I started off my first trip of the year with a morning stop at Penclawdd to have a look at the estuary. With ice and snow extending onto the mudflats in some places it was not surprising to see large concentrations of Gulls and Waders feeding on the areas that remained unaffected. The Gulls consisted of sixty plus Black Headed Gulls mixed in with several each of Common, Herring, Lesser and Great Black Blacked. The waders were well represented with the usual locals including Redshank and Little Egret. I was pleasantly surprised to see some personal firsts for this spot including a single Black Tailed Godwit, several Teal and a Snipe. I also got some fantastic views of a group of four Skylarks which came to feed next to the car.
Next I headed further into Gower to Mewslade Valley near Pitton. Mewslade, unlike the rest of the country, doesn’t have much snow on the ground and as a result has been attracting birds in much greater density than is usual. The roads down were covered with feeding Redwings and Song Thrushes adding another hazard to the icy conditions. To have so many on the roads just goes to show how bad conditions are out in the fields. Further Redwings were present in the car park at Mewslade along with a very fine Mistle Thrush.
The walk into the valley was absolutely alive with bird life. I can’t think of another occasion where I have literally been tripping over the birds as they went about their business. In all I saw over a hundred Redwings and at least fifty Song Thrushes. Amazingly I also spotted one of my bogey birds in the form of a Woodcock which I saw flying down the valley. Although it was only a silhouette the body and beak shape stood out from the lighter build of the Snipe so I am confident enough to count it as a tick.
Just inside Mewslade Valley is Nitten field, an area of land that is planted up each year with a mixture of native plants and flowers with the specific purpose of attracting and supporting some of our struggling farmland species. A quick look around resulted in a couple of Reed Bunting as well as a single Yellowhammer and hordes of Chaffinches and yet more Redwings. A single Fieldfare also popped up out of the undergrowth giving a full compliment of the Thrush species for the day.
As the cold began to bite I headed back to the car but not before a Great Spotted Woodpeckerput in a brief appearance allowing me to grab a quick photograph and tick off another first for birds photographed. Once back in the car I stopped to have some lunch and was able to witness just how the cold weather is driving certain species of birds out of their usual feeding grounds. From the relative warmth I was able to observe Lapwing, Redwing, Song and Mistle Thrush, House Sparrow, Goldfinch, Rook and Pied Wagtail all feeding on the same small area of grass. Each field had the same sort of make up with the usually large Lapwing flocks split up over a much greater area than is usual. I just hope that they can find enough to eat and can avoid the predators long enough to outlast this cold snap.
With the sun setting I rounded off a very pleasant day with a brief visit to Kenfig Nature Reserve. I had been hoping to see a Bittern but with people walking through the reedbeds on the frozen lake that wasn’t very likely. The only open water was packed full of Coot and Mallard but not much else. The surrounding grasslands contained several more Fieldfare as well as another couple of Snipe. Just as I was leaving I had a superb encounter with a Golden Plover. At first I didn’t realise what it was that I was looking at, but was able to approach within a few foot. For a brief period we stood just looking at each other allowing me to get absolutely superb views of its plumage without the need for binoculars before it flew off. Magic.