Thursday, February 28, 2008


Yes, it was yet another successful trip for Glamorgan's youngest twitcher. Having sent me to the site yesterday to recce the joint, 2 Short-eared Owls greeted our arrival at Llanilid tonight. When will his luck run out? Probably when the bird we're twitching is a lifer for me too!!
Surely a contender for the February GBC Picture of the Month Competition?!

Gethin 'in action'
The Boy Birder celebrates another lifer with the now traditional Tunnock's caramel wafer.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

No work and all play

I didn't have any work today and so I had the whole day at my disposal. I've been doing quite a bit of Atlasing lately - submittimg Roving Records from crappy tetrads with little or no hope of finding any birds in them which would set the pulse racing. So today, for a change, I headed west to visit some slightly better, well trodden sites.

First stop, high tide at Ogmore-by-Sea. The Purple Sands were very confiding as usual and I managed to find 21 of them to the east of the car park. My highest ever count. They were accompanied by several Turnstone and Oycs. There were a few Rock Pipits around but I didn't find any that resembled the littoralis which which was found there by Roo Perkins recently. A Chough flew in from the east, circled over me and then prompty disappeared, and a Med Gull right at the very end of the path before it starts the climb to Southerndown was a surprise. I haven't had one there before.

The highlight at Ogmore estuary was a male Gadwall. Again, I haven't seen one here before. There was also a Little Egret, good numbers of Goldeneye, 3 Curlew and a sprinkling of Redshank there. I must admit that I didn't put much of an effort in to finding Paul Roberts' 3rd cal yr Yellow-legged Gull - and that's why I will remain a crap Gull Birder!

Newton Beach was the next stop. I hoped to find some Sanderling , Grey Plover and Ringed Plover here. I had a distant view of an RP and a probable distant flock of Sanderling flying into the sun which had been flushed by a pair of dog walkers. In fact, the beach was crawling with dog walkers and so I didn't hang around for long.

And so finally on to Llanilid. Thanks to Alun Hughes' excellent directions I easily found the field in which the Short-eared Owls had been hunting, and there were two of the beauties there to greet me when I arrived. One droppped down and caught a vole/mouse. It sat there for a while looking right down the barrel of my 'scope. What a pair of eyes and I even managed to see the 'ears'. Just as I was about to get a record shot the blighter took off with the prey in its talons. Top banana!

I went back to pick the kids up from school and you'll be glad to hear that I immediately gripped off the Twitchmeister! He's made me promise to take him up there after school tomorrow . . . I'm not complaining!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Happy as Lari(dae)

I'm crap at identifying non-adult gulls and so when the Ring Billed Gull turned up at Lamby Way Lake (Parc Tredelerch) I have to admit I wasn't in a massive hurry to get down there. But, in the interests of educating the young ornithologist in the subtleties of immature Laridae plumages / not wanting to be gripped off by Tim, I made my way down to Cardiff East to look for the latest Yankie to arrive in Glamorgan.

I'd just parked the car and switched off the engine when Geth said "There it is on that woody thing" - and he was right! Unfortunately, no sooner had we left the car than it took off. We spent the next 10 minutes or so watching it fly around above our heads - every now and again diving down to pick a tasty morsel from the surface of the lake or giving a B-h Gull a hard time.

Can you see it?

It didn't look as if it was going to settle and so, happy with our views - it really is very different to a 1st winter Common Gull - Geth and I walked up to check out the river. Nothing much there - 20 or so Redshank and a few Common Teal. Returning to the lake we were glad to see that the Ring Billed Gull had settled back down on the "woody thing".

That's a bit better!

Geth now managed to grill the bird in the 'scope and note the clinching plumage characteristics.

Look at it's scapulars, Dad!

Yet another lifer for the Little Larid Lister. You've got to hand it to the guy - the Twitchmeister is on fire at the moment!

Using my loaf

Several postings on the Glamorgan Bird Club website sightings page had referred to one particular bird that was lurking near to home possibly being attracted to bread. Thus it was that I planned to embellish my birding kit with some of Mr Morrisons Granary, very tasty.
However, on arrival at Parc Tredelerch off Lamby Way, I discovered that the cupboard (or in fact, my pockets) were bare (er, empty). Doh!
So, how was I to find the Ring Billed Gull that had been present for a couple of days? Of course, just look at the gulls!
There weren't any.
Cunningly, I walked to the far end of the lake, climbed the bank, and down below me on the mud were about 30 Black Headed Gulls, and even with the naked eye, I could see the transatlantic invader amongst them, being quite aggressive towards them.
As I took this photo, I received a text from Mr J-J, enquiring whether I was going to look for the bird, and as I replied, the gulls took off. The RBG circled the lake for a while and then flew west, and out of sight. So I went home, and used my intended gull-bait to make a turkey and tomato sandwich. Nice!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

A Successful Weekend

With such wonderful weather and a break from Wales' relentless march for yet another legendary Grand Slam there was no excuse to stay indoors this weekend.

Saturday morning found the JJs out for the second walk of the week around Michaelstone / Wenvoe - this time accompanied by Sophie. No Marsh Tits this time I'm afraid but I did add a few more species to the Roving Records for two tetrads.

The family walk out of the way, Geth and I got down to some proper birdin' in the afternoon. First stop Cardiff Barrage. Nothing much on the Bay. (Where have all the ducks gone that used to winter at the Cardiff Bay when it was first flooded? I remember large flocks of Tufties, Pochard, the occasional Scaup and a cracking male L-t Duck). Anyway, we marched to the far end of the Barrrage where we duly caught up with two of the wintering Black Redstarts, including the male (lifer for the TM). We also ticked Mike Powell there.

Onto the River Taff near Western Avenue's Tesco Extra. Within five minutes we'd seen two Fircrests in the same bush (lifer number 2 for the TM), 3 Brambling, Treecreeper and a party of L-T Tits.

Sunday morning found father and son, accompanied this time by daughter, back out in the field. We were on our way to Uskmouth, but we called in "at a site east of the River Rhymney" where we were greeted by a Little Owl sunning itself on a branch. (Another lifer for both the TM and his big sister).

At Uskmouth we found Tim's Little Owl, (nice one Tim!) which was a little distant, but again it was enjoying itself in the sun.

A crap photo of 'Tim's Little Owl' - a new sub-species?

Continuing our walk around the reserve we came to a familiar site - it was 'that bush' again.

Only it didn't look like this anymore . . . . . it looked like this.

If only it had looked like this back in September 2007 even I would have had a fighting chance of seeing that flippin' Aquatic Warbler hiding in it!

I spent the rest of the time chuckling at Geth trying to find a Cetti's Warbler. They were calling all over the place but as usual they remained invisible. It was like watching a dog trying to catch rabbits but being outrun every time. I did warn him about this but nevertheless they drove him up the wall. He'll learn!!! Still, he can't complain 4 lifers in a week - oh, to be young again!!

Buggerall ...

... birds about on two upland TTVs this weekend, but I did see this bloke at Blackwood Miners' Institute last night. The evening was capped off with a brawl between customers in the nearby curry house, which would never happen in Glamorgan, of course!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Saturn #2

A proper photo of Saturn digiscoped through Geri Thomas' telescope (Optolyth 100 HD)!!!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Roving Eye

It's sunny, I've got a day off and . . . it's half term and I've got the kids. There's only one thing for it: a picnic (with a bit of birding thrown in too of course).

One of the tetrads I've asked for as part of the Atlas is ST17L (Michaelstone-le-Pit) and so I thought I'd recce the area today in readiness for a future visit, and also to start adding some Roving Records as very few have been submitted for this tetrad so far. One of the woods in this tetrad by the way is Coed y Dylluan in which Tim has been erecting a few nestboxes (do you want anymore Tim?).

Highlights of the walk were a Peregrine, several Buzzards, a yaffling Green Woodpecker, a drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker, and 4 Little Grebes, 2 Common Teal, 13 Moorhen and 2 Grey Wagtails on the 'salmon leaps'. And of course, birds singing everywhere.

But it was when we crossed over into the neighbouring tetrad (ST17G - Wenvoe) that we had the real highlight of the walk. I'd just mumbled under my breath that this area of the woods was normally devoid of any birdlife when the sharp-eyed Little Lister called me over to say "What's that up there Dad? Looks like a Marsh Tit to me". I've learnt by now that it always pays to look at any birds pointed out by the Twichmeister. I raised my 'bins and right at the very top of a tall tree was a small bird skulking around some ivy. A Marsh Tit! How the hell did he spot that up there?! It was soon joined by another one and they even had the decency to utter a couple of Pitch-oo's to confirm that they were Marsh rather than Willow Tits. Another lifer for Geth and Gwenni.

Needless to say the Boy Birder was on top of the world. I think we may have a 'Martin Bevan/Neil Donaghy' in the making here guys!! I might start hiring him out.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Uskmouth wanderings

As Saturday 9th February was such a warm and glorious day, we set off after lunch to Uskmouth, to look for birds and to test the "rucksack" style carrier that Rosie is now big enough to use. There were surprisingly few,birds, and Reed Buntings and Blue Tits were the only things visible in the reeds. Cetti's sang occasionally. The most interesting ducks were Gadwall. A large area of the reserve is now out of bounds (RSPB decision, they take over very soon), so we couldn't explore the reedbeds as much as we would have liked. However, on the western edge of the reserve, large numbers of Fieldfare were seen, A couple of other beasties also posed nearby: Rosie was now getting a bit restless, so we headed home. During the evening, I managed to digiscope the planet Saturn. I'll have a go at Jupiter next time I see it.

Friday, February 08, 2008


Just finished my 2nd winter visit to ST18K. A lovely walk in the sun with birds singing everywhere but no particularly unusual birds seen.

Incredibly I did manage to find another Blackcap at a completely different location to the 3 I found on my 1st TTV back on Boxing Day. A lone female this time on the road up to Pantmawr Cemetry. The other 'highlight' was the sheer number of Magpies recorded: 51 of them, with 41 in the first hour. Sadly, no Lesser Pecker again at Forest Farm.

After finishing I had a very pleasant 20 minutes in the Llyn Brwynog Hide (which lies just outside ST18K). The female Brambling was still amongst the flock of c.35 Chaffinches, and Reed Buntings, Grey Heron (fishing) and Little Grebe made up a nice supporting cast. Unusually, I also saw a Common Snipe there - my first from this hide. I normally see them from the other hide but they appear to have been absent from there this winter. Well, they've avoided me anyway.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Peterstone Peregrine

Just trying out our new Canon A640 on Wednesday 6th February. The bird was over 200 yards away. These more common creatures were a bit closer: A bit more work is needed on camera settings, I think.