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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