Dale and Port Eynon Kayaking

Tuesday, September 22, 2020 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

We were planning to do a whole lot more kayaking this year than last but as with most things in 2020, those plans had to take a backseat. Thankfully lockdown restrictions here in Wales were eased before the summer had totally passed us by and in terms of maintaining social distancing I couldn't think of anything more suitable than paddling the Pembrokeshire coastline. Before hitting the open ocean however we needed a shakedown run and, with Gower basically on our doorstep, a morning pootle off Port Eynon seemed just the ticket. Remarkably we could remember where all our kit was and, more importantly, how to secure the kayaks to the car without resulting in any unscheduled stops. It's always embarrassing when the car behind is flashing their lights to let you know that you've properly cocked up (or so I've heard.....). Fortunately our short journey went without a hitch and after posing our vessels for the now traditional pre-launch photo-op we were soon on the water and away.

GOPR0354 - Port Eynon kayaking


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A Chattering of Choughs

Thursday, September 17, 2020 Adam Tilt 2 Comments

One species which appears to have had a very successful breeding season, at least locally, is the Chough. With their curved red bills and matching legs these charismatic birds are most definitely top of the corvid pecking order. You can keep your Jays and your Magpies (yes even with their iridescence) and give me a calling Chough sweeping along a Welsh clifftop every time.

We’re fortunate here that the Gower peninsula holds a healthy population and it’s been rare for one of our evening walks down that way this summer not to have encountered at least a couple. Of course weather conditions unfortunately haven’t tended to be on our side so most of those views have come during gale force winds. Not so on our last trip to Southgate however which saw calmer conditions finally arriving on these shores, if not the sun. There a flock of twelve incredibly vocal and boisterous individuals were roaming widely as far as Three Cliffs, often feeding on the cropped grassland without much concern for passing walkers. I shot a few frames but in truth I could tell that the results would be disappointing so was happy to just stand back and watch events unfold.

At times the flock would split into two distinct groups, each taking a different direction but inevitably coming together again a short while later. One of these gatherings saw the Choughs perch along the cliff-face itself, exactly what I hoped they’d do and a final chance to get some halfway decent photos. Creeping closer under cover of one of the old limestone pits I popped up a mere couple of metres distant, unnoticed and with probably the best seats in the house.
P1240911 - Chough, Southgate

P1240907 - Chough, Southgate

P1240912 - Chough, Southgate


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House Martin Down

Monday, September 14, 2020 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

You can’t visit Welshpool without a stroll along its stretch of the Montgomery canal, eminently pleasant at the best of times but particularly so with the sun shining and summer in full flow. We chose to head north towards Buttington Cross, our route accompanied by strings of Mallard ducklings and shoals of Rudd. Darting across the canal’s surface meanwhile were all manner of hirundines with only the Swifts practising their brand of aerial acrobatics at higher altitudes. I’ve often wondered how young birds learn their flight skills, even more so when one’s choice of lifestyle requires such dexterity and agility. We were about to get a taster as to how difficult life on the wing can be.

Shortly after passing beneath one of the numerous bridges which crisscross this navigation there was a sudden commotion and splash from behind us. Emma turned first, just in time to spot a Sparrowhawk exiting stage right leaving a House Martin struggling frantically in the water. We could only surmise that a chase had ensued with the desperate martin crashing either out of sheer desperation or a costly mistake. Whatever the cause a rescue mission was clearly in urgent need and it looked like we were the people to mount it.
P1240693 - House Martin down


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Llanymynech Rocks

Friday, September 11, 2020 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

P1240776 - Brimstone, Llanymynech Rocks
Finding hidden gems in oft visited areas is immensely rewarding. Take our high tide visit to Banc y Lord a couple of weeks ago as one such example. Another came at the conclusion of our recent long weekend in Welshpool when, with a few hours spare before heading home, we popped up the road to Llanymynech and its intriguingly marked Heritage Area on the OS map. Now this is somewhere we’ve driven past on numerous occasions, probably even spotting the small brown attraction sign as we did so, yet we simply had no idea that what lay within was a wealth of history and one of the best small nature reserves I’ve visited.

Doing a bit of research reveals that this area was a major centre for the lime industry up until the 1900’s and a remarkable collection of associated buildings and infrastructure remains to this day. Railway embankments and a stretch of disused canal offer plentiful walking opportunities, weaving through woodland which one minute finds you entering a sunny glade and the next drops you out in front of a forty two metre chimney. Sitting high above all this is the quarry itself, straddling the English Welsh border and active for almost two thousand years up until the first world war.
P1240745 - Llanymynech Rocks

The intervening years have seen extensive regeneration with Ash woodland now covering much of the site. Beneath the cliffs however, where old spoil tips and tramways dominate, large swathes of short grassland have developed to produce a true botanical treasure. Since 1972 the Shropshire Wildlife Trust have managed the quarry as a nature reserve, carefully nurturing this special habitat for its orchids and butterflies. With the sun blazing there was certainly no shortage of the latter and we spent a happy hour trying, and in the most part succeeding, to get a few photographs.
P1240776 - Brimstone, Llanymynech Rocks
P1240768 - Common Blue, Llanymynech Rocks
Common Blue
P1240765 - Meadow Brown, Llanymynech Rocks
Meadow Brown
P1240783 - Large White, Llanymynech Rocks
Large White

Being a fan of abandoned industrial sites I couldn’t of course resist a photograph of one of the old winding drums. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a slate quarry or a limestone quarry, climbing those inclines is still one hell of a good workout.
P1240759 - Llanymynech Rocks

The quarry also plays host to some decent birdlife with family groups of Willow Warblers flitting through the scrub whilst Buzzards and a Red Kite were pretty much a permanent presence overhead. Announcing its arrival with a harsh call though was our star bird for the day, a Peregrine Falcon which flew in and quickly vanished behind a crevice high up on the rockface.

I’ll finish with an image of probably the most impressive structure on site, a vast Hoffman lime kiln. Built around 1900 it was Llanymynech’s last significant development and today is exceptionally well preserved. One of only three examples left in the country it was used for the continual burning of lime and must have been a hellish place to work. Men would have spent their days inside those vast arches surrounded by heat, noise and dust. Hard to imagine when standing in the cool, tranquil setting of today.
P1240788 - Llanymynech Limeworks

In summary then a true gem which I have a feeling will become a regular stop-off point in future whenever we’re passing through. We were a bit too late this time to see the Orchids in flower so that’s definitely worth a return trip alone.


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Garreg Lwyd Dotterel

Tuesday, September 08, 2020 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

P1250053 - Garreg Lwyd
Bank holiday weekend was a busy one for us with Saturday spent exploring the Preseli Hills (trip report to follow) and Sunday afternoon taken up with something called a social gathering. An odd concept I admit but one which I think could really take off, maybe even as early as next year. That only left a couple of hours free in the morning so we decided to head for a walk around Garreg Lwyd above Brynamman. The weather was glorious with a cool breeze hinting at autumn just around the corner and visibility stretching for miles in all directions.
P1250023 - Garreg Lwyd

P1250021 - Garreg Lwyd

P1250028 - Garreg Lwyd


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An Epic Strumble Seawatch

Thursday, September 03, 2020 Adam Tilt 2 Comments

P1240856 - Strumble Head
With all that’s been going on during the past week our trip to Strumble Saturday before last seems like a lifetime ago. Back then storm Ellen was still making her presence felt which meant big winds, big waves and even bigger birds (at least in terms of the amount of thigh rubbing induced). Spring tides too were playing their part which was the main reason for us starting our day at Banc y Lord, an early nineteenth century seawall overlooking Kidwelly Marsh.
P1240824 - Kidwelly Marsh

On a normal tide the vast area of saltmarsh stretching out before you would be a combination of marshland (obviously), fields and muddy channels. Line up the sun and moon however and the whole area disappears beneath the waters of Carmarthen Bay, pushing birds which would otherwise be spread far and wide much closer. Having lived here for over a decade the fact that I’d never visited this particular vantage point before now is a surprising omission but as the saying goes, there’s no time like the present.


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Llangennech Train Derailment, Fire and Pollution of the Loughor Estuary

Friday, August 28, 2020 Adam Tilt 1 Comments

P1240891Llangennech train derailment and fire
Looking out of your bedroom window in the early hours to find not only a major incident unfolding but also a potential environmental disaster is not really what I had planned for yesterday. But then again this is 2020 where plans it seems were made to be broken and the unexpected is quickly becoming the norm. When else for instance could I have realistically imagined myself dealing with the nations press all clamouring for use of a photo snapped on my mobile and having to turn down radio interviews left, right and centre. Sounds like a surrealist fantasy but I kid you not, this was how I spent a good portion of my morning.


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Storm Ellen, Shearwaters and a Call to the Coastguard

Monday, August 24, 2020 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

P1240814 - Worms Head during Storm Ellen
Storm Ellen rolled into town at the weekend which, together with a series of very high tides, made for dramatic scenes all along the Welsh coastline. Never one to miss a good weather event we popped down to Rhossili late on Friday evening to see what the sea state was like and I think the word that best describes it was big. Or maybe that should be Big. Towering waves were smashing against the Worm and Tears Point whilst the wider channel resembled a boiling cauldron of white water. The swell was absolutely immense and I didn’t envy the crew of a lone cargo ship passing through one little bit.
P1240801 - Worms Head during Storm Ellen


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Labyrinth Spiders of Manorbier

Friday, August 21, 2020 Adam Tilt 2 Comments

P1240267 - Labyrinth Spider
Choosing places to visit lately includes the additional consideration of how busy said destination is likely to be. Isn't it amazing how crowded this country gets when hordes of tourists aren’t jetting off around the world! For the large part our choices have proven wise with one such being the Pembrokeshire village of Manorbier. Regular readers will no doubt recall previous trip reports and I’m happy to confirm that those red sandstone cliffs, blue seas and artistically positioned castle are all still present and correct.


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Bracelet Meds and Mumbles Kittiwakes

Tuesday, August 11, 2020 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

The triple figure flock of Mediterranean Gulls spotted off Pwll in my last post were indicative of not only a larger seasonal increase across our area, but also a year on year population boom that shows no signs of slowing. Back in 2009 the annual Carmarthenshire bird report gives a max count at any one site of “only” thirty nine individuals which, if my maths serves, means an incredible growth since then of over 400%. A frankly astonishing success story backed up by similar and on occasion even higher numbers being reported this summer from nearby Burry Port and Pembrey. Where me and Meds are concerned though, Bracelet Bay has always been destination of choice. Admittedly at the height of school holidays it’s not exactly the place to go if you’re after a spot of solitude but mingle with the tourists a while and you’re likely to experience some of the best Med Gull encounters this country has to offer. Also expect a few funny looks. 

A couple of weeks ago we did just that and despite the whole area positively heaving with post-lockdown escapees, there were still jewels to be found. From the beach we could see a small roost numbering some fifteen individuals on the rocks below Castellamare, apparently oblivious to the child playing mere metres away. You try that with a camera and see if you can get anywhere near as close! Others were flying regularly overhead but as usual the best views were to be had from the old coastguard station car park. There I was treated to birds exhibiting a whole range of plumages (though no 2020 juveniles it seemed) and by and large was ignored and left to snap away as I pleased. Only an occasional, presumably blind, member of the public came between us but the birds soon resettled allowing me to continue.

P1240495 - Mediterranean Gull, Bracelet Bay

P1240483 - Mediterranean Gull, Bracelet Bay

P1240475 - Mediterranean Gull, Bracelet Bay

P1240474 - Mediterranean Gull, Bracelet Bay

P1240488 - Mediterranean Gull, Bracelet Bay


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Out of Lockdown with a Rose-coloured Starling

Tuesday, August 04, 2020 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

The past four months have been an utterly bizarre period in which everything has changed yet also stayed strangely familiar. For instance I’ve been fortunate in that my job has allowed me to continue working full time, albeit from home, yet any preconceptions I had about getting things done around the house and catching up on my TV viewing have proved massively wide of the mark. Instead overtime and huge pressure have been the name of the game as I and the rest of my team have worked our socks off to help our employer through these unprecedented circumstances. A side effect of this has been that my once carefully cultivated separation between work and home life has broken down almost completely, particularly when lockdown was at its height. For weeks on end my daily highlight was sitting in a different room and any impetus to switch from one laptop to another for blogging purposes was sorely lacking.

The only thing that really kept me going were our once a day permitted outings which felt at times more like mandatory exercise sessions during a prison sentence than something to be relished. Nevertheless we made the most of them and took on the challenge of seeing as many of our normal seasonal species as possible. Clearly some such as Puffins were going to be extremely unlikely but we had remarkable success elsewhere. Particular highlights included a flock of Golden Plover on the hills behind our house as well as the discovery that we can view a Little Egret roost from the bedroom window. Then there was the family of Spotted Flycatchers and at least two reeling Grasshopper Warblers back on their traditional territories for another year. Best of all though were the number of Swifts which arrived this summer, far in excess of the solitary individuals recorded last year. Sitting in the garden we were regularly treated to small groups screaming their way overhead and strongly suspect that a house down the road from us had at least a couple of active nests. Do I detect a spot of Swift next box building in my near future?

I still couldn’t help myself feeling jealous however as I followed those on Twitter fortunate enough to enjoy coastal patches. Having lived near or next to the sea for the last twenty years not having ready access proved a real struggle despite being able to see the distant Gower coastline from home. Those views were no substitute for walking its beaches in person.

Was it really any surprise therefore that as soon as lockdown restrictions began to ease here in Wales, the first destination I had in mind was the coast. But suddenly I found myself hesitating. Month after month of soaring death tolls (including someone I knew personally) had left me in a state of anxiety helped not inconsiderably by the apparent perception in the general populace that the danger had passed. Even walking locally what attempt at social distancing had existed when passing on paths had already largely disappeared. I needed a push to get me back out there and to regain confidence.

Step forward a Rose-coloured Starling.

It’s been an excellent year for the species with individuals popping up across much of the country and finally, on the 15th July, it was our turn. The initial discovery was made earlier that morning but with a day of online meetings stretching out before me I was housebound until gone five. A quick dash down to Burry Port followed and after a thorough search of the area things were not looking good. Memories of my last abortive attempt at seeing one along Aberavon seafront began to resurface, that dip coming courtesy of gale force winds and a Starling cast numbering in the thousands. With by now a decent crowd of observers assembled we continued the hunt, everyone pleasingly observing the social distancing protocols. 

P1240195 - Rose-coloured Starling, Burry Port

Emma, showing no signs of her skills having faded since our last proper birding trip, drew first blood spotting the pink waist-coated visitor atop a nearby telegraph pole. From there it flew down to join its brothers from another tailor on the lawn area in front of Parsons Pickles where it fed giving great views to all. Presumably we also provided equally ample entertainment to the bemused member of staff beavering away at their desk inside.


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Spring, is that you?

Wednesday, March 25, 2020 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

P1240117 - Lambs at sunset
After one of the wettest and as a result longest winters for many years it's heartening to find spring finally putting in an appearance. The past few days in particular have seen glorious sunshine and actual warmth in the air whilst migrants have begun to arrive in decent numbers. Most notable have been the Chiffchaffs whose calls now ring out across our valley from dawn to dusk. Wheatears too are trickling through and we were fortunate to spot five down at Rhossili just before the situation in this country took a rather dramatic turn. The resultant lockdown means that we're now limited to a single outing each day but with the hills literally on our doorstep that's no real hardship. Longer daylight hours have also opened up the option for that most important of daily rituals, the post work (from home now of course) walk, and we've been making full use of every opportunity to do just that. As is tradition that has included a sunset photography session at my favourite tree.


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Polish Black Headed Gull

Monday, March 02, 2020 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

Two gull related posts in almost as many weeks is worrying news indeed but I'm finding it hard not to get dragged into their world. I of course blame fellow blogger Gavin over at Not Quite Scilly (an excellent read by the way) for my increasing inability to pass gull flocks without giving them at least a cursory once over, even though juvenile plumage still baffles me. This new found interest is however starting to bear fruit as while waiting for the pub to open last Sunday my attention was drawn to a lone Black Headed Gull. Nothing out of the ordinary there you might assume but this particular individual was carrying with it a little extra bling.

P1230483 - Black Headed Gull, Mumbles

P1230478 - Black Headed Gull, Mumbles

I'm well used to finding ringed Mediterranean Gulls around the corner in Bracelet Bay but this is the first such Black Headed Gull I've come across. A quick bit of research indicates that the bird originates from Poland and has been spending its winter in the Swansea area since at least 2014. I've been in touch with the relevant ringing scheme and hope to hear of its full history soon.


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Ultimate Adventure Bucket List

Saturday, February 29, 2020 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

Way back at the beginning of the year I breathed new life into this blog with a reflective look at my current motivations and attempted to set a course for the new decade which would see me focussing on what I enjoyed and discarding that which I didn't. Since penning those words I've been doing my best to live up to the commitments I made including plenty of photography, writing and walking, plus a daunting dive into the world of nocmigging for which a series of dedicated blogs will be heading your way soon. That being said perhaps the section which excited me most from that rambling entry was where I listed a few of my long held dreams, experiences rooted in the natural world which one day I hope to fulfil.

Inevitably the idea of putting together a more thorough list began to form (I am a birdwatcher at heart after all) so when Alikat's got in touch asking if I'd like to take part in their Bucket List Challenge, now seemed like the perfect opportunity to do just that. Before we proceed however I want to make it clear that this list is not simply there to allow items to be ticked off. I mean obviously that's part of it but not my sole motivation. Instead my bucket list represents a set of experiences and memories yet to be made, things which I hope will enrich me as a person and push me to live life to its fullest.

Walk Offa's Dyke

Back in 2013 I completed my first long(ish) distance walk with a two day assault on the Gower Way. At thirty five miles this was by far my greatest walking challenge to date and despite a few aches and pains it well and truly whetted my appetite. So much so that I went straight to the bookshop and purchased a guide covering the Offa's Dyke Path which stretches 177 miles along the Welsh/English border. Unfortunately that's as far as things went and after seven years without any long distance walks, this one is right up there on the 'to-do' list.

Climb Ireland's highest mountain

Last summer we successfully climbed Ben Nevis rounding off the three highest peaks in Britain having summited Snowdon and Scafell Pike previously. Next in our sights is Carrauntoohil, Ireland's highest mountain standing at 3,407ft.

P1050975 - Climbing Ben More, Isle of Mull

Watch the Northern Lights dance


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Honeycomb Worms at Bracelet Bay

Saturday, February 29, 2020 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

Contrary to expectations we actually enjoyed a break in our recent appalling run of bad weather last Sunday, brief respite from the rain and wind which has become an almost constant presence this winter. To take advantage we headed down to Mumbles for a mooch around Bracelet Bay and spent a happy couple of hours doing nothing more than simply watching the tide come in. It might be my advancing years (what do you mean mid-thirties isn’t old!) but I find that where once the idea of simply sitting filled me with dread I now find myself increasingly looking for opportunities to do just that. This was to be no exception but before the foreshore had chance to disappear beneath the waves once more I couldn’t help but notice an impressive colony of Honeycomb Worms and went in for a closer look.

P1230519 - Honeycomb Worms, Bracelet Bay

Easily spotted at low tide these are, as the photo above suggests, a reef-building worm which constructs for itself a protective tube from sand and shell fragments. These interlocking tubes create the distinctive ‘honeycomb’ structures from which the species takes its name and can house tens if not hundreds of thousands of individuals. Found where there is hard substrate upon which to build and a ready supply of sand, our local coastline makes for almost perfect habitat and it’s no surprise that they are relatively widespread here.


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The Black Mountain

Friday, February 21, 2020 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

P1230107 - Tair Carn Isaf
Search the internet for Black Mountain and you’re likely to find yourself faced with a slew of possibilities from across south Wales. Of these the Black Mountains east of the Brecon Beacons National Park are probably most widely known and which, rather confusingly, also contain a summit called Black Mountain. I’ve explored there numerous times but today our interests shall be focused further west where The Black Mountain range (as opposed to the Black Mountains and not the individual peak of the same name – keeping up?) straddles the county border between Carmarthenshire and Brecknockshire. Like most of our walks we were drawn to this area after spotting its interesting features on an OS map, principally the number of cairns around Tair Carn Isaf and Tair Carn Uchaf. Intrigued we headed up just before New Year on a typically overcast and windy day.


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Storm Dennis Batters Porthcawl

Sunday, February 16, 2020 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

For the second weekend in a row Wales has been battered by gales and persistent heavy rainfall, last nights deluge resulting in severe flooding across communities both local and further afield. With the ground already sodden and rivers filled to capacity there was simply nowhere else for the water to go other than straight through the increasingly fragile illusion that we are masters of our environment. Thankfully we've escaped relatively unscathed here and spent yesterday locked inside watching sheets of water being blasted up the valley whilst willing our internet and electricity not to cut out (they didn't). We woke to slightly improved conditions this morning and in need of some fresh air headed down the coast to Porthcawl. Even if you've never visited the town yourself you'll have probably seen images of waves crashing over its breakwater and lighthouse, iconic symbols of extreme weather which of late has become ever more common.

As soon as we arrived a huge wave sent almost unfathomable amounts of raging white water skywards, mother nature flexing her muscles as if it was nothing. The gathered crowds stood in awe as barrage after barrage was thrown landwards, the sea a boiling cauldron with waves breaking in any number of directions and the wind whipping up foam to be thrown like projectiles. I've seldom experienced such raw power and hopefully a little of that comes across in the following images.

P1230356 - Storm Dennis, Porthcawl


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Bracelet Bay Med Gulls

Monday, February 10, 2020 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

Last Sunday we popped down to Bracelet Bay on Gower to get reacquainted with the Mediterranean Gulls. Fortunately for us a combination of high tide and stormy seas meant that there were at least twenty dotted around the car park including one ringed individual which originally hails from Poland. Unfortunately the combination of high tide and stormy seas also attracted plenty of people meaning any kind of approach was all but impossible thanks to constant disturbance. Nevertheless I persevered and ended up coming away with a pleasing set of images.

2020_02_0014 - Mediterranean Gull

2020_02_0015 - Mediterranean Gull

2020_02_0016 - Mediterranean Gull

Down at Mumbles Pier it was rather nice to see a few early returning Kittiwakes back on the scene whilst the wader roost on the old lifeboat slipway held very good numbers. Dunlin, Turnstone and Redshank all featured along with a solitary Oystercatcher which had presumably shunned its own species in favour of ruling over the lesser beings.

2020_02_0018 - Mumbles Waders

Other than that things were fairly quiet so there was nothing for it but to head to the pub for a Sunday roast. Now that's definitely my definition of a decent couple of hours spent birding. 


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RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2020

Saturday, February 08, 2020 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

It may be a new decade but some things will always remain the same including our participation in the world's largest wildlife survey. Each January over half a million people across the country come together to take part in the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch, counting the birds that appear in their gardens during a single hour and in doing so helping track the fortunes of our commonest feathered friends. As examples of citizen science projects go it's hard to think of any other that has so captivated the public and become such an integral part of our national psyche, or indeed that has run for quite so many years (forty plus and counting).

This year marked our tenth taking part at our current property and probably delivered the best results we've had since those early days. That has I'm sure something to do with the fact that for once we hadn't chosen an hour beset by torrential rain and gale force winds, conditions that favour neither man nor beast. In the end we managed to record twelve species and forty one individuals but for me the real interest lies in drilling down into the detail.

House Sparrow (8)
Goldfinch (8)
Blue Tit (3)
Dunnock (3)
Greenfinch (2)
Chaffinch (6)
Coal Tit (2)
Magpie (2)
Jackdaw (2)
Blackbird (2)
Collared Dove (2)
Robin (1)

Looking back at our first count in 2011 one thing that immediately jumps out is that our once common flock of Starlings is simply no more. I wish I could say that this was a local anomaly but sadly Starling numbers have been crashing nationally for some time leading to them being red listed as a bird of high conservation concern. The Greenfinch population has similarly been decimated, largely thanks to the rampant spread of trichomonosis, but here at least we have good news. A pair have once more become regular visitors this winter and both showed up during our survey window. House Sparrow numbers have similarly bounced back from just two in 2017 to a mighty eight, as have Chaffinches which once appeared lost but are now heading back towards double figures. I hope these species' resurgence has at least something to do with the work we've being putting into our garden including nest boxes, high quality food and plenty of natural cover. Certainly food has been one of the big draws for our Goldfinches whose numbers continue to build year on year, as does the cost of keeping them fed. 

The only really glaring omission from this years count was that of Great Tit which, given the regularity with which we see them, struck us as a bit odd. Perhaps unsurprisingly one popped up just after our hour had finished and they've been here ever since.

The rules of the Big Garden Birdwatch state that you can only record birds actually grounded in your garden which meant we saw several species which couldn't be submitted. Chief amongst these was a Redwing perched just beyond our boundary plus a pair of Red Kite overhead. Three Herring Gulls and a couple of Crows also passed through before, just as the final minutes ticked away, a flock of four Starlings swept across a nearby field. Perhaps then all is not lost for these charismatic birds and if conservation efforts can help them recover we might yet see them return to our feeders.


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Mermaids and Barnacles at Ginst Point

Wednesday, February 05, 2020 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

P1230253 - Goose Barnacles
Finding ourselves at a loose end one recent Sunday afternoon we went in search of somewhere coastal that hitherto had escaped our notice. That's no easy task when you've lived in the same area for over a decade but find one we did.

Ginst Point lies over the county border in Carmarthenshire and sits where Pendine Sands, of speed record fame, begins its long stretch west from Aber Taf. You could walk for miles and still have an endless stretch of sand before you yet this is very much a spot that only those "in the know" visit. I only found out about it thanks to a chance message on social media and even then, access is not for the feint hearted. You see Ginst Point sits at the heart of an MoD firing range which means frequent closures and, even when open, a far from welcoming arrival. Faced with steel gates, security cameras and plenty of warning signs threatening no unauthorised access I was very tempted to turn back right there and then. In the end though I decided that if the internet said it was ok to visit then it must be, and if not I'm sure the worst that could happen is we'd be asked to politely leave.


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Introducing the Birdsy Cam

Sunday, February 02, 2020 Adam Tilt 3 Comments

Even just a few years ago the idea of streaming and sharing live video from your garden feeders was both prohibitively complex and expensive, especially for the mass market. It was though a concept that appealed greatly and after seeing such technology on various TV series and via early pioneers including WildlifeKate, I researched the topic at some length. However, the prospect of hosting the resultant feeds seemed like more hassle than it was worth so my fledgling plans for a home-grown wildlife reality show never really got off the ground. Now though, thanks largely to advances in cloud computing and innovative companies like Birdsy, we finally have a product that is not only simple to use but also far more powerful than I could ever have imagined.


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January Birding

Thursday, January 30, 2020 Adam Tilt 2 Comments

P1230147 - Purple Sandpiper, Aberystwyth
For most birders that first outing of the new year is always extra special. It doesn't matter what one might see from Robins and House Sparrows through to Golden Eagles or Firecrests, all species carry with them an additional excitement factor of being "first for the year". When else for instance can you find even the most ardent of twitcher clamouring after a Pied Wagtail or, dare I say it, the humble Feral Pigeon. It's a brilliant time to be out in the field, no expectations for what lies ahead and a complete reset from the highs and lows that may have come before.


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Musings on a new year

Monday, January 27, 2020 Adam Tilt 0 Comments

There's a fine line between being fashionably late and downright tardy yet despite January appearing to stretch out for hundreds of days, waiting until the 27th to wish you all a happy new year is I fear straying towards the latter.

So what have I been up to during the mild, damp weeks which apparently pass for winter these days? Quite a lot as it turns out including plenty of birding, a bit less walking (see aforementioned weather) plus a fair bit of soul searching around what matters in life and what makes me happy. On that score we began January very much in the same vein as we rounded out 2019, being shown around a collection of strangers houses and resisting my every urge to point out what a poor collection of decorators the British have turned out to be. Am I the only one to have ever heard of masking tape for instance or considered the concept of cutting in? But I digress. The reason for these occasionally awkward, sometimes downright unpleasant outings was the mistaken belief that more space to store an ever expanding collection of "stuff" was what we really wanted. In fact so convinced were we that a couple of weeks ago we were on the verge of putting an offer down on somewhere twice the size of our current place only to find by the end of the journey home we'd somehow decided to forget the whole thing and book a long weekend to Gibraltar instead.

2019_06_0254 - Scotland

There wasn't a single reason for our change of heart, rather a collection of smaller niggles which when push came to shove we just didn't want to have to deal with. Money of course was one. Having been fortunate to work our way into a mortgage free position, moving back into debt literally a couple of months later felt like a retrograde step. Perhaps more importantly though was time, or the lack thereof. Did we really want to spend what would probably be the best part of the next twelve months dealing with solicitors, packing, unpacking, decorating and getting a new house just the way we wanted it? Although much of last year didn't make it onto this blog we were away virtually every weekend spending just under eight weeks in our self-built camper van. It was brilliant and the type of experience we want to extend into this new decade. Almost half of that time saw us up in Scotland and now my friends we come to the real crux of the matter. I've been to pretty much every corner of mainland Britain and we both agree that our futures lie not here stuck in the nine to five of corporate south Wales but somewhere on the west coast of Scotland where we can indulge our passions and redress a work life balance which has gone missing somewhere between university and our mid-thirties. Moving house in the same locality would just be a further delay to that ultimate goal so it's gone, forgotten. In its place the outlines of a rough plan are forming involving loch views and mountains galore. Of course there's also the pesky matter of income which is going to take a little longer to solve but I'm confident that can be overcome. After all we aren't the first and won't be the last to follow their dreams north.

P1220148 - Scotland

That's all a rather long winded way of saying that the beginning of this new decade sees me refocussing on the things that I enjoy. That means more photography, more writing, more getting out and exploring the great outdoors. All too often these have been the very things which have fallen by the wayside as pressures elsewhere sap both energy and time. No more. There's things I've been wanting to do for years, places I've wanted to visit and sights I've wanted to see. I want to learn more about our natural world and what makes it tick. I want to finally see Orcas in the wild and watch the northern lights dance above frozen lands. I could go on but we'd be here all day and I fear this entry is already turning into a more rambling stream of consciousness than I'd intended it to be.

So then to a little order. Regular readers will recall from years previous that I prefer to set loose goals rather than resolutions, confident that experience shows resolutions are only good for one thing - being broken. None of us know what lies before us and the hanging of a new calendar seldom signifies some profound shift in one’s own habits and characteristics, be they good or bad. Instead I find it more productive to focus on what I want to achieve and if there's anything to take from our chat so far, it's that this year should be one about coming good on dreams and promises I've been making to myself for far too long. Can anyone else feel a list coming on?

Focus on the future

I don't think this one needs a whole lot more explaining if you've already read this far and I did think twice about touching on the subject again. Focussing on the future also sounds worryingly like the antithesis of living in the moment and whilst the latter is absolutely to be encouraged, it shouldn't come at the expense of the former. I find that without a forward view, however rough, the traps of what is comfortable and familiar can become all too real and before you know it you're stuck on the same old treadmill, day in day out. We're perhaps fortunate in knowing what we want our futures to look like and we shouldn't lose sight of that no matter what this year brings.

Explore more

Last year’s trips around the NC500 and Ardnamurchan peninsula awoke something within me that had long lain dormant. Starting each morning in a new location, popping down roads to simply see where they led and walking routes seldom travelled proved to be an absolute joy and during 2020 we are looking for more of the same. I’d love to get out to at least one new Scottish island and we’ve already got several long weekend trips planned in the van. Chief among the latter will include time on Dartmoor, a place that we’ve inexplicably never explored as well as to the lake district and north Wales. I also hope to get abroad with our horizons currently focussed on the aforementioned Gibraltar and Donana national park in southern Spain. I need another Flamingo fix.

P1220267 - Waiting for the ferry

Be creative

I’m a creative person. Always have been, hopefully always will be. From an early age I’ve crafted, written and built. As a result it’s probably no surprise that this blog has now been running for over a decade. In 2020 I plan to extend that even further with at least one new post a week, hopefully more, covering all our adventures supplemented by a few rambles such as this along the way. I’m also a firm believer that words are always more powerful when accompanied by photographs so I’ll be putting more effort into that area, beginning with an equipment upgrade. My latest bridge camera is now a couple of years old and in that time the market has moved on, particularly where micro four third setups are concerned. I’ve had my eye on the Olympus EM1 in particular for a while now so it might finally be time to take the plunge. I also sold my first photograph last year so that’s another avenue I’d like to pursue further.


I’ve garnered a pretty decent breadth of knowledge when it comes to our natural world but recently, I’ve found myself yearning for a deeper understanding. Rarer bird identification in particular comes to mind as after ten or so years since my re-entry to the hobby I’ve got the commoner species nailed but would for instance still struggle to pick out a Honey Buzzard or any of the rarer warblers or waders. Insects too will be in focus, partly inspired by receipt of an excellent book on bee identification for Christmas. Expect many mis-labelled photographs heading your way soon.

2019_06_0145 - Fulmar

Help the planet

There’s no denying that the planet is in trouble. Biodiversity is crashing and temperatures are rising with all but the most blinkered accepting that the situation as it stands cannot be sustained. As individuals we have the power to make grass root changes, small but important steps whose cumulative effect will force responses from our governments and supply chains. Much of what has been done to date consists of little more than words and empty promises but here and there, glimpses of real change are starting to emerge. Take Tesco last week announcing that they will no longer sell plastic wrapped multi-packs of tins. A small gesture in the grand scheme of things but one which will take 350 tonnes of plastic a year out of our environment. You can quadruple that amount when Tesco’s rivals follow suit, as they surely will, and before you know it a lone pebble tumbling downhill has turned into a full blown avalanche. People are already asking Tesco what comes next and as environmental factors increasingly influence our shopping habits the rate of positive change will only increase. At least that’s the theory. 2020 has the opportunity to be a real game changer and I’ll be sharing some of what we’ve been doing in future posts.

Do what makes me happy

Above all 2020 is going to be about doing what makes me, us, happy. What little time we have outside of work should be spent on seeking enjoyment and self-fulfilment. If a particular activity or hobby doesn’t do that then it will be dropped. No hard feelings but life’s too short not to be enjoyed.

2019_06_0108 - John o Groates

Here’s to 2020 then. A new year and a new decade. Bring it on.


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