Sunday, 26 November 2017

Three Winter Firsts

It seems only a short time ago that I saw brown argus, common blue and small copper butterflies on the wing. Nature can’t yet decided that summer is finally over, but a report today of decent sized flocks of fieldfares, heralds the time to look out for more signs of winter. Usually later to arrive than redwings, their chuckling calls are unmistakable, and they’ll soon mix in with their smaller cousins to add another piece to the winter jigsaw that’s slowly emerging.

The first male black redstart of the autumn is always an event, and a promise of cold winter days ahead.  There’s one today on the sea wall at Cwm Ivy enjoying the bounty of flying insects, which will disappear once the weather turns colder. We get very few of these delightful little robin-sized birds, which now breed in some of our big urban areas such as London and Birmingham. The ones we see on the coast during autumn and winter are likely to be European visitors taking refuge in our warmer maritime climate. They often turn up on the rocky shore, and November and December are the best months to find them, but I need to be lucky to come across more than a couple each year.

My third first this week was a purple sandpiper, feeding with a small flock of turnstones on the rocks under the pier at Mumbles. Never numerous at the best of times, their remarkable camouflage makes them difficult to spot. Their confiding nature is always a delight, as they silently search the nooks and crannies on the rocky shore. Many more will arrive in the next few weeks, and I’ll usually be able to find a few when the tide is right.

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