter plumage and dagger like bill, our first Gower record completing what has proven to be a successful year for us both where sightings have been concerned.
Fleeting breaks in the cloud led to the Gower’s winter patchwork of browns and yellows coming alive, but alas they were all too brief and before long we were hot footing it back to the car as another menacing weather front barrelled towards us from out at sea. There was just time for a scan along the surf to see if we could spot the two Long-tailed Ducks reported a week or so ago but in the end drew a blank.
But not for long. A couple of days later, the 27th in fact, found us walking the millennium coastal path around to Machynys. This is a regular haunt of ours during summer evenings but on the evidence of this outing perhaps we should expand that to cover winter as well! The evening before news had filtered through that another Long-tailed Duck had been found on the golf course there, not playing a round of eighteen but taking its fill from the presumably well stocked pond. Following a clear night my presumption was that the bird would have moved on but no, there it was still avidly feeding away. What a result! After the Barry bird last year this is my second Welsh record in what, judging from the various sightings pages, seems to have been a bumper season for them locally. Alas our golf loving individual seemed to want to stick closer to the sixth than my camera so here’s a traditionally distant record shot on what was a very grey day indeed.
Keeping our wayward visitor company was a nice selection of wintering duck species including a superb male Shoveller, lone female Goldeneye, at least six Pochard, a similar number of Gadwall as well as Tufted Duck, Mallard, Mute Swan and Little Grebe. A passing dog also managed to disturb this rather lovely male Teal from its slumbers allowing me to get what appears to be only my second ever photograph of one. Not quite sure how I’ve managed to take so few over the years.
Back at home and even the garden birds are doing their best to ring out 2016 in style with a rare visit from a male Blackcap plus the return of our Long-tailed Tit flock. The latter seem noisier than ever but are a very welcome sight and add a bit of variety to a seemingly never ending procession of Goldfinches which continue to eat us out of home. Still, bodes well for my next attempt at the Patchwork Challenge starting in just a few days time, and with Bullfinch and Nuthatch also turning up fairly regularly my hopes are high for a good start to 2017.