Saturday, 30 August 2014

Wales, armchair birding and back on the patch

Without doubt my longest gap between updates on this ere blog, and with good reason. Not only has United's transfer dealings taken up a lot of my time on Twitter, but I also got married. This wonderful day was prefaced by a serious leg sprain which meant I was unable to walk properly for some time and I am not the best patient says the current Mrs. Bradley. Still, we enjoyed a wonderful mini break in Wales and I will start with this.

Our cottage was set on the edge of the Brecon Beacons, with the backdrop of Cennen Castle, Ravens and Red Kites. An ideal setting as I recovered on the couch and the swelling in my leg finally began to retreat. Every evening we were treated to a 40-strong Soprano Pipistrelle roost leaving both ours and the neighbouring cottage, the Bats emerging very early to hunt in the valley. Locally, we picked up Redstart, Badger and Wood Mouse. I wish I could have been able to explore more but long walks were out of the question.
We visited an RSPB reserve out on a limb, Gwenffwrd Dinas. A short walk here provided us with vintage Welsh Hills birding: Dipper, Yellow Wag, Raven, Red Kite, Buzzard, Redstart, Nuthatch, Tree Creeper. The same afternoon we went to a Red Kite feeding centre near Llandovery. 18 Kites very quickly became 50-60 once the food appeared, the birds seemingly arriving from all over the valley for their daily scavenge. Quite a sight!
The highlight of our trip was undoubtedly a trip to the Pembrokeshire coast, where we took a boat trip offshore in search of Cetacens. A couple of Harbour Porpoise were not far from base, which bode well. Grassholm was an incredible experience, 1000's of Gannets here, the noise and the smell intense and memorable. The further out we went, the more Manx Shearwater we saw, probably my best ever views of these as they zipped low over the water. Heading back, we stumbled upon our target- a pod of Common Dolphin. They soon came to use, and followed the boat for 20 minutes or so. There were at least 7, including 2 calves. Just wonderful and a true wild moment for us to share.
Back on dry land, after such a spectacle, my British lifer of a Chough would not be overshadowed. Picked up a pair feeding on a cliff side and gave the biggest fist pump of my life.

Back home, and the easterlies meant a trip to the coast was in order and now the leg was getting stronger I could expect to walk a little further. I decided upon Caister, and having chatted to a local birder about some other decent habitat I was unaware of here I will focus on these areas this Autumn. I had a decent visit, plenty of Whinchat and Wheatear about but nothing scarce. Most of the Greenish Warblers seemed to have made landfall on the north coast, although with one at Winterton yesterday who knows, I may have missed one.

Yesterday on the patch, I went out with the sole aim of adding a common migrant to the year list. Claxton Marshes delivered in style, not 1 but 7 Whinchat! Having had them here last year, I am hoping this will be an annual event.