Thursday, 17 February 2011

Not a Wild, Wet, Windy, Welsh Weekend

When we woke up last Saturday, the sun was shining beautifully and we decided to make full use of it. We checked the weather forecast for Aberystwyth, and it was alternating sunshine and clouds. Yes…a day trip to our favourite haunt was on the card. There wasn’t much traffic on the road not even on the usual gridlock at Wednesbury. We sang our hearts out to the American Anthems CD and as usual made a quick stop at Telford services. The last time we were here they had dug up the place to make way for a bigger car-park.  This large 1917 built Nasmyth steam hammer at the picnic area seemed to be a permanent exhibition piece, advertising the nearby Ironbridge Gorge museum complex. We have been to Ironbridge before and I think another visit was in order.Telford D200  12-02-2011 11-00-54

We continued our journey through the lovely rural Shropshire countryside. The weather was a bit disappointing. It was getting cloudier and darker and at times, we drove through cloud bursts. But it didn’t dampened my spirit. I spotted carpets of snowdrops under the forest canopy and on the embankments.  I was soo excited and was itching to get some photographs. But there was no place to stop. Grr…

As we entered the Welsh borders, the sun came out. We saw dozens of pheasants enjoying the warmth on the hillside. Look at this stunning view of the countryside. You don’t know what to expect around the corner, or over the valleys. No matter how many times we have driven through Wales, I can never have enough of these wonderful views.Road Trip Wales D50  12-02-2011 11-46-36

We arrived at a cloudy Bwlch Nant yr Arian at about 1.30pm. Just enough time to get our cameras out and rush to find the best seat in the house. The forest was in full swing. Birds were twittering and tweeting everywhere but we kept on walking towards the lake. There were already lots of people and we could see at least a dozen kites circling the sky above us. The warden spread the meat on the ground and everyone had their cameras ready and waited and waited and waited…Nothing happened. More kites were circling but none was swooping down.  What happened? Something must have spooked them. What a let-down.Nant yr Arian D300s  12-02-2011 15-10-60

Then the heavens opened. There was a rush to find shelter but the hardy ones, including us, stood our ground. Still nothing happened. Half an hour later, we gave up. We were cold, wet and hungry. Babe spotted this goosander swimming lazily in the lake and he became the focus of our cameras.Nant yr Arian D300s  12-02-2011 14-20-26

We’d our lunch with the Red Kites soaring and gliding over our heads as a dark silhouette.  It was amazing to see them this close and their piercing cries echoing around us. We were still curious as to why they weren’t feeding. We later checked out the bird-feeder outside the visitor centre and it didn’t disappoint us. Dozens of chaffinches, great tits, blue tits, greenfinches, bramblings, robins, siskins and tree sparrows were squabbling and shreeking for attention. The noise was deafening.Nant yr Arian D300s  12-02-2011 13-40-08

I called CEK but couldn’t get any signal. I only managed as we got nearer to Aberystwyth. I wanted to meet her in town but unfortunately she has friends over to help her move her overgrown hedges. Never mind, next time. We parked at Rheidol Retail Park and started taking photographs of the beautiful buildings. Suddenly, we were confronted by a woman who wanted to know why we were taking photographs of MY Building!!!WTF…what happened to the friendly people of Aber??? We told her that we were former students and were here as tourists. And then she left us alone and stormed back to HER building. Apart from the students, tourism was this town main source of income. With this attitude, I wonder…Aberystwyth D200  12-02-2011 15-51-50

She really dampened our mood and we decided to get back to the car. But first, a peak into our favourite shop, Charlie. Nothing’s changed, still cramped with everything you need and we came out with a camouflaged tee each for only £6. When we reached the car-park, we met May. She didn’t recognise us at first until Babe mentioned our names. May was from Malaysia, small world huh, and she was one of the wonderful nurses who looked after me when I was in Bronglais. The last time we met was about 6 years ago before we left for Scotland. We had a long natter and she gave us her number with a promise to have tea at her house the next time we were in town. Diolch* May.Aberystwyth D200  12-02-2011 16-08-50

We drove towards the promenade and managed to get a parking space near the pier. It was a very lovely balmy evening. The tide was coming in and it was very, very windy. We saw herring gulls searching for food, a wagtail flirting among the parked cars and a very nice surprise, a Great Crested Grebe swimming near the pier. We strolled along the promenade towards the Old College. Gulls were already roosting along the sea shore.

Then the moment we were waiting for, one of the most amazing wildlife exhibition. Early evening, just before dusk, when the light was unreal, starlings appeared in masses from everywhere. Everyone stood still mesmerized, watching the flock grow and grow, coming together in huge clouds, wheeling and swooping in unison. As they got lower and lower they filled the Welsh sky and we were literally hypnotized. Aberystwyth D200  12-02-2011 16-59-46

This jaw-dropping display was known as a ‘murmuration’, when thousands of starlings come together and swarm as if they were one organism. As they fly, the flock changes shape, one minute a colossal wisp of smoke, the next a tornado, then a thundercloud blocking the evening light. Unfortunately we didn’t see them performing any of these breathtaking aerial ballets.

Then, just as quick as it began, suddenly they began to drop out the air as if they'd been shot. A constant stream followed as they swooped down and went under the Pier to roost. The noise was incredible as chattering cacophany rose from their resting place as they communicated and gossiped with their fellow bed mates. Some perched outside the pier structure and we watched them jostling for positions and continued their gossiping.Aberystwyth D300s  12-02-2011 16-55-18 Suddenly there was a loud bang by the roadside. A few flocks of ‘startled’ starlings flew from under the pier in unison like a shoal of fish and we were able to observe some beautiful air displays just above the sea-water. You can hear the oohs and aahs from the crowd. When they feel it was safe, whoosh they flew back in. I just felt like giving them a thunderous clap of appreciation. In the meantime, above us still more clouds of birds were flying in from everywhere and after a quick wheeling and swooping, they joined the rest under the pier.Aberystwyth D50  12-02-2011 17-00-2

To me, this starling roost was one of the most incredible natural spectacles that we enjoy. It was so easy to see and it was free  The Aberystwyth folk should be honoured that these birds choose the pier for their night-time shelter. Just one final warning…thousands of birds flying above you meant you’ll be in close contact with s—t. Make sure your head is covered and don’t park too close to the pier or you will need a quick trip to the car-wash!!!

We left at about 5pm and still more birds were flying in, but in small numbers. Bonn nuit my feathered friends. We went to Morisson cos I wanted to get some packs of Welsh cakes for my colleagues. We freshened up a bit before driving back to Coventry. It was going to be a long night but at least it wasn’t raining. We stopped at a layby near the mountains and switched off the car lights. It was spookily dark and all we could see were thousands of twinkling stars and the Orion. It was beautiful. No artificial light in sight except from the lights of the cars that drove past. They must think we were a bit loco :-).

Reluctantly, we’d to continue our journey. I was feeling sleepy and so was Babe. So we put on the CD and sang our hearts out. But as soon as we left Shrewsbury and was on the M54 I closed my eyes. We were near the Corley services when I woke up. Hmm…I’d slept for about an hour.

We arrived home at about  8.30pm. Very tired but very happy. We’d the leftovers for dinner, had a quick wash and then ZZZ. When I last looked, Babe was still busy uploading the photographs. Good night.

"So, fall asleep love, loved by me...
For I know love, I am loved by thee."

~Robert Browning~

*Thank you in Welsh

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