Illustrated talk by Rob Hunt, local ornithologist
Rob’s talk described Carmarthenshire’s habitats and the different avian communities they support. He included the best locations from which to watch and listed those species likely to be encountered. These, interspersed with pictures and recollections of the rarities which had been seen over the years, made for a very full and interesting talk.
He started by describing the uplands in the north‐east of the county, the sessile oakwoods which support Pied Flycatcher and Redstart and ‘ffridd’, now one of the last refuges for Yellowhammer. It was in this area, of course, that the Red Kite was brought back from the brink of extinction in Britain by a small dedicated band of enthusiasts led by Col. Morrey Salmon and Capt. & Mrs. Vaughan in the inter‐war years. Moving westwards, Rob next discussed the middle Tywi valley with its wide pastoral flood plain, ox‐bow lakes and gravel river shoals. He mentioned the importance of the Dryslwyn area for waterfowl and described how the large flock of White‐fronted Geese which migrated there every winter until the 1970/80s had now declined to nothing (see page 21). Bewick’s Swans and Wigeon still winter in the valley together with flocks of Golden Plover and Lapwing. In recent years gulls have included some rarities. The river is also important in summer when it supports breeding populations of Little Ringed Plovers and Sand Martins, whilst the Tree Sparrow has its county stronghold in the area.
The coastal cliffs and heathy maritime slopes in south‐west Carmarthenshire support Stonechat and a few pairs of Dartford Warbler, although the previous winter had taken its toll of these species. The county’s coastal levels and flats support vast numbers of wildfowl and waders with wintering populations of Dunlin, Knot, Golden Plover, Lapwing and Sanderling being particularly significant. Penclacwydd featured prominently in Rob’s talk and it is remarkable how the diversity of the avifauna on the north side of the Burry Inlet has been enhanced by the establishment of the Welsh Wetlands Centre, together with the ease by which both ornithologists and the general public can now watch the birds. Of particular note within the Centre are Cetti’s Warbler, the newly established Little Egrets and the about‐to‐becomeestablished Great White Egret. He also mentioned the regularly visiting Bitterns, harriers, Barn Owl, Short‐eared Owl, the offshore flock of Brent Geese and the spectacle of the wheeling flocks of wintering Starlings are a sight not to be forgotten.
To conclude, Rob examined the upland area of Mynydd Du and the Carmarthen Fan, where populations of Ring Ouzel and Red Grouse have declined to almost nothing. In the past this upland area was neglected by bird watchers but it is now known to be a stopping‐off point for Dotterel on both spring and autumn migrations. The mountain is also important for Wheatear, Stonechat and Cuckoo.
Rob’s talk reflected his longstanding as a Carmarthenshire ornithologist and he was able to communicate his subject with great authority and knowledge with a wealth of slides taken by a bevy of local watchers, both of local birding spots as well as the birds themselves. All the bird slides were photographed in the county and those of the rarities serve as verification of these important records.
Notes by Richard Pryce