2018 has absolutely flown, and I can’t believe it’s been well over a year already since I’d completed the 200 Challenge. I haven’t managed to get a load of birding in this year in comparison, but what’s been there has been more quality than quantity.
After our first foray into a seawatch at Strumble last year, I was determined to have another go. I duly watched the wind forecasts on Magic Seaweed, and so it was that Tara and I took a trip over, and Heather joined us a bit later. Upon arrival it was obvious we had our calculations right because the hide was full, and sightings were being reported thick and fast. “Sooty Shearwater!” “Grey phalarope!” Panic began to set in as things came and went before we had got on them. The sea rolled wildly, and huge troughs hid birds as they were going through. The one I regretted missing the most was a storm petrol, but we clinched some beauties by the time the birds went through, including long-tailed Skua, Arctic skua, (these two came through side by side and in quite close) bonxie, Leach’s Petrol, RTD, and lots of dolphins. So that was several lifers snagged for our trouble! We stopped by at Fishguard harbour to try for the black guillemot, but once again they were elusive, though we had a very distant view of a likely candidate.
On Sabbatical at Blacktoft I got a taste of being a warden, and of course took the opportunity to see some good wildlife. On the evening of the day of arrival, there was a guided walk and we had some good views of a barn owl, and pink footed geese going over in large skeins. I also spotted a watervole on the bank outside the reception hide. Later in the week, an interesting siting came in the form of a raven, which turned out to be something of a mega on the reserve. I’d thought nothing of the cronking whilst it went over, but evidently a rare bird for the area, as an enthusiastic member of the public came cheerfully to report the sighting. It was amazing to see so many bearded tit, erupting from the reed beds, and several times during the course of the week I had some really great views, hampered by having been entirely sans camera with having been out doing practical work, like clearing the reens, adding chicken wire to a small bridge, clearing out the bittern pool, and general work like cleaning out the hides
Another good sighting was a juvenile gannet which flew over the reserve whilst we were out doing a water vole survey. I did a complete double take at first, but considering I’d been watching so many at Strumble on a few days before my brain soon clicked into action. Unfortunately, it was only really me who saw it properly and it went over swiftly in a south-easterly direction, cutting the corner of the reserve. It was harassed by two corvids which is dwarfed, before going out of sight. The next week I noticed that 2 had been seen again and they were posted on the wildlife blog, so I felt vindicated in the sighting.
Another good local sighting came in the form of a Baird’s Sandpiper, which was a nice lifer for me. I hadn’t immediately rushed for it, instead having opted to go with Nick to Mewslade and the Gower to find our own rarities. We came up with squat, but did see my first redwings of the winter and we also swung by to see the goosander on the Ogmore which was a nice local Glam tick. The following Friday, the Bairds was still there so Nick and I went, and met Tara and the family in the process. The Baird’s was close on the mud from the corner the screen near to where the Temmincks had been last year.