17/365 Goosey Goosanders

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Today dawned bright and cold, the perfect day for a long walk, so I took myself out for a long stroll down to Penarth Marina, across the Cardiff Bay Barrage and around to the wetlands reserve, and then back again. These Goosanders – a male at the front and a snoozing female behind, with a second female just out of the frame – were the first birds I saw when I reached Cardiff Bay. Such handsome creatures.

190117 goosanders

16/365 Juvenile Herring gull

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Another day, another bird club trip, this time to Kenfig pool (where we had the Slavonian grebe and the Great white egret), to Porthcawl (first Cattle egrets of the year), and to Newton Point (first Purple sandpipers, but no Black redstart today). It was a cracking day’s birding but rather rainy much of the time so the camera didn’t come out often and my best shot of the day was of this juvenile (1st year) Herring gull who was pleading with us to share our sandwiches as we sat on the seawall at Porthcawl. It was out of luck!

190116 juvenile herring gull

15/365 Shedding a tear

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More un-forecast rain stopped play today or, at least, limited it to a stroll around the town in full wet weather gear. Still, there are always things to see, especially if you work with the weather, and use a little imagination. So, while you might think this is just water running down a tree trunk, I see an eye shedding a tear.

190115 shedding a tear

Birding at Whiteford Point

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Yesterday was our first Glamorgan Bird Club field trip for 2019, and what a magnificent day it was!

190114 (6) whiteford point

I hadn’t been to this part of the Gower peninsula before – our walk was through the National Trust property at Whiteford Point – and the scenery, like that all over the Gower, was stunning.

190114 (1) saltmarsh at whiteford point

190114 (2) whiteford point

With forestry, saltmarsh and coast line, the environment is very diverse, which means there’s a wonderful variety of flora and fauna to be seen, not just birds – though the bird life certainly didn’t disappoint. And there were many handsome ponies nibbling on the saltmarsh.

190114 (3) horses at whiteford point

As well as most of the smaller, more common birds – blackbirds, robins, singing Song thrushes, calling Bullfinches, a big mixed flock of Chaffinches, Linnets and Reed buntings – we also disturbed both Common snipe and Jack snipe that were lurking in the reed beds next to the path. The Jack snipe was a lifer for me, though views were brief as the birds shot up suddenly and unexpectedly, flew a short way, then disappeared back into the reeds.

190114 (4) brent geese and flying dunlin

Once we reached the beach, we saw a wide range of waders and sea birds. Here a flock of Dunlin flies past Brent geese grazing along the shoreline.

190114 (5) shelduck and dunlin

More skittish Dunlin flying along the shore, this time above the heads of feeding Shelducks.

190114 (7) oystercatchers and curlew

It was wonderful to see such good numbers of Curlew, here with even larger numbers of the ubiquitous Oystercatchers. We also enjoyed sightings of some less common birds – a Great northern diver quite close to the shore; a Slavonian grebe further off and diving frequently so not easy to keep track of; a Red-breasted merganser a distant speck through the ’scopes.

190114 (7) a raft of eider

My favourites were undoubtedly the Eider ducks. I fell in love with them when I first heard their call on our birding trip to Northumberland last year.

190114 (8) horses on the marsh

Eventually, we made the long trek back to the cars and moved on to nearby Llanrhidian Marsh, to await the dusk, hopeful of harriers and perhaps an owl or two. More ponies were running free on the marsh – they looked unloved and uncared for, their manes very long and tatty, but, as we waited, a man arrived and fed them some meal from a bucket. They were very handsome and quite inquisitive.

190114 (9) little egrets

The marsh seemed alive with Little egrets, and we had good sightings of several Great whites – another year first for me. Some of our group saw a Hen harrier, and a couple of Red kites came in gliding low, hunting for their supper, but no owls appeared and the harrier did not return.

Still, as the sun went down, we were treated to this stunning sunset, and we returned home tired but happy after a most excellent day’s birding in a superb setting.

190114 (10) sunset over llanrhidian marsh

Here’s my trip list: Blackbird, Black-headed Gull, Black-tailed Godwit, Blue Tit, Brent Goose, Bullfinch, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Coal Tit, Collared Dove, Buzzard, Eider, Redshank, Snipe, Cormorant, Dunlin, Dunnock, Curlew, Teal, Wigeon, Golden Plover, Stonechat, Goldcrest, Goldfinch, Great Black-backed Gull, Great Crested Grebe, Great White Egret, Great Northern Diver, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Great Tit, Green Woodpecker, Greenshank, Herring Gull, House Sparrow, Jack Snipe, Jackdaw, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Linnet, Little Egret, Long-tailed Tit, Magpie, Mallard, Meadow Pipit, Lapwing, Pintail, Oystercatcher, Pheasant, Pied Wagtail, Raven, Red Kite, Red-breasted Merganser, Reed Bunting, Robin, Sanderling, Shelduck, Slavonian Grebe, Song Thrush, Starling, Treecreeper, Woodpigeon, Wren.

My birding friend and I saw Greenshank at Penclawdd when we stopped for a quick scan on the way to Whiteford Point so my total for the day was 61 and, as other birders saw a few birds I didn’t, the club’s total was 70. Those extras were, most notably, that Hen harrier but also Common gull, Green sandpiper, Jay, Merlin, Redwing, Rook, Stock dove and Turnstone.

14/365 A nest of rubbish

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190114 nest of rubbish (1)

When I walked along a local path today, I noticed this old birds’ nest propped up on top of a fence. I’m sure this is not where the nest was made – it had probably fallen from a tree and someone had picked it up. Nests are such wonderful constructions and this was no exception, though I was rather dismayed at how much human detritus had been included in it (I’ve included a second photo today, to show the detail).

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13/365 Llanrhidian sunset

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The sun goes down on an absolutely magnificent day, a 12-hour day of birding at Whiteford Point and Llanrhidian Marsh, a long walk with 33 fellow birders from the Glamorgan Bird Club in stunning Welsh scenery, seeing some wonderful birds and adding 16 new species to my 2019 year list, catching up with friends, enjoying good conversations and sharing some laughs – life doesn’t get much better!

190113 llanrhidian marsh sunset

Wildflower update

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It’s been a couple of weeks since I last checked which wildflowers are still flowering so, as I wandered the countryside this week, I kept my eyes open for what was still about. Perhaps surprisingly, as it has been a bit colder and frostier, those plants still flowering are pretty much the same as on my New Year’s plant hunt, with one exception. I’ve not discovered any Red Campion locally but found a couple of plants in bloom on Wednesday during my walk from Parc Slip Nature Reserve back to the railway station in Tondu. It’s the first flower shown below, and the others are all the locals I’ve spied.

12/365 A daffodilly day

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In truth, there is nothing wild about these gorgeous daffodils – they must’ve been planted several years ago in the wide verges near Cardiff Bay Hospital, but it was such a delight to see their bright and glorious little faces bobbing in the light breeze on a grey day. And they were rather nicer than the thick sticky mud I trudged through as I made a circuit of Grangemoor Park.

190112 daffodils

11/365 Gull vs Heron

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It may have been grey and occasionally mizzling but that didn’t stop me enjoying a fabulous walk back from Sully beach to Penarth today. A tribe of 30 Turnstones flew in, as did 4 Grey plover and a little Dunlin friend; Rock pipits were flitting to and fro; there were 27 Curlew grazing on the playing fields – always a treat to watch; and I saw my first Kestrel of the year, perched on a high wire, watching. I did feel a little sorry for this Grey heron though, being harassed by a juvenile gull (Herring, I think).

190111 gull vs grey heron

10/365 The return of the ringed Redshank

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I was delighted during today’s walk along the Ely embankment to be reacquainted with this ringed Redshank I first saw back in January 2017. You can read this Redshank’s personal history in one of my previous blogs here.

190110 redshank