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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.