Thursday, 29 June 2017

Twilight Calls

The extensive freshwater marshes at Oxwich, lying behind the impressive sand dune system are the largest on the peninsula. Originally part of the old Penrice Estate, they are now owned and managed by Natural Resources Wales as a National Nature Reserve. Over the last century the large man-made serpentine lake with wet meadows, succeeded into what is now an area of reed beds and flashes, which are rapidly being invaded by willow and alder carr. In the mid 1970s the marsh was probably the most productive and finest in Wales, but even now after years of neglect, good numbers of reed and sedge warblers and reed buntings still remain, together with a well-established population of Cetti’s warblers.

A hidden squelchy path allows me to peer through the reeds and get a glimpse of a skulking reed warbler carrying a bright azure blue damselfly. They have young in the nest at this time, and the 400 or so pairs do well here from the rich pickings in the surrounding willows. Willow warblers and chiffchaffs still sing, they seem to be more common this year, and are a feature of the marsh. I pass the much-reduced heronry looking for little egrets, which have nested with the grey herons in the mature willows, but maybe not this year. In the 1970s purple herons and a little bittern regularly frequented the marsh in summer, and may reappear as global temperatures rise.

At twilight, starlings begin to circle overhead, and a handful of swallows hunt low over the tops of the reeds. Both roost here, and in a month or so their numbers will increase to many hundreds. The honking sounds of graylag geese punctuate the evening silence, and tawny owls call from the surrounding woodlands, but the twilight calls of the once regular nightjars and snipe have long been history.

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