Thursday, November 19, 2009

Prior to the current wet, windy spell, with winter visitors moving in, the kids’ group activity was to see how many birds species we could identify in one day. The first group clocked up an enjoyable but unexceptional 52 species.

Next weekend, winds building, the morning walk of the local estuary was difficult, species numbers well below par. After lunching at the next estuary, we were still down on numbers, strong winds keeping even farmland birds down.

Things began to look up when we checked wet farmland reclaimed from the third estuary: first Whooper Swans arrived from Iceland since the previous weekend; distinctive black and pastel yellow bill and straight neck bringing a sense of winter and icy homelands to mild, muddy Welsh fields.

Parking opposite the steam railway station in the town, we crossed a galvanised sluice bridge to a dyke wall separating a flat estuary of buff winter sedges, blue sky and water from a muddy tidal lagoon. Wigeon and Teal roosted in groups at the waterline; grey Redshank probed the shallows with thin, red-tipped bills or hurtled all over the estuary and across the dyke in tight flocks with loud piping calls. As the first shiny mud emerged in the lagoon, gulls floated head to wind: stately grey Herring Gulls; small Black-Headed, tails cocked; a single Great Black-Backed, pure white with charcoal back. One gull seemed smaller, but tail view gave only a hint. From the dyke end, the gull profile showed smaller than surrounding Black-Headed Gulls, sharing the winter eyespot but with different dark crown mark. Black bill, short legs and distinctive white wing tips contrasted with dark underside of the far wing tip confirmed Little Gull even before it took off, lifting and dropping over a bank of trees before banking away to the estuary.
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Wildlife Wales Activities: www.wildlife-wales.co.uk

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