It’s been a long wait for a new lifer to find its way on to my list but with the final Sunday of June presenting an opportunity to go for not one but two new birds, well, I couldn’t resist. Our first target came in the shape of a Caspian Tern, reported over on the scrapes at WWT Llanelli a couple of days prior and remarkably still around come the weekend. Being a last minute decision we were fortunate to find tickets still available and after an anxious jog around the reserve’s one way system (invariably taking the longest route possible of course) we were soon in the British Steel Hide. A quick scan picked up the tern almost immediately, a proper brute of a bird easily larger than the Mediterranean Gull’s sitting nearby.
Despite heat haze the record shot above came out pretty well, showing the sheer scale of this rare visitor (only the second record for Carmarthenshire) to good effect. In full breeding plumage it really was a stunner, if a little lacking in action as it seemed happy to snooze away the early afternoon.
Or so we thought. Barely five minutes after arriving the Caspian Tern awoke, had a go at its nearest neighbour (I can relate being a bit grouchy myself after a good sleep) and took flight heading strongly up channel. I had just enough time to fire off a few shots before contact was lost and despite a quick circuit of the rest of the reserve we couldn’t reconnect.
One for one then but our second bird of the day promised to be a whole lot trickier.
Earlier that morning a Pacific Swift had been reported and photographed off the Gower coast at Fall Bay and, being not only a lifer but also a first record for Wales, this was one bird I could not afford to wait on. However since that initial sighting no further sign had been found despite several people actively searching the area, and that remained the state of play as we pulled into Rhossili. Nevertheless hopes were still high as we made our way around the coastal path and set up position on a headland just east of Fall Bay itself. What followed was a glorious couple of hours spent amongst fantastic scenery bathed in sunshine, but sadly no Pacific Swift.
There were plenty of our regular Swifts to keep the watchers on their toes courtesy of a breeding colony in the cliffs below, but none of us could string out a white rump no matter how hard we tried. Instead a supporting cast of Chough and Fulmar made for a great consolation prize whilst out at sea a decent passage of Manx Shearwaters were my first for the year. The final negative report came in at just before nine that evening, long after we’d called it a day ourselves. What a record though for the finder and you can read their remarkable story in full over on the Rare Bird Alert website: Finders in the Field: Pacific Swift, Glamorgan – A First for Wales