Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Chasing Plovers

Friend and neighbour Julian Frieze called to say a flock of Golden Plovers was frequenting the fields at Cilsan Bridge.  We do not see too often just here so I stopped work and went for a look.  At first I could not find them.  Just the 11 Whooper Swans from yesterday and a solitary Red Kite.  I pushed on to Dryslwyn and there too were the 15 Whooper Swans from yesterday and a couple of Meadow Pipits in the car park.  There was also a very tame Buzzard.  Well maybe very hungry too because it never moved far away.  I have been hearing of an unusual number of Buzzards being found dead by the roadside in Carmarthenshire and unless there has been some poisoning tragedy it must be hunger that is killing these birds.

Very tame Buzzard at Dryslwyn car park

Back to Cilsan just in time to see a flock of about 200 Golden Plover and 70 Lapwing wheeling around over the fields.  They appeared to be spooked by something and would not settle and finally moved off again.

A Lesser Redpoll from a previous visit

Back home we now have c30 Siskins and c20 Goldfinches on the feeders and today a superb male Lesser Redpoll arrived.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Whooper check

Coming back from Carmarthen this lunch time we stopped off at Dryslwyn and found 15 Whooper Swans very close to the car park.  Only two young birds were with this flock.  Moving on to Cilsan Bridge we found another group of 11 Whoopers but with no youngsters.  It is a bit unusual for the flock to split but maybe they are beginning to think already about journeying north to Iceland  I would not if I were them. A pair of Goosanders were on the Tywi under the bridge.

Whooper Swans at Dryslwyn

Good news today is that Beryl had her second blood test and her condition is very, very, much better.  Her steroid dose has been reduced and she scores low at the next test the dosage will be further reduced.  She will have to keep up some steroids for a year to prevent the return of the condition.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Fishguard Harbour in the sun.

We set off with a picnic to Fishguard Harbour in the hope of seeing some good birds and in particular Black Guillemot.  The weather was wonderful and sunny as we walked out along the quay and we soon had a Razorbill in the water right below us.  We discovered two more Razorbills and a Guillemot way out in the harbour.

Razorbill in Fishguard Harbour

Continuing on the wind became very strong and very cold.  But for Beryl's swift action I would have lost my telescope and tripod into the watery depths of the harbour.  Quite soon a winter plumage Great Northern Diver appeared just off from the tower at the end of the jetty and on our way back a young Shag fished very close by.

Great Northern Diver off the jetty

Immature Shag
Last but by no means least just as we got back to the car I noticed a small grebe over in the south-west corner of the harbour.  using the telescope I could see that it was a Slavonian Grebe a quite scarce species in this area. A good day but we missed Black Guillemot.  A good reason to return soon.

Slavonian Grebe - a poor picture but good enough to confirm the identification

 The day ended on a sour note as I received the news that dear Stuart Devonald had died this morning after a short illness.  Stuart proudly told me when I last saw him in November that he had reached his 80th birthday.  He was such a good natured man and a great friend.  I have been visiting Pembrokeshire for years and Stuart was one of a handful of local birders who made me most welcome.  We shall all miss him terribly.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Out Birding at Last

The weather forecast had me rising early and heading for Pembrokeshire.  The sun was up and relatively mild and windless conditions ensued.  I started first at the Gann and was not disappointed.  As soon as I pulled up I spotted the Long-billed Dowitcher feeding by a small clump of reeds.  The sewing machine action of its bill probing was very easy to see but it was a bit distant for a great photograph. The were three pairs of Goldeneye on the pools all starting to a bit of display.

Long-billed Dowitcher on the Gann

Next I headed for Dale Airfield.  Following recent instructions I got myself really muddy walking out to the pond and then beyond.  Altogether 7 Snipe got up and then at last I found a solitary Lapland Bunting on the ground with some Skylarks. Sadly as I raised my camera the bird flew off uttering its distinctive "tiky tik tik".  There we up to 20 Ravens about some pairs indulging in their spectacular display.

Gloosy Ibis at Marloes Mere

Moving on I had my lunch at Marloes Mere but failed to find the Ring-necked Duck.  I did find the Glossy Ibis feeding in a reedy patch though and also noted 10 Shovelers, 5 Wigeon and about 20 Teal.  I finished up on the cliffs at the northern end of Broad Haven. Looking through the scope I found about 70 Common Scoters, a Great Northern Diver, 2 Red-throated Divers and a solitary Fulmar.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Finch Numbers Increase


The activity around the feeders in my garden has increased significantly in the last few days.  This is especially true of Goldfinches and Siskins.  There are far more than usual and although it is difficult to say exactly how many are coming through there are at least 15 of each species present at any one time.  Of course they may be many more than that.  It is so busy that birds are "queueing" to get access to the niger feeder.

Male Siskin

The pair of Willow Tits are also still present.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Urban Foxes - Are They Really a serious Danger

With all the emotional stuff about the unfortunate four year old Denny Dolan being seriously bitten by a Red Fox this last few days the country is as usual reacting hysterically prodded and poked by the London media circus.  Even Boris Johnson got in on the act.  We will of course have the greatest sympathy for Denny and his family but this sort of incident is so unusual that a knee jerk response is completely unwarranted.

Red Fox cub.

As Chris Packham sensibly said on the TV this morning "More children are seriously bitten and even killed by domestic dogs".  A cull seems to be the answer to anything that gets in the way of the human race but what good would that really do?  The answer is for those living close to urban foxes to start thinking of them as wild animals.  They have to make sure their garbage is kept away from these animals and ensure their windows and doors are kept shut particularly where children are present.  Like any other wild creature foxes will be attracted by the chance of easy food.  All we have to do is deny them.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Bullfinches - They are still with us

When I was a boy Bullfinches were not a scarce species in Suffolk.  Indeed in the fruit bearing orchards there and across the country they were considered a pest.  Their spring habit of nipping the emerging buds from fruit trees found them actively persecuted.  Before protection laws they would either be shot or trapped in especially constructed cages and disposed of later.  I remember a Cage Bird Society getting very annoyed that they could not trap this species and use it for showing or to cross with Canaries to produce mules. 

Male Bullfinch

Bullfinches are now protected and sadly many of our commercial orchards have been grubbed up and replaced by fields of cereals.  In East Anglia Bullfinches have become scarce.  This is not the case in our part of Wales.  Driving down the local lanes it almost an everday occurrence to catch a glimpse of the shiny white rumps of these birds as they fly across the road. Often on still summer evenings you can pick up the soft whistle of these birds as they forage in thick cover.  They seem to like the coniferous plantations here too which is a bit surprising.

Female Bullfinch

Today a female Bullfinch appeared at our feeders.  It seems the pair we have each year nesting nearby will be with us again.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Scarce Breeding Bird in the Garden

Willow Tit

I often see both Willow and Marsh Tit at my feeders but today was the first time I have seen a pair together taking black sunflower seeds.  When I went outside to collect logs the male was singing loudly from a nearby tree and again later when I Looked outside.  This species is getting so scarce in the UK at the moment and I hope that this pair may nest nearby.  There is plenty of suitable habitat.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Huddling Together

Apologies for being rather quiet over the last few days but Beryl, my wife has been very ill contracting something called Giant Cell Arteritus.  This is the inflammation of the arteries etc between the aorta and the cranium.  Very painful but now thankfully diagnosed.  A course of steroids should put things straight which is just as well.  Not a potentially fatal condition but if not treated quickly can result in blindness. I am pleased to say that Beryl is feeling and looking a lot better.


I have not been far but I did walk down the lane to my neighbour Rob Donaldson's this evening to witness a well documented occurrence but one I had not really seen before.  Just as dusk approached hordes of Wrens started to land on the wall of his stone farmhouse and make their way creeping up to a double- decker nest box to roost.  We waited until it was dark and by then we counted 40 birds entering the box to roost where their combined body heat would keep the tiny birds alive in this cold weather.  I checked Birds of the Western Palearctic where it stated that the largest roost reported was 61 but the norm was 10 to 15 birds.  Our roost is significant and an amazing sight.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

A Lovely Day to be Indoors


I had to drive up to Aberystwyth today for a raptor meeting and cursed my luck for two reasons.  Trivially my team Norwich City were live on TV against QPR and most importantly it was the best weather we have had for some time to go out birding.  As if mocking me the sky was full of soaring Buzzards and Red Kites as well as displaying Ravens.  At one point two Ravens were feeding on a dead fox by the roadside being watched carefully by a Buzzard.  I hope this weather stays but I am not holding my breath.


Coming home I stopped at Talley Lakes where two pairs of Mute swans are on territory.  There was also a pair of Goosanders and 3 Goldeneye.  Closer to home I paused to admire a wonderful show of Snowdrops.  With a Song Thrush and a Marsh Tit singing in the garden this morning maybe Spring is just around the corner.