We welcomed March with a bang as it was the feast day of St. David, the patron saint of Wales. He was born around the year 520 and founded a monastery at Glyn Rhosyn in the year 550. He was believed to have died on 1st March 589. His final words to his followers were, “
Be cheerful and keep your faith and belief, and do the little things, the small things you’ve heard and seen me doing”.
The Welsh marked the day by wearing a leek or daffodil, the national emblems of Wales, or by displaying the flag of St. David, which featured a yellow cross on a black background. We planned a trip to Wales to commemorate the day but cancelled because the weather wasn’t on our side.Instead, we celebrated the day at our favourite playground. Along Brandon Lane, little pockets of bright yellow daffodils on the verges greeted us. The car-park was full and I guess most of the hides will be packed and I wasn’t wrong. We gave the noisy Baldwin Hide a miss and checked out the East marsh Hide. A pair of Oyster Catchers flew in and we focused our attention on them. They were running around side by side with their backs flattened low, their backs stretched out and heads bobbing up and down. As the female turned around and lowered her back, the male mounted her. And it was over in less than 5 seconds!!! All you could hear was our cameras rattling away.
As the hides began to fill up and getting a bit noisier, we trotted to Carlton and it was standing room only. We checked out the screen which was empty of both people and natives. We walked back to Baldwin Hide and luckily, it was empty. From here, we saw the Wigeons busy grazing on the bank. A pair of Shelduck was chasing each other around the lake. A Liitle Grebe popped out from the reeds and dived away from us. Cormorants were looking splendid in their breeding colours. A Pochard was enjoying a swim at the furthest end of the lake. This handsome male Golden Eye kept us entertained with his display. We left as more people arrived.
We also checked out a new playground in the outskirts of Rugby called Ashlawn Cutting. Located along an abandoned railway line, we walked down steep banks of muddy calcareous grasslands and scrubs. Coltsfoot, snowdrops and wood anemones dotted the well-built footpaths. The invasive hawthorn scrub were home to a large population of finches, thrushes, starlings, robins and sparrows while Blackbirds were skulking in the undergrowth. The air was filled with bird-songs.
We were here for the frog-spawns. I saw a tweet and photographs of them and was eager to check them out. As we neared the ponds, we could hear the croaking of the males. And as we approached the pond, all we could see were these eyes following and focusing on us. We stepped forward very slowly and some of them even swam towards us to check us out. That made my day. We’d missed the mating season as there were only males and they were guarding the transparent jelly mass round the newly laid spawn. The female had already let and I guess catching their breath deep in the forest. We spent hours bending and on our knees while rattling hundreds of shots surrounded by the gentle brrp or purring noises as they frolick in the water.
A frog he would a-wooing go,
Heigh ho! says Rowley,
A frog he would a-wooing go,
Whether his mother would let him or no.
With a Rowley, powley, gammon, and spinach,
Heigh ho! says Anthony Rowley.
After we’d our fill with these handsome princes, we drove to the nearby Draycote water. It was buzzing like the swarming midgets but we persevered. We walked along the Farborough Bank and watched the class racing whizzing across the lake. We enjoyed watching them manipulating the sails and trying to keep the boats upright and afloat. A pair of wagtails flew in and skipped and hopped, and wagged. They preened among the rocks and did a looping flight as soon as we got closer with their rapid twitter trailing behind them. But the sight of several rock pipits cleverly camouflaged caught our attention. We managed to get this handsome chap when it hopped on the rocks to give us a pose.
We continued walking and noticed that the natives were very mobile and flighty. The fishing season had started and the natives were being pushed off by the disturbance. It was so heart-breaking to see them unable to settle down to rest and feed. We counted more than 2 dozens fishing boats along Toft Corner and by the hide that we decided not to continue our walk and turned back. We sat for a while on the embankments observing the fishermen reeling in their catch. Some of them were quite massive.
Then, it was the long awaited trip to Wales. It was 17C when we left the casa. We rolled down the roof and it was very pleasant driving in the sunshine. Unfortunately, as soon as the sun was out everyone was driving like a maniac. It was crazy. We cancelled our usual pit stop at Telford services because cars were queuing right up to the motorway. Road-works were popping up in Shropshire which made the journey felt longer. Yellow gorse bushes and white flowering hawthorn brighten up the countryside. Unfortunately, it was also the time when farmers were preparing their fields. The aroma was really over-powering :-).
Since we were early, we drove straight to Gilfach farm, passing beautiful high moorland bracken, gorse and heather before coming downhill to an oak woodland. We parked at Marteg Bridge where the river rushes off the Cambrian mountains twisting and tumbling down through the valley that bears its name, through woodland and hay meadow until it joined the great sweep of the Wye above Rhayader. We checked out Otter Hide, which overlooked the river and nestling between several gnarled old trees with lichen-covered branches, old wood and moss galore. We were looking for the Dipper but nada, zilch. We couldn’t wait for summer when these woods will be buzzing with Dippers, Flycatchers and Redstarts.
Then straight to Bwlch Nant yr Arian which was buzzing, After using the facilities and freshening up, we made ourselves comfortable near the bird-feeder and rattled hundreds of shots. The usual culprits were there. A large flock of Chaffinches were squabbling among themselves. The House sparrows, robins, Blue and Great Tits were flying in and out, snatching a beakful of seeds when they can. I felt sorry for the Siskins and Greenfinches which were trying their best to feed. I wished the wardens would hang up more feeders.
Then we made our way down to the lakeside along the Barcud Trail, joining the visitors who were already there. Hundreds of Red Kites were circling above us waiting. The warden arrived on time and spread the meat on the ground opposite us with only the lake separating. The watched and waited their chance to furl their wings and dive in, skimming the ground to snatch a scrap before rising suddenly. With the meat clutched in its talons they make for clear airspace where they felt secure enough to feed. With its 1.8 metre wings spread out for stability the head turns down to meet with its forward lifted legs. Now the kite can feed, but must still keep an eye out for other marauding kites...
A Red Kite hangs and slides
Along a stony ridge,
Perched on the sheer gust and bracing uplift,
Still on a windy hill sides slip.
It clings precarious, one of the last few, lone bird;
In its element on the breeze, imperious control haughty
Scouring the winter hill for carrion,
This century breeding pairs have not passed, a mere forty,
Unfortunately, not many Kites came down to feed. They were spooked by the many barking dogs who were there with their owners. We were also distracted by long vibrating whinnying calls echoing around us. We scanned the lake and spotted a distinct splash before the familiar dumpy and short-necked Little Grebes appeared. They were in breeding plumage with chestnut brown head and sides of neck , and the obvious bright yellow spot at the base of the bill. It was quite surreal to see the magnificent Red Kites soaring above our smallest grebe.
We’d a picnic overlooking the beautiful Rheidol Valley and with the Ceredigion coastline of Cardigan Bay in the distance, We’d the roof opened and could see the Red Kites riding the waves above us and their mewing cries echoing around us. Hot coffee and pasties warmed our cockles. Babe didn’t want to drive down to Aberystwyth. Instead, he wanted to stop at different roadside bays to take photographs of the stunning Welsh mountainous countryside. It was hilarious that there was no place to stop when we came across some stunning landscapes.
We made another pit-stop at Gilfach farm again. This time we drove through the winding roads towards the lane to the Old Farmyard and Welsh longhouse at the top of the hill. The farm was a mosaic of habitat including traditional hay meadows, rocky outcrops, rhos pasture, wet flushes, hill-side scrub and oak woodland. I’d a little chat with the tenant who lived in the listed Grade II longhouse which was rebuilt in the fifteenth century. At the bird-feeder, nuthatches, siskins, finches were having a party. Snowdrops were still flowering in abundance. We heard Great Spotted woodpeckers drumming on the trees on top of the hill. I would love to stay longer but Babe had another 3 hours drive home.
At work it had been meetings after meetings. First was the monthly departmental meeting. EK updated us on Talis-Aspire which finally recognised the 264 RDA field but not the copyright symbol which was going to be a pain for us. Ideally, acquisition and cataloguing systems should be compatible to each other but this wasn’t the case. The Re-labelling project had restarted again on the Floor 2 materials. We have to get ready for more retrospective work coming our way. EK also mentioned about Preservica, a cheaper version of the Safety Deposit box and Innovative Partnership Openness Collaboration which to honest was a waste of space because the Library need to migrate to SIERRA for that. We were also pleased that the long awaited Special Collections Group was finally approved by Management.
As metadata librarians, thousands of materials came our way and we processed them to be added to the library collection. Some didn’t even make it onto the shelves and were sent straight into the store. Due to lack of space, the some of the special collection were separated and integrated into the main library collection and thus, lost their uniqueness in the process. And as a research library, we have accrued materials and collections that have significant value and we want to promote the discovery, access and use. I’m looking forward to this project as my first job here was to catalogue and process the Sivanandan Collection which was donated by Ambalavaner Sivanandan who was the former director of the Institute of Race Relations.
At the Library Working Group for International Students meeting, we put in a request to be posted in the e-bulletin asking staff about their language skills. We have a multi-national staff and we wanted to add them as contacts for specific languages. I also added that this would be beneficial for cataloguers when they needed assistance in translating books in foreign languages. On the group webpage, there was a list of useful words and I suggested that the list needed to adhere to the new taxonomy and standardised terms. We also agreed to revised the Library strategy for International Students. It was quite a packed schedule.
But it was not all work and no play. My colleagues and I checked out a new dining experience, hot pot, at Han Dynasty. CL had wanted us to join her but we’d to find one that suited my requirements ie no pork. Hot pot consisted of a simmering metal pot of stock at the centre of the table. The pot was kept simmering and ingredients like thinly sliced meat, vegetables, seafood and wontons were added. Once cooked, they were picked and eaten with different variety of dipping sauces. We chose this restaurant because it served individual hot-pot. I chose a mushroom-flavoured stock and filled my plates with loads of seafood, tofu, mushrooms and a variety of Chinese vegetables. There were prawns, squids, fish balls, cubed fish, clams, scallops, mussels and crab meat. I ended the meal by putting a handful of egg noodles in the tasty broth and cracked an egg. Nom…nom…nom. It was an expensive meal and will only have it as a treat.
It was Pancake Day ( also known as Shrove Tuesday), the last day before the period which Christians call Lent. It was traditional on this day to eat pancakes. Lent was a time of abstinence, of giving things up. So Shrove Tuesday was the last chance to indulge, and to use up the foods that wasn’t allowed in Lent. Pancakes were eaten on this day because they contained fat, butter and eggs which were forbidden during Lent. Whether simply drizzled with fresh lemon juice and sprinkled with sugar, no one could resist these slices of heaven. I made a Malaysian version called lempeng where mashed bananas and brown sugar were added to the mix.
Honey comes from bee,
apples come from trees,
but pancakes come from heaven.
Birthday wishes for the 2 closest women in my life, my courageous mother and my lovely sister. These beautiful catkins were from the garden.
Prayers and deepest condolences to the families of the missing MH370.
*Warm welcome in Welsh