With our weather now back on an even keel (famous last words) I finally have chance to catch up on a few previous outings before the allure of Willow Warblers has me once more prowling woodland in an ever hopeful manner. Ah the memories. Thankfully my avian subjects were a whole lot more cooperative weekend before last beginning with those at Penclacwydd. After our double dip on both Hawfinch and Spoonbill there during the “beast from the east” we had unfinished business and the plan was to walk in, spot both, then leave with a job well done. Mother nature of course had different ideas. Neither species was visible either on the reserve or out on the estuary leaving us to wonder whether or not it might be something personal? I presume not as the Shelducks were more than happy to show themselves, the very latest in roof top ornamentation for that person in your life who already has everything else.

P1130830 - Shelduck, Llanelli WWT
P1130824 - Shelduck, Llanelli WWT

As gift ideas go it’s probably not the most practical of suggestions but both birds looked to have taken to their elevated surroundings quite comprehensively and woe-betide any other Shelduck looking to chance an approach. Trust me, the defences were formidable.

Back on the road we headed over to Cefn Sidan where despite brightening conditions the scene before us was still otherworldly. With the tide out, as it always seems to be here, there were vast expanses of mirror smooth sand reflecting the sky almost perfectly whilst a strong breeze filled the air with haze. The resulting combination was impressive to say the least and one which on camera could literally have been anywhere in the world.

P1130833 - Cefn Sidan

This is Wales however which at this time of year, in this location, invariably means Sanderling. It didn’t take long to find them with probably thousands feeding along the shoreline, legs pumping fast enough to be just a blur. Getting closer though would prove more of a challenge as with regular disturbance from dogs they were already on edge. Far better instead to wait for the birds to come to us which is exactly what they did, and in spectacular style. One minute there was just the two of us, alone, the next hundreds of Sanderling streaming by on either side, their calls filling the air. I challenge anyone not to crack a smile after such an encounter and it gave me the perfect excuse to crouch down and grab a couple of photos.

P1130855 - Sanderling, Cefn Sidan
P1130860 - Sanderling, Cefn Sidan

The Sanderling were definitely not having it all their own way however with Common Gulls in particular proving tough neighbours. The first time we witnessed an especially brutal chase we had in fact assumed that the Gull was trying to kill the Sanderling but it soon became apparent that they were simply after their meals. Chase a Sanderling long enough it seems and invariably whatever juicy morsel has just been caught suddenly doesn’t seem that tasty after all.

P1130859 - Common Gull, Cefn Sidan

All the usual suspects were also present of course including Oystercatchers and several Dunlin but what we definitely hadn’t been expecting was a vast flock of some hundred or more Brent Geese flying in off the sea. I presume these had spent the day feeding around Carmarthen Bay somewhere but this was easily my biggest flock seen locally to date. In fact it may be my biggest seen anywhere outside of Norfolk.

P1130838 - Brent Geese, Cefn Sidan

The fact that we can still experience the unexpected in areas we know so well is one of the very reasons why I’ll never tire of the great outdoors. Even so we couldn’t have guessed at what awaited us at Rhossili the following day……


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