Sunday, January 28, 2007

Go West young(ish) man

For our 2nd wedding anniversary, Gill and I headed off to West Wales on a dry, overcast Saturday morning. We had decided to take things easy and do some birding on the way, so a visit to the Memorial Gardens in Kidwelly was called for. Sure enough, after a while the Rose Coloured Starling appeared. A visit to Fishguard saw an unsuccessful search for the Iceland Gull, but I found a Yellow Legged Gull there. We had time for a brisk walk from Whitesands Bay to St David's Head before darkness fell. 6 Red Throated Divers were offshore, and 2 Guillemots and 4 Choughs were seen en route. Today we did a 5 mile circular walk from Solva, finding a Chiffchaff, near St Elvis's Farm. From the Coastal Path we saw a couple of Fulmars, a Peregrine, several Ravens, Stonechats and more Choughs. Back at Solva, a Med Gull was bathing with other gulls. A twisty drive to Dale found 3 Pale Bellied Brent, and 2 Dark Bellied close to the road. A few Goldeneye and Teal were present, as were several more Med Gulls. Some early lambs called from a nearby field. As Gill was now getting a little tired (21 weeks pregnant, fair enough), we headed home, after a successful and enjoyable weekend.


Today, Jeff, Wayne and I (the Twitchmeister was ill and decided to stay in bed) went out in expectation of ticking Lesser 'Pecker, Willow Tit and Eyebrowed Thrush at Glamorgan Canal/Forest Farm, followed by Hawfinch and Marsh Tit at Fforest Ganol. We didn't see any of them. Not even a flying visit to Lisvane Reservoir (a Glamorgan lifer for Wayne who'd never been there before) failed to live up to expectations. There wasn't a Smew or a Slav in sight. Bird of the day: Nuthatch. Looks like the Twitchmeister was the only sensible one out of all of us. Still, the company was good.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

A Trip to the Seaside

As nobody else was coming out to play I thought I'd put in a couple of hours local birding at Ogmore-By-Sea,after a bit of a lay in I arrived at a cold and windy Watermill where a large flock of BH Gulls didn't contain any Med Gulls,there were however 30+ Curlew,4 Grey Heron,1 Little Egret,1 Redwing,several Moorhens and a good sized flock of 72 Lapwings. Lily the Westie was getting a little impatient as I scanned unsuccessfully for the previously reported Green Sandpipers and so I moved on down to Portobello where I bumped in to Paul Roberts and after a quick scan of the gull flock and the island we both walked down river across a very slippery salt marsh. On the river were 10+ Goldeneye(mainly males) and on the salt marsh numerous Meadow Pipits none of which we could turn into Water Pipits although one had very pale underparts and a large flock of 60-70 Linnets,Paul turned back at the end of the salt marsh and I carried on towards the car park where I hoped to catch up with Purple Sandpipers and perhaps Chough. Although there were a few fishermen about a Purple Sand soon revealed itself followed by another three and several Turnstones,I had my camera with me and although the conditions were far from ideal I managed a couple of record shots in the strong wind. We walked on from the car park for about 1/2 mile east and although 4 Chough had been reported earlier I didn't connect with them. The walk back was a little uninspiring with only a couple of Rock Pipits,a Raven overhead and a couple of Shags close in over the surf. Although a little disappointed at not having caught up with Chough both myself and Lily really enjoyed the walk and Purple Sandpiper was added to my year list (although I'm not really year listing-where have I heard that before!!) Jeff

Friday, January 19, 2007

First visit to Darren Woods of 2007

Thought I'd stay local last Sunday 14th January after a bit of a hectic night out at my sister's birthday party so thought I'd phone Colin for a stroll"up the Darren" only to find a missed call on my phone from Colin who'd already gone up there !! A fine morning after all the recent rain and quite a few birds about although nothing too exciting,Blue,Great and Coal Tits around in the oaks and a party of 8 Long Tailed Tits passed through with 2 Goldcests in tow,a raven and a Common Buzzard passed overhead and a Jay and Green Woodpecker could be heard calling further along the track. Good views of 4 Nuthatches and 3 Treecreepers were both year ticks and a small group of 3 Redwings coming through the trees high up as I was leaving was nice. I didn't catch up with Colin as mobile phone reception in the wood is non-existant but on comparing notes later we both seen the same birds although Colin had also seen a pair of GS Woodpeckers,the ever elusive LS Woodpecker had eluded us both again,one day!!!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Trains and the rains

As the more astute of you may have noticed, the weather so far this year has not been fantastic. I wasn't too sorry to be otherwise occupied for a few days recently, travelling by train to meet friends and sample interesting beer. The journeys also gave the opportunity for some naked eye birdwatching from the comfort of the trains. Saturday 6th saw me head to Chester to meet friends and attend a Beer Festival. Some Swans in a field near Hereford seemed to have yellow bills, but I couldn't be sure. On Thursday I travelled to Shrewsbury via Swansea, a stupid way to do it, but a lovely run through Llandovery, Llandridod Wells etc. Highlights were 4 Red Kites, Sparrowhawk, Buzzards (including one looking very much like a Rough-Legged, but probably wasn't.) Flocks of Redwing and Fieldfare were frequent. Beers included Hobsons Mild and Downham Quadhop. On Friday, whilst waiting for a train at Gilfach Fargoed, near Bargoed, a couple of Goldcrests, and a pair of Bullfinches were in a nearby hedge. The Archers Full House was magnificent! Saturday saw me travel to Porthmadog, to ride on the Festiniog Railway. The Dovey Estuary was alive with Curlew, Oystercatchers, Redshank, and a distant flock of smallish geese (Whitefronts?). Further north, we ran along the coast, and Cormorants and Shags were both seen. A Red Breasted Merganser was on an inlet near Tywyn. Near Fairbourne, the line climbs above a small cliff, and a Fulmar flew close in below eye level. As we crossed Barmouth Bridge, Common Scoters were seen both sides of the bridge, about 30 in all. At Porthmadog, the Festiniog train was hauled by Taliesin, as I hoped. We crossed the Cob, and flushed hundreds of Wigeon, and Teal from the marshes, and also a couple of Snipe. Spooners Bar on the station had excellent Corvedale Dark and Delicious and Cannon Royal Arrowhead. A hotel in town sold Purple Moose Gelert, and so a slightly wobbly correspondent made his way home.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Let's give you something to chase!

In view of forthcoming events in the Hall/James household, I don't think it's sensible to year list again. However, I thought I'd pop out today and do a bit of a Bird race. Arriving home from a party near Cowbridge at 0130 wasn't ideal preparation, and so the first bird of 2007, Blue Tit wasn't until 0940. By 1050 I was at Portobello with 50 mainly very ordinary species "in the bag" to quote another correspondant! Highlights to this point were Common Gull in Roath Park, Red Crested Pochard and Goosander at Portobello. Ogmore yielded the expected Turnstones, Rock Pipits and 2 flyover Choughs. No Purple Sands! Tyn y Caeau Farm yielded Linnet, Goldfinch, Skylark, Yellowhammer and 4+ Tree Sparrows in 5 mins. Nice! A brisk drive in torrential rain brought me to Forest Farm at 1400. A very wet and frustrating hour brought just Coal Tit, Reed Bunting and eventually, Bullfinch. To be honest, there was no point in leaving the hide, cos I wouldn't have seen anything elsewhere in the monsoon. A lull in the weather enabled me to reposition to Peterstone Wentlooge (1535), on 65 species. My Jan 1st record of 70 (2005) was in serious jeopardy... Redwings were present in the fields to the right on the short walk to the seawall. Within a few minutes of arrival there Shelduck, Pintail, Wigeon, Grey Plover, Knot and Dunlin saw me sail into uncharted territory. Whilst leaping around and punching the air, I noticed a serious, dark, purposful bird heading east just offshore. The Curlew flock scattered, as I confirmed my naked eye ID with the scope. It was a Great Skua!! Ringed Plover and Mistle Thrush were dull by comparison, but a trip to a site east of the River Rumney brought an excellent day to a fitting close, as I had a Barn Owl and 2 Little Owls in the same binocular field of view. 77 species with minimal planning, and a late start... I didn't see Sparrowhawk, any Woodpeckers, Kingfisher, Water Rail, Med Gull, so not a bad effort overall. Follow that! I'm sure you will!

In the Pink?

A quiet morning at home was disrupted by the news on BirdGuides that the rose-coloured starling was still showing at Kidwelly. Quick negotions saw me heading west down the M4 by late morning. I arrived in Kidwelly in torrential rain and spent the first half-an-hour listening to Liverpool vs Bolton Wanderers on Five Live. The rain eased a little and I entered the war memorial gardens. The rather bedraggled target bird obliged immediately, no more than 30 metres away in the first bare tree in the back gardens of the small cottages. It was soaked through and was busy shaking the rain out of its plumage. Despite BirdGuides having it down as a first-winter (and indeed it is), the bird is still predominantly in juvenile plumage - pale legs and bill and pale brown plumage. I watched it for a minute or so before it flew off. A flock of around 30 or so starlings is in the area, feeding in the rough ground behind the gardens. I could not pick out the bird with these before the heavens opened once again. After another football interlude, I ventured out again, but the bird did not show and with another downpour I left satisfied with a life-tick. I called in at the WWT on the way back and jostled for position in the British Steel hide. Little gull was the highlight with most birds being out on the estuary, including the reported 5 spotted redshanks. Apparently, some pink-footed geese are in the area.

Dan's 2006 End of Term Report

Year list = 203
Glamorgan year list = 186
East Glamorgan year list = 177
Could do better. Didn't feel he gave 100% throughout the year, but his cause wasn't helped by the absence of many birds which you'd normally expect to turn up annually in Glamorgan. Would advise a repeat effort sometime in the near future.
Oh well, that's the end of yet another birding year and I must say that my experiment with 'local listing' made it a very enjoyable twelve months. I'd heartily recommend it to anyone.
Having gone on only four 'out-of county' birding trips during the year (Somerset, North Wales, Norfolk and Skomer) it's not surprising that I had only three lifers during 2006: Black-throated Thrush, Montagu's Harrier and Semi-palmated Sandpiper. The Monty's experience was certainly my highlight of the year. It was worth every second of those eight hours waiting for that bird! The lowlight? Those bl**dy Golden Orioles!
On the other hand I had 22 Glamorgan lifers (many of them too embarassing to list here!) but my local highlights for the year include: Velvet Scoter (thanks Tim), Marsh Harrier, Black-throated Thrush, Laughing Gull (I didn't go for the Glamorgan bird during 2005), Hawfinch and Grey Partridge (both after years of drawing a blank with both these species in the county), Storm and Leach's Petrel, Honey Buzzard, Arctic Skua and Puffin.
And the birds that got away? Well, I'm really disappointed that, somehow or other, I didn't manage to tick Goshawk, Red Grouse, Cetti's Warbler nor Tawny Owl in Glamorgan. I did at least manage to hear the last two species!
The only other big dips of the year were the Cardiff Bay Red-necked Grebe and both the Llandaff and Kenfig Yellow-browed Warblers. I really should have got those two species. Of the other scarce birds which I missed in the county, I comfort myself with the knowledge that most (if not all of them) were short stayers and untwitchable!
And last, but not least, that American Wigeon! After a lot of thought I've decided not to include it in my year list. I can't quite put my finger on why I've made this decision. But, if it appears in the 2006 Bird Report as a kosher bird I'll be the first to tick it!
Here's wishing you good birding in 2007 - may it prove to be a vintage year.