For many years now on winter days, my wife and I take off and drive what we call the Lapwing Circuit. It’s a simple route around the peninsular on which we live, just to look for birds in favourite locations, but hoping to find as many Lapwings as we can. The weather is usually cold and most of the birding is done from the comfort of the car, with just occasional quick trips outside to peer over hedges.
First stop is what we call the Lapwing Field. Years ago we could expect to find a decent flock here during most of the winter months and if the weather was particularly cold, there would often be Golden Plovers as well. We draw a blank again today and may need to rename this field, or even take it out of the circuit.
Next is Oxwich Beach. From the comfort of the car park, I count the small flock of Sanderlings and scan the bay for grebes and divers. Red-throated is much the commonest in winter here, but the sheltered water to the east of Oxwich Head gives sanctuary to a Great-northern Diver today, which cheers us up no end.
We head for Rhossili Bay. Facing due west and exposed to the full force of Atlantic gales, this magnificent sandy bay is the wintering home of thousands of Common Scoter. The trick is to look behind the surf, where these jet black sea ducks feed on the bivalves disturbed by the pounding surf. I count only a few hundred, just a fraction of the number I know are out there. Velvet Scoters winter in the bay too, but at this distance and from the steamed up windows of the car, there’s no hope.
Lunch, in the car of course, is normally taken by the northern salt marshes. If we time the tide correctly, the air can be full of thousands of waders and wildfowl including hundreds of Lapwings and Golden Plovers reminding me of childhood days spent on northern moors; we get it right today. Best of all though is the Short-eared Owl quartering over the vast expanse of spartina grass, which entertains us long after the waders and our sandwiches have gone.