Sunday, December 23, 2007

"Crossbill City"

On Sunday 23rd Dec 2007 with Dan visiting rellies down west,Wayne not going out and Tim fog bound in Cardiff I ventured up to the top of Mynydd Margam overlooking Port Talbot in search of a wintering Great Grey Shrike,the forestry between Maesteg and Port Talbot has held a GGS for something like 6 of the last 10 years.

The steep walk up saw me connect with Blue,Great and Coal Tits,Robins,a couple of Dunnocks,plenty of Chaffinches but alas no Bramblings.

As I approached the cut down area at the top of the mountain I was greeted by the metallic "chip" call of Crossbills and a large party of 20 or so landed in the tall conifers adjacent the track,they fed for a few minutes before moving on giving a good photo opportunity.

The cut down areas haven't changed an awful lot since the last GGS was on the mountain about 3 years ago although where one section has been replanted the conifers are now up to about 4ft high,probably great habitat come the summer for Nightjars.

I walked a further half a mile or so along the montain top scanning for a shrike but was out of luck on this occasion,with so much forestration and with so many areas having been cleared in the last 5 years or so there are many areas of excellent habitat available which could hold a shrike.
The only birds of note on the mountain were a perched Kestrel,a couple of Common Buzzards and a distant Reed Bunting.
Looking down towards the coast I could see why Tim had said that Cardiff was fog bound as from the M4 to the sea the land between was shrouded in a low lying mist,it was weird standing on the moutain in glorious sunshine looking down on a white blanket.
The mist was starting to edge it's way towards the mountain and I decided to make my way back down the track,when passing the conifers where the large party of Crossbills had fed another smaller but equally noisy party of 8 flew in to the same trees and started to feed,I watched them for a couple of minutes and then set off back to the Jeep.

I encountered mostly the same common species on the way down although a nice surprise was a small group of 4 Jays,I've always only ever seen Jays in singles or pairs previously so a group of 4 was an unusual sighting for me,I'm not sure if they congregate in larger numbers in winter to look for food.
The walk back down was very pleasant in quite warm sunshine and a good view of the River Afan outfalling into the sea on the edge of Port Talbot docks was pleasing.

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