Kittiwakes and Sparrowhawks (26/8/07):
On the 26th it was 'mum and dad's' day to decide where we were going so no birding really but at Mumbles beach, on the pier there were many of Kittiwakes, my best views yet and I realised just how different these joyful Gulls are from the others, truly magical. On the way back I saw a Sparrowhawk over-head but otherwise nothing note worthy was seen.
Dipper Hunting again (27/8/07):
My Dad and I popped down to Cwm Clydach again to see if I could control myself this time and actually get a view of a Dipper. We went there saw Robin, Grey Wagtail etc. Then this time, :) it was my dad that shouted "DIPPER THERE!". And of course it flew away! But I cleverly positioned myself where I thought it was likely to turn up and sure enough I heard its hoarse chakking call and saw a Dipper land on a moist, moss covered rock, I got some photos but they were no use apart from to be record shots as my first real good view of a Dipper. I remember clearly how I saw it flutter right by me along the river and I made out its short little wings, clearly adapted for a unique, underwater lifestyle which I admire this bird for.
Brecon Beacons (27/8/07):
Mum and Dad chose to go to the Brecon Beacons, I thought I might see some birds there but I didn't really. The only notable bird was a Red Kite high over head.
Dippers at Cwm Clydach again (28/8/07)
Whilst waiting for mum to get ready again, we headed back down to see if we could get any better views and photos of the Dippers. It was magical, I think I spotted them again this time but I can't remember. Anyway, we saw a Juvenile and an Adult chasing each other playfully down the stream, until they went out of sight down the river. We crossed the road to get to the other side, we saw an adult dipping for a while as soon as we got there but it flew down river so we waited, lying on the bank for them to show themselves again with not much hope, however we heard the characteristic call and sure enough the adult landed on a rock, chakking away for a while before flying away again. A few minutes later we heard distant calls, getting closer, closer and then the juvenile (almost adult) landed on a rock nearby and in the light, we got great views for a minute or two until it flew off, we were both amazed (the dipper is the one bird my dad has got really excited about, he couldn't believe it!). I bagged a few shots as well, absolutely amazing.
Welsh Wildlife Centre (same day, 28/8/07)
With only a few days left to go, most of the target lifers seen, most of the nearby places gone to, we went to the Welsh Wildlife Centre. It was fantastic, no lifers though but still great birding. As we ate our lunch up in the Cafe, on the balcony we watched Coal Tits, Dunnocks, Great and Blue Tits too, feeding on the massive feeder that they put up. This was by far the best kept Wildlife Trust reserve I have ever been to, and the most enjoyable. As we watched from the second hide (creek hide if I remember correctly), the first good bird we picked out was a Curlew, the best views I have ever had, you could really admire its intricate plumage. Then we spotted a few Teal and then a female Kingfisher! Sitting on a dead branch in the middle of a tiny, muddy pool. It was an unlikely place for a Kingfisher, but there were fish in it because it dived and emerged with a little Stickleback/minow. This lead to us spotting a Snipe resting right below the Kingfisher, three good birds already. From the hide over looking the river we saw Herring Gulls, Lesser Black-backed Gulls (one of which was aberrant with a ring around its bill. We even spotted a few Whrimbrel, which was excellent. My mum told me a large bird of prey was coming from further away. It was a magnificent Buzzard, I got a few shots, the best I have ever got of one. It didn't really scare the birds though they were slightly more nervous than usual.I don't think they take any birds very often at all. On the last few hides, there wasn't much, but a male Sparrowhawk almost flew right into the hide! We went back to the car after a very enjoyable day, very happy.
At Mumbles we saw the Kittiwakes again and the Ravens tumbling around the big, netted over cliff, you could really appreciate their size.
Cwm Clydach again (30/8/07):
Not a sign of the Dippers on our visit whilst waiting for mum to get ready, just a Robin. But we, well just me, my dad was falling asleep, I saw a Kingfisher fly upstream, flash of blue, it was flying slightly higher above the water than usual.
Cwm Clydach again... and a very crazy occurrence (31/8/07):
Another early morning visit to Cwm Clydach revealed absolutely nothing apart from a Grey Wagtail.
But, on on the back, up the entrance track to the cottage to collect Mum, we saw a Red Kite over the farm as well as many Great Tits and Meadow Pipits flitting around. And just as icing to the cake, we saw a Raven fly past to. The best the farm ever had to offer, all in five minutes.
Slightly later on, the farmer, Richard, who was also a birder took me around the farm, it was slightly scary, the reasons why you will read in a moment. Anyway, he was very friendly and took me all around the best bits of the farm, I saw Swallows (mobbing a Buzzard), Goldfinches, Mistle Thrushes and a Blue Tit. He left me for a moment whilst he rounded up some sheep, but he also made some Cows go into my field. Right behind me I heard several cows mooing, I turned around and there were about 20 cows, heading straight for me, and quick! I had absolutely no idea what to do, I didn't know if they were just being friendly or were going to trample over me! So I just walked on, keeping a close eye on them, they advanced... I was cornered and not they were closing in on me! There was a gate I was standing by and just before they got too close, I mean close enough for them to do something to me, I climbed over the gate in panic, knocking my camera. Literally, and I'm not exaggerating, one second after I climbed over, they were right at the fence, all mooing! If I didn't move I don't know what would have happened, with all of them crowding around the fence like that!Then the farmer came along, stroking them and weaving his way through them. I felt silly. But he did say before if your with me you'll be alright, so maybe it could have been dangerous? I think it was better safe than sorry anyway.
Later on we went to Mumbles, for a boat trip to see seals, the staff were very friendly at the Gower Explorer (http://www.gowerexplorer.co.uk/). We saw Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Cormorants and great views of Fulmar, I even got fairly good shots of them! Because of weather conditions, we couldn't go around Worm's head to see the seals so we turned around. But we saw something very special, a Grey (???) Seal in Oxwich Bay, which, apparently has never happened before! I got a few shots, distant and only of a head popping out of the water but they were pleased with it and asked me to email it to them which I still need to do. It was quite enjoyable.
The day of departure (1/9/07)
I was very sad to leave and dreading going back to school, returning to the stressful life of homework and the nasty kids at school and leaving this peaceful fortnight of birding heaven. But we had to leave. The previous night, Richard the farmer lent me some of his old bird books from the 70's. Which I enjoyed looking through. Before we went, we visiting Cwm Clydach for the last time, hoping the Dippers would be nice enough to show themselves, for the last time, (it would be many years before I see Dippers again as my dad is reluctant to drive up to Scotland and we may be going abroad for the first time next year but you never know) I got good views of two Robins in the car park and for about half an hour there was no sign of the Dippers, however, I heard one, looked down the river and saw one sitting on a rock, then it flew down river. Slightly later I saw another fly past me and down the river, my last Dipper. I went to the place I went a few day before, just across the road, and waited for 20 minutes, but there was no sign of them. We got it the car and drove off...to Mumbles. As we had lunch, I thought about the birding which we had done, I had mixed feelings over it, it was fantastic but a few of the days eg Cwm Clydach were not productive. In the end I reached the conclusion that, birding is like that and anyway, I did see some marvelous Welsh specialities as well as other good birds. Some of the best seawatching I have ever had, as well as thrilling searching for some of the UK's most outstanding birds, this overcame the very few days which were not that productive. I was very pleased. I watched the Kittiwakes on the pier, then we got in the car and drove off. On the way back we saw Buzzards, Kestrels and a few other birds. But other than that we didn't see much on the way back. Soon, we crossed the bridge from Wales to England and left one of the most enjoyable and most exiting birding holidays I have ever had.
At the end of the trip I got 7 lifers and 10 year birds (including lifers) My life list at the end of the holiday: 193 and year list: 160