I’ve just about lost track of the number of times in recent weeks that I’ve thought about putting a blog post together. On a couple of those occasions I even managed to type a few words but time and desire have not been on my side. Thankfully the prospect on both those fronts is starting to look up. Firstly work should hopefully begin returning to something approaching normality after the Easter break, and even if it doesn’t I’m committed to doing what I should have been doing all along and leaving any stress and worries in the office. On the desire/motivation front well, it’s spring in case you hadn’t noticed. Standing in my garden I’m now bombarded by an avian soundtrack including Chiffchaffs at full volume and an ever increasing number of Willow Warblers complete with their withering song. Up on patch we’ve already had our first Wheatear pass through and last weekend our glorious Gower walk was made all the more memorable by a migrating Osprey heading north. With better optics I may even have been able to track it all the way home but alas that particular patch tick will have to wait a little while longer. The point I’m trying to make is that there is so much life out there right now, we’ve got some great adventures planned to make the most of it and I just couldn’t not share that with you, my ever patient readers.
Before we get into the new stuff however, how about a little recap? One could quite easily mistake my lack of presence on social media and this blog as a sign that we haven’t been up to much. Thankfully the reality is very different with a fantastic run of decent weather finding us out and about every weekend and most evenings. The latter has been spurred on by our attempt at the #walk1000miles challenge on which we‘ve been making great progress. More on that below. We’ve also managed to squeeze in some very enjoyable trips out across South Wales taking in everything from WW2 history to a not insignificant amount of Pokemon Go participation. Yes I’m fully aware that I’m about a year behind the curve on that score but I’ve finally upgraded my phone and can now do many things including downloading new apps and taking photos that don’t result in a case of count the pixels. As a result you can expect many more snaps whilst we’re out and about over on my Twitter feed. I’ll let you be the judge of whether that’s a good thing or not!
Dale Peninsula Circumnavigation
A slightly grand title I’ll admit but towards the end of February we spent a day exploring this hitherto unfamiliar area. It was a logical choice really having just twitched the nearby American Wigeon and once again Pembrokeshire delivered in spades. As well as the usual glorious scenery we were treated to Napoleonic era forts, WW2 gun emplacements and shipwrecks, all set against the background of Milford Haven’s busy shipping channel.
Bird life wasn’t bad either with a couple of Chough, great views of hunting Gannets and even a pond full of amorous Toads. We also heard our first singing Skylark of the year and saw our first butterfly in the shape of a Small Tortoiseshell. Most surprising though was a very early Hummingbird Hawkmoth which unfortunately managed to escape before I could grab a photo. The lighthouses of St Ann’s head were pretty impressive as well.
Dinefwr’s White Park Cattle Move House
That same weekend also saw us making our first trip of the year to Dinefwr, spurred on by seeing the estates rare White Park Cattle featuring prominently on Countryfile. With only two thousand pure breed individuals worldwide they are exceptionally rare and the National Trust is expending great effort in order to keep Dinefwr’s herd going. The loss of their breeding bull last year was a big blow but over winter the cows were able to move into brand spanking new sheltered accommodation. With this being Wales rain is never far away and this new shed will provide the cattle with a clean and dry place to while away the worst of the weather. When we saw them they looked to be having a whale of a time munching on fresh hay and, in the case of a couple of individuals, wearing it as well.
Out in the park there was the usual high density of Treecreepers and Nuthatches although for once the Great White Egret managed to give me the slip. In its place we were treated to an excellent collection of waterfowl including several stunning male Pintails, Wigeon and Teal. Sadly our concerted effort to relocate a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker reported a few days earlier came to naught, not an entirely unexpected outcome as I still maintain that the species is entirely fictional.
Cilsan Whooper Swans
It’s a rite of passage these days to catch-up with the overwintering Whooper Swans at Cilsan Bridge and this year we really came up trumps. Whereas recent sightings have been distant and often obscured, this time there were 45 birds feeding in a field right next to the road. Using my car as a hide I was able to get some decent photos considering the overcast conditions with this family group being my pick of the bunch.
If you’d told me that we’d be walking in the snow come the end of March I’d have likely scoffed. Yet our first lengthy hill walk of the year delivered just that with a few large patches of the white stuff still clinging to the ridgeline along Carmarthen Fan. In the process of melting it proved incredibly slippery but was a very welcome sight following another mild winter. Less welcome was the bitterly cold wind blowing in across the Beacons, one which tore at any exposed skin with vigour. The prospect of bearing the brunt of it for another six or seven miles appealed little so instead of following our planned route along the shores of Llyn y Fan Fach and Llyn y Fan Fawr we cut inland and made our own path across the broken land toward Carreg Goch. This proved an inspired decision as we were sheltered for much of the way turning what would have been an arduous trek into something a whole lot more pleasant. It also meant we could enjoy the plethora of singing Skylarks to full effect though surprisingly we drew a complete blank on Wheatears. I did however manage to catch my first sunburn of the year. Cap on for next time.
Stackpole and Bosherston
April kicked off with a day spent at Bosherston under another gloriously blue sky. It proved a bit early for the lilies which were just beginning to sprout new leaves but there was no denying the rapid onset of spring. We saw our first Bluebells and Wild Garlic of the year, picked out at least three Wheatears and were as ever far more excited than you’d expect to find Fulmars back on the cliffs. What we hadn’t expected to see were several rafts of Guillemots and Razorbills floating just offshore with a couple hundred more perched on a narrow ledge above. I have seen them in this location once before during winter but never in such numbers or this late, which does raise the question of whether or not they’ll breed. As far as I’m aware this isn’t normally the case so it will be interesting to see how things develop. Either way we got to enjoy lunch listening to a particularly vocal pair of Razorbills on the water below.
Highlight? That would have to be our first Swallow of the year which shot overhead as we were returning to the car. Hopefully the first of many in the coming weeks.
I mentioned above that we’ve been getting stuck into the #walk1000miles challenge this year and so far have clocked up over 200 of the buggers. That’s a little behind target but given that the majority has been squeezed out of very short daylight hours, I’m suitably impressed. A lot of mileage has been clocked up after work with a couple of four mile loops available to us direct from our front door. Encouragement to get out and walk these has been increased no end by the coming of Pokemon Go because, as well all know, you’ve just got to catch them all.
Never fear. My Patchwork Challenge attempt is alive and kicking but this post is already more than long enough so look out for a full update in the next couple of weeks.
So there we have it. A quick(ish) whistle stop tour of what we’ve been up to since we last met. Next stop is Easter where I expect to see the arrival of migrants continue to gather pace, hopefully with a couple of new lifers thrown in for good measure. And who knows, maybe that Osprey patch tick is just around the corner.