Walk1000Miles - Challenge Complete

Friday, December 29, 2017 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

As December draws to a close it's time to revisit our #Walk1000Miles challenge. We took this on back at the start of the year as a way to encourage us to at least take a short walk after work each day, even when we really weren't in the mood. This is important as I know from past experience just what a power for good half an hour spent out in the fresh air can be, even if it's just pounding the streets of our local village after dark. Problems which minutes before seemed unsolvable suddenly become clear, worries drop away and everything seems that little bit brighter.

And that's exactly what we've been up to. In addition to our longer day walks, of which you can see numerous examples throughout my last twelve months of ramblings here, we've been out as often as possible during the week. A couple of miles here and there have all been slowly adding up to the point where I can now happily declare that we have successfully completed our challenge clocking up close to 1,100 miles as I'm writing this, even with a couple of days still to go. As a result we're undoubtedly fitter, hopefully a little more sane and have a great sense of accomplishment with which to round off the year.

Clearly we needed some kind of celebration to mark such an auspicious occasion so I took our progress tracker up into the Brecon Beacons earlier this week to bring a ceremonial close to proceedings.

P1130168 - #Walk1000Miles Completed

Of course the question now is, will we be taking on the challenge again for 2018? Definitely is the answer but for more details on our plans for 2018 you'll just have to wait until the New Year.


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A Snowy Fan Frynych

Wednesday, December 27, 2017 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

P1130150 - Craig Cerrig-Gleisiad
I may have been prematurely pessimistic when writing last night that our chances of venturing out between now and New Year were slim. Another evening of torrential rain would have had that effect on anyone I'm sure. However, while we on the coastal margins of South Wales continued to dissolve events at higher altitudes were looking far more interesting with heavy snow forecast and the A470 already impassable by the time we turned in for the night. Fast forward to this morning and by some miracle we awoke to sun, yes actual sun, and that left us really with only one option. After a quick phone call to finally pay off my last instalment of student loan (a hopeless dream I'm sure for those under the new tuition fee regime) we were off, but not as you might expect to Pen y Fan.


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Boxing Day Hawfinch

Tuesday, December 26, 2017 Adam Tilt 1 Comments

Firstly let me start with a heartfelt Merry Christmas to all readers and followers of this blog, the fact that anyone finds our little corner of the internet a continuing source of wonderment after almost ten years in the game. We spent yesterday doing all things traditional which meant opening presents, eating a huge roast dinner and watching the latest festive edition of Doctor Who in the vague hope that it wouldn't be another vacuous waste of everyone's involvement. On that last score I think things went down rather well though I may have been feeling generous having just returned from a bracing afternoon walk at Rhossili. Conditions there were dull and windy to put it mildly but we had great views of at least a thousand Common Scoter sheltering off the leeward side of the headland. Given more time and subject to a little less battering we may have been able to pick out something even more exciting from the gathered masses but with black storm clouds rapidly approaching in off the sea we decided to make a run for home.

All very well I hear you say but the title of this blog definitely indicated that a Hawfinch was in the offing and thus far I've seen no sign. Very true and with our garden feeders continuing to deliver I had hoped, rather optimistically it has to be said, that one might have dropped in for lunch by now. After all we've had just about everything else turn up this month including our latest arrivals, a small flock of Siskins, which flew in a couple of days ago and have been here ever since. No we were going to have to travel if we hoped to mop up any lingering birds from the recent influx and Margam looked like an ideal first destination. Regular reports have been coming in from the churchyard there throughout December but whilst flicking through Twitter last night I spotted a tweet that perhaps meant we should be searching a whole lot closer to home. Apparently a single Hawfinch had been spotted just down the road in Gorseinon, within walking distance in fact, feeding amongst trees between Penyrheol leisure centre and the road! Clearly this needed investigating further.

And that was how we came to be stood in a closed car park this afternoon beneath leaden skies and with a light drizzle just starting to fall. Temperatures had plummeted over night bringing a seasonal chill to proceedings, just what you need after half an hour of fruitless searching. In fact we were just heading back to the car when Emma spotted something in the top of a nearby tree, the very area from which earlier I'd heard an unfamiliar call that may or may not have been a Hawfinch (having never actually heard one before it was hard to be sure either way). Before I could get onto the bird however it took flight but I'd know that chunky build and white wing bar anywhere. We had an actual Hawfinch in the flesh, a lifer for Emma and technically myself as well if I discount vague memories of an encounter in Sandringham when I was much, much younger.

Of course everything had happened far too quickly for me to even get a record shot on camera so we spent the next hour or so walking around the nearby park trying to relocate it. Bullfinches, Magpies and even a Sparrowhawk were all seen but of our Hawfinch there was of course no further sign. Until that is we returned to where our original sighting had taken place only to find the Hawfinch once more feeding along the roadside and this time looking far more settled. Needless to say I was ready with the camera and enjoyed a good ten minutes or so with the bird despite truly atrocious lighting conditions.

P1130091 - Hawfinch

P1130096 - Hawfinch

Would you just look at that beak! What a stunner. 

Throughout our encounter I was treated to a whole raft of calls from the Hawfinch as well as feeding and preening behaviour and given the weather am pretty pleased to have managed any sharp images at all. Definitely a fine bird on which to round out the year as if the forecast is anything to go by we're not going to be getting out a whole lot between now and New Year.


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Garden Brambling

Friday, December 08, 2017 Adam Tilt 1 Comments

The last weekend in November was significant for two very good reasons. Firstly it was cold, seriously cold, hopefully heralding the start of winter proper after a month of seeming indecision which saw weather conditions range from wet and mild to even wetter and milder. About time too as December is now in full flow and no matter what the doom mongers say I’m still hoping for some decent snowfall. Secondly we were out birding and walking for a significant proportion of that final Sunday, the first time that’s really happened since mid October and our week away on Mull (photos and words coming soon). The reason?  Life I guess sums it up best, a combination of finally finishing renovation work on our house (I’m ignoring the bathroom for now – varnished wood ceilings are still fashionable right?) and other ‘stuff’ which needed addressing. With that now dealt with however I’m looking forward to rounding out 2017 in style kicking off with a brand new garden visitor which graced us with its presence for a couple of days towards the end of October.

P1120902 - Garden Brambling

For those not familiar with this attractive little bird it is of course a Brambling, one of those autumn migrants which I see far too rarely.  In fact last year withdrawal symptoms got so great that we actually twitched a couple of individuals which had taken up residence in the Sea Buckthorn at Pembrey, a distinctly prickly venture which resulted in brief glimpses and only minimal blood loss. To have one turn up in our own back garden therefore was more than a stroke of luck, especially considering how tame this particular bird was. After twenty minutes or so of getting him used to my presence I was able to push my advantage and approach within a couple of foot for what easily rank as my best photos of this species to date. They may indeed be my only photos as despite being sure that I’ve got a couple of dodgy record shots hidden away somewhere I’ve yet to locate them. All the more reason to enjoy a few more from this current batch.

P1120897 - Garden Brambling

P1120881 - Garden Brambling

Sadly the Brambling has now moved on but unusual visitors have continued to drop in. Of these a Treecreeper was perhaps the most surprising especially given their rarity factor on patch, though Goldcrest and Great-spotted Woodpecker also rate quite highly. Such success inevitably has my mind wondering towards the recent Hawfinch invasion which has left a few lingering birds here in South Wales. Might one turn up on our feeders? Now that really would be something to write home about.


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Anglesey Barracks - Dinorwic

Thursday, October 26, 2017 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

P1120100 - Anglesey Barracks, Dinorwic
The summer already feels like a lifetime ago right now which provides me with the ideal excuse to cast our minds back once more to August bank holiday. Regular readers may recall that we spent most of it crawling over the remains of Dinorwic slate quarry near Llanberis, the world’s second largest such enterprise and a place which captivated me from the start. Abandoned inclines, winding houses, tramways and much more besides, evidence of an industry now very much on its last legs and for some almost entirely forgotten. At the time I remember remarking on how you could almost imagine the place as it was, packed with men and boys alike all working hard to dig deep into the vertical seam which lies just beneath the surface there. Reminders of those people though are scarce, restricted to occasional finds such as an old mess tray, pair of trousers or unknown names scratched into flaking mortar. There is however one location where it’s possible to get a lot closer to the human factors at work here and finding it was our main aim of a second day spent amongst the tips.

We started our venture in Padarn country park, home of the National Slate Museum and a host of restored artefacts including inclines, workshops and aerial ropeways. Climbing one of the former saw us gaining height rapidly through dense woodland only to emerge into daylight with stunning views stretching down across Llanberis.

P1120072 - Dinorwic

P1120076 - Dinorwic

Behind us the curving route of one of the old tramways encouraged us onwards, its bed awash with colour thanks to a thick blanket of Heather. The contrast between austere slate walls and sunlit vegetation was stark but it’s precisely because of this dichotomy that I love these places so much. If my camera battery hadn’t been running so low thanks to a weekend away from power then I’d probably have taken another deluge of images from this area alone.

P1120077 - Dinorwic

P1120078 - Dinorwic

P1120087 - Dinorwic

Following its route we were soon looking across to the main levels, their regimented uniformity broken by occasional gunpowder stores and other structures whose purpose was less clear. We continued climbing for a brief period passing the local Mountain Goat herd from the previous day before arriving at a wide step in the hillside which dropped off a precipice to the tips below. Here the ruins were distinctly more residential in style, small rows of cottages with what looked like yards and perhaps even pigsties attached to some. Most were in a state of disrepair however which is why we were so keen to find the Anglesey Barracks. This double row of cottages is so called because they once housed workers from the island of Anglesey who, unlike the local population, required lodgings during the week. The men typically left home on a Monday morning and went back the other way on Saturday afternoon, intervening time spent in these twenty two one bedroom houses built allegedly to house four men apiece. With no amenities and only a small fire for warmth life would have been harsh, particularly during winter, which undoubtedly led to the buildings ultimate condemnation as unfit for human habitation in 1948. On a warm summer’s day however that hardship doesn’t seem too great with dramatic views across to Snowdon and a delightful sun dappled path stretched between the rows.

P1120100 - Anglesey Barracks, Dinorwic

P1120094 - Anglesey Barracks, Dinorwic

P1120097 - Anglesey Barracks, Dinorwic

Even after all we’d seen, Dinorwic still had one last surprise in store. Our return route took us down a path measuring no more than a metre across, each side lined by a continuous head height slate wall behind which rested thousands of tonnes of slate waste on our right and a perilous drop to our left. As we zig-zagged our way downwards the feeling of being trapped increased but I couldn’t help but marvel at the sheer audacity of what we were walking on. Generations of miners would have passed this way over the years, adding more slate to these tips which they’d then have to negotiate on the way back down. And that for me has always been the biggest conundrum of the slate industry. With a typical yield of one tonne useable to thirty tonnes waste there was a hell of a lot of material to manage and the structures used to do just that are almost, if not more impressive than the buildings to which the good slate went. Take this path as a fine example. Miles of wall, hundreds of steps and all to negotiate an obstacle which had been created by the quarry itself. Other examples include the huge retaining walls seen elsewhere at Dinorwic not to mention the continuous realignment of tramways, supporting infrastructure and even whole villages. That such efforts still left a profit show the sheer value of slate at the time, but also probably shortened the industry’s life by several years when the end ultimately came.


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Brocken Spectre from Ben More, Isle of Mull

Monday, October 23, 2017 Adam Tilt 2 Comments

P1050955 - Climbing Ben More, Isle of Mull
I’ve been thinking a lot about Mull recently, both her place in our future and what a life lived there could be like. Distant dreams for now of course but with another trip planned in the very near future it’s hard not to start day dreaming. Now for some a trip to the Scottish Isles this late in the year might seem like madness, foolhardy even, but let me assure you that it’s anything but. Yes the weather may be a little more temperamental than during summer but as a consolation prize you get landscapes swathed in bronze, bellowing stags and migrating wildfowl. On top of that when the sun does shine the air is crystal clear allowing for some fantastic views, particularly if you enjoy nothing more than tramping up the nearest hill.


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Leaping Salmon and Dippers at Cenarth Falls

Thursday, October 19, 2017 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

One thing that's been on my to do list for several years now has been to go and watch Salmon leaping. It's an annual phenomenon occurring each autumn as fish head back upstream to spawn and requires a few key ingredients. The first, a river, is in no short supply around here but the other two, good timing and a suitable obstacle, had thus far eluded us. It was with that in mind that we'd been keeping a close eye on reports from across our area in recent weeks with initially Cardiff looking the most promising option. That was of course until we stumbled across a tweet mentioning Cenarth Falls, not only somewhere we'd been meaning to visit in any case but also a location which looked to offer easy access to the water and a nice natural setting for photography.

P1120622 - Cenarth Falls


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Hurricane Ophelia Arrives in South Wales

Tuesday, October 17, 2017 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

P1120638 - Hurricane Ophelia at Burry Port
For those of us living in the UK, yesterday morning was definitely a little out of the ordinary. For starters it was dark, seriously dark, with sunrise seemingly delayed until well after eleven. I realise that wasn't actually the case but it sure felt like it with a thick bank of cloud robbing us of almost all light and providing this reluctant early riser another excuse to hit snooze. When I did finally drag myself to the window the colour of the sky was almost indescribable. It ranged continually from deep purple to black through to an otherworldly red tinge which not for the only time that day would have me heralding the coming of the end. For those of you lucky enough to have had clear skies the sun would also have been tinged red thanks to the arrival of a plume of Saharan sand, most of which seemed to end up coating my car and which indeed still does.


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Cefn Sidan Portuguese man-of-war

Monday, October 09, 2017 Adam Tilt 1 Comments

We were back on the hunt for a Portuguese man-of-war come Sunday, our efforts refocussed on Cefn Sidan. The thinking went, rightly or wrongly, that with these creatures moving in from the south-west perhaps a beach facing in that general direction might prove more productive than we'd found Whiteford the day before. Warning signs at the car park hinted strongly that we might be in luck and it only took a few minutes of walking the high tide line to turn up our first ever man-of-war on British shores.

P1120529 - Portuguese man-of-war, Cefn Sidan


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Cwm Ivy Osprey and a Jellyfish Stranding

Saturday, October 07, 2017 Adam Tilt 2 Comments

My plan for today was a simple one. After last weekend's rain blighted forty eight hours I wanted nothing more than to get outside and escape, to forget the day job and immerse myself completely in whatever delights mother nature had to offer. Destination wise I didn't really care but living where we do it was almost inevitable that we'd gravitate towards Gower and mid-morning found us gazing over the new marsh at Cwm Ivy, dawn drizzle thankfully dispersed and in its place warm autumnal light.

P1120452 - Cwm Ivy Marsh, Gower


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Autumn Colours

Tuesday, October 03, 2017 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

Unless you wish to hear tales of my exploits with a pressure washer then the weekend just gone was pretty much a bust. Two days of at times torrential, occasionally biblical, rainfall meant plenty of time spent indoors with any brief break in the weather being used to tackle garden jobs. Needless to say this proved immensely annoying with even the enticing news of a Booted Warbler on Gower not sufficient to drag me further afield. A decent wader or raptor perhaps but skulking warblers just don’t really do it for me I’m afraid. In hindsight that makes my decision to venture out for a long walk on Thursday evening all the more valuable as without it I fear my mood would have been at an even lower ebb than it is currently. It’s not even as if I travelled particularly far. Just along our valley beneath Cefn Drum where the autumn colours are already in full flow.

P1120436 - Autumn Colours

P1120444 - Autumn Colours

P1120440 - Autumn Colours

If there’s anything good to be said about Bracken, and there usually isn’t, it has to be that when the sun is low at this time of year those dying fronds really do help the hills take on a lovely bronze hue. Add in a trio of calling Buzzards over the hills, battling Pheasants and a couple of Jays and you pretty much had the perfect evening. If there was one tiny negative however it was only at the sight of twenty or more Swallows streaming south, almost certainly starting their migration away from these lands and a precursor to our skies falling silent for another year.

Not wishing to dwell on what we were losing however I chose to focus on what we still have which around here is some pretty impressive scenery and, when the weather allows at least, a seemingly endless parade of dramatic sunsets. This night’s would be no different and I made my up to the fallen trig point atop Mynydd Pysgodlyn to take it all in.

P1120445 - Fallen Trig Point

Up here I was completely alone, the distant sight of Swansea obscured and in its place more calling Skylarks than I’ve seen since early summer. I suspect that they too will soon start their move to lower altitudes so for now I took the time to take in every detail, every sound, conscious that there won’t be many more opportunities to enjoy these birds this year.


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Llanrhidian - Marsh Harrier, Plovers and a Rainbow

Thursday, September 28, 2017 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

Don’t you just love those cold, crisp autumnal days when the air is so clear that everything in the landscape seems that much more alive? If only Sunday had been such a day. Instead we were faced with mild and humid conditions, probably my least favourite of all the weathers, to which we were soon able to add light drizzle for good measure. Were we deterred? Of course not. After our success with the Red-necked Phalarope we were eager to find one of its grey compatriots and with an individual being reported from Weobley on the previous high tide, that was exactly where we were headed next.

Now this walk is traditionally one for the drier months thanks to the ground between Landimore and Weobley tending to get waterlogged, so we were already a tad damp before the heavens opened for real. Having come so far already it seemed a waste to head back however and thus we pushed on, a screeching Kestrel overhead and the nearby sound of yaffling Green Woodpeckers our reward. Then the rain suddenly passed leaving behind a misty vista split by one of the shallowest rainbows I think I’ve ever seen. Stretching a good way along the Burry Inlet it made for an impressive sight but lasted only a few moments before vanishing as conditions continued to clear.

P1120397 - Causeway, Llanrhidian Marsh

That seemed to signal the starting gun as suddenly everything came alive. Off to our left a juvenile Marsh Harrier lifted above the reeds before gliding silently a short distance and vanishing back to ground. I presume this to be the same bird that was reported over the Millennium Wetlands yesterday and is our first for quite some time. On a slightly smaller scale there were at least three Wheatears out on the marsh proper as well as a flock of eight Skylarks which were noisily feeding along the old track, continually fluttering ahead of us at the last possible moment. From one of the old gunnery mounds we got distant views of a Peregrine Falcon heading upriver as well as several Little Egrets scattered about but as for the Phalarope? No sign I’m afraid. I suspect our chances were dealt a blow by the tide being well out but that didn’t stop us picking up a pair of Golden Plovers and flock of twenty or so Ringed Plovers, both seemingly in a rush to get somewhere else.

P1120400 - Watchtower, Llanrhidian Marsh

And that was as good as things got before the next downpour arrived lasting well into the evening. Odd really considering the forecast had promised cloudy but dry all day ………………


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Autumn Feeder Preparation

Tuesday, September 26, 2017 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

Now that autumn has officially started I thought it a good time to give our garden bird feeders a bit of TLC. They've all been cleaned and topped up as well as having a few minor repairs carried out pending the inevitable onslaught of winter. It won't be long now before we're inundated with birds once more (fingers crossed) after the comparatively quiet summer months which got me thinking about what feed to serve. Traditionally our offerings have been almost exclusively sunflower hearts, fatballs and occasionally peanuts, the first increasingly expensive but devoured at a rapid pace. Fatballs are considerably cheaper but don't last long either thanks to our resident population of Jackdaws and Magpies whilst whole peanuts just don't seem very popular at all. The less said about our experiment with Niger seed the better. I had planned to continue in a similar vein, that is until Haith's got in touch asking if I'd like to trial some of their award-winning SuperClean bird food. You bet I would.

A couple of days later and an exciting package arrived containing a new X1 Robin Feeder and two kilos of the fantastically named Beggars Banquet™ Softfood. The feeder went together in a couple of seconds, three components comprising a bowl, canopy and threaded metal rod. All are made from high quality components and it's clear from the extra little details that a good deal of thought has gone into the design of something which on the face of it at least appears quite simple. Take for example the brass receptacle embedded in the seed tray into which the connecting metal rod is screwed. I've seen other products use a plastic thread here and let me assure you that though it may work fine initially, you only need dismantle the feeder for cleaning a few times before that thread is gone. This bodes well for longevity and with drainage holes and smooth wipe clean surfaces any cleaning required should be an absolute breeze. One aspect I wasn't sure on initially was the canopy and that's more down to personal preference than anything else. In the past I've always thought birds unwilling to feed under cover but let me assure you that our residents have had no such issues with this one, plus it should keep those Jackdaws out leaving more food for our smaller visitors.

On to the seed itself next which is a soft feed blended with ground peanuts which have been milled to a size suitable for ground and table feeding birds. This is a species set which has been sorely neglected with out current feeding regime thanks to the usual garden centre seed mixes being mostly full of dross. Not so with Haith's offerings. Their SuperClean brand is free from dust, debris and waste husk, byproducts which are both bad for a birds health and also the cleanliness of our gardens. Putting these claims to the test I delved into the bag and my hand came out clean so a thumbs up from me. It's also noticeable that this mix is very moist thanks to its high oil content, good for nutritional value and also for keeping seed where it should be. Bonus points for recyclable packaging as well.

This is all well and good of course but there's only one true test of seed and feeder. I popped both out late one evening and whilst getting ready for work the next morning there was already a Robin getting stuck in. Blue Tits followed, much to the Robin's chagrin it has to be said, and it's been uphill from there. My initial serving only lasted a few days before requiring a top up so I think we can safely say that these offerings from Haith's are a hit. In fact I'll be putting another order in soon as I can only imagine this mix becoming more popular as temperatures continue to drop.

In summary I can highly recommend both the X1 Robin Feeder and Beggars Banquet™ Softfood seed mix. Thanks to Haith's for sending me their products to review and if you fancy getting hold of them yourself then head on over to their website for all your bird food and bird feeder needs.

Disclaimer: Haith's provided me with these products free of charge in return for my honest opinion and review. 


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Red-necked Phalarope - WWT Llanelli

Sunday, September 24, 2017 Adam Tilt 2 Comments

P1120351 - Waders, WWT Llanelli
It was an anxious wait for the gates to open at WWT's Penclacwydd reserve on Saturday morning. Why? Blame our latest star arrival, a juvenile Red-necked Phalarope which dropped in on Thursday carrying the distinct air of yet another rarity which wouldn't be hanging around for the weekend. Having made it through the night without fleeing however the first tendrils of hope began to develop and I kept myself glued to Twitter throughout Friday, monitoring the Phalarope's movements whilst expecting every new tweet to deliver negative news. To be honest I was more than pleasantly surprised that the situation remained unchanged by sundown and with the weather worsening hopes rose further that finally our luck might be in. By morning all looked good. Twitter spoke no ills, any overnight rain had just about cleared and with the tide high temptations for a jaunt out to the estuary would be limited. Then we almost managed to scupper the whole venture ourselves! In our rush to leave the house we'd both rather foolishly left behind our wallets within which sat membership cards to a certain local wildlife charity. Thankfully modern technology has moved beyond the need to carry small pieces of plastic to identify oneself and in no time we were rushing into the British Steel Hide, Phalarope in view moments later.

And what a cracking bird it was too. Avidly feeding on the NRA scrapes it exhibited the by now familiar Phalarope combination of frenetic activity teamed with continuous spinning. Noticeably darker and with more heavily patterned plumage on the back it was clearly different from the commoner Grey Phalaropes which we've seen previously. In fact such was the scarcity factor involved here that this was only my second ever record (the first being at Ogmore back in 2008) and a lifer for Emma, as I suspect it will be for quite a number of visiting birders over the next few days. Of course the icing on the cake at this point would be a frame filling photo to preserve the moment for posterity but alas, no. The Phalarope remained simply too distant for the couple of hours we spent in its company so how about a classic record shot instead complete with passing Black Headed Gull for contrast.

P1120336 - Red-necked Phalarope, WWT Llanelli

I've also got a couple of video clips which I may share later if for nothing other than the fact that they show a little more of the setting involved. You see the Red-necked Phalarope had a roosting flock of 42 Greenshank for company and they provided two important points of note. The first was to simply highlight just how small a Phalarope is in comparison and the second to provide us watching birders with endless amusement. It seems that no matter who you are or what your size, if a Phalarope wants to come through it's damn well coming through. A bolshie approach certainly and one which startled at least one Greenshank, woken from its slumbers as our wayward visitor bumbled straight into its legs.

Not a bad start to the day I'm sure you'll agree but as it turned out this was just the beginning. Turning our attention to the main scrapes we found a wealth of waders, the bulk of which were made up by somewhere in the region of a thousand Black-tailed Godwits. Mixed in were at least eleven Dunlin, six Knot, two hundred plus Redshank, a similar number of Curlew and at least two locally uncommon Bar-tailed Godwits. Pretty impressive and with an equally notable supporting cast which included a pair of snoozing Spoonbills (aren't they always?), four Brent Geese flying up the Burry, three Little Egrets, two Grey Herons, a flock of Linnets, Wigeon, fleeting glimpses of a Sparrowhawk and even a gronking low level Raven for good measure.

P1120351 - Waders, WWT Llanelli

Elsewhere on the reserve we managed to spot a family of five Bullfinches, two Blackcaps, seven Shoveller, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Great-spotted Woodpecker, singing Chiffchaff and a whole host of commoner species besides. There was also the impressive sight and sound of well over a hundred Greylag Geese coming in to land, not to mention this Fox which was brazenly walking about in the open.

P1120364 - Fox, WWT Llanelli

Another unusual record was this family of young Mallard ducklings, an incredibly late brood more suited to spring than autumn. Here's hoping they make it before the weather properly turns.

P1120369 - Late Ducklings, WWT Llanelli

Our next stop was Kidwelly Quay where with the tide now retreated we were hoping for more wader action. And it didn't disappoint. A couple of hundred Redshank and thirty plus Greenshank were most notable but there was also a smattering of Dunlin as well as the usual Curlew plus an impressive single gathering of thirty five Little Egrets. I had hoped to add Curlew Sandpiper too but despite three being reported here the same day we didn't manage to connect. Not to worry as compensation came in the shape of a magnificent Great White Egret, visible from miles away stood as it was in plain sight on the marsh at Banc y Lord. In fact so large was it that on my initial scan I'd actually counted it in with the thirty Mute Swans also present so I'm very glad that I went through for a second time. Along the canal a calling Kestrel and very vocal Cetti's Warbler were best of the rest.

P1120376 - Kidwelly Quay

From Kidwelly we headed over to Pembrey Burrows where I hoped to finish the day with a nice relaxing sea watch. What I'd not factored in however was just how far out the water retreats here meaning that this was our view on arrival. That's a heck of a lot of sand.

P1120389 - Cefn Sidan

P1120391 - Cefn Sidan

Not put off we headed out to see what we could find and in the end counted a couple of Gannets fishing close in as well as a passing flock of ten Sanderling. Not a bad note on which to finish and with the Red-necked Phalarope still present at close of play Sunday I highly recommend popping in to pay your respects as it may be another decade before our next.


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Curlew Sunset

Friday, September 22, 2017 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

P1120327 - Burry Inlet Sunset
After a few days of fairly terrible weather it was good to get back out yesterday evening in frankly glorious conditions. Of course things would have been even better had a certain Phalarope been there to greet me but alas all I could do was look in its vague general direction and cross everything that it stays put until the weekend.

As in recent weeks I was once more on the stretch of coast path between Penclacwydd and Loughor bridge and once more had a fine selection of waders on show. Somewhere in the region of a hundred Dunlin were feeding just beyond the sea wall along with a smattering of Oystercatchers and the usual mix of Gulls. No Terns this time out however but it was good to see the flock of Lapwings still about as well as a lone Black-tailed Godwit heading downstream, followed shortly after by a Whimbrel. Always a nice species to see but it was the Curlews which proved my star birds once again. Foraging amongst the marshy vegetation, their distinctive calls splitting the air at regular intervals, it was more a case of when rather than if I'd find one close enough for photographs. In the end this was the individual which came up trumps, happy to pose and feed despite my relatively close proximity.


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Dinorwic Quarry Explored

Tuesday, September 19, 2017 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

P1110999 - Dinorwic Quarry
Since my earliest days I’ve had a passion for exploring abandoned places. To begin with it was family holidays spent in our caravan which provided me with ample opportunity to visit castles, monasteries and all sorts of industrial fare but it was our time staying in north Wales which perhaps had the biggest impact. Surrounded by towering spoil tips formed through generations of slate mining I was left in awe, uncomprehending at how man could change a landscape so fundamentally and completely. Of course back then the constraints of caring parents meant that forays to the most enticing workings were banned, something about the risk of plunging to my doom or disappearing under a collapsing pile of slate. That left only sanitised museums such as Llechwedd to quench my curiosity which although enjoyable only really served to whet my appetite for the “real thing” further. Fast forward a couple of decades and now with risk assessment in my own hands I’ve been trying to get out to a few of those sites which had me enraptured all those years ago. Top of that list sits Dinorwic, the second largest slate quarry in the world whose prominent position dominates nearby Llanberis. Even from a distance its multitude of inclines, winding drums and tramways are clear to see, each acting as a beacon calling me to venture closer.


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Glyder Fach and Glyder Fawr

Saturday, September 16, 2017 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

P1110643 - Glyder Fach and Glyder Fawr Walk
August bank holiday weekend isn’t exactly renowned for great weather but with opportunities running out it was exactly the right time for us to crack out our tent for the first, and probably last, trip this year. As for destination we ran through a whole host of possibilities before settling on Beddgelert in Snowdonia. Just down the road from Snowdon itself this is the ideal base camp from which to launch an ascent of the country’s most walked mountain with the added bonus of being surrounded by some truly dramatic scenery.


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Ringed Plover Consolation

Thursday, September 14, 2017 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

P1120239 - Ringed Plover
Still with Black Terns in mind we headed over to the Pwll area on Saturday morning, parking up near Burry Port and walking out to the jetty at Tywyn Bach. With a distinctly wet weekend forecast it came as a pleasant surprise to be met with sunshine but in the distance dark clouds were already gathering.

P1120180 - Burry Port

Taking inspiration from the old adage that out of sight means out of mind we turned our backs on any impending doom and set off. With the tide only just starting to drop there wasn’t a whole lot of beach on which to walk but we made it over to the mound easily enough, area of choice for visiting Black Terns. Three or four Sandwich Terns and a pair of Great Crested Grebes were soon in the bag as was a nice quartet of Common Sandpipers plus six Mediterranean Gulls roosting amongst a flock of twenty Redshank and a hundred or so Black Headed Gulls. Lone Cormorants passed down channel at sporadic intervals with Oystercatchers also on the move but of our target species? Not a sign. As consolation prizes go though stumbling upon this incredibly tame Ringed Plover must rank pretty highly. It didn’t seem concerned by our presence at all and these are easily my best photos of this species to date.

P1120239 - Ringed Plover

P1120204 - Ringed Plover

P1120238 - Ringed Plover

Of course our luck with the weather had to run out at some time and with the beach exit in sight we were hit with an absolutely torrential downpour. Shelter was limited to put it mildly but we did manage to cower beneath a section of concrete jutting from the sandy cliffs. Not recommended but at least it saved us from a drenching.

It was only a few minutes before the sun broke through once more but with another bank of thick cloud approaching we thought better of extending our stay. Before we go though I should mention an interesting Seal sighting which at the time we thought might have been a Common Seal. This would be an unusual record for the Burry but as the animal was only bottling I couldn’t quite see enough to be sure.

Moving on we headed over to WWT Llanelli where inevitably one of the Black Terns had been spotted an hour or so earlier. Another case of wrong place wrong time, something which is becoming my own personal mantra of late. Most of the roosting waders had also moved on but we were left to enjoy a pair of Greenshank and a small flock of ten or so Wigeon. With the latter in eclipse plumage they were causing a bit of confusion for some visiting birders so it was nice to be able to confirm their identity and also point out two pairs of Gadwall. The less said about the increasingly heavy and regular showers the better.

P1120245 - WWT Llanelli

We called it a day not long after and have probably missed our chance now with this latest influx of Black Terns.


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Burry Inlet - Birds and Sunsets

Tuesday, September 12, 2017 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

P1120166 - Curlew, Burry Inlet
Last week saw a mini influx of Black Terns to our local area with sightings being reported from Pwll, Penclacwydd and Kenfig. In order to save any suspense I’ll tell you now that we failed to connect with all of them, though certainly not for want of trying. Our main problem you see has been that opportunities for local birdwatching of late have been limited to after work jaunts which somewhat restricts the locations that we’re able to get out to. The last thing I want to do for instance is spend another hour in the car having endured an entire day bashing my head against metaphoric brick walls. To that end the prime Black Tern hotspot of Pwll was out but the stretch of coast path from the WWT reserve along Morfa Bacas was most definitely in. The fact that I’d never quite got around to walking this particular route was just a happy bonus.


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