Llanddeusant Red Kite Feeding Station

Friday, December 06, 2019 Adam Tilt 0 Comments


P1230013 - Red Kite
For sheer natural spectacle it’s hard to beat a Red Kite feeding frenzy. The sight of hundreds of these impressive raptors circling and diving in a ball of whirling chaos is something that once experienced is not easily forgotten. We’re fortunate here in Wales that Gigrin farm opened to the public in 1993 as an official Red Kite feeding station allowing easy access to watch such gatherings up close and in relative comfort. Since then others have been established around the country yet, for some reason, we’d never visited our closest at Llandeusant. Until now.

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Penwyllt in Monochrome

Wednesday, December 04, 2019 Adam Tilt 0 Comments


P1220906 - Penwyllt
I’ve long held a fascination for anything abandoned be it disused railway lines, industrial sites or mines. I’ve shared my exploration of these often little known locations from across the country on a number of occasions, but when it comes to exploring closer to home then Penwyllt is hard to beat.

P1220857 - Penwyllt

P1220862 - Penwyllt

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Spooning at Penclacwydd

Saturday, November 30, 2019 Adam Tilt 0 Comments


My parents came down to visit last weekend which may or may not explain the rapid deterioration in weather across south Wales. The forecast for Saturday in particular looked dreadful so it was a pleasant surprise waking to find only persistent showers. Clearly however our original plan of heading up into the Brecon Beacons was off but thanks to the ever reliable WWT reserve at Llanelli, we had a backup ready to go.

First stop was the Michael Powell hide where a flock of Redwing were busy in the trees outside. Over on the marsh there were already good numbers of Lapwing and Redshank gathered whilst a lone Common Snipe blended in so as to be almost invisible. Our good run of Kingfisher sightings continued with an individual perched outside the British Steel hide before a Water Rail scampered across an open area then vanished once more. More wader action came in the shape of several Dunlin and Black-tailed Godwits plus a single Grey Plover. The latter is a rare tick for me here and thanks to its intricate plumage something of a personal favourite.

P1220848 - WWT Llanelli

Over on the remodelled NRA scrapes we found the Wigeon flock busy feeding along with the rest of the Black-tailed Godwits. All were spooked at one point and shot into the air but whatever it was they saw didn’t make itself visible to us.

By now the tide was rapidly rising and all attention returned to the marsh. As wader numbers continued to build steadily at least six Greenshank arrived closely followed by two, five and finally seven Spoonbill! I remember when we first started getting the odd individual on the Burry Inlet so to have this number is pretty special. All bar one did the usual Spoonbill trick of immediately going to sleep but the rebel spent a good while feeding directly outside the hide. If only the light had been better for some photographs.

P1220850 - Spoonbills, WWT Llanelli

With the lagoon steadily filling with birds the sense of something more unusual turning up was high. I picked out a nice Spotted Redshank roosting with the Greenshanks but it was only after we left that an Avocet dropped in. Still, I guess you can’t have everything but nice to know that there’s at least one about.

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Lyme Regis and Seaton Wetlands

Thursday, November 28, 2019 Adam Tilt 0 Comments


P1220595 - Turnstone
The second half of our Dorset break began with yet more unseasonably warm, sunny weather. So warm in fact that as we strolled along the seafront in Lyme Regis strange and long forgotten thoughts began to surface in my mind. Admittedly they had a job to push through the overriding mental image of the pasty I'd be devouring for lunch later on but nevertheless, there they were - it's almost warm enough to remove my coat ..........

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Black Redstarts, Cirl Buntings and a few Trains

Thursday, November 21, 2019 Adam Tilt 0 Comments


P1220394 - Black Redstart, Seaton
We’ve had a busy old summer this year exploring Scotland in our self-built campervan and as brilliant as it's been, when it came to our winter break we fancied something a whole lot less complicated. Waking up in a different place each morning was an amazing experience but with the weather turning colder and night’s drawing in a warm shower and comfy sofa definitely held an attraction. If it hadn’t been for Brexit then a break somewhere hot and sunny in Europe would have been ideal but the possibility of being stranded in an airport whilst everyone figures out “what next” didn’t appeal. Instead we went for the polar opposite, a stormy week on the Dorset coast in old favourite Lyme Regis.

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Kenfig - Red-backed and Long-tailed

Monday, November 18, 2019 Adam Tilt 0 Comments


P1220815 - Long-tailed Duck
November is rapidly turning into a stellar month on the Glamorgan birding scene with rarities popping up all over the shop. From Snow Buntings perched on car mirrors to worm eating Long-tailed Ducks, there's been enough about to tempt even those most ardent of patch workers to stray. Having spent the best part of this year exploring the length and breadth of the country rather than tramping across our own local hills I had even less holding me back than normal. Inevitable then that with much of the action focusing on Kenfig we would find ourselves amongst it's dunes come Sunday.

P1220729 - Sker Farm

Eschewing our usual circuit of the main pool we instead made a beeline for Sker Farm where seasonal flooding has formed a large lake just inland of the beach. It was no surprise to find plenty of raucous Herring Gulls making the most of these new feeding opportunities (heard long before they were seen) but we were here for something a little more unusual. That a Long-tailed Duck turned up during recent storms is unexpected though not especially so, but having then decided to stick around for over a week? Those aforementioned worms must be really tasty. Whatever the motives I'm a sucker for sea ducks of any form and it was a delight to spend time with this juvenile, albeit in pretty appalling light.

P1220815 - Long-tailed Duck

P1220766 - Long-tailed Duck

P1220770 - Long-tailed Duck

As with most water going subjects the Long-tailed Duck managed to find the exact middle of the pool and was determined not to stray even a metre closer to either bank. As a result I couldn't capture the frame filling shot I was after but we did get great views including plenty of preening action and some brief vocalisations.

A supporting cast of Curlew and Lapwing were milling about whilst overhead eighty or so Golden Plover piped their way in off the coast. There was also a male Sparrowhawk present which I gather has been here across the weekend but I doubt anyone has had quite as close an encounter as mine. Peering over a low stone wall I found myself pinned by a pair of piercing yellow eyes, strong wing-beats closing the gap between us rapidly until only at the last moment did the Sparrowhawk veer away, perching up on a distant post with the sound of wind rustled feathers still flowing through my consciousness. Was this a territorial warning or simply a case of not being spotted until it was almost too late? There's no way of knowing for sure but it certainly felt like a threat at the time.

Sker had one last treat in store before we moved on and for anyone who's read this previous entry, you might have an inkling as to which species I'm referring. Yes, for only the second time in almost a decade we actually managed to get great views of one of the resident Little Owls, on this occasion perched along the barn roof. We'd clearly been spotted however and after some rapid head swivelling it was bon voyage Owl and that was the last we saw of it.

P1220718 - Little Owl

P1220838 - Sker Farm

So two new year ticks in the bag but could we go one better? You know I think we can. On Friday a Red-backed Shrike was reported along the Royal Porthcawl golf course boundary (good walk spoiled etc) but with no reports on Sunday I wasn't sure if the bird had moved on or people just hadn't been able to connect. With no-one obviously looking we made a slow pass of the whole area and had pretty much given up hope when a distant House Sparrow caught my attention. By now the light really was failing, despite being only mid-afternoon, and with some distance to the subject that's my excuse for an almost catastrophic misidentification - and I'm sticking to it. Only by reviewing a terrible record shot on the camera did I spot my error but of course by then the Shrike had done a bunk. Thankfully it hadn't gone far and perched up for some more dubious photography a couple of minutes later.

P1220831 - Red-backed Shrike

P1220836 - Red-backed Shrike

Now Red-backed Shrike is a new life tick for both of us and coming within sight of where we'd seen both the Little Owl and Long-tailed Duck that makes for a mighty impressive few hours in the field. All credit to the initial finders for getting the news out, particularly in the case of the Shrike which is elusive and tricky to find even when you know it should be there!

Walking back to the car a Brown Hare was a first for me at Kenfig whilst most bushes had at least something hopping about. I'd have loved to have had more time to search them all as at the moment it feels like just about anything could turn up there.

P1220823 - Sker Farm

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Northumbrian Sea Dogs

Tuesday, October 01, 2019 Adam Tilt 0 Comments


After the frankly ludicrous heatwave over Easter it was back to reality with a bump come May, a week of which we spent camping along the Northumberland coast at Seahouses. Our main objective for this trip was to get across to the Farne Islands where breeding birds promised to wow us in their thousands. To that end we made two sailings, the first in glorious sunshine but sadly with a sea swell too large to even consider landing. Attempt number two didn't prove much better but we did at least manage to grab forty minutes ashore Inner Farne where, as expected, the avian residents put on a fabulous show.

Our feathered friends can wait for another day however as this entry is all about the mammals which also call these windswept islands home. I am of course referring to Grey Seals, hundreds of which are resident here and, when conditions are right, like nothing more than to haul themselves out on the rocks to enjoy a siesta. It's a spectacle I've witnessed on numerous occasions but during our second voyage their numbers were greater than anything I'd ever seen. One particular island seemed especially popular and was covered from front to back with dozing, grumbling bodies. Honestly, who can resist faces like these.

2019_05_0088 - Farne island Seals

2019_05_0083 - Farne island Seals

2019_05_0084 - Farne island Seals

2019_05_0086 - Farne island Seals

Of course, there's always someone who decides to play up for the camera!

2019_05_0090 - Farne island Seals

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Reed Warbler at Ham Wall

Sunday, September 29, 2019 Adam Tilt 0 Comments


This year, even with three months still left to go, has been one of my most enjoyable to date. Almost every weekend has seen us out and about both locally and further afield including over a month spent exploring the wilds of Scotland. Along the way we've experienced just about every weather imaginable, revelled in fabulous wildlife encounters and eaten more pasties than is probably advisable. We've summited Ben Nevis, gone eye to eye with hunting Skua, watched Dolphins in crystal clear waters and walked through fields of Sunflowers. And that's just for starters.

Along the way I've taken thousands of photos but all have remained unedited, languishing on various hard drives along with their accompanying stories. 

Until now that is.

With the nights drawing in once more it's time for me to finally sit down, open up Photoshop and a blank Blogger post and get those creative juices flowing. Having so much material is however proving both a blessing and a curse - where to start in the huge editing backlog and what to share first!

Making matters more complicated is that I have now switched from Windows to Mac meaning a change in workflow and new software to get to grips with. Nothing you'd think that should be too challenging for a software engineer by trade but letting go of those niggling doubts about the quality of ones own work is a hindrance that I'm yet to beat. My solution? Just get stuck in and having come across a couple of great images from an April trip to the RSPB reserve at Ham Wall, I think I've found just the subject to inject some life back into this blog.

2019_04_0040 - Reed Warbler, Ham Wall

2019_04_0041 - Reed Warbler, Ham Wall

2019_04_0039 - Reed Warbler, Ham Wall

The Reed Warbler above was probably my best encounter with the species all year and perhaps unsurprisingly yielded my favourite shots to date of this often elusive bird. Sat singing just off the path we were treated to virtually unhindered views and for those of us that have spent many hours scouring reed beds, you'll know how opportunities like this don't come around all too often. In fact so confiding was this individual that in the end we had to walk away with the bird still happily perched and belting out its tune. 

Elsewhere Ham Wall had been less kind photographically but simply spectacular in terms of the array of species on offer. Bittern were booming almost constantly during our visit and we ended up enjoying multiple sightings across the reserve. Great White Egrets were also well represented as were Marsh Harriers not to mention all the usual migrants that you'd have expected at that time of year. Top billing though had to go to a pair of Hobby which were busy hawking for insects right above one of the hides. In the end we actually stood outside looking up in order to view the spectacle at its fullest and boy were we not disappointed. Much like the aforementioned star of this entry we both seldom see Hobby so this was a real treat and a fine way to round off our visit.

And with that consider your appetites suitably whetted. I've got a few more days of photo editing ahead of me before the posts can start flowing freely but I hope you'll stick around and that the barren blogging months will not have been in vain. 

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Tornado and the Pembroke Coast Express

Tuesday, July 30, 2019 Adam Tilt 0 Comments


Pembroke Coast Express
Sunday before last saw an unusual visitor arriving here in South Wales and as you might expect from a land steeped in myth and legend, this was to be no ordinary cross-border incursion. Indeed, playing the Welsh very much at their own game what emerged from the Severn Tunnel in a cloud of smoke and steam was a true fire breathing marvel. With sun glinting off pristine green plating there could be no mistaking the power and pedigree of a machine which epitomises everything great about British engineering. Oh yes my friends, Tornado was on her way.

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Dipping Through Waterfall Country

Wednesday, February 27, 2019 Adam Tilt 0 Comments


P1180590 - Pontneddfechan Waterfalls
Of all the seasons autumn for me is the one which seems to pass the quickest. One minute it's all lush vegetation and long sunny days, the next barren landscapes and lashings of rain. Somewhere in-between those classic vistas with which we're all so familiar, of valleys bedecked in oranges and reds, must exist, yet somehow we never quite manage to connect. Much of that has I'm sure to do with our local climate which has this uncanny knack of switching moods on an almost hourly basis. In fact by now I've come to realise that it's an almost guaranteed occurrence that as soon as the leaves start to change our first named storm of the winter will arrive to dash the display before it's really had chance to develop. And last year proved be no different.

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Short Eared Owls and Elusive Grebes

Monday, February 25, 2019 Adam Tilt 1 Comments


P1180973 - Short Eared Owl. Kenfig
Yesterday did not get off to the most promising of starts. For a few days previous I’d begun to detect the onset of another winter cold. Nothing too major you understand, just the odd cough and sniffle, enough to let you know that sometime soon, probably at the most inopportune moment, man-flu would strike. Sunday morning turned out to be my ground zero.

Squeezing my eyes shut against the brightness of another unseasonably warm February morning I knew that I was in trouble. Pain arced behind my eyes and a previously undiscovered spring had overnight taken up residence within my nose. I could have dragged this broken body out of bed I suppose but wallowing in self-pity whilst claiming to have been visited by the worst cold ever suffered by a human is one of the few male pastimes which remains steadfastly ours. And that’s how I stayed until well after noon.

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