Thursday, April 26, 2007

Hoots Mon !!

On 12th April after returning from our Easter Weymouth break I joined local friend and birder Paul Tabor to inspect an owl box that Paul had erected in a small oak woods on the outskirts of my home town Maesteg which Paul had confirmed held 4 Tawny Owl eggs on an earlier visit.
A firm tap on the tree flushed the parent bird from the box and Paul being younger and considerably fitter than myself climbed the tree.The only way of inspecting the contents of the box was to poke my digital camera through the opening and hope for the best.
Once back on terra-firma we checked the screen and were thrilled to see 3 very healthy chicks snuggled contently at the bottom of the box,although it was somewhat disappointing that all 4 eggs had not produced young.
I decided to make a return visit to the site this evening after work 26th April and after briefly speaking to Paul on the mobile he confirmed that a visit last Sunday morning by himself confirmed that the 3 youngsters were doing fine and had grown so much in the last 11/2-2 weeks that the parent bird had been forced to vacate the box.
I set myself up on some higher ground a safe distance away and the 3 younsters were visible peering over the lip of the opening in the box and all three appeared very healthy,the parent bird was probably keeping a close eye on me from a hidden perch!
Paul doesn't venture far for his birding and tends to stick to the "valley" where over the years he has put up dozens of next boxes with great success. I checked another 7-8 small boxes in the wood and although some were empty others held 2 Blue Tits and a Great Tit,Paul tells me that another 2 boxes in the same wood hold Nuthatches,with the continuing spell of early warm,dry weather and with seemingly plenty of food about it looks like it could be a bumper year for many of our species.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Dotterel Dash

With Spring passage well underway and seemingly very early and the rest of the lads unavailable I joined Kevin Hughes for an early morning slog up Garreg Lwyd in the Black Mountains above Brynaman.The site is renowned as a reliable place to see Dotterel on Spring passage and we arranged to meet at the car park at 08.00.
Just before Kevin arrived Rob Taylor and Brian Thomas turned up with another birder called Rob (not sure of his surname) and so the five of us made the lung bursting climb to the plateau at the top of the mountain.
There were lots of Meadow Pipits about as well as Wheatears,Skylarks and a single Raven "cronked" as it passed overhead.
We fanned out in search and Rob thought he saw 5 Dotterel briefly in low flight,we split up again and after 10-15 minutes I spotted some movement in the grass about 50m ahead which quickly turned into the 5 Dotterel taking flght calling as they disappeared into the distance.
We searched for about 30mins and we all spotted various small 'trips' of Dotterel in flight and the total count amounted to an excellent 18,by far the highest count I have witnessed on the mountain.
They settled about 30-40m from us as we walked on and superb views were had by all.
After all the recent warm weather it was a culture shock to experience a cold,windy morning and if I'd had gloves with me I'd have worn them!!
The weather was closing in and a predicted heavy shower arrived just as we were coming down the mountain,it was nothing like the rain experienced 2 years ago which was responsible for the name of this blog site and we arrived back at the car park in the nick of time!,next stop Kenfig NNR for Grasshopper Warbler.
The weather improved as we drove and and we were welcomed at Kenfig by warm sunshine.
Lots of Willow Warbler,Common Whitethroat(year tick),and Linnets about and after about 30mins we caught up with an intermittent reeling Gropper in the scrub,it didn't offer itself up and the only views were flight views as it flew off into even deeper scrub,I think early morning is probably much better for good views,never mind -another year tick.
I'd promised to take Teresa out for the afternoon so I left Kevin to search for Small Blue which he hoped would be on the wing and headed for home.

Whimbrel wanderers

On Sunday afternoon, Gill and my mother had gone into town for a Garden Festival, so I tried for Whimbrel at Peterstone Gout. At least 4 were visible immediately, with another dozen about 500 yards east.
Several Green-veined white showed well,
but the highlight was a very early Clouded Yellow, which could have overwintered after last years bonanza.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Ibis Interruption

Just another picture of lots of Glossy Ibises... 4 Wheatear (3 of them probably Greenlands, and a male Whinchat were also present). A Common Sandpiper was seen from the canal towpath. Couldn't find the dodgy quacker, but 3 very distant Little Stint were visible at the back of the right hand pool, as was a dodgy Shelduck thingy, with a couple of House Martins seen en-route.

Back in the Field

After having spent so much time birding - particularly in Glamorgan - during 2006, this year has proved dismal on the birding front. I can honestly say that I have only picked up my bins twice in 2007. Once on the twitch with Wayne for the Pacific Diver at Llys-y-Fran. The other time was a lucky 'twitch' to see the Bearded Tits at Cardiff Wetlands . . . while I happened to be down in the Bay for an evening out anyway.
So it was good to be finally out and about again today - and what a day! Accompanied by The Twitchmeister we went for a quick raid over the border for the gathering of Glossies. Gethin was twitchy all morning but because of a work commitment I couldn't get away until after lunch.
We arrived and found the spot easily (thanks to Tim's excellent directions). We had been warned that the Ibis could be tricky to see. What we hadn't expected was for eleven of them to be feeding no more than 25 metres away from us within seconds of arriving! The other six birds were nearby. We watched them for about ten minutes before they all flew up and settled in the long grass about a 100 metres away.
The Twitchmeister was as happy as Larry! We decided, since we were in the area that we'd have a look for the Marbled Duck at nearby Saul Warth. We ambled up the canal towpath, ticking Whinchat on the way - another lifer for Geth - before checking out this cracking flood for the Duck. It wasn't easy, the sun was directly in front of us, but after an anxious twenty minutes we finally found the bird trying its best to hide along side a hedge. Good, but distant views of a very attractive bird. Gethin has already ticked it, I'm not so sure!!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Brecon Bounty

A glorious sunny Friday, and my mother visiting give the opportunity to find her some decent birds. Llwyn Onn provided dozens of Willow Warblers and a Tree Pipit. Graig Cerrig-Gleisiad soon gave us at least 2 male Redstarts, Stonechat, 2 distant flying Ring Ouzels, Peregrine, and flyover Redpoll. A Cuckoo called in the distance. Near Libanus, a Red Kite drifted very close to us, in lovely sunlight. On the way back, we found 2 Common Sandpipers at Llwyn Onn, and close up Siskins. Having dipped Dippers there, we drove to Llanbradach and found 1 there instead. Machen was the next stop, where excellent close views of the Sand Martin colony were obtained, 2 more Dippers were there. Much of Rudry Common has been burnt, so we couldn't find Whitethroat there, a Tree Pipit was over the road, though, and Linnets seemed untroubled by the devastation.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Goldcliff and Uskmouth again!

On Thursday afternoon, I took my visiting Mother out to boost her meagre yearlist. At Goldcliff a Sanderling and a distant Spoonbill were the highlights. At Uskmouth, Bearded Tits were again stupidly easy to see and a Lesser Whitethroat eventually showed. A Little Owl at a site east of the River Rhymney was partly obscured by leaves, but still fairly easy to see.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Wonderful World of Warblers (and Waders)

On a warm, calm sunny Sunday morning I popped down to Goldcliff, where I was watching birds before 8am. A large group of Black Tailed Godwits, 5 Knot, were present with 3 Ruff, some Dunlin, Ringed Plovers, and a Greenshank. Uskmouth was initially quiet, but Chiffchaff, Willow Warblers, Blackcaps and Cetti's Warblers eventually showed themselves. Many Bearded Tits seemed to be present and good views were had of several different ones. Reed Buntings were obvious. A last foray into the North west corner of the reserve produced singing Reed Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat, with another of the latter showing well in the embankment on the way back to the carpark. Several common butterflies were seen, including Holly Blue, Small White, Orange Tip, Peacock, and Comma. One dragonfly was seen: which Roo Perkins has confirmed is a newly emerged female Hairy Dragonfly. A lovely morning, pink arms and good birds. Whimbrel, Cuckoo and Common Whitethroat soon?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Weymouth Weekend

After Teresa's recent surgery we decided that caravanning over the Easter weekend would be a little too strenuous and instead opted for 3 days at a nice B+B down in Weymouth with a show at the local Pavillion Theatre on the Saturday night.
Saturday was spent travelling and having a look around the shops in town and after a fairly late night, a little lay-in and the traditional "full English" Sunday morning saw us head across to Portland with a brief stop to scan the lagoon at Ferrybridge where only a party of about a dozen R B Mergansers created any interest.
We stopped at the "Obs" for about 45 mins where Teresa soaked up the glorious sunshine looking quite "chilled" on one of the benches on the terrace while I joined a few other visiting birders for a brief sea-watch also from the terrace.
It was fairly quiet but a passing Sandwich Tern and a small group of 5 Manxies were added to my meagre year list.We decided to pop over to the "Bill" where a Puffin had been reported on the sea and also where a group of 3 Bottle Nosed Dolphins which had been around all week had been earlier reported,we called into the quarry en-route to try to catch up with the local Little Owl which had as usual disappeared into one of the crevices between the boulders.
It was now late morning and with so much traffic on the sea almost all bird life with the exception of some Gannets,Shags and Guillemots had vanished.
We decided to head back to Weymouth to spend the afternoon at a local botanical gardens(yawnnnnnn!!....) and a quick visit back to the quarry soon got me on to the Little Owl and it even posed for a couple of photos.
A husband and wife pair of passing birders wondered what I was looking at seeing only a pile of rocks and were thrilled at seeing the Little Owl both having apparently not seen one for a few years !!
Monday saw me make an effort to get an early start and arriving at Lodmore at 6.45am was greeted by excellent views of the juv Spoonbill which has been around for a little while,playing it cool I thought to myself "I'll take some photos when the light improves and the sun is on the bird" only to see the birds rear end disappear to some distant far flung inaccessible side of the reserve-there's a moral there somewhere.
There wasn't much else about so I moved on to Radipole where some excellent views of singing Cetti's Warbler were obtained,a Marsh Harrier had been seen the previous day but didn't show whilst I was there and must have moved on.
After another hearty breakfast we decided to visit Dorchester which we found was "closed" for the day and moved on to Poole for another browse around more shops and a couple of "brownie points".
We called in at Lodmore again on the way back to try to catch up with the Spoonbill again but to no avail,a pair of Gargeney had been seen at the reserve viewed from the rugby club which I eventually found and after about 5 mins the pair flew in giving myself and 4 other visitors superb but brief views before disappearing around a corner into the reeds not to be seen again !!
Some Ruddy Ducks gave nice views and between dives posed quite well for a cople of photos,not the duck I wanted to photograph but quite handsome all the same!
We headed for home Tuesday morning and another fruitless brief visit to Lodmore for Spoonbill and Gargeney was compensated somewhat by the sight of an Osprey sat on top of a pylon at the side of the M5 not far from the Bridgewater turn-off,another year tick to round off an enjoyable weekend for us both.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Parkend (again!)

On Easter Monday, Gill wanted a quiet day sorting "stuff" at home, and sent me packing to the Forest of Dean.
An early arrival at Parkend Church soon revealed 3 Hawfinches, but they were flighty. A bizarre sight was a pair of Mandarins (look carefully at the picture!)
flying from tree to tree, presumably looking for nest sites.
A Treecreeper paused to preen itself nearby.
A Goshawk drifted over, but there was no sign of the Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers that had recently been reported. I talked to a local who had spent 6 hours on the Sunday waiting in vain for them. This news persuaded me to try New Fancy View, but not for the usual reason.....
I joined a reasonable throng at the viewpoint, and soon was looking down into the conifers below us, at a pair of Bramblings, the male in summer plumage, very nice!
Job done, and back to Parkend briefly, where nothing new was seen.
A steam loco was photographed in Lydney, on the Dean Forest Railway, but I'll stick to birds today....Oh all right then, here you are:
A quick visit to Goldcliff on my way home produced 1+ summer plumage Bar Tailed Godwit amongst it's more common cousins, a Greenshank, and as I walked back to the car, an immature male Marsh Harrier drifted east, quite low down. Time to go home!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

River Ely Meanders

Easter Sunday was sunny, warm and still. Very unusual for a British Bank Holiday. We popped down to the twiddly bit of the River Ely between Peterstone-super-Ely and Pendoylan. A distant Green Woodpecker soon yaffled, and several Buzzards were seen. A couple of Swallows twittered past, and Linnets showed well, along with Reed Buntings. Following the river closely, we flushed 2 Green Sandpipers, one of them flew close to us, calling, and looking less like a giant House Martin than they often do. The Sand Martin colony is further west than some years, and lots of activity was apparent as we got to a discreet distance from it. On the way back, a Kingfisher called from close to us, and was soon seen, and bizarre squawking turned out to be from a group of 4 Jays.

Mid Wales Meanders

Good Friday was sunny, warm and still. Very unusual for a British Bank Holiday.
Gill wanted to get out, but didn't want to walk far and suggested a trip to Rhayader. En route, we stopped at Llwyn Onn Reservoir,
where the long staying Water Pipit wasn't showing. We did, however see Dipper, Grey Wagtails, Siskin and a first Swallow of the year. A Common Lizard crept out of the wall to bask in the warm sun.
On to Rhayader, where we walked along the River Wye for a picnic. Another Dipper posed on a sunlit rock until the camera was nearly focussed, then away it went.....
Ravens, Buzzards, a Sparrowhawk, and of course, Red Kites, soared on thermals over us, including the leucistic kite (photos and videos on the Gigrin Farm website).
A quick trip to Claerwen Dam revealed only 3 distant Goosanders, but we weren't too disappointed on a glorious afternoon.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

St Mellons surprise

On Thursday morning, whilst being driven down Cypress Drive in St Mellons, on a lesson, a male Black Redstart flew across the road, and landed on the roof of a porch. Nice! That afternoon, whilst driving past City Hall, I glanced up and noticed one of the resident Peregrines on a carving on the SW corner, also nice!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


A bright, sunny, but cold Wednesday morning without lessons saw me off in search of migrants. A quick trip to Cardiff Bay produced at least 3 Little Gulls, approx 100 Sand Martins, but not so much as a "ping" from the reedbeds, although they were reported later.

A bit later on, I scanned the puddle at the Watermill, and was pleasantly surprised to find 2 Little Ringed Plovers and a White Wagtail, amongst the Pieds.

Webmeister, please feel free to remove this LRP picture, cos I don't know how's shocking!

Portobello was DULL, but a few minutes after leaving the main car park at Ogmore, a bird appeared out of the sky singing, and landed about 15 feet from me, a cracking Wheatear, and just what I'd hoped for. He was very active and sang repeatedly. I even managed a short video clip of the song.

Further along, whilst trying to photograph Linnets, another Wheatear appeared, and then soon afterwards, a Chough flew past low, and landed a short way away, feeding and calling for at least 15mins, with a female Wheatear in the same field of view at times.

The Chough walked towards me and was too close to digiscope at times. A short video clip of it calling was obtained.

Eventually I headed back to work, after another pleasant short outing.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

First Wheatears of the Year

A quiet Sunday with Wayne away and everyone else staying close to home saw me head down to Bryngarw Country Park in hope of the L S Woodpecker that's been seen from time to time.
A good walk through the grounds brought me to the area of beeches where the 'pecker has usually been seen but to no avail although there was a G S Woodpecker calling and drumming but prooving equally elusive to see.
There were good numbers of woodland birds about and I heard 7 different Chiff-Chaff singing with good views of 3.
Great,Blue,Coal and LT Tits also flitted around and I also saw 2 Nuthatch who were calling loudly,a Common Buzzard glided over and a Dipper hurtled down the river calling as it went.
With some time to spare I thoght of popping into Parc Slip but decided instead to pop down to Ogmore By Sea to try and pick up a first Wheatear of the year,they've been arriving for a few weeks so I was pretty hopeful.
A short walk from the main car park soon had me looking at a splendid male which was joined by another flitting around on the rocks and short grass.
Although very bright and sunny the was a fair old breeze and as the birds were quite mobile digi-scoping was a little difficult but I was quite happy with a couple of half tidy photos.
The most difficult aspect of taking photos this morning was the way certain members of the public always seem to wander between camera and bird and stop to talk aimlessly before they suddenly realise what they are doing !!
I wandered a little further east along the coastal path in the hope of a Chough but they must have been even further east over towards Southerndown,a few Rock Pipits hopped around on the rocks and a male Sparrowhawk glided past.
A quick call in to a deserted Watermill where only a male Pied Wagtail picked it's way through rapidly drying out flood saw an end to a pretty quiet and uneventfull day.