Saturday, 28 January 2012

Back to the coast again

Cold but bright sunny weather saw us turning up at the beach at Cefn Sidan for a walk in the surf.  The English cricket team were falling like nine pins and were 71 for 8 and I could not stand anymore. The sea was fairly calm but the usual hordes of Oystercatchers and Sanderlings lined the shore.  Four Mute Swans flew in from the sea and mobs of Carrion Crows gleaned the beach. Sadly there were the usual irresponsible dog walkers letting their animals constantly disturb the birds.  Despite that the walk was an exhilerating experience and much enjoyed.

Oystercatchers at Cefn Sidan
We ate our lunch at Burry Port Harbour.  The sunshine had brought out lots of walkers and people just sitting in the sun.  How convenient that the Council have closed the toilet block there for the winter.  We walked to the lighthouse and scanned the estuary.  About 40 Great Crested Grebes were scattered around but a group of 50 Cormorants caught my attention as they fished together.  In amongst them was a Red-breasted Merganser and a Great Northern Diver.  Walking back to the car the adult mediterranean Gull was sitting on a post in the harbour.

Male Teal at Kidwelly Quay

We visited Kidwelly Quay as usual and searched the bushes by the Sewerage Works for the Firecrest but to no avail.  We did find 3 Chiffchaffs, 2 Goldcrests, 20 Reed Buntings and a beautiful Grey Wagtail.  Near the river Teal were very approachable feeding really close to the quay.

Whooper Swans alert to an overflying hot air balloon

Heading home in the late afternoon we stopped at Cilsan Bridge where 19 Whooper Swans were very antagonised by a hot air balloon flying overhead.  They eventually flew off. Better sporting news Norwich have beaten West Brom in the FA Cup.

Monday, 23 January 2012

A Few Year Ticks

Dark-bellied Brent Geese
The day never reached the dizzy heights of being "fine" as forecast but was good enough to get out. I started at WWT Penclacwydd in the hope that I might catch a glimpse of a Great White Egret but I was too late.  Thanks to Wendell Thomas I did see 8 distant Brent Geese my first of the year and  a Peregrine perched on a post also my first in 2012.

Adult Mediterranean Gull at Burry Port

I moved on to Burry Port and walked out along the pier on the western side of the harbour beyond the old lighthouse.  Using the scope I first concentrated on the main channel where I immediately discovered 4 Red-breasted Mergansers.  There was  a raft of about 20 Great Crested Grebes and as I put the scope on them I was delighted to find yet another 2012 tick in the form of a Slavonian Grebe swimming just to the rear of its larger cousins.  More scoping meant I could count at least 50 Dark-breasted Brent Geese and exactly 32 Eider Ducks were added to my list.  Walking back to the car a man was feeding gulls which added yet another species when an adult Mediterranean Gull joined the Black-headeds for the feast.

Male Goldeneye at Kidwelly Quay

Kidwelly Quay was my next port of call.  There were 4 Goldeneye on the river and as usual Lapwings and Golden Plovers were doing some great aerial stuff.  A Water Rail lurked in the canal and 30 Redwings were in the hedges.


I finished up at Cilsan Bridge in the Tywi Valley where the Whooper Swan flock had grown to 25.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

An Old Friend returns

I did have a walk today in decent weather and saw a Red Kite and a very vocal Raven.

Barn Owl - photo Brian Barker

However the highlight was when putting our recycled rubbish outside for early collection.  Suddenly I heard the unmistakable hissing call of a Barn Owl coming from the back of our property.  The I heard it again but over our lane.  This is terrific becasue we used to have nesting Barn Owls here but they last nested in the roof of the Chapel.  Then the roof was repaired and we have not seen them for at least four years.  We have put up a number of nest boxes in the village so now we might be in luck.  Let's hope so.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Searching for Egrets

Great White Egret roosting
The weather reached all time low this morning with persistent drizzle and thick fog.  I had to go to the dentists in Llandeilo so went out anyway.  The previous evening I received a report of 2 Great White Egrets on the Tywi so I went looking.  Staring through the gloom I managed to recognise a white sign and a Mute Swan but nothing else white showed in the gloom.  I must try again when and if the weather improves.

Great White Egret

The heron species normally associated with mainland Europe have been doing some interesting things lately.  The story of the colonisation of Little Egrets is now well known.  Following on from that Cattle Egrets, Purple Herons and Little Bitterns have all nested but as far as I know have not yet become firmly established.  I reckon that Great White Egret might well join them as a breeding bird soon.

Great White with Little Egrets

This species used to be a great rarity but quite a number are recorded annually nowadays and with Great White Egrets nesting as close as the Netherlands and France surely we will not have to wait long.  There may be as many as 5 or 6 Great Whites in South Wales just now so all you BTO heronry counters keep an eye open.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Chasing the sun

The forecast was excellent - clear skies all day.  I awoke to thick fog and this accompanied me for the first hour of my day until I drove past St.Clears and cleared it did with sudden superb sun.  I was heading for Telpyn Point right on the Western Carmarthenshire border with Pembrokeshire. It is a favourite spot for me with opportunities to look for birds sometimes difficult to see in the county.  It is one of the few spots with sizeable cliffs


As soon as I reached the sea I could see lots of Common Scoters in rafts quite close in.  I reckoned there were at least 2,000 birds in all.  As I made my way east along the path a large dog Red Fox walked up the hill ahead of me apparently unconcerned at my presence.  A couple of Rock Pipits fed on the grassy sward until I found a good place to put up my telescope.  Beryl's birthday present to me of a Mulebag to enable easy carrying of the scope and tripod was never more useful than on this walk.  I scanned the sea ducks but could only find Common Scoters but also 2 Red-throated Divers and 3 Shags.  A Fulmar was flying in and out of the cliff below me and I could hear the unmistakable noise of displaying birds.  These birds may nest and I asked myself whether Fulmars had ever bred in Carmarthenshire.  By now the sun was warm and I was predictably over dressed.  Reaching a concrete based bridge I watched a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly sunning itself and then fly off.  Surreal on January 13th.

Small Tortoiseshell pictured at a more usual season

After a cup of coffee I set off back to try and see the Firecrest at Kidwelly Quay.  Passing St.Clears again I was soon back in thick fog all the way to Carmarthen.  Luckily by the time I reached Kidwelly there was no fog there and nor was there any view of the Firecrest for me.  The Long-billed Dowitcher was still there viewed from the local nature reserve.


Fog was pouring out of the mouth of the Tywi but even so by the time I reached Ferryside waders could be seen.  I immediately got on to the lone Avocet and only just in time as some idiot with a totally uncontrolled dog put all the birds up time and time again.  Do these people not realise the neccesity of letting these birds feed undisturbed when the tide allows them?  This becomes more critical when temperatures drop.  I did manage to see 8 Bar-tailed and about 40 Black-tailed Godwits, c200 Dunlin and 6 Ringed Plovers.

Bar-tailed Godwit

Finally back in fog again long the Tywi Valley until upon reaching Cilsan Bridge it miraculously lifted.  There was plenty to see on the meadows. Swans included 80 Mutes and 18 Whoopers and they were accompanied by 130 Greylag Geese and 60 Canada Geese.  Now home to get warm.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Spring is just around the corner.......I hope


Driving through the village today the first clumps of Snowdrops have appeared.  This is after primroses have been in bloom in our garden for some days.  Birds are singing too.  Am I being too optimistic?

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Shock over Taliaris woods

We took advantage of the sunshine to walk in Taliaris woods this morning.  We met the owner and were chatting when a raptor appeared overhead.  Expecting Red Kite, Buzzard or maybe Goshawk we were all surprised to note an immature Egyptian Vulture.  It is well known locally that a couple of reclusive characters living in Taliaris have a large captive collection of vulture species and they occasionally escape.  The fact that the bird appeared to have a yellow ball (size of table tennis ball) attached to one leg and maybe part of jesses confirmed its origin.

Escaped young Egyptian Vulture

We were also pleased to see and hear several Crossbills.  At least one male singing which suggests that nesting may be taking place.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Lull after the storms

Song Thrush singing
At last the winds have abated and the first noticeable thing stepping out into the garden is the arrival of bird song.  I heard Song Thrush, Great Tit, Robin and Dunnock this morning.

Black-tailed Godwits feeding at Penclacwydd

I decided to go out and headed for Penclacwydd.  The wildfowl were obviously delighted at the change in the weather as a few birds were starting to display.  Apart from the usual species a female Goosander was preening from the Peter Scott hide.  From the British Steel Hide nice views of a group of Black-tailed Godwits feeding feverishly.

Grerat Crested Grebe

I moved on to Pwll and half way to Burry Port Harbour counted a group of about 20 Great Crested Grebes and 2 male Red-breasted Mergansers. A Kestrel hovered overhead but no sign of any Slavonian Grebe or Great Northern Diver.

 Moving on to Kidwelly Quay I spent some time near the Sewerage Works looking for the Firecrest but failed again even though somebody saw it an hour later.  I did manage a Chiffchaff and 6 Goldcrests plus 2 Green Sandpipers on the flooded field..  Six Goldeneye were in the river and 12 Greenshanks near the railway bridge.  I looked from the Glan-yr-Afon Local Nature reserve but no sign of the Long-billed Dowitcher today.  The the rain returned and I headed for home.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Flood waters rise

I popped out locally this morning to pick up some new specs and called in at Dryslwyn and Cilsan Bridge.  Gail force winds still perpetuate and most birds with the exception of 3 Red Kites and the swans were keeping their heads down.  The Tywi has burst its banks in several places and flooding exists over a lot of the valley.

The Tywi in flood in a previous year

An exception at Dryslwyn Bridge were 3 Little Egrets feeding together on the margins of floodwater.  Although breeding has been suspected in the valley in the past they are still worth recording in this area.

Little Egrets

Back home on the feeders I have not seen any Marsh or Willow Tits for some time.  I hope I have not lost them.

Monday, 2 January 2012

The Yanks in the 2012 bag!

Sun at last even if with very wintry showers now and again.  Out looking to add to my 2012 list.  reading that the Long-billed Dowitcher was being seen upstream from the railway bridge at Kidwelly I made my way to the Glan-yr-Afon Local Nature Reserve on the north shore of the river and after a short while found the bird happily feeding with Redshanks.  Despite the poorish light I did manage a few photographs.

Long-billed Dowitcher at Kidwelly

The Kidwelly Quay area too was as good as ever with 3 Red-breasted Mergansers, Goldeneye, 8 Little Grebes, 10 Greenshanks, 2 Little Egrets and impressively around 2,000 Golden Plovers.  By the Sewerage station I found Goldcrest and Green Sandpiper but no Firecrest or Chiffchaffs.

Long-billed Dowitcher at Kidwelly

We checked out Cefan Sidan beach but there was a howling gale with attendant sand storm so we gave up.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

The Year starts again

First of all a Happy New Year to all!

Blue Tit - first bird of 2012

I usually go out on New Years Day to begin my new year list.  It is just a bit of fun and starts birding activity in earnest.  Well the diabolical weather continues and most of the day it just bucketed down with rain and high winds as well.  I topped up the garden feeders and thought I might as well start 2012 by watching from the window.  Unsurprisingly the first species was a Blue Tit and things did not get much better for a while.  Soon 3 Siskins arrived at the niger feeder quickly followed by a Goldfinch so the pulse quickened.  Great Spotted Woodpecker arrived as usual as did a couple of Nuthatches.


I struggled on peering into the gloom and it was mid-afternoon before I got a House Sparrow.  Going outside in a lull in the rain produced Jay, Carrion Crow and Magpie.  In the dusk a Wood Pigeon and a Collared Dove went into oaks in our car park.


Finally my total reached twenty when I was putting out the refuse sacks for collecton.  A couple of Tawny Owls were noisily performing by the house. Sunshine is forecast for tomorrow so watch this space.