Purple Patch – 4-16/v/15

Recently I’ve done a bit of birding locally on the patch at Swansea and have managed to see some decent birds. Here is a long post to cover the last few weeks’ birding…

On bank holiday Monday I got up early – just before six – and cycled down to Crymlyn Burrows. Walking along past the forest belt between the burrows and the new uni campus, I could hear a lot of bird song. Amongst the Robins, Wrens, Blackbirds and Dunnocks, there was a Blackcap and several Chiffchaff singing. A little further along the track I could hear the more scratchy song of a Garden Warbler. After a bit of time, I managed to get onto the bird singing in the open for a few moments.

P1250563 CedMoving on, I noticed a Sand Martin overhead with several Swallows, and after a few moments, I heard the familiar call of a Whitethroat. I pinned it down after a bit of searching and managed a few record shots of that one too…

Whitethroat Record Shots

Walking east across the burrows, I noted an abundance of species including plenty of Stonechat, a displaying Sedge Warbler, another Whitethroat and a heard only Reed Warbler. There were plenty of waders about, mainly Redshank and Dunlin, but with good numbers of Whimbrel thrown into the mix.

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Near the rivermouth, I headed up onto the dunes, where I noticed my first Wheatear of the year. it was a spring female, which showed well for a while. A short way away I located another bird, this time a spring male.

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Once at the rivermouth, I scanned through the waders and gulls on the beach. There were plenty of summer plumaged Sanderling, good numbers of Oystercatchers, a few more Dunlin and a couple of Ringed Plover on the shoreline. With low expectations, I sifted through the gulls, noting the usual species – Herring Gull, Common Gull, Lesser Black-Backed Gull and Great Black-Backed Gull.

As I reached the last bird with the scope I was shocked to see that it had clean white primaries! It was quite distant and the light was strong, but as it walked a short distance I could clearly see that it was an adult bird with pale grey nape and wings, clean white head and undersides, and relatively heavy bill. Its overall bulky appearance and large size (noticeably larger than the Herring Gulls), meant that this bird was a Glaucous Gull, but surely an adult bird in south Wales in early May was an unlikely record. After taking field notes, I submitted the record to birdguides. Next, I rang Mark Hipkin the county recorder and he was on site (his own patch) within the hour. The bird was still on show (but becoming increasingly distant with the falling tide). We enjoyed views of the bird as it took several short flights, before it disappeared for good around the corner towards Port Talbot. I managed a few terrible phone-scoped record shots of the bird, but they weren’t much use unfortunately, so I was very grateful to Mark for making the effort to come and back up my sighting! I was very pleased to have found this bird, especially as it was on UBC territory, and an adult bird too!

Feeling pretty pleased with my mornings’ birding, I headed back to my bike (seeing a Kestrel, a flock of Linnets and a pair of Raven on the way) and peddled of back home.

During the afternoon I headed around the two parks (Brynmill and Singleton) and down to Blackpill at Dusk, but didn’t see much else of note. The highlights were; Coot and Mistle Thrush at Brynmill, Swallow, Jay and Ring-Necked Parakeet in Singleton and Gannet, Bar-Tailed Godwit, Kittiwake and Great Crested Grebe at Blackpill.


The next bit of birding came a few days later on the 6th, when I headed down to Mumbles early for a bit of a seawatch. The winds were strongly from the south west which seemed promising. A quick scan from Blackpill on the way produced distant views of a couple of Gannet and several Manx Shearwater. There were also a pair of Whimbrel on the beach there.

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I arrived at the headland at 7:30, and immediately realised that there were Manx Shearwater streaming past constantly. The total reached 134 by 10 o’clock when I left, which was a good count compared to what I have seen there in the past. The highlights were definitely the Great Skua which passed fairly close by, and the Great Northern Diver a little earlier, which had flown past with several Guillemots. Other species noted included fifteen Fulmar, fifteen Gannet and 28 Kittiwake. A productive couple of hours compared to my previous experiences!


A few days later, on Saturday 9th, I was out again. I met up with a number of other NGB’s (next generation birders) (Craig Reed, Dan Rouse and Emma Cole), and we headed up to Resolven were we saw a couple of Common Sandpiper and a Dipper on the river and plenty of Buzzard and a probable Goshawk over the ridge to the east.

We all headed down to Crymlyn Burrows next, picking up Harry Read (another NGB) on the way. He told us that he had seen a Little Gull and three Black-Tailed Godwits that morning, which was good news, as all were new for the UBC year list!

The first part of the walk at Crymlyn was a bit quiet, with only Skylark, Meadow Pipit, a few Stonechat and a heard only Willow Warbler to show for our efforts. Things picked up as we reached the saltmarsh however, with a few Whimbrel and Dunlin, a male Wheatear and a Little Egret all seen well.

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As we headed towards the rivermouth, Craig picked up a distant Cuckoo, and we were all able to get onto it in flight, before it disappeared behind some trees to the north. Definitely the bird of the day!

At the rivermouth there were some distant Sanderlings and Oystercatchers, as well as plenty of the common gull species (no Glauc today). There were however large numbers of Whimbrel flying around, including one large flock of over twenty birds! There were also singles of Curlew and Bar-Tailed Godwit with them.

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We headed back as dusk arrived, happy with a good afternoon’s birding with good company!


Since then, the only notable species I have seen has been a number of Swifts on different dates over the campus. I also made the interesting discovery of a few Cuckoo feathers around the ILS2 building (where the Peregrine takes its prey)!



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