Gower O. S. -- Trip Reports
Sat. 14th April 2018 Penllergare Valley Wood
On a perfect spring morning 5 members set off from the car park along the Carriage Drive. We soon encountered the expected woodland species which included a coal tit nesting in a hole on the valley slope. Below us was the Upper Lake where a dipper was seen on the waterfall stonework. Continuing along Carriage Drive we descended to the Lower Lake where we added coot, moorhen, mallard and 3 little grebes trilling loudly. Whilst here buzzards were heard 'mewing' overhead and in the space of 2 to 3 minutes 4 buzzards, a red kite and the bird of the morning, a large female goshawk flew over the valley. As the path following the LLan back up stream was wet and muddy, we by-passed this lower section and picked up the riverside path at the Sapper Bridge to walk back to the Upper Lake. Dead riverside alders showed evidence of woodpeckers and we were fortunate enough to find a tree creeper here. At the Upper Lake we added grey wagtail - giving a species list of 33.
Friday Evening 22nd April 2018 Pant-y-Sais Fen
A windy and overcast evening that subdued both bird song and sightings. Some 18 members attended and we made our way over the Boardwalk across the fen to the canal towpath. We slowly picked up a few species, the loudest by far being several cetti's warblers and a persistent laughing woodpecker. The woodland edge alongside the towpath allowed us to add a few more species and some members saw a female mallard with 10 small ducklings dash for cover into the canal reeds. Beyond the bridge we heard reed and sedge warblers but there were no sightings. A few members ventured to Red Jacket Pill and found a common sandpiper. On the walk back we at last heard a grasshopper warbler singing close by which proved a good bird for many. Although a quiet evening, with about 20 species, it allowed for plenty of pleasant conversation.
Sat 12th May 2018 Tredegar-fawr Farm
Members were invited to the home of Ros and Edward Harris at Llangefelach adjacent to the old Velindre Tin Plate Works. On a fine morning we overlooked the cleared site of the old Works and observed 3prs. of lapwing, whose behaviour indicated that they had young hidden in the vegetation. We then strolled along a scrub-lined lane towards the farm encountering several woodland species including garden warbler. At the farm,built originally in the mid-17th century with later additions in the mid and late 18thcentury, we saw swallows flitting in and out of the outbuildings and examined a barn owl pellet. After a coffee break Edward gave a brief reprise of the Grade 2 listed building before we continued our walk through mature woodland that contained many fine oak and beech trees, as well as sheep grazed pasture. By late morning the temperature had risen bringing out the raptors and we had good views of both buzzard and goshawk together as they flew over the nearby Penllergaer Forest. The 100 acre farm has a wide range of glacial deposits from sand, assorted pebbles and stones with erratics through to clay which in turn produces a variety of wet and dry habitats. This was apparent as we walked through the grazed fields. The wettest fields had patches of soft rush and moisture loving flowers like cuckoo flowers that attracted orange tip butterflies- adding another dimension to our fieldtrip. One of the mature oaks at a field boundary made a suitable songpost for a tree pipit which added to our tally of 33 species recorded. Our generous hosts also provided lunch which gave the opportunity for relaxed conversation amidst historic surroundings. We thank them for their kind hospitality.
Sat 19th May 2018 Lower and Upper Lliw Reservoirs
Just 8 of us assembled at the Lower lliw on a pleasant spring morning. The linear woodland alongside the reservoir was rich with common species including redstart. In nearby fields the aerial song flight of a whitethroat was centred on a patch of scrub and 3 canada geese flew noisily out of the field onto the reservoir. Further along a stone-built house had several gaps between the stones. Unusually, a nuthatch with food squeezed into one of the gaps and on closer inspection showed that the bird had blocked off some of the gap with mud. Between the reservoirs a better chance to see redstart occurred at Darren-serth quarry where a male sang amongst willows growing out of cracks in the rockface. A cuckoo called - a first of the year for some members. The Afon Lliw added grey wagtail and dipper and a peregrine flew across the valley. Near the Upper Lliw a lesser redpoll in song flight sang briefly, no doubt from the nearby Brynllefrith Plantation and hirundines flew back and forth over the reservoir. The return journey added reed bunting, an unexpected tawny owl calling in daylight and a 'crowing' pheasant. In all 41 species were recorded on this rewarding stroll.
Saturday 2nd June 2018 Ty’n y cerig Farm
Following our field trip to Tredegar- fawr in May we were invited to Ty’n y cerig Farm by Ros and Edward Harris. This is a mid 19th century farm with outbuildings including stables, a disused mill pond with leat etc. that they are in the process of renovating. To the west, the farm overlooks the meadows of the Loughor Valley with the river flowing through it, whilst to its rear lie the steep slopes of Graig Fawr. Some 7 members arrived in time for coffee during which we could hear 1 or probably 2 cuckoos calling from Graig Fawr. We set off through fields bordered by dense hedgerows and mature trees which enabled our species list to quickly build up, added to by the croaking of ravens overhead. Some fields held cattle whilst another ponies and these inquisitive animals followed us about. At times they were quite intimidating, particularly with the presence of a bull. Once at the river we followed its course downstream noting mallard, cormorant, kingfisher, heron and a male goosander in partial eclipse. Several sand martin colonies were located as the river meandered down valley. However, heavy rains in mid April had caused some banks to collapse and timbers were stranded in riverside trees, 3-4 metres above the present water level. Some colonies had been partially destroyed but they will no doubt try again. A mink dashed about on the opposite bank, capturing everyone’s attention. The midday sun created thermals on which buzzard, red kite and sparrow hawk soared. By 1pm it was time to return to the farm where refreshments awaited us. On route we added linnet, green woodpecker, whitethroat and pheasant giving us a respectable tally of 39 species. Once again we thank our generous hosts who went out of their way to ensure that we all had an enjoyable trip. (RET)
Whitford Point-16 March 2019
13 people set off from Cwm Ivy car park just after 12;30pm in overcast conditions. As we made our way down towards the coast we saw various common species on some roadside feeders. This included a Goldfinch singing from the top of a tree. On the Saltmarsh we saw a Little Egret feeding in the pools and not long after we all saw a Barn Swallow along the ridge twice feeding around the Tor. This was incredibly early and I believe the earliest county arrival date and took us all by surprise. Further down the sands the coast we had close views of a Lapwing in the dune slacks as well as a group of 30 Linnet. Meanwhile 2 of the party had again glimpsed another Swallow this time over the dunes before it disappeared behind the pines. One observer had thought it had seen a red rump and incredibly another had got a photo of the bird in question whilst trying out a new camera–incredibly the picture showed a Red Rumped Swallow!!
Bingo….but where was it now!
We searched the area and skylines for 20 mins or so in vain but to compensate a Marsh Harrier powered into view in a migration like flight as if just arriving. It would seem that the drizzle shower which had briefly passed through had brought in some migrants with it. These winds had originated in Iberia and had brought in a scattering of early migrants across the UK albeit in very small numbers. A House martin had made it as far north as the Shetland Isles on this date! We put the news out on the birder grapevine of the Red Rumped Swallow and then continued on the walk hoping to relocate it. We continued along the coast where we watched several close Dark bellied Brent Geese, around 95 Turnstones with Sanderling, Ringed Plover and Dunlin mixed in. The Oystercatchers were roosting up for the high tide and there was also the occasional Redshank, Grey Plover and a single knot. Offshore a female Red Breasted Merganser and Great Crested Grebe drifted past a Cormorant and some Greater Black back Gulls roosting up on the Sands.
The area around Berges Island held a swarming raft of 150 feeding Eider which were very impressive to see, particularly the males. This winter has seen large influx of Eider to Glamorgan and this flock is the largest there has been for many years.2 Great Northern Divers materialised in the same area as the Eider were feeding along with several Great Crested Grebe and a tideline full of birds including Dark Bellied Brent Geese, 200 Lapwing, 30 Grey Plover, Redshanks, Curlews, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Shelduck, Pintail, and Little Egret.
At this point we heard that the Red Rumped Swallow was showing back at the Cwm Ivy Tor and with the dimming light we were heading back towards the Tor although with little expectation to see it in the half light. When we reached the Tor we were greeted by a small group of birders who put us on the 2 Swallows flying in near dark conditions. A truly amazing end to the trip for the fortunate members who managed to see it before it went to roost. Luckily this beautiful bird has stayed many days now giving many observers amazing close views by the Tor.