Friday, 31 March 2017
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
Tuesday, 28 March 2017
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
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.