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.
Ever since the old seawall here was breached I’ve been watching with keen interest to see how the once drained land would develop. Successive high tides have brought in silt and salt-marsh vegetation which in turn has helped transform green fields into the rich tapestry of colours we saw today. Of course a marsh is nothing without its wildlife and it was good to spot a couple of Little Egrets feeding whilst an Osprey perched in the distance.
Hang on, what?
By an incredible stroke of good fortune we’d somehow managed to time our arrival perfectly with that of an Osprey, presumably the same bird which was first reported here back in September but that’s by no means a guarantee. Both individuals were untagged but I’d think it a little unusual to have one stick around for quite such a length of time whilst on migration. Saying that there’s no shortage of good fishing available and with the weather being so mild perhaps that final kick to head back to Africa is yet to hit home. Whatever the circumstances the end result was that we got our best views of an Osprey for quite some time, fish clasped firmly in talons and eyes constantly scanning for approaching danger. Inevitably distance and heat haze (in October!) precluded anything particularly inspiring in terms of photography but I did manage to get a couple of record shots for posterity.
As with all quality birds it seemed almost criminal for us to leave first but with a long walk ahead we really needed to get going so having put the news out we paid our respects and left. Quite what we’d find to better an Osprey on home turf though was anyone’s guess but a family of Stonechats, Goldfinches galore and pair of Song Thrushes were a good start as we struck out across the dunes. Waiting for us on the other side was Whiteford, a vast expanse of sand with Oystercatchers lining the shore and thousands of stranded Barrel Jellyfish for as far as the eye could see.
Though dramatic this is not an uncommon occurrence here but what has been unusual in recent weeks has been the arrival of Portuguese Man-of-Wars. First reported from Cornwall then Pembrokeshire shortly after they’ve now reached Gower and I was keen to see one for myself. No amount of searching however could turn one up which given their well known reputation for having an excruciatingly painful sting was perhaps for the best.
The strandline did have other surprises in store including a couple of deceased Razorbills and Guillemots as well as this well decomposed Dolphin species. I’ve not managed to nail it down more accurately as of yet so if anyone has any suggestions I’m all ears.
After a spot of lunch (I’m happy to report no impact to our appetites due to the above) we crossed Broughton Bay and walked on to Burry Holmes and Rhossili Bay itself. Out here conditions were much rougher with a stiff wind blowing so it was a little disappointing that bird movement was on the sparse side. Plenty of Gulls for sure but not even a single Gannet. Things weren’t much better on land where our only sighting of note came from a Kestrel still somehow managing to hover.
Our return route took us back inland and up Hills Tor where we were greeted by a flock of seven Chough. The view out across Whiteford Burrows wan’t bad either with a handy break in the cloud arriving at just the right moment.
Sadly the Osprey had departed by the time we reached Cwm Ivy once more but we did spot a Sparrowhawk shooting through before reaching the car just as a bank of rain moved in. It seems that once more our timing today had proved spot on.