As per usual, I am late at writing my summary of the previous year but with now having a full-time job in a Solicitors (which I still despise) things have been pretty busy towards the end of the year. 2017 was a year that I decided to step outside of my comfort zone and do more which resulted in some amazing memories and meeting so many new people aswell as taking on more within the Welsh birding community.
January was essentially a write-off. After finding out I had a tumour at the base of my spine which is the cause of the occasional pain I’ve had since birth, a major flare-up meant it was a month of being bed-ridden, hospital appointments and time to catch up on blog updating and inputting breeding bird data. I did, however, have a planned schedule with S4C to be featured in an upcoming TV show with Iolo, which was the extent of excitment for the month.
The “media month”, it began with the filming of the piece with S4C, and then continued with agreeing to do more with BBC Radio Cymru having seasonal slots to talk about wildlife! Finally managed to get out to patch and kickstart PWC 2017 with notable highlights of Little Gull and Hen Harrier, plus a couple of visits to Rhossili with Long-Tailed Duck, Surf Scoter and C5000 Common Scoter seen on one visit. The month finished off with clearing out local nestboxes and finding a group of Wood Mice residing in one of our boxes at WWT!
Long-Tailed Duck on patch! A month of Long-Tailed Ducks appearing in numerous places in South Wales, two now being at Rhossili and then a bird rocks up on patch, it stayed for a week or so giving people the chance to connect. Garden Ticked Sparrowhawk with a female visiting frequently, numerous visits to London and the continued visits to patch and the Gower. The one memory that sticks with me is locating a Coscoroba Swan nest at WWT, there was a lot of promise with both parents doing the right behaviour, eggs being laid and incubated but resulted in nothing.. (turns out they are both females on DNA testing..). Again, still a slow start to the year!
Beginning of my favourite season – Spring! The month was mainly spent in bushes and shrubs looking for nests, Blue Tits moved into the SPC Select nestbox in the garden, numerous wildfowl and wader nests found along the coast with the most notable being Pochard, Song Thrush in the Garden, and Ravens returning to the garden trees. 5 Med Gull pairs returned to WWT Llanelli to breed with this year finally resulting in some birds fledging. It was also the month that myself, Sammy and Pam went to the RHS Cardiff Show – not something I had considered doing before but was a great experience to chat to knowledgeable people about garden plants for attracting wildlife and seeing familiar faces, I also teamed up with Seedball UK to encourage people to plant wildlife-friendly plants in their gardens. It was also the month that I finally life-ticked Smew after countless twitching attempts.
A new seasonal meant a new piece on BBC Radio Cymru. I didn’t travel all that much in May but instead focused on rock pooling and seawatching off Mumbles and the continued attempts at locating breeding birds. 3 pairs of Pochard managed to breed at WWT Llanelli, Lapwing were looking promising with the new habitat management plan in place and the garden birds were also having a good year. The Spring is the time I barely do anything other than locating nests and monitoring their progress meaning it seems like a very boring time – but exciting nevertheless!
Slimbridge! I made the move to Gloucester for my stint with WWT Slimbridge working in the Duckery and Breeding birds area – it was done to improve my breeding bird knowledge from far more experienced people than myself, also to begin some training in avian medical care which is now an invaluable skill I have gained. The most notable things were: Breeding Harlequin & Long-Tailed Ducks my love for LTD had blossomed at the beginning of the year so the chance to breed them was exciting! The number of geese that I had the opportunity to breed was outstanding plus numerous times a day walking through a field of hundreds of them. Learning how to breed waders in captivity in the form of the waders at Slimbridge, this has proved useful in the planning of habitats for wild waders now knowing the extent of the requirements nestlings need.
Outside of my time at Slimbridge (which did take up almost every day of the two months!), I went to UK Tick Bee-Eater in Nottingham. The one memory that has stuck with me – dipping Caspian Tern on patch.. I returned home numerous times and called in to try and see the bird, but every time it managed to evade me.
Attended the Opening Evening of the new Lush Store in Swansea, a great evening to meet likeminded people plus the chance to meet local bloggers and to try out new products.
National Marine Month with Seawatch Foundation, a lot of time was spent along headlands in Swansea looking for marine mammals, notable were Common and Bottle-nosed Dolphins and Harbour Porpoises.
Birdfair! My first time attending the Birdfair with Katie, and meeting up with Josie and Sorrel again. One of my highlights of the year for definite, meeting so many great organisations and people, plus one of the best nights out I’ve had in a while!
The other highlight of my year was competing in the WKU World Championships in Ireland for Team Wales. A year of hard work resulted in me coming home with a Silver Medal from the worlds after the awful start to the year I had and taking a 3-year break on medical grounds.
More BBC Radio Cymru work. Finding a Black Tern and Manx Shearwater on the Burry Inlet was something I wouldn’t have thought at the start of the year, new patch ticks. I paid my first visit to Spurn with Sorrel and Josie, a number of great birds seen such as Red Breasted Flycatcher, Red Backed Shrike, Rosy Starling and numerous YBWarblers. It was great to catch up with people I had met at Birdfair plus one of the best nights of the year in the Crown. Continued my dipping streak by missing the Lesser Yellowlegs on patch, but caught up with a Red Necked Phalarope on patch – first for the site and only the 2nd record for Carmarthenshire!
Not a great deal done at the beginning of the month after a small fracture to my foot from training. The month continued with myself and Katie visiting Brecon looking for Salmon and Dippers, then moving onto Gigrin Farm to watch the feeding of Red Kites. Honestly, one of the best birding experiences I have had! It was an absolute spectacle to watch hundreds of Kites swirling around and feeding on the wing, we also managed to read some wing tags of birds. The following day, we both headed down to Hampshire to visit the Hawk Conservancy Trust to film some of their displays and talk about the struggles raptors are facing worldwide.
The most notable thing of the month was seeing a Rock Thrush in Gwent! Of course, as per my record off the year, we dipped on our first attempt but returned a couple of days later and saw the bird with great views! The month ended with finding a Yellow-Legged Gull on patch plus a Great Northern Diver, not a common bird by any means. Also a decent couple of sessions of Vis-mig finally year ticking Brambling on patch. A return trip to Spurn was a great end to the month.
The annual WOS conference took place, one of the things I continue to look forward to each year as it’s a chance to catch up birders from different areas of Wales, this year was the year, following the conference I was invited to attend the WOS Council Meeting where I was then Co-opted onto Council as E-Newsletter Editor. A lot of time was spent squinting at the roosting number Oystercatchers (10,000) at Whiteford trying to spot any colour-ringed birds, the other part of my time was taken up with looking through the Brent Geese flocks on the Burry to find any juvenile birds.. this year resulted in 2 juvs in a group of 780 birds, not ideal.
The year was brought to a close by a weekend away in London, although not strictly birding, we did spend some time in the parks hand feeding geese, parakeets and squirrels, along with visiting the Sealife Aquarium. The final week of the year saw me again back at Spurn and twitching the Desert Wheater at Whitby, although the awful weather made the bird look less than nice, it was still a life tick for me. The New Year drew to a close with reuniting with friends, beer pong and a night in the crown.
Hopefully, 2018 will be a year of no-injuries meaning a chance to get out more!