31 January 2010

Gower Bird Hospital rehab case...

One of the many Lesser Black-backed Gulls (typically abandoned chicks) hand-reared and rehabilitated by the Gower Bird Hospital http://www.gowerbirdhospital.org.uk/ and released into Swansea Bay. This bird was seen and photographed on the Spanish side of the border between Spain and Portugal today by Dutch birder Daan Vrauwdeunt. (Photo below taken by Daan)

30 January 2010

Merlin at Neath Saltmarsh

On the way down to Eglwys Nunydd res this morning I stopped to scan the Saltmarsh at Neath . A male Merlin was present sitting on a post next to the river before heading off in pursuit of passerines. Maybe he has discovered a liking to Water Pipits?

At Eglwys 453 Pochard, 2 Scaup, 27 Goldeneye, 2 Goosander and a Water Rail calling.

Hen Harriers at Llanrhidian

Paul Tyrrell called to let me know that there were 2, possibly 3, male, and 1 female Hen Harriers and a Barn Owl at Llanrhidian marsh this evening.

Llannant saltmarsh pylon roost

There were 25 Cormorants on the pylon (SN565000) this evening. Numbers vary considerably at the roost with the highest count I've made being 70 back on the 17th September 2009. There is another pylon roost in the Burry on the Carmarthenshire side of Loughor Bridge, the highest count I've made here being 48 on 2nd September 2001.

Last night's snowfall

A couple of inches of powdery snow fell last night over much of Swansea and parts of Neath, though once again the milder western end of the Gower peninsula and the Burry Inlet were hardly affected as shown below:

View from Cefn Bryn looking towards the snow-free Rhossili Down (193m) and Llanmadoc Hill (186m).

View from Dalton's Point marsh looking up the Loughor valley with Graig Fawr (276m) in the background

View across Oxwich beach towards Cefn Bryn (186m)

29 January 2010

Southern Polypody in Gorseinon

Ripe sporangia of Southern Polypody (Polypodium cambricum), a scarce species in the area. However, a healthy population exists on the south-facing wall at Cwrt-y-carne SN573004.

Local Events for 2010

To checkout updates to 'Dates for your Diary' click on the link below right, or here http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=ddsr26tw_1t97vjzhs

28 January 2010

Water Pipit City!

A walk across Neath saltmarsh with Mark Hipkin revealled how good this site is for Water Pipits. Although 4 were seen well enough to id to species, maybe as many as 15 birds were seen in total. Most typically only gave flight views, but a group of a dozen or more birds, all giving Water/Rock Pipit calls, showed white bellies and white outers in flight. 2-3 of these seen on the ground were indeed Water Pipits. Never seen so many together in our area!

27 January 2010

Pontrhydyfen up to Foel Fynyddau

There is a nice walk that starts underneath the viaduct at Pontyrhydyfen (SS792941) and goes through the forestry up to Foel Fynyddau (SS782936). There are a mixture of habitats along the walk including Conifer forest, deciduous wood and moorland. I walked this route today and some of the highlights are as follows:-

1 Woodcock, 1 Red Kite, 1 Dipper, 30 Fieldfare, 60 Redwing, 1 Chiffchaff, 3 Goldcrest, 17 Bullfinch and 7 Crossbill

23 January 2010

Grebes and Divers Galore!

First of all apologies for the poor quality photos! They show one of the many Red-throated Divers in the Bay. Today I saw at least 12 Red-throats in small groups throughout the bay, but judging by the numbers flying around I would suggest that there are over 20 birds present.

The Grebe numbers dwarf the diver numbers by comparison. The Great Crested Grebe is a common bird,but seeing them in such vast numbers is quite something. I counted 165 birds off Aberavon beach in the morning and 196 birds off Crymlyn Burrows Beach this afternoon. The Grebes could be seen in large rafts off Aberavon Beach while I was counting the grebes just off Crymlyn Burrows which reassures me that the counts involve different birds.

The Fem/imm Velvet Scoter also still present off Aberavon Beach

January moths at Gelli-hir

Milder conditions yesterday evening tempted Chris Manley to run his trap for a couple of hours at the Widlife Trust reserve at Gelli-hir. He was rewarded with 5 Winter Moths and 9 Mottled Umbers; the latter a highly variable species as shown by Chris' photo above. By morning the temperature must have been around 0.C judging by the frost in many localities.
I'm sure Chris wont mind me plugging his excellent new publication which I understand is on it's second print: http://www.amazon.co.uk/British-Moths-Butterflies-Photographic-Guide/dp/0713686367

Harriers at Llanrhidian

Neil Edwards just reported that 4 Hen Harriers came in to roost on the marsh this evening, however, he was more surprised to see them joined by a Red Kite at one stage! The kite was buzzed by one of the female Hen Harriers who, unlike Neil, was clearly not impressed by its presence. Neil saw what was probably the same kite earlier in the day a little further east at Wernffrwd.

21 January 2010

Goldeneye on the Neath River

Lyn Fishlock wrote:
I've just returned from a walk down the Neath river below the A474 viaduct. I've just seen my first Goldeneye in the river in 50 years of birding in and around Neath. I first saw it (a female)flying upstream at the point where the river does a sharpish right turn towards Skewen (Nr. Metal Box Factory). Then on my return to Neath it was feeding in the river about 300m downstream of the A474. It took off and headed downstream - I thought I had flushed it but then I saw every other bird in the vicinity disappearing rapidly - the reason, a peregrine heading slowly across the marsh! Not a bad end to the afternoon.

20 January 2010

Yet another Bittern!

A different Bittern to the one seen at WWT Llanelli on Monday (pics below) was sadly found dead in the Millennium Wetlands today. The map above shows all records relevant for the winter atlas at absolute (red dots) and tetrad (open squares) levels. It is likely that a minimum of 9 birds have been recorded in the area shown by the map since 1st January (red dots centred black - click on map for higher resolution), which is quite a total! ...and still time for more...

More Harbour Porpoise sightings...

Received the following records from Martyn Hnatiuk today:
01 Jan: 4 off Rhossili (SS385880)
01 Jan: 2 off Portenyon (SS477843)
04 Jan: 2 off Aberavon Beach - west (SS715895)
07 Jan: 2 off Bracelet Bay (SS633868)
It appears there are small numbers of animals scattered all around the Gower coastline at present! Please report any sightings as it will be interesting to obtain more information on this enigmatic mammal. All sightings will be forwarded on through the relevant channels...

Another Bittern at Eglwys Nunydd Reservoir

I bumped into George Morgan today who informed me that a Bittern was seen at the reservoir during the cold snap. Counts today were down on what has been around recently, nevertheless I did see 439 Pochard and a fine male Scaup (above). Only 3 Great Crested Grebe on the res. - sounds like they're all on the sea off Aberavon judging by Mark's post below!

Brent Geese in the Burry Inlet

Part of a flock of 145 Dark-bellied Brent Geese at Crofy on 9th January 2010
Although I have not made any complete counts on the Burry this winter (this task is carried out relgiously by Bob Howells), my own observations suggest that numbers of Brent Geese seem lower than in previous winters. Figures extracted for Gower Birds for the period 1968-2008, show that the population on the Burry has in fact fluctuated quite markedly in recent years. The reasons are likely to be complex but breeding success and an increase in movements between winter sites are probable key factors. The peak count on the Burry was fairly recently in December 2005 when 1680 were in the estuary.

Data from Gower Birds (Grenfell et al, 1969-2009)
[NB. Last two years data incomplete so figures may be higher than shown]

19 January 2010

Harbour Porpoise off Mumbles

I saw at least 4 porpoise in the race off Mumbles Head last week. Not sure how regular this occurs at this time of year as I've always thought they were more frequent in summer? On a related matter, I found out from a chance meeting with Prof. Paul Brain from Swansea Uni that there are proposals to drill and gasify coal deposits in Swansea Bay. Clearly the potential risks to Porpoise and other marine life are likely to be significant. For more info check out Paul's blog http://professorpbrainsblog.blogspot.com/2009/12/jumping-jack-flash-its-gas-gas-gas.html

For other info on cetacean sightings in South Wales check out http://whaleswales.blogspot.com/

18 January 2010

Another day another Bittern!

Technically this one's not in the Gower area, but it is only just outside and it's not often you get views this good!
Photographed from the British Steel Hide at WWT Llanelli this morning. A new adult Spoonbill was also present.

17 January 2010

Great Day at Baglan Bay

At present there are very large numbers of Great Crested Grebe off Aberavon Sands. Among them is a single Fem/imm type Velvet Scoter. It seems to loosely associate with the Grebes and today spent most of its time with a single raft of approx 120 Grebes. I counted 168 Great Crested Grebes in the Bay and also at least 6 Red-throated Diver and possibly 9+. The Divers were quite mobile though, often flying to different locations within the Bay. These species have been present for some time. First recorded 1/1/10 per SLM and again on 8/1/10 per ND. Also today a Great Northern Diver flew past but was lost to sight heading into Swansea Bay.
The Birds seem to favour the west end of the beach which is easily accessible from the car park off Scarlet Avenue. The nearby dunes offering a welcome vantage point from which to scan the sea. High tide is clearly the best time to look from the dunes since the birds are closer in.
Just a short walk from here the Black Redstart, mentioned in an earlier post, was still present just inside the BP perimeter fence SS727914

16 January 2010

Bittern at Oxwich

Probably the same Bittern as that seen by Andy a couple of days ago was in a patch of rushes in the new fen area. Other cryptic species seen in the marsh were Jack Snipe, 23 Snipe and 4 Woodcock (roosting communally). Ducks on the ponds, good parts of which are now ice free, included 24 Gadwall, 9 Teal and a Shoveler. Water Rails seemed to everywhere calling and at least 1 Cetti's Warbler has survived the big freeze. In the bay around 550 Herring Gulls, 32 Great Black-backed Gulls and a Yellow-legged Gull were feeding on wide range of items on the falling tide, the main ones being Starfish, Otter Shells, Razor Shells. A Great Northern Diver was just off the rocks.

15 January 2010

Black Redstart at Baglan Bay

A fem/imm Black Redstart was today(15/1/10) feeding inside the BP perimeter fence near the Ragworm Farm at SS728913. BP have now moved on leaving a very nice habitat resembling steppe or montane terrain. It has the advantage of being fenced off from the public so disturbance is greatly reduced. Also present 20+ Lapwing and interestingly a stream of Pied Wagtails in 1's, 2's and small groups flying towards the Biomass Power Station at dusk presumably to roost in a warm place.

Redwing bonanza

Good to see lots of Redwings feeding in more typical situations today in milder conditions. I have noted quite a range of variation amongst these birds and some of the darker individuals may be of the Icelandic race coburni, though not checked on the status of this race yet. These two birds were feeding together at Mumbles Hill today...
[...the description in BWP of the Icelandic and Faroe Islands race coburni certainly fits the darker bird above. These birds are said to winter in Scotland, Ireland, western France, Spain & Portugal, though no population estimates are given. The best distinguishing features are the larger size (only a supplementary character) but more especially the extensive dark streaking beneath as shown above.]

14 January 2010

Bittern at Oxwich

Andy Roberts reported seeing a Bittern in the marsh today

13 January 2010

Bittern at Wernffrwd

It had to come eventually, with Bitterns seemingly everywhere in South Wales, that one would turn up in Gower. Neil Edwards followed up a report from one of his neighbours (a non-birder I hasten to add) of a possible Bustard in the rushes not far from his house. When he walked out to where the bird was seen a Bittern flew up and headed towards Crofty. I checked quickly this afternoon and found the bird roosting in some Bulrushes not far form where Neil saw it go down. Hopefully it will be there again tomorrow when I'll have my camera at the ready...

10 January 2010

Woodcock in Langland, Gower

Peter Douglas-Jones captured this stunning image of a Woodcock in his garden this morning. The prolonged cold weather is forcing cryptic species such as Woodcock, Snipe and Jack Snipe into more exposed situations, and the next few days will no doubt provide other opportunities to get good views of these largely nocturnal birds.

Snails on the menu at Crymlyn Burrows

Song Thushes will occasionally eat snails and it is well known that they use rocks as 'anvils' in order to smash the shells open. But I have never seen an anvil-technique like this one before. The recent very cold weather has forced large numbers of Song Thrushes to our coast in search of food. Near where I took this photo on the dunes at Crymlyn Burrows there were 40+ Song Thrushes within a 50m radius along with smaller numbers of Blackbirds and Redwings.
The recent cold temperatures have frozen the dunes solid and the thrushes have been making use of the rock-hard, frozen sand to smash the shells, in the absence of their traditional anvils.
Many snails are sheltering at the base of Marram Grass (Ammophila arenaria) but the Song Thrushes have discovered this and the shell fragments that can be seen scattered along the paths in the dunes are evidence. It will be interesting to find out whether this will have any effects on the dune system's vegetation come the summer?

Hen Harriers over the Nitten Field

Mark Newton and Rob Taylor saw 3 different Hen Harriers over the Nitten Field yesterday afternoon (1 male and 2 females) plus a Merlin which made a kill. There were also 2 Merlins seen here in the morning. Mark managed to get a couple of shots of two of the birds. They also saw at least 8 Woodcock flying around. For more of Marks photos check out http://www.welshwildlife.com/

It is difficult to judge how many Hen Harriers are around at present, but for the BTO winter atlas here are the records collated to date from the last 3 winters (red dots). All other records shown as small dots.

09 January 2010

Almost a goodie!

This Green-winged Teal x Eurasian Teal hybrid was feeding just by the layby at Dalton's Point (SS536959) at mid-day. Hopefully I'll get to see the real McCoy there one day!

08 January 2010

Snow cover in UK on 7th Jan

Hardly surprising that west Gower has so many birds, as this appears to be one of the few parts of the British mainland with at least few green areas showing! Click on image to see it full size.

Image from University of Dundee website (http://www.sat.dundee.ac.uk/)

Dark-throated Thrush at Nitten Field

Philip Croft had very good views of a female Dark-throated Thrush in the Nitten Field (SS423875) this morning. The bird was seen both in the hedge by the south-eastern corner of the field and also in the adjacent part of Mewslade Valley. Subsequent searches by Neil Edwards and myself for a couple of hours this afternoon failed to relocate the bird, though the field and valley were both alive with bird activity, so if it is still around it may take a bit more patience than we were able to give today? Gordon and Beryl Howe, the owners of the field told me that they are happy for birders to walk through the Nitten Field (please do not trespass in other fields) to search for the thrush. For anyone tempted to search for the bird the location of sighting is shown by the circle below:

Other birds seen by Neil and myself in and around the field included 6 Woodcock, 1 Snipe, 40+ Skylark, 30+ Fieldfare, ~100 Song Thrush, 200+ Redwing, 150+ Chaffinch, 1 Brambling, 50+ Goldlfinch, 15+ Yellowhammer & 50+ Reed Bunting - but who knows what else might be lurking in the Viel field system given the comparatively 'milder' conditions of south-west Gower?

To see the Nitten field in summer click:

06 January 2010

More garden feeder action

A Brambling from the kitchen window (in Gorseinon) brightened things up a bit this afternoon and there was another seen on feeders at Newton, Mumbles today.

Hen Harrier at Frogmoor

There was a male Hen Harrier being mobbed by Jackdaws and flying west from Frogmoor below Cefyn Bryn this afternoon. Also a Little Egret was disturbed from the thawed out mud on the tarmac road leading to Frogmoor. Over 40 Lapwings and 30 plus Snipe were seen flying over the meadow west of Stouthall.
David Painter

An old friend returns to Cimla

Let me introduce you to "Budgie." We have named him this because of his bright yellow forehead and cap, which is normally black in adult male Siskins. This plumage mutation sets him apart from all the other Siskins that visit our garden and is the only colour mutation that I have noticed in Siskins. His distinctive appearance has allowed me to get to know him quite well.

He first turned up in the garden in October 2008 and was seen almost daily with other Siskins up until 19th April 2009. He didn't spend a great deal of time in the garden, often coming an hour before dusk to have a quick feed. Although we get small numbers of Siskins, including juvenile birds, throughout the summer months we never saw him among them at that time. Presumably he spent last summer somewhere else.
Budgie returned to the garden this winter on 17th November 2009 and has been seen on an almost daily basis since then, but he has been particularly prominent during the recent snowy days. Siskin numbers in the garden this winter have peaked at 34 so far (compared to 35 last winter) but it is likely that many more visit over the course of a day.
Budgie is distinctive in appearance and we are always extra pleased to see him in the garden and hope he will return for more winters to come. He's not as quarrelsome as some of the other siskins in the garden, but he is fit enough to hold is own and he is in not subordinate to the other normal-plumaged males.

Bittern at Crymlyn Bog

A Bittern was seen yesterday by Jamie Bevan of CCW while undertaking work to recreate areas of open water. Look forward to hearing more about what turns up at this site...

05 January 2010

Snowbirds on the Burry

Grey Plovers and Dunlin
Once the snow arrived the viewing wasn't particulary good on the estuary today. No counts, but very good numbers of the usual species, including Little Egret, Brent Goose, Shelduck, Pintail, Shoveler, Red-breasted Merganser, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Curlew, Knot, Dunlin, etc. Little Grebe and Green Sandpiper at Wernffrwd were the only unexpected finds before the snow stopped play.

Sanderling G4RYRY

The Sanderling reported between the 5th and 31st December on Oxwich Beach (see post below) was ringed in Iceland at a headland beach site west of Reykjavik as shown above. It is likely this bird belongs to the East Atlantic flyway population and will have been on its way to breeding grounds in northern Greenland or Canada when it was ringed in Iceland. As it has been regular at Oxwich throughout Decemeber, it is likley to be a shorter-distance migrant, compared to many Sanderling that winter as far south as South Africa. Interestingly Reneerkens et al. (2009) [Wader Study Group Bull. 116(1): 2–20.] show that although Sanderling eat small beach invertebrates, the also scavange and show a bird easting flesh from washed-up Ensis subtruncata, a species related to Egg-shell Razor (Pharus legumen) that was photographed being eaten at Oxwich.

03 January 2010

Oxwich Marsh update

As shown by the photo above, results of the ongoing work at Oxwich Marsh by CCW can now clearly be seen from the hill as you drive down onto the marsh: The main sections of the serpentine lake have been opened up even further and the 2.5ha 'new fen' area (shown in part by the ice above) now looks very attractive for birds - well it would if it wasn't frozen! While there is no access to this area at present it is anticipated that a viewing option for the public will be put in place this winter.
...work in progress - December 2009

Unseasonal visitor!

This Turtle Dove was first noted by Ken and Angela Wade in their Gorseinon garden on Jan 1st and after a four-hour wait it eventually reappeared at their feeding station on the 2nd. Quite a remarkable record of a bird that should be spending the winter in Africa! It appeared to be in good health and with the bountiful supply of food should have no problem surviving the harsh weather, so long as it remains wary and avoids the local cats. Ken reported that the bird was present again today and that it came down to feed on at least two occasions.

In addition to the dove we collectively recorded 23 species in Ken & Angela's garden yesterday including Redwing, Fieldfare, Nuthatch, 4 Greenfinches (now very scarce in Gorseinon) and 7 stunning Bullfinches at very close range. Sandra, Neil and myself are most grateful for our near neighbour's hospitality and conversation.

Interestingly our own garden is less than 100m away and we have not seen a Nuthatch, Greenfinch or Bullfinch all winter, however, we are hoping the dove may wander a little before it eventually moves on!

PS. Reading Birds in Wales (Lovegrove et al, 1994) I was interested to discover that this is not the first time Turtle Dove has overwintered in Wales; there was a bird at Pilton on the Gower peninsula from 13th to 20th February 1977.

01 January 2010

New year stomp...

An early morning trek over the saltmarsh at Gwynfaen (Upper Loughor) produced a good selection of birds including 4 Little Egrets, 12 Greylag, 54 Teal, Merlin, 19 Snipe, 19 Black-tailed Godwit, 54 Curlew, Stock Dove, Water Pipit, Fieldfare & 5 Reed Bunting.