Kenfig Dunes and Sker point

I visited Kenfig for the first time in months yesterday thanks to the relaxation of covid rules. I had an excellent time with many first year sightings. I started my day at the pool where I saw my first sand martins of the year, a flock of 35 skirting about the water feeding, right in the centre of the pool. There were many waterfowl present there too, 15 gadwall, 6 tufted ducks, 7 teal, 3 shovelers and a single female goldeneye. From the hide I had a great view of the female marsh harrier hunting over the reed beds, taking several swoops down into undergrowth although each time coming up empty-handed.

Next I made my way through the dunes down to Sker point, with sightings of a lapwing, reed bunting, 3 snipe, and a great white egret at the various flooded pools. The sounds of skylarks and meadow pipits were abundant, with sights of both flocks on the move over the dunes and fluttering specks in the sky singing.

Hoping to do some sea-watching, I failed to realise that the conditions at Sker would not allow it, with huge waves crashing and a strong headwind, long distance watching was not possible. Instead, I chose to focus on photographing the shorebirds which were numerous along the rocks. I had great views of the purple sandpiper in particular, 5 were very obliging as they stayed in close company of a turnstone. The flock of golden plover along the shore were well on their way to full summer plumage, with a striking variety of stages in the 300 or so lined up along the rocks. Having tried to carefully approach, they were startled and flew up into the sky in a swirling flock, which stayed in the air for almost 5 minutes before settling on the fields in front of Sker House.

The passerine activity on the fields in front of Sker House was incredible, I counted (at least) 15 wheatears along the walls and common here although their flighty nature made it tricky to create an accurate total – I expect the true number is closer to 25. Another nice sight was 3 breeding plumage stonechats landing on the common and singing. Before I left I even spotted a hare sitting in a field further down towards Porthcawl, typically I barely came any closer before it was long gone…

I finished the day in my garden at Boverton, a grey wagtail and pair of moorhens have become regulars to the pond and fed in front of me as I watched from the hide. There is a water rail too which I hear squealing occasionally from the undergrowth behind the wall but he has yet to actually venture into the garden. The resident female kingfisher has also departed for the time being, she used to hunt regularly on the pond back in mid winter but I expect now she has moved elsewhere for breeding.

Just as a little side note – I have a little radio diary on Bro Radio on the 31st about bird and wildlife watching in the Vale as a student, thought I’d mention it as it might be of interest to a couple…

Wheatear – Monknash

A bit outdated now but I thought it was still worth a mention, I spotted my first wheatear of the year on March 8th between Monknash and Southerndown. Incidentally it was virtually exactly the same spot I spotted a black redstart back on the 17th of Feb.

It might also be of interest that in a separate confidential location there are peregrines beginning to nest in the same spot they were last year, on the coast. The pair weren’t successful last season so I’m hoping this will be the year! I took some nice shots a couple of days ago of the resident female bringing back a live dunlin to the nest which must have been caught in flight. It was a bit sad to watch for the dunlin but still pretty a spectacular display of the peregrine’s supreme hunting abilities.

I’ve also been quite active on eBird the last couple of months, in particular creating new public hotspots such that sightings can be collated for each birding location to offer more valuable data to users. A few hotspot names have been corrected too with help from the local hotspot reviewer so I’m hoping it will be a slightly more rewarding experience for anyone else that uses the Website.


I visited Cosmeston yesterday for the first time properly and even in the stingy, wet weather managed to have a fairly productive session and I even met some other friendly watchers (distanced of course) who gave me some helpful tips. I saw 1 peregrine flying overhead, 1 buzzard being mobbed by crows, 4 great crested grebe, 2 little grebes, heard one green woodpecker overhead, 2 goldcrest, 27 tufted ducks, 1 pochard, 31 redwing and 16 goldfinches.

Common scoter – Llantwit Beach

I started the day visiting the Boverton Seawatch Centre where I saw a lone barnacle goose in a field. On the cycle back I spotted some large flocks of linnet – 40-50, mixed with about 15 pied wagtails on the roof of a barn. The fence below the barn was scattered with 6 meadow pipits. Other sightings here included 1 kestrel, 2 buzzards, 30-35 goldfinches.

I later arrived at Llantwit beach hoping to get some more views of an obliging golden plover I had seen last weekend. The tide was in so instead I took a walk along the coast path towards St Donats. Here I had a nice view of a female common scoter which was heading from Llantwit towards St Donats at impressive speed. It took me a minute to make the ID as I don’t think I’ve ever seen one locally before. It would be interesting to know whether anyone else has seen one this year in the Vale and whether they’re regular visitors on this part of the coast.

Southerndown – owls

Spotted a little owl on a wall at 5 in the afternoon opposite the three golden cups pub. I suspect it is probably lives in the barn close by. I’m hoping that it doesn’t decide to make use of the abundant cattle water troughs as I have found deceased barn owls who have made use of these troughs on more than one occasion this year (both in the same trough!) nearby another occupied barn in Southerndown. I’ve read that it is quite simple to prevent this from happening by fitting a steel mesh a couple of inches below the surface of the water. I wonder whether it would be possible to ask the relevant farmers in Southerndown if they would allow this to be done for them as it would might prevent a lot of owl deaths in the long-term.


On my way to my favourite birdwatching location by the river thaw in Llandough, I spotted a total of 5 bullfinches jumping in and out of the hedgerows. Shortly after getting off my bike in Llandough, 4 green woodpeckers including two juveniles, flew across a field into a tree right next to me – a welcome surprise after not seeing this species for some time.

After a short walk I saw 3 buzzards in a territorial dispute right above me. They shortly dispersed probably due to the constant mobbing of house martins which were present in great numbers. Remarkably, this wasn’t the only species of raptor I saw today as I also spotted a red kite heading towards Cowbridge.

Before leaving, I heard the resident male kingfisher calling repeatedly nearby. To make up for the fact that the kingfisher didn’t show himself, I saw a pair of spotted flycatchers catching insects which were flying over the river.

Lucky garden visitors in Boverton

Since I finished building a large pond in my garden 5 weeks ago I’ve seen an explosion in nature including some fantastic bird life.

After just a couple of days of completion we had song thrushes, a family of magpies, countless dunnocks, blackbirds, a willow warbler, a chiffchaff and many more regularly bathing in the pond. We also had a young heron visit who prompted me to stock the pond (which is well oxygenated) with minnows and sticklebacks. Whilst catching these fish for the pond I had some amazing views of a Daubenton’s bat which provided me with some great photo opportunities.

A couple of weeks ago a pair of Great spotted woodpeckers became regular visitors to the feeders. Since the garden pond is also equipped with a wildlife hide, I’ve been able to watch the woodpeckers and other wildlife from very close range without disturbing them.

Grey heron peering into the pond
Grey heron ‘sunning’ to remove mites
Female GS woodpecker on feeder
Female GS woodpecker perched conveniently in front of the hide
Female GS woodpecker
Grey heron standing above the wildlife hide between the stream and the pond
Daubenton’s bat
A Daubenton’s bat flying over the water catching insects
Common toad at night
A willow warbler perched after a bath
A young song thrush still dependent on its parent by the pond
The first frog to find the pond

Peregrine falcon nest and 3 fledged ravens – heritage coast

I’ve had a fantastic couple of days watching a pair of peregrine falcons on the heritage coast tending to their nest. Yesterday I had a fantastic view of one of the parents catching a pigeon, taking it back to the cliff to have his share, then hand it over (in flight!) to the female who brought it back into the nest. They are extremely vocal and it is not often that the nest site isn’t occupied by at least one parent. It has taken me a couple of weeks to locate the nest after following peregrines around but of course I will not be sharing the actual location for obvious reasons.

Three ravens, who were until very recently still being fed by their parents in the nest, have finally fledged but are sticking together as a group of three. They are very inquisitive and will walk up fairly close to me if I sit still on the ground. They are truly fascinating to watch.

Albino Pheasant – Llandough Cowbridge

I first saw this bizarre looking female albino pheasant in late December. Then I recorded it a of couple of times on trail cameras in late April and have now regularly see it walking in a field, now in the company of a mate. I’m quite surprised it’s survived this long as it stands out from a mile away. On the subject of strangely pigmented birds, on way to Llandough from St Mary Church I almost always see a leucistic male blackbird which has an almost completely bald head. It is usually singing from the hedge or telegraph pole in plain sight.