Yesterday, with my friend Sharon, I went to Slade Wood, in the neighbouring county of Gwent, for a walk and some butterflying.
The woodland was lovely and a haven from the hot sun but, for us, the best butterflying was to be had just wandering along the country lane leading to the woodland. With high hedges, abundant wildflowers and occasional blooming Buddleia bushes, backed by the tall woodland trees, it was heaven for butterflies. These are a few of the 12 species we saw …
My first White admirals of the year, the first I’ve seen in Wales; they seem to float over the vegetation.
Those giant orange-and-brown speedsters, the Silver-washed fritillaries.
Red admiral extracting minerals from poo … mmmmm, delicious!
Comma, incredibly well camouflaged amongst the grasses and leaf litter, also heading for a slurp at the poo.
Peacock, hiding its glorious bold colours away behind those closed wings.
Small tortoiseshell, a pretty little butterfly that I don’t see very often, so a delight to spot one of these.
I know nothing at all about geology so I’m not even going to attempt an explanation of what these rocks are, what the formations are called, which periods they date from. I just think they look damn cool! This photo was taken on today’s walk from Sully back to Pernarth, looking east across St Mary’s Well Bay, with Lavernock Point in the background.
What a stunning winter’s day it’s been! Mostly blue skies, patches of yesterday’s snow lingering in places where the sun hadn’t reached, a bitterly cold wind but warmth in the sun in sheltered places, crunchy underfoot in the fields instead of squelchy mud – perfect for a long walk. So, I stomped the 6½ miles of one of my regular routes, to and through Cosmeston Lakes Country Park, on to and through Lavernock Nature Reserve (via St Mary’s Well Bay) and back to Penarth (via the coastal path). This was my view at lunchtime – not bad, eh?
Today was the calm before the storm – or, at least, it might have been – snow and strong winds are forecast for tomorrow afternoon but we’ll have to wait and see if that forecast is correct. Today, though, was bright blue skies, heavy white frost, a cracking walk around Forest Farm, lots of lovely birds (including my first Siskins of the year), nice catch-ups with birding friends and birding-chat with strangers – just perfect! Oh, and here’s one of the many Moorhens I saw, this one preening vigorously in the warm morning sunshine.
When I headed to Forest Farm Nature Reserve today, I was hoping to add a Dipper to my year list (tick) and, as frosty mornings often lure them out from the reeds, I was also hoping to see some Snipe – these are they. Not as close as I’d have liked but still good to see as they are so well camouflaged they’re often difficult to spot. There were lots of other lovelies too: a Kingfisher, two Buzzards being harassed by Crows, three Great spotted woodpeckers, a ton of Mallards and Moorhens loudly staking out territories in preparation for breeding, four Grey herons like statues in a dead tree, and my first Snowdrops of the year. T’rrific!
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.
Yesterday was our first Glamorgan Bird Club field trip for 2019, and what a magnificent day it was!
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.
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.
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.
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.
More skittish Dunlin flying along the shore, this time above the heads of feeding Shelducks.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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).