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Gower

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Vol. 13, 1960

Letter from a Gower Naturalist

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Letter from a Gower Naturalist
by NEVILLE DOUGLAS-JONES
I AM DELIGHTED TO HEAR that you are coming to stay in Gower
at last. You ask me, when is the best time to come ? The
short answer is always now. For Gower is always at its best for
the naturalist. If you press for a preference then, surely, the periods
of migration, April and September, will appeal most to you.
We are keen conservationists here. We are ever-watchful of
our amenities and together with the famous Gower Society our
Gower Ornithological Society focuses attention on the dangers
which, from time to time, threaten the wild unspoilt places.
The Penrice Estate covers large parts of Gower and its owner,
the Hon. Christopher Methuen-Campbell, proposes to create a
nature reserve at Oxwich Marsh. He plans to do this in conjunction
with the Gower Ornithological Society and there will be no shooting
on the area so you can look forward to seeing Sparrow Hawks
alive, instead of hanging dead on a keeper's gibbet.
Oxwich Marsh contains one of the two heronries in Glamorgan.
It is in the private grounds of Penrice Castle and is most zealously
guarded. The last time I visited it there were seventeen occupied
nests, so do not be surprised to see a heron feeding on the Llanrhidian
Saltings, or in the rock pools off Oxwich Head.
You may ask, why is the local Ornithological Society limited
to Gower ? It is because the Peninsula is as complete in itself
and in its varied habitats as one could ever hope for. I will show
you mudflats and a tidal estuary, woodlands, moorlands, marshes
and cliffs. We have but a few small streams.
Just now the Winter Migrants are here in force. It will delight
you to walk on the shoreline at Blackpill, just before high water
to see the Dunlin and the Curlew. You must also see the pearly-
grey Sanderlings which run just like clock-work toys on the beach.
The Oystercatchers leave the shore at high-tide to roost, with the
Herring Gulls and Black-headed Gulls, on the University playing
fields nearby.
During September, we watched the Terns restlessly skimming
the waves at Broughton Bay, flying over the Worm's Head causeway
and over Sedger's Bank, Port Eynon. Is it not extraordinary that
this lovely bird makes its annual migration from the Arctic to
the Antarctic and back again ? One would have thought that
this instinctive movement, stemming presumably from the last
Ice Age would have stopped long ago, for it certainly does not
need to travel so far for its food. We have noticed from the records
which we keep each year, that more and more terns pause here on
their southward journey If you are lucky you may even
see a Black Tern. Recently, I recognized two in their autumn
plumage and I was so grateful to you for recommending Petersen's
Field Guide to the Birds of Britain," it is quite the best book for
bird-watchers.
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