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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