Friday, 31 March 2017

Wet warm and misty

At Rhaslas today I had my first sand martin[9] and swallow[9] during a break between showers at c10:00 hours, also heard peeps at the same time but failed to connect. On the 30th my first passage ring plover[2] with a single male wheatear on the tip and single curlew south of pool.
Just occasional singles of passage redshank, above image taken on the 17th with winter wildfowl gradually moving out and mipit and skylark etc numbers increasing along with raptors.

Missed the osprey today at Cantref, but thanks Rob for text, I was there on Monday checking with the rangers and fly fishing crew, premature birding, ho hum.

Abercwmboi Lake

A shower finished my day off today at 3.45 pm so not to bad. I nipped down to the lake to check if there was any Hirundines about and after the Red Rump Swallow yesterday in Gwent who knows and  I might come up trumps. When I got to the lake and started  to scan the first bird I picked up was a  single swallow and in the next few minutes there were Sand Martins everywhere. I had about fifty birds but I could only make the one swallow out. Has I walked around thd lake I heard my first Willow Warbler of the year and as I was about to go looking for it and it landed in a bush next to me. I scanned the lake a bit more and I found the two resident Mute Swans and they have turfed their youngsters out already and I also found two coots sitting on nests.

Has spring sprung?

It looks like spring has just about made it up this far. Yesterday evening as I stepped of the train at Abercynon station I had my first Sand Martin of the year overhead. It looked like it was checking out the colony site in the station wall. I think its my earliest at this site, but the latest date for my first Sand Martin by quite a margin.

Then walking to the station this morning in heavy rain, I heard my first Blackcap singing along Tram Road Side, just up from Abercynon road depot. This territory is always the first to be claimed by returning Blackcaps. I expect the next two favoured sites to be filled by Monday. Funny how you get to know which territories are favoured, even if you can't figure out why.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Bill Jones

For those not yet aware, Geri has contacted me to say that Bill Jones has sadly passed away, aged just 60. Apparently, his death was sudden and unexpected. He was pleasant company on the occasion we moth trapped at Nelson bog and he was an excellent photographer. He will be much missed and my condolences go to his family.

Local Highlights

I found this Blackbird's nest last week and was surprised to see it's made it this far. As a rule the local crows find it and it needs to green over more before they make it so fingers crossed for this one. Something I noted last month when I was doing the Garden Bird Survey  was that I had a Willow Tit in my garden and it had a white tail feather and two or three in one wing. Phil said they talking about it on the Bird Forum and it is being noted across the UK and in some case a white head too. There seems to be more birds about with Partial Albinism and it makes you think if the gene pool is getting low and they are inter breeding with brothers or sisters it cannot be looking good. I have only seen this bird once more but sadly no photos. Also two days ago  below where I live I heard what I thought was a singing Willow Tit and straight after a Coal Tit. You think maybe it was a Coal Tit and with that both started singing together and flew up on too a big Oak Tree and tried to out sing each other. Has Mark has had a similar experience it maybe a common thing and they sing off  all over. Last thing when I was in Penywaun yesterday I heard my first Blackcap of the year and the Gulls where on form and were calling a fair bit. I clocked a Goshawk being mobbed, a Common Buzzard and best of all was a male Peregrine which went into a dive and just has it dropped there was a large bush in the way so I missed what it was chasing. It doesn't matter how many times you see this it put the hairs up on the back of your neck and you can see way they are the kings of the skies,

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Saturday Morning before Work

Saturday morning was sunny and dry and I thought I would have a quick walk around Tir Founder Fields to see if there was any migrants about. I also wanted to put something to the test as I have noticed lots of posts lately about it being bad to feed wildfowl bread especially swans so I wanted to try it out. So I got some Iceberg lettuce and a bag of frozen peas. When I got there all the ducks and Canada Geese came over to see me but the two Swans must have been having a lie in as they stayed away. Has soon as I threw the lettuce out for them they just looked at it and looked at me to say oh  mate you can get done for littering and just swarm off. I felt a little bit stupid and with that one of the swans came over and I dont know if he felt a little bit sorry for me but he ate all the lettuce. I was amazed so I thought I would try the frozen peas and he eat the lot. I was thinking why do swan seem to get this disease more and I think it must be because they feed more from the bottom of the pond and they eat all the old decaying bread. Right back to the migrants and apart from the Chiffchaffs it was still quiet, no Blackcap or Sand Martin yet and just when I thought the Teal had gone I found 5 also 2 Little Grebes but no sign of the Little Egret. Has I walked around I could hear Common Toads calling and on the river by the Ynys playing fields were 3 Drake Goosanders. I watched them flap their wings before diving and seemed to be chasing the fish towards the bank and were catching them under the river bank. I also saw this female Blackbird getting nest material. Everything seems to be starting to breed. I also had 2 Redwing along the old canel, one was in full song and will not be long now before they head north.

Forest of Dean

Last Sunday after all remembering to put the clocks forward the two Martins and myself started out nice and early for our annually trip to the Forest of Dean. Driving along the M4 we were treated to a beautiful sunrise, so nice to see after such drab weather recently.

Our first port of call was Crabtree Hill for our annual dip on the Great Grey Shrike there. However the birding gods were looking down on us as we soon picked the bird up perched on top of a larch. It then flew up into a larger tree where I managed to get a distant record shot. As we were standing there looking at the Shrike we had a surprise when a female Merlin cruised past us and disappeared over the horizon, another year tick for me having missed the bird the other two had seen on our January 2nd day out.

Martin Bevan who had been wanting a coffee for awhile decided this was the place and found a suitable tree stump and plonked himself down. Rucksack off his back and quickly open and then those unforgettable words "I've left my flask on the worktop", queue lots of laughter. Luckily I had a full flask.

We decided to move on and has we got near the car park the other two heard a Crest calling which did not sound quite right for Goldcrest and sure enough when located it was a gorgeous Firecrest showing well in the early morning sunlight.

This stop had one more highlight when Mr Bevan tried to get in the wrong car !!!

Cannop Ponds was our next destination for Mr Bell to get Mandarin for the year and hopefully March Tit. Only 7 Mandarins were seen and unfortunately no food in the feeders and therefore no Marsh Tit.

Hawfinch was next on the menu so I drove to the cricket ground at Parkend and had a pleasant surprise in that there was no cars parked there. Mr Bevan got out and put some seed down in an appropriate place and we sat in the car waiting. Not long after a female Hawfinch came down briefly with a Great Tit but stayed away from the afore mentioned seed. It soon appeared again a few yards down giving longer views and was eventually joined by two others. Much to Martin's chagrin a sheep and her lamb came over and ate all of the seed. Oops.

Nag's Head was close so we decided to try for another annual dip in Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and this time we duly obliged. I did manage another year tick here in Goshawk. I must get out more locally. 3 more Mandarins out of the lower hide.

Goldcliff on the way home sounded good and this turned out quite productive for more year ticks. The Spoonbill showed well feeding, Mr Bell was suitably impressed with this has he reckons they only ever sleep. 7 Little Ringed Plover feeding out in the sunlight was another highlight. Year ticks also included more common stuff as Greenshank, Spotted Redshank and Avocet.

Another good day out with some great birds, good weather for a change and of course a few laughs.

Saturday, 25 March 2017


Having been in the Glenboi area for a few hours, I decided to go and check on the Golden-eye Lichen, as Martin had said he couldn't find it. Don't worry Mart, it is still there, though was looking shrivelled in these drying winds.

After checking on that, I went to Pwll Waun Cynon nature reserve, in the hope of finding some of the Lesser Celandine rust; Uromyces dactylis, but as I approached the gate, I could hear what I thought was a Willow Tit singing from the willows around the river. I stopped to listen and the "Pyu pyu ... pyu pyu" was followed by the "Tee-chee, tee-chee" of a Coal Tit which was in turn followed by "Pyu, pyu ... pyu pyu" then "Tee-chee, tee chee" again and so on and on, leading me to think that it was a Coal Tit with a funny song. While I was puzzling over that, I looked down at the river bank and was surprised (to say the least) to see some spikes of Toothwort protruding from the Lesser Celandines. I looked around and there were several patches of them; in fact the most I have ever seen in one place.

Up close the flowers were looking a little browned off; probably due either to the frost we had on Thursday morning of from the rain. Despite that, they were a welcome sight, especially as they are the first I've seen for over ten years and the first I've ever seen outside of Merthyr. The bees were certainly loving them too.
I made a quick count and got a rough total of over 400 spikes. Although the light was good, it wasn't good enough to use a small aperture and I was cursing the fact that I'd left my tripod in the car.

I was really chuffed with that find and had my cake well and truly iced by finding the rust on a leaf of some Lesser Celandine on the reserve. This is the first time I have seen this rust outside of Cornwall, though George Tordofff found some in Draethen a couple of days ago.

On my way out of the reserve, the odd "Tee-chee tee-chee ... pyu, pyu" sond was still going on and after a few minutes I managed to get to the bottom of it. The "Pyu, pyu" was being made by a Willow Tit, but it was following a Coal Tit around, which was also singing. It wasn't that they both happened to be singing in the same general area; they really were following each other around and singing tit-for-tat, in direct competition with each other. I've never seen that before. As I made my way back to the car, I could hear a second Willow Tit singing from somewhere near the bridge.  

local sighting

yesterday the willow Tit was singing again on the cyle path below my house in Trecyon and second time this year and show still present in some places in the valley .Last night coming home from a concert i spotted moving on the road at the top  of my street and i pulled over quick and there was a Hedgehog walking along the road  and it disppeared down a lane and a first for the year  and i only so one last year and hope this his going to be the start  of it and i see a couple more and it was my daughter first  live hedgehog and sad to think how common they were when we were kids .

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Sunday stroll at the coast

Sundays weather forecast was wet for the valleys and slightly better at the coast with it dry and grey. So I headed for the coast and got there nice and early and went straight to Salt Lake carpark in Porthcawl. I got out of the car and found the wind was higher than I thought it was going to be. The carpark was empty and I thought not a great start to sunday morning. So next stop was Iron Gate Point and I did some sea watching. Visibility was not great and there was a mist halfway across the channel, the wind on the other hand was pretty good and it did not take to long too pick up my first birds. I had two small flocks of Common Scoters, there were eleven in total and all going down channel. I found in the next hour it got quieter and this a list of what I had,  4 Kittiwakes, 1 Common Gull, 1 Shellduck, 1 Mallard, 1 Cormorant, 16 Turnstone, 3 Oystercatchers. Has good as the wind was it was dead. Well plan C and at this rate I would have been going through the alphabet. I parked in Rest Bay carpark and planned to have a bacon butty on the way back. The walked to Sker point was pretty breezy and there were  a couple of Skylarks trying to display on the golf course. Has I got to the fields by the life guard hut I got  my first view of  a Wheatear for the year where there were a pair  on the field and it doesn't matter how many times you see them they are a cracking bird.
When I got to Sker point the sea was still coming in and there were large numbers of waders on the Rocks. So I found myself a comfortable seat and had a well earned cup of coffee and I went through the flocks. This is a list of what I had, a big flock of about five hundred Golden Plover and they all took off and flew around and came straight back down, the noise was amazing and really loud, some birds were making the call they make when on there breeding grounds. Next up there was a large flock of Sanderling and at a glance looked like snow on the rocks, in total I counted one hundred and seventy nine and the biggest flock I have seen in sometime. There was also smaller numbers of Turnstone, about Sixty in total and about a dozen Oystercatchers. Also three Ringed Plover, two Curlew and the icing on the cake were three Purple Sandpipers. I also had five smart summer plumaged Black Headed Gulls fly past Sker which were the only ones I saw all day. Well talking  of cake a couple of minutes earlier on these pebbles was a whole Madeira cake and has I fetched this cake for the last three weeks I thought I am not taking it back home again this week. I  was watching the birds coming and going and I ate the lot and it went down a treat. When I got back to the car I was too stuffed for bacon buttys and I was so glad I paid the pound to park as the parking warden was there ticketing people .

 Has I walked back along the beach I found these Whelks Eggs and this  Mermaids Purse or Lesser  Dog Fish egg.

I went back to salt carpark on the way home and the Gulls where back, there were about two hundred Herring Gulls and five Lesser Black Backed Gulls.
I also saw this smart third winter Herring Gull and the only ringed bird present was the must be resident Herring Gull S 0 32.

 Nice to see the Turnstone are still along the sea wall and they are fairly tame.

 Bath time for the local starlings and surprising how much water they through about when bathing

Saturday, 18 March 2017

One of Those days

After the rain not being has bad as they said it was going to be and I needed to work, I was off to Hirwaun to find it mostly dry and misty. Straight away I had a flock of Gulls mobling a Common Buzzard and a Sparrowhawk chasing a small bird, most likely a Robin it flew in to a bush never to be seen again. Has I tried to shut off and think work I heard a metallic tack and I thought that sounds familiar, it called a couple more times and it sank in it was a Ring Ouzel. It's a pretty big garden and loads of cover and has hard as I tried to see the bird I could not pin point it. It was calling constantly for a good five minutes but then a domestic cat stepped out and it went all quiet and that was that. As soon as I got home I went staight online to check the sound and it was a Ring Ouzel. I think with the mist on the mountain it must have dropped in the garden to feed. Next up I took the dogs to Abercwmboi and went up in to the forestry. I found a puddle full of Tadpoles, it seems only a couple of weeks ago when I got my first frog spawn and already Tapoles are out. The area looks really good for shrike but with so much good habitat in the valleys I would have had to be very lucky to spot one.

Friday, 17 March 2017

The First Since 2010

Now it isn't much to report or post about, but while lying awake in the early hours of Tuesday morning, I heard a Barn Owl call a few times, which cheered me up no end. Those calls were the first I have heard from my house since the terrible winter of 2010.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Warm day in Cwmbach

Cracking day in Cwmbach today, I had three species of Butterfly and for a change I got Brimstone early and before everyone else. I also had a Small Tortoiseshell and a sleeping Peacock.  I also saw my first Harlequin Ladybird. Bird wise the Gulls where keeping me on my toes, I had a Peregrine and a Common Buzzard being mobled by the gulls, I had to keep checking in case it could be an Osprey.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Cardiff bay

I had a quick vist to Cardiff Bay this afternoon where I was hoping to get a couple of photos of the long staying first winter Glaucous Gull but time was against me. I had an hour before I had to be back at the car so I got there pretty quick. I spotted two fellow birders standing on the boardwalk and the one guy had his scope on his back and I thought this does not look good. On getting there I asked any sign has you do and they told me they had walked all around the bay but had had no sign of it. I thought bugger so I started searching the bay, there was lots of big gulls on the water and I went through what I could make out with no scope but had no joy. Well last try and I was looking though the fairly close Black Headed Gulls and would you give it credit there he was and about 40 feet off the boardwalk and just sitting on the water. Well being a fool I whisked the trustee homemeal loaf of bread out and started feeding the Herring Gulls and Lesser Black Backed Gulls but the Glauc. just seat there and after a couple minutes it took flight and flew back over  the reeds and landed by the baskets and thats where it stayed. I will have to see if I can get my hands on a seal or two and try floating it out on a rope pmsl. When I was checking the gulls I noticed a Lesser Black Backed Gull with a ring on, I tried to get him close enough to get a photo of the ring which I managed which is HBM and going by what I have been told it's from Evesham in Worcsester.

There was a couple of Reed Bunting feeding on the Boardwalk.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Tracks from this morning

I found these tracks over Tir founder this morning, any ideas also if noted the Little Egret is still present. I also had 5 singing Chiffchaff and the Redwing are just starting to sing too.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Bumping along the bottom.

Rhaslas: 5 curlew through on the 3rd March but nothing much of note with monthly highest counts for wildfowl as follows, January; wigeon [32], tufted [29], goldeneye [4], goosander [20]. February; wigeon [16], tufted [14], goldeneye  [10], goosander [5]. Also big increase in shooting this winter.

Gull counts: my counts at Pontsticill reservoir have been down all winter with this years count as follows, January; herring gull [1726], lesser black-backed [11], black headed [12]. February; herring gull [1266], lesser black-backed [35]. Returning breeding birds this a.m. (rough count re: limited vision); former Hoover Factory, herring gull [70 birds], lesser black-backed [33 birds]. Pentrebach factories, Kasai, herring gull [7] and MTIB herring gull [2], lesser black-backed [2].

Dowlais Lapwing; have noted the flock several times in the last couple of weeks when driving along HoV and couldn't believe its apparent size. Managed to stop and count this a.m. at least 40 (conservative estimate) birds the highest count since the Ffos y Fran colony was destroyed many years ago.

Back yard: first time ever I've had more redpoll to my feeders than greenfinch and I only had 1 redpoll.