As the title of this post indicates I have had a rather successful days birding in Carmarthenshire with two new life ticks added. The weather on waking was looking very changeable so I decided on an impromptu road trip to check out a few new locations. Despite living on the county border I have never really explored Carmarthenshire apart from passing through on the way to Pembrokeshire. To correct this we chose a couple of targets and headed off into the great unknown.
Our first destination was Pencarreg Lake four miles south west of Lampeter. Just about visible from the main road a small lane leads down to the edge of the lake where good views can be had across the water. We were quickly on to a male and female Goldeneye while two Little Grebes were feeding just off the near bank. On the far side we could see a couple of male Tufted Ducks accompanied by our target bird and the first lifer of the day; a female Ring Necked Duck. Despite spending most of its time asleep the bird did occasionally pop its beak out to show the white ring near its tip and also the white colouring around the eye to provide us with a definite identification. Sadly it was far to far away to get even a record shot. Much closer though were a noisy flock of Starlings whiling away the day in a large tree whilst the photos below show a very friendly Dunnock who was more than happy to sing his little heart out for our pleasure.
With one success under our belt we set off to the Talley Lakes near Llandeilo. The lakes consist of two bodies of water separated by strip of land that holds a Norman Motte and are owned and managed by the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales. The Upper Lake held several Canada Geese but it was the lower lake where things got exciting. Unfortunately we couldn’t work out how to access the lake itself but from a high vantage point on a small road we were able to pick out another couple of Goldeneyes and also five Smew! The group consisted of a male and four females and was my second life tick of the day. I have always wanted to see Smew ever since seeing the birds in the captive collection at WWT Slimbridge. Back in those days I considered these an exotic that I was never likely to get to watch in the wild but today happily I was able to prove myself wrong.
By now the rain was moving in so we decided to head back to the coast in the hope that the weather would be clearer. For once in this country the weather played ball and by time we were on the Gower Peninsular the sun was shining and the skies were blue.
As high tide was due in another hour or so we decided to visit an area of Llanrhidian Marsh that we had not yet so far managed to reach. Just past Penclawdd there is a man-made breakwater that stretches right out to the edge of the marsh offering excellent views across the Burry Inlet. Despite some very muddy ground we eventually made it and as the pictures above show it really does offer very good views. Across the water and marsh we counted the following: Brent Geese (60+), Shellduck (20+), Pintail (10+), Oystercatcher (5000+), Great Crested Grebe (30+), Widgeon (10+) and Curlew (100+). The Brent Geese were a particular highlight as they were the best views I have ever had of this species. We were close enough to be able to hear them chattering away to each other which gave a lovely bit of atmosphere to proceedings. The Grebes were also a surprise as I have never seen a single gathering this large before. On the 20th Feb 347 were counted off Aberavon Beach by another local birder so there certainly seem to be plenty around at the moment.
To finish the day off we headed to the other end of the marsh to sit and wait for the Hen Harriers to put on their show. I have been down a couple of times after work during the last week and each time have been treated to some superb views. Today was no different with two female birds busy hunting. Eventually one came close enough for me to get my first record shot of this species, but unfortunately the sun had already set behind the hill. Despite it being pretty rubbish you can clearly see what it is and for that reason its a keeper.