Monday, 2 January 2017


It’s cold, very cold, but we’ve been lucky to miss a lot of the really bad weather that’s devastating the rest of the UK.  In the small wintering flock of sanderlings on Oxwich Beach is one that’s colour ringed.  Bright red and yellow bands on each leg, with a green flag on the right leg make the little white wader stand out amongst the twenty or so others scurrying about the sand.  The local birding grapevine will no doubt soon find out the origin of this special bird.

There are always sanderlings on this beach at this time of year, running about like clockwork toys in the shallow water by the sea’s edge.  Ringed plovers and dunlins are on the beach too, only a handful, but enough to add a sense of delicacy to the raw winter’s day.  Offshore a diver slides under the surface of the choppy sea; I have difficulty seeing it well enough to be sure, but think it’s a great northern.  Some common scoters bob up and down in the waves further out towards the point; they don’t seem to mind the cold, which chills me to the bone.

Turning into the cover of the sand dunes brings relative warmth.  Bedraggled sad-looking ponies hide from the wind in the slacks, their coats steaming in the morning sun.  The old saltwater marsh has changed much over the last half century.  Once a tidal inlet behind the dunes, it is now completely silted up, and even in summer holds little natural history interest.  As if by magic, a pair of bullfinches is only yards away and the image of Tunnecliffe’s quite exceptional paintings flash before me.  What an exotic bird this is, especially when lit by this morning’s cold winter sun; it compares with many I have seen in tropical rainforests. 

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