Sunday, 8 January 2017

The Circuit

For many years now, and usually on cold winter days, we take off and drive what we call the circuit.  It’s a simple route around Gower looking for birds and wildlife in favourite locations.  At this time of year, the weather dictates that most of the birding is done from the comfort of the car, with just occasional quick trips outside to peer over hedges.

Near Kittle, the first stop is what we call the lapwing field.  Years ago we could expect to find a decent flock here during most of the winter months, and if the weather was particularly cold, there would often be golden plovers as well.  We draw a blank yet again today and may need to take it out of the circuit.

Next is Oxwich Beach. From the car park, I count the small flock of sanderlings and scan the bay for grebes and divers.  Red-throated is much the commonest diver in winter here, but the sheltered water to the east of Oxwich Head gives sanctuary to a great-northern diver today; it cheers us up no end.

We head for Rhossili Bay.  Facing due west and exposed to the full force of Atlantic gales, this magnificent sandy bay is the wintering home to thousands of common scoters.  The trick is to look behind the surf, where these jet black sea ducks feed on the bivalves disturbed by the pounding surf.  I count only a few hundred, just a fraction of the number I know are out there.  Velvet scoters winter in the bay too, but at this distance, and from the steamed up car windows, there’s no hope.

Lunch, in the car, is normally taken by the north Gower marshes.  If we time the tide correctly, the air can be full of lapwings, golden plovers and thousands of other waders and wildfowl; we get it right today.  Best of all though is the short-eared owl quartering over the vast expanse of spartina grass; it entertains us long after our sandwiches have gone.

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