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Light before the storm

Before Storm 'Brian' hit, we had one day with promising weather and thankfully it landed on my day off! How convenient. Despite this, the day very much started un-prepared as I arrived at Blaenavon without a tripod, binoculars and without a spare battery! Typical school-boy error. Either way, I manage to stretch my single battery life as long as I could and I literally filled a memory card on one bird! The Rock Thrush showed extremely well, partly due to someone putting down thousands of Meal Worms.. A much welcomed food source I'm sure but perhaps not the best idea to keep feeding it as it will need to move on eventually and it has a long way to go. I have to thank John Marsh, the finder of the bird and also the guy responsible for me now using a 300mm 2.8 IS. To say i'm overwhelmingly happy to have this lens is an understatement as it's been on my wish list for quite some time. In-fact I now have to find something new to say when my girl friend asks me what I want for Christmas. (I've been saying a 300 2.8 jokingly for years)...

Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush

Last weekend I made the effort to go and see a rarity to the Uk, a 1st winter male Rock Thrush! I've personally never seen one before, particularly because we've only had 2 Records in Wales since 1981. They breed anywhere from southern Europe to North Africa and even parts of Central Asia. They winter in North-east Africa however so to get them this time of year, this far south, gives you a clue how far our this guy is. The strong southern winds caused from Storm Ophelia proved too much from this bird that must have got caught up during migration. Either way, this Rock Thrush couldn't have picked a more suitable spot in Pwll Du quarry which still has a ready supply of insects but also plenty of un-touched berries on the trees. Not for long however as our winter visitors such as Redwing and Fieldfare are already on their way. Other notable species at Pwll Du quarry were a single Black Redstart, Redkite, 4 Wheatear (should be gone already) and lots of Meadow Pipits. 

Heathland Training @ Blaenavon

Today after work I attended the second meeting of the heather training course lead by Gwent Wildlife Trust and Chris Hatch in the hope to educate a group of volunteers to conduct surveys that will hopefully give us a better understanding of the health of our heathland. On our first visit we learned how to identify several upland species of plant that are of particular interest/concern and sporting some new equipment we are now setting off on our own to conduct these surveys within given areas separated into 'polygons'. I'm not sure what area i'll be working in yet but I hope that I find enough time to get as much done as possible. The idea of all this is to collate data so that the area can be properly managed accordingly so that we can maintain/improve our heathland for its inhabitants. Red Grouse are the key species that we have in mind but also Birds of Prey like Short Eared Owl and Hen Harriers that use Heather to nest in. There are lots of factors that make a good healthy heathland but age diversity seems to be the key with old mature heather for nesting and young heather for food. Bracken management is also key so we will be documenting the area's that need management so that we can tackle the problem accordingly. 


I'm yet to actually see a Nightjar, however! All that may change tonight as I venture out with Steve Williams (Head Ecologist), Fergus Collins (Editor of Countryfile Magazine) and Paul Joy (BFF). We hope to at least hear a Nightjar or two in a location not that far from home. Giving that they make an incredible noise and for the most part remain nocturnal, I'll be bringing my recording gear along with me. I may even get some recordings of an owl but who knows. I'll post any success tomorrow as I'll be arriving home very late.

Nightjar Success!

Well! It was MUCH later than we anticipated but the wait well well worth it! We arrived around 8:30 to scout the area and look for any pockets of habitat that we thought would be good for feeding Nightjars but that particular area didn't exactly produce exactly what we were expecting. We waited patiently as the sky got darker and darker, during which we were being bitten by thousands of midges... but all that biting was worth it come 11:00pm where in a last bid to get something, whacked my recording gear up to 10 and scanned the moors which resulted in a faint sound of a Nightjar to which I squeaked squeaked in excitement. We then had another 2 bouts of song but it was so far away, probably about 70-100 meters away from us. If the recording gear wasn't whacked up to full, I simply wouldn't have heard it. I managed to filter the recording so you can hear the frequencies being produced the bird a little clearer. What an incredible bird! I will be returning to this location again for another late night session. How amazing!  And most amazingly, right on my doorstep! 


Sometimes, an opportunity can just present itself to you with no help, just complete luck. This is certainly one of those moments where 2 males happened to be fighting and while caught up in testosterone, they neglected to realise that I was right next to them. This scene below is that point where one of the males realised that he was right next to a human... That look on his face was brilliant lol. 

If you follow this link - - you can learn more about the yellowhammer song

Pied Flycatchers... Have the chicks returned!?!

Well, if you've skipped to the photos already, you would have already seen the female Pied Flycatcher that has returned to the same spot! This bird was rung as a chick last year! So it has made it all the way to Africa and back! I cannot contain my excitement having filmed these very chicks being rung last year. What amazing birds! And, it even has a Male by the looks already ;). I sense this year is going to be another great succesfull year for the Pieds but, the weather really is going to detirmined their success. 

The rest of the day was stollen by a male Yellowhammer that kept me and 2 of my photography friends occupied for longer than we care to admit. Finally got that photo I've been after with the yellow background from the gorse bushes.