Perhaps the first January record of note was the solitary firecrest found on 3/1 near the Ashpits Pond, west of Pwll; winter goldcrests are often worth checking for this attractive species. A day later, an avocet was at Ferry Point, north of Llansteffan on the Tywi estuary, whilst 9th Jan. saw a yellow‐legged gull at Sandy Water Park, Llanelli. In mid‐month there were 11 goldeneyes at Talley and a great northern diver off Burry Port. The same period had a merlin and 4 green sandpipers at Cilsan Bridge near Llandeilo, a female smew at Talley, c50 siskins in the pines at Pembrey Country Park, 2 great northern divers at Cefn Padrig, just E of Burry Port and a short‐eared owl put in an appearance at Cynnant farm, Cynghordy. On the 18th, two goosanders sharing a pond with an otter at Pontwen, Cynghordy proved memorable for John Lloyd. An estimated 300 jackdaws were roosting in birch scrub immediately S of Tyrwaun, Pwll on 20/1. At Llyn Llech Owain on 22/1, there were 14 crossbills and 5 great spotted woodpeckers in the conifer plantations (the plantations have plenty of deliberately retained deadwood); four days later there were also 22 reed buntings in tussocky Molinia grass around the lake at the same site. On the 28th, two daytime roosting woodcock were flushed in Stradey Woods (look for them in dry vegetation such as bracken near wetter feeding areas). On the same day, there were two Mediterranean gulls near Pwll and an Iceland gull at Nantycaws tip. There were two wintering chiffchaffs at Kidwelly Quay sewage treatment works on the 30th and a black redstart at Burry Port harbour on the next day.
February 1st was announced by an immature male marsh harrier on the Gwendraeth estuary, with a spoonbill turning up at WWT Penclacwydd on 4/2. The Kidwelly sewage treatment works had an interesting assemblage of wintering birds on 6/2, with a firecrest, a blackcap and no less than 10 chiffchaffs; an avocet was near Ferryside on the same day. 15 stock doves were counted in one of the Millennium Coastal Park fields west of Pwll on 8/2 and the same period saw a very unseasonal hoopoe reported from the churchyard at Pontargothi near Nantgaredig. Mid‐February witnessed a displaying goshawk over Moreb, Pwll on 11/2 (and also on 17/2), spotted by the author whilst gardening (this time with binoculars at the ready, as I've been 'caught out' without them before!). Great crested grebes were entertaining with their elaborate courtship display ceremonies on the nearby Ashpits Pond on the same date. A little to the east, at Sandy Water Park, there was a single Mediterranean gull and a scaup on 18/2 and 91 greylags were counted at Dryslwyn the next day. A red grouse was seen at Garreg Las on Mynydd Du on 20/2 and, the same day, a little owl was heard along the lane going up to Barclay/Penrhyn farms from Pwll. At WWT Penclacwydd, there was an early garganey, a ruff and 3 spotted redshanks on 24/2 and the next day, a male goshawk was seen over Llyn Llech Owain. An even rarer bird, a great grey shrike, was on Mynydd Llanybydder on 28/2 and the Tywi flood meadows near Cilsan bridge held 25 whooper swans the following day.
A calling lesser spotted woodpecker was noted on 5th March near Dryslwyn, whilst there were 9 woodcock seen at Cynghordy on 9/3. Two singing chiffchaffs at Tyrwaun, Pwll and 3 wheatears at Machynys heralded the first spring migrant passerines. On 19/3, there were 11 sand martins at Sandy Water Park and the first swallow arrived over Pwll on 29/3. A presumably released (for shooting) red‐legged partridge was noted near the Witchett Pool at MoD Pendine on 30/3.
A soaring goshawk over Stradey Home Farm, Stradey Woods on 2nd April and a singing tree pipit and 3 willow warblers on a small remnant raised bog SW of Ty‐llwyd, near Pont Abraham (SN 577063) provided early April records of interest. The first dotterel turned up at their traditional spring passage stopping‐off site at Garreg Lwyd at the western end of Mynydd Du during this period; there was also a passage flock of c30 golden plovers present. 8/4 saw a passage osprey over the Gwendraeth estuary, whilst the often‐overlooked jack snipe was noted at Allt y Garn, Carmel on 9/4. There was a redstart at Cilsan Bridge on 12/4; house martins at Llangain on 13/4, a garganey on a pond at Dinefwr Park; Llandeilo on 20/4; a grasshopper warbler at Llyn Llech Owain on 22/4 and a cuckoo at Stradey Woods on 25/4. A wryneck was spotted in a Burry Port garden near Dyfatty marsh on 24/4 and, also near the end of the month, there was a green‐winged teal at WWT Penclacwydd. Ring ouzels, now a very rare breeder in the county, were noted at Carn Rhiwddu (Mynydd Du) on 30/4.
Two black terns graced Sandy Water Park on the 3rd of May and the next day, an osprey travelled through on passage at the mouth of the Gwendraeth estuary and there were two wood sandpipers at Coedbach Marsh near Kidwelly. On 15/5, two hobbies were seen near Llandeilo and little egrets were discovered breeding at a Tywi Valley site (it is known to breed at least one coastal location too). It is amazing to recall how rare this bird once was and how numerous it has become – witness the impressive autumn roost numbers at WWT Penclacwydd.
In an urban‐edge setting, a lesser whitethroat sang from scrub near the 'Pavilion Café', Pwll on 22/5 when there were also Cetti's warblers singing at the adjacent Pwll Fishing Lake. On 23/5 there was a pair of great crested grebes on the fishing lake and a territorial rock pipit singing along the blockstone railway embankment nearby; this man‐made habitat emulating its natural cliff edge habitat. The Ashpits Pond had 2+ pairs of great crested grebes on 27/5, when Coedbach Marsh scored well with a vagrant North American pectoral sandpiper along with a little stint and 4 little ringed plovers. An arctic skua was seen off Salmon Scar, south of Ferryside on 28/5 and a hobby was over Dinefwr Park on 31/5.
A hobby was also seen hunting swallows at Coedbach Marsh on 6th June when there were 3 'Med' gulls present; later that day there was a green sandpiper, 14 little egrets present whilst 11 more 'Med' gulls were at Sandy Water Park. A hobby also put in an appearance over Capel Seion near Drefach on 13th July, and birdwatchers should be aware of the possibility of this species anywhere in south‐mid Carmarthenshire – listen out for agitated swallows or other hirundines. On 16/7, 12+ nightjars were counted as part of a census in plantations in 'SN84'(NE Carms.), whilst at the other end of the county at Ashpits Pond, 6 little grebes (including young) and 8 great crested grebes (again with young) were noted. A goshawk was over woodland at Taliaris on 23/7 and a crossbill was noted at Gelli Aur on 31/7 (crossbills were also at Cynghordy on 8/8).
A summer‐plumaged black‐necked grebe must have been a noteworthy sight at Burry Port harbour on 2nd August, whilst later that month a presumed escapee ruddy shelduck turned up at Penclacwydd.
Unlike the related cormorant, the shag is a very uncommon bird in the county (we are short of its preferred cliff/rocky habitat) though one was at Salmon Scar near the mouth of the Tywi on 3rd September, where a black tern was also seen. The next day, two grey s were found near the entrance of the North Dock inlet, Llanelli and 4 black terns were offshore at the Penrhyngwyn shingle beach, Machynys. Excitement was generated when a cattle egret appeared at Banc y Lord on the Gwendraeth estuary on 5/9 (also 14/9). Indeed, mid‐September brought an interesting 'mixed bag' of records: a lesser spotted woodpecker in Pembrey Forest, 16/9; a spotted crake at Penclacwydd, 17/9 and 4 little stints at Ferryside, 17/9. Five passage ring ouzels turned up at Cynnant, (north of Cynghordy) on 22/9; 30 golden plovers were at Garreg‐lwyd (Mynydd Du) on 24/9; an osprey on the Loughor Estuary on 24/9 and the vanguard of the autumn's redwings were at Pontargothi on 26/9.
Eight red grouse at Carn Fatho, (the highest point, west of the A4069 over Mynydd Du) on 28/9 was a significant record –the most seen in the county for some time.
WWT Penclacwydd had a grey phalarope on the 3rd of October (see photo), whilst 6/10 saw a green sandpiper (very noticeable with its white rump and loud calls) at Morfa‐uchaf near Ferryside on 6/10. An osprey and two peregrines were at St Ishmael's on 8/10 and two kites were over Mynydd Mawr Woodland Park, Tumble on the same day. Back on the coast, a curlew sandpiper was spotted at Penclacwydd on 13/10 and a snow goose was at Banc y Lord on the Gwendraeth (incidentally, the Banc y Lord embankment built by 1818, is named after its builder, the then local landowner, Lord Ashburnham). The first of the winter's fieldfares arrived on 21/10. 'Twitchers' thronged the road near Kidwelly when a little blue heron was reported at Coedbach Marsh on 24‐ 7/10‐ it would be only the 2nd UK record, if confirmed. Less rare, but still interesting were the 250 golden plovers and a female hen harrier at the same site on 28/10. A red‐legged partridge was at Ty Picca farm near Dryslwyn on the 29th.
An inland expanse of gorse yielded a Dartford warbler on 1st November to someone engaged on BTO Atlas winter fieldwork, so perhaps we ought not to be preconditioned to only expecting this bird at coastal localities. The same date had another 'once southern bird' in the form of a spoonbill at Penclacwydd; it was seen there on several subsequent dates. A long‐tailed duck was offshore at Ferryside on 1/11 and two black redstarts were at the Carmarthen Bay caravan site on the Gwendraeth estuary on 4/11. A high tide great northern diver was off Penclacwydd, also on 4/11. The next day saw a goldeneye at Kidwelly Quay and a visiting kite over Swiss Valley, Llanelli – apparently a single kite is not infrequent over Felinfoel and the abattoir near Bryngwyn School. Two pairs of kites bred within, or very close by, that part of the county under the jurisdiction of the old Llanelli Borough Council in 2008, one of which reared young (see below for an update on kites in Wales). A yellow‐browed warbler was discovered at Penclacwydd on 6/11, where it was intermittently seen on several November dates. Right in the north of Carmarthenshire, Llyn Pencarreg had two goosanders and a goldeneye on 7/11. A surprise find was the leucistic (pale, almost albino) kite overhead near Bancyfelin west of Carmarthen on 11/11; apparently these birds are rare and infertile. A water pipit was seen from the 'British Steel' hide, Penclacwydd on 12/11, when the rather elusive yellow‐browed warbler was also refound. A quite tame snow bunting was on one of the sandy beaches at Machynys, Llanelli on the same date. Penclacwydd also had two singing Cetti's warblers, two water rails, a brambling, a hen harrier, 787 pintails and a spoonbill on 15/11.
Other November records include 129 Canada geese and 10 whooper swans at Dryslwyn on 16/11, with 24 greylags there on 18/11. The next day saw a great grey shrike near the Usk Reservoir and 4 hawfinches feeding on ash 'keys' (seeds) at a locality east of Llandovery. A very late swallow flew over Waun Road, Llanerch, Llanelli on 20/11. The spoonbill was still at Penclacwydd on 23/11 when a barn owl was seen nearby at Llwynhendy. An avocet was again at Ferry Point on the Tywi on 30/11.
A wintering blackcap was found at Sandy Water Park on 1st December, whilst the early part of the month also saw a bittern at Penclacwydd. An avocet (presumably the same bird as before) was near the mouth of the Gwendraeth, together with two red‐throated divers, on 4/12. An aggregation of 5 green sandpipers was on a stretch of the Tywi near Cilsan/Ro‐fawr on 5/12. A peak of 21 goosanders (only three of which were males) was counted at Talley Lakes on 9/12, together with 3 goldeneyes and a kingfisher. A brambling joined more familiar garden birds under a bird feeder at Cynghordy on the same date. The Brechfa area had a great grey shrike on 12/12, there was a jack snipe at Cynghordy on 14/12, and two tree sparrows at Dryslwyn on the same day. Two red‐legged partridges were once again probably 'game‐releases' at Pant Glas (SN543258) on 16/12. A surprise visitor to the pond at Mynydd Mawr Woodland Park on 18/12 was a kingfisher – presumably from the nearby Gwendraeth Fawr river. The County BTO Representative, whilst engaged on Atlas fieldwork, had a ghostly male hen harrier at the aptly‐named Carreg y Bwci near Ffarmers on 19/12 ('bwci' is Welsh for ghost/apparition). Later, on 23/12, he had lesser‐spotted woodpeckers at two sites in NE Carms – at Rhandirmwyn and Cynghordy. Winter, when the trees are devoid of leaves, may be an easier time to locate this elusive, thin‐on‐the‐ground woodpecker. In spring, its distinctive trilling call helps to find it. A goshawk overhead Gary Harper's home at Capel Seion on Christmas Day was a nice present for its finder, whilst the next day had 22 kites simultaneously in the air near Bethlehem (presumably taking advantage of a kite feeding station). The 28th saw an avocet at WWT Penclacwydd and 112 Canada geese at Dryslwyn.
At the very end of the year (31/12) there were 176 gadwall at WWT Penclacwydd (plus another 35 on the estuary) for Barry and Sandra Stewart; they also censused 65 calling water rails at the site (including the 'Millennium Wetland'). A single chiff chaff was seen. At Kidwelly Sewage Treatment Works, another observer had 7 chiff chaffs and 10 little grebes on the estuary at Kidwelly Quay.
(Most of the above records have been extracted from the excellent Carmarthenshire Bird Club website (www.carmarthenshirebirds.co.uk). Thanks are due to all those who submitted records).