Sunday, February 27, 2011


On Friday afternoon, I felt the need to escape, but the rain was pouring down, so where could I go? I decided to pay a visit to the new hide at Oxwich Marsh on the Gower Peninsula. At least I'd be dry, even I didn't see anything!
Here was the view from the hide:

There were very few birds about: just a handful of Teal, almost hidden over the far side of the pond; a male Shoveler, which flew off after a few minutes; a fly-past Grey Heron, which my camera failed to lock on to; and a couple of Little Grebes, of which this was one:

I had heard that a female Hen Harrier had been around recently, which was the main reason for my visit. At one stage, as I was at the other end of the hide to my camera, I looked up only to see the said Hen Harrier quartering the reeds opposite the hide. I hurried back to my camera (there was no-one else there), but the bird had by now disappeared. Fortunately, it reappeared after five minutes, and I was able to take a few shots as it flew past at some distance. This is the only one where the bird is not facing away from the camera, although it's quite a big crop:

After this, the rain became a constant downpour, and I didn't see the harrier again in the remaining two hours I was there.
The weather was a lot brighter on Sunday, today, so I decided to head down there again. Before entering the hide, I took this shot looking across the dunes to Oxwich Bay:

Here was the view looking out from the right-hand side of the hide:

There seemed to be even fewer birds around than there were on Friday, although there were one or two almost-hidden Snipe on the small island just in front of the hide, and this drake Teal which came out into the open for a while:

Another Teal flew down to the left of the hide, and I was able to get this silhouetted shot as it floated on the sunlit water:

A small family group of Mute Swans were on the lake. Here are three of them:

I think reeds are stunning plants, and took a few shots of them whilst waiting for any birds to arrive:

Finally, about 4.30 p.m., a female Hen Harrier appeared from behind some distant trees, and I managed just this one shot of her (which is cropped to about fifty percent of the original frame):

About a half-hour later, I spotted the distant form of the beautiful, pale-grey, male Hen Harrier, circling over some trees. I managed a few shots, but they are so distant as not to be worth posting. Just before I left, I saw him roosting in the low branches of a distant tree.
There was just time for a couple of photos of the low-angled evening sunshine lighting the dunes:

and one more looking into the sunset:

before heading off.
I suppose there are worse places to live than Swansea!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


I've just come back from a weekend in Buxton, an attractive market town on the edge of England's Peak District National Park. It wasn't a photography or nature-watching trip, as we had gone to see a concert at Buxton Opera House; but, on waking on Saturday morning, we found the town under a blanket of heavy snow, which continued to fall for a few hours after we went outside. Here is the hotel where we stayed:

I would definitely recommend the Buckingham Hotel as a place to stay; particularly for its wonderful food.
I love snow, and we don't get much here in Swansea, so I was keen to walk around and take a few snaps.
This couple were out walking their dog, not far from our hotel:

This lake in Pavilion Gardens was full of wildfowl, which gathered around us, hoping for a few breadcrumbs:

Unfortunately, we had nothing for them.
Here's a female Mallard in the snow:

And a male:

Continuing through the gardens, I spotted a Grey Heron on the stream, but it flew off before I could photograph it. Instead, I pointed my camera across the brook towards this picturesque building:

Here's the Opera House, where we watched the concert on Saturday evening:

After a couple of hours wandering the small town, we had seen most that there was to see, so decided to head a few miles up the valley to Lyme Park. I had imagined taking some photos of the beautiful Peak District swathed in snow, as well as the herds of Red and Fallow Deer that roam the park. Unfortunately, the snow gradually petered out as we left Buxton, and there was none at all as we arrived at our destination. We eventually spotted some distant deer about a mile away - so not worth traipsing over there in the time we had available - and, to cap it all, the mansion house we had hoped to look around was closed. Oh well!
Here's the house: 

This building, set on a windy hilltop, is known as 'The Cage', and was apparently where the local ladies sat whilst watching their menfolk hunt deer in the fields and woods around:

A lone tree growing nearby:

The evening was spent having a wonderful meal at the Ramsay's bar at our hotel, before heading out for the concert.
On Sunday morning, before catching our train back to Wales in early afternoon, we visited Poole's Cavern, a limestone cave containing many stalactites and stalagmites:

including this whopping stalactite, known as the 'Flitch of Bacon':

The fields around the edge of town were carpeted in snow:

Yet another place which I must head back to pretty soon - preferably in better weather!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Signs of Spring

Some shots from a walk around this afternoon, after the rain:-



Hazel catkins:

And another:

Spring Snowflake:



Thursday, February 10, 2011

Red-legged Partridge

Walking through Singleton Park late this afternoon, I spotted the Red-legged Partridge that I had seen last weekend, again in the field at the back of St. Paul's Church. I hurried home to get my big lens, and spent the last hour or so before dark attempting to get some photos and footage of this seemingly out-of-place bird.
At first, the partridge sheltered from the rain in the lee of a hedge, but eventually it ventured into the open, and I poked my lens through the hedge to get this shot:

After a bit of sneaking around, I managed to get close enough for a reasonable portrait:

The bird wandered across towards the church car park, and at one point seemed to be trying to hide from me behind the kerb:

By now, it was getting dark, and I was down to 1/160th of a second at ISO 1600 and maximum aperture for this shot: 

The bird was now wandering across the car park, so I thought I'd better leave it alone, in case my presence caused it to walk into the path of a passing car!

I also managed a bit of video footage:

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Turtle Dove

Some video footage of a Turtle Dove that turned up on Swansea seafront for a few days last September; a remarkably tame bird which allowed a very close approach. Watch how the occasional cyclist or jogger passing by barely disturbs the bird as it continues feeding about a foot away from flying legs and whizzing wheels:

Some photos of this bird can be seen on this blog HERE.

Grey Phalarope

Now that I'm finally getting the hang of this video uploading, I thought I may as well post one more piece of footage before I go to bed. Here's a Grey Phalarope, Phalaropus fulicarius, filmed at Sandy Water Park, Llanelli, on October 15th, 2010:


Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Glossy Ibises at Pembrey

I've finally worked out how to transfer footage from my video camera to my computer, so here's some belated footage of the Glossy Ibis flock which turned up at Pembrey in Carmarthenshire in September 2009:

Something unusual happened whilst walking up through Singleton Park on Saturday afternoon, when I looked across into the field at the back of St. Paul's Church, and saw, of all things, a Red-legged Partridge feeding about 30 metres away. I only had my 50mm lens with me, and when I tried to sneak up behind a hedge to photograph it, it scurried off into some distant undergrowth. I returned next morning with my big lens, hoping for some closer shots, but I could only managed this distant, heavily cropped, rather poor quality, shot:

It's a bit of a mystery as to how the bird got there, as this is an area surrounded by roads and houses (although I did see one a few months ago on some upland farmland about a mile away, so perhaps it strayed from there). I haven't seen it since, but I will certainly be keeping an eye out for it when I pass that way.

This afternoon, I had a couple of hours to spare before dusk, so decided to head over to Three Cliffs Bay. The sun was shining when I left Swansea, and I hoped a nice sunset might develop. No chance, as by the time I arrived at my destination, thick cloud had appeared, and before long it was raining! Only birds of note were two Ravens, a Buzzard and a Sparrowhawk circling overhead, a Grey Heron, and a single Ringed Plover on the beach. I took a few landscape shots, but all are dull and dreary. Bit of a dead loss of a day!

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Sandy Water Park

On Tuesday afternoon, February 1st, I spent a few hours at Sandy Water Park, an area about a mile west of Llanelli town centre. It was formerly the site of the Llanelli Steelworks, but, since the early 1990s, it has been transformed into a country park, with a 16-acre lake being its main feature:

Situated above the lake are these Gorsedd Stones, the relics of a national Eisteddfod which was held here in 2000:

I had heard that a Bittern had been seen around the lake in the last few days, but I was unable to locate it. Instead, I threw a few breadcrumbs into the water, and was immediately surrounded by hordes of hungry water birds. Amongst the more usual species, were some Gadwalls, a species I hadn't really photographed before. Here is the female, which looks a little like a smaller version of a Mallard duck:

And the subtly beautiful male:

Sometimes one came too close to fit into the frame:

There were Coots by the score:

And plenty of Pochards, including this male:

A male Tufted Duck:

And a female of the same species:

These Mute Swans were ploughing through the lake's remaining ice like Russian icebreakers:

A female Mallard perched on the ice:

I walked westwards along the pond's southern shore, and fired off a few shots of passing birds. I got lucky when this Mallard flew close by, allowing a frame-filling shot:

This Tufted Duck also whizzed past at close range:

This Coot had some difficulty as it came in to land on the slippery ice:

Finally, a shot of a Mallard drake as the sun sank lower in the sky: