Saturday, 31 May 2014

Something in the Air this Morning made me feel like Flying …*

Britain was basking in glorious sunshine as a swathe of hot air swept in from the continent. Throughout the day, high pressure charged across the country. It was 20C in the car when we left the casa heading for Aberystwyth, again. We joined the thousands who were out and about but thankfully, the trip down wasn’t so bad. As we drove along the A58 from Welshpool, I noticed the Welshpool & Lanfair light railway meandering through the Banwy valley below us. We stopped at a lay-bye near Sylfaen and waited for it to pass. The passengers in the train gave us a wave and we waved back. I was hoping that the driver would toot his horn when he saw us but not today. Roadtrip to Wales

Opened in 1903, the railway linked the market town of Welshpool with the rural community of Llanfair Caereinion which was 8 miles away. Built as a light railway to avoid some of the costs of railway construction, the 2 foot 6 inch narrow gauge steam railway allowed for tight curves and steep gradients, enabling the line to follow the contours of the countryside. The trains were hauled by unique original locomotives. The carriages were from Hungary and Austria with access to the enclosed seating area via an open balcony, a great way to watch the picturesque mid-Wales countryside. We took a few shots before the heritage train chugged off into the hills.      Roadtrip to Wales

Our first stop was the Dyfy Osprey, located at the Cors Dyfi nature reserve near Derwenlas. In 2011, for the first time in over 400 years, Ospreys were breeding in the Dyfi valley following 3 years work by the Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust. Monty and Nora laid their first egg on Easter Monday 2011, followed by 2 more eggs. They successfully hatched and were named after local rivers Einion, Dulas and Leri. Satellite trackers were fitted when they were ringed. On Wednesday 27th July 2014, Einion made history by being the first osprey to fledge on the Dyfi in over 400 years.   

Unsurprisingly, the car-park was buzzing. After paying £2.50 each to get in we walked across the boardwalk around the swampy, boggy reserve. A lot of changes had been made since we were here last. From water-logged, tidal salt-marsh, through reclaimed grazing land and conifer plantation to current wildlife haven, Cors Dyfi had seen many changes over the years.  Now the reserve was a mixture of bog, swamp, wet woodland and scrub supporting a wide range of animals and plants. A familiar sight from my home country, water buffaloes, were feeding quietly in the corner. They were being used to graze the rougher gorse and reeds preventing acres of the reserve reverting back to the wild. Dyfi Osprey Project

The authorities had removed the old boardwalk which circled around and its place was a fairly straight boardwalk that only goes straight through the reeds towards the observatory. We could hear the Arriva trains passing through several times during our stay. I was in no rush to reach the observatory and was far more interested in the dragonflies and damselflies patrolling along the boardwalk. Drains had been cleared and then blocked so that the site stayed wet and created new ponds, thus encouraging a wealth of odonata. Dyfi Osprey Project

"Today I saw the dragon-fly
Come from the wells where he did lie.
An inner impulse rent the veil
Of his old husk: from head to tail
Came out clear plates of sapphire mail.

Dyfi Osprey Project
He dried his wings: like gauze they grew;
Thro' crofts and pastures wet with dew
A living flash of light he flew."

~Alfred Lord Tennyson~

Dyfi Osprey Project

And then I came across this impressive round wooden structure, looming over the marshland. Babe was already on the upper viewing level, 10 m above the bog below. The building provided a 360 degree panoramic view of the reserve and Dyfi valley with the Plynlimon Mountains and Snowdonia National Park beyond. An opportunity to experience the Dyfi ecosystem from a new perspective. There was a large room with various charts and binoculars and a telescope trained on the nest. which was 200 metres away. Unfortunately, tripods which belonged to the visitors were blocking the various viewing windows. I think it was very thoughtless to leave them all over the place. Dyfi Osprey Project

We managed to find a clear space and checked out the piece de resistance. Glesni had so far laid two eggs and was was seen feeding on a fish on a tree at the far end. It was Monty’s turn to incubate the eggs. We found it hilarious that when Glesni flew in and perched near the nest, Monty refused to budge. Unfortunately, due to the distance of the nest from where we were standing and the haze, taking photographs was a challenge. There wasn’t much else here but I hoped that will change over time. I felt that the Trust concentrated too much of the ospreys and not enough of the nature reserve. The ospreys will only be here from May to August before flying back to West Africa. But the reserve will be there throughout the seasons. Dyfi Osprey Project

Then we made our way to Bwlch Nant yr Arian trying to dodge the tired cyclists who were returning home from the Cycling festival.  We arrived at the very busy visitor centre with plenty of time to spare. The mountain bike trails was full of cyclists whizzing through. Since it was such a hot day, we treated ourselves to a homemade Welsh ice-cream, Mary Farmhouse. Nom…nom. We slurped our ice-cream just beside the bird-feeder which was full of squabbling Siskins, Chaffinches and Tree sparrows. The grounds were littered with shiny yellow Buttercups with Whites enjoying the nectar.   Nant yr Arian

Then we slowly made our way towards the lake. I was stopping at every nook by the lake for tadpoles and I wasn’t disappointed. They were at different stages of development. By the lake, I scanned the waters and spotted a Goosander having a swim. A family of Canada Geese with 3 fluffy goslings were also out and about. Hmm… not a good idea especially during the feeding session and I wasn’t wrong. The Red Kites were swooping in as soon as the meat was strewn over the banks. Some were dropped into the lakes near the family and a few Kites had mistaken the chicks for meat and started swooping in. Thankfully, the parents were very alert and managed to shoo off these birds of prey. Nant yr Arian

We’d taken thousands of photographs of these magnificent birds soaring above us but we wanted to take shots of them picking their food from the lake. It was a challenge and some of them flew surprisingly close to where we were standing and was out of focus. Thankfully, we managed to get some lovely ones. We also spotted the kite with no tail although it had grown a small tuft at the end and a leucistic kite. We enjoyed watching them flying after each other, trying to grab the pieces of meat from their neighbour. After taking our fill, we slowly made our way back to the car for refreshments. Nant yr Arian

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.

Nant yr Arian

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,

Nant yr Arian

He soars and swings,
On an angular down tipped wing,
Long tail forked and angled as a rudder,
Quiet, beautiful, languid effortlessness, a steady study on the buffets of the wind.

~R.S.Thomas 1913-2000~

Nant yr Arian

Finally a drive to Gilfach nature reserve still dodging more cyclists. We stopped by River Marteg to see if the dippers were out and about. But not today. The woods were spookily quiet. Pockets of bluebells were dappling under the trees. We continued on towards the visitor reserve and was surprised to see that we’re the only one. We scanned the courtyard and it was practically empty except for this handsome Pied flycatcher flying down to check us out.   I guess most of the birds were sitting on eggs. Gilfach Farm

I checked the bird-feeder and it was empty. Where have they gone? We walked along the Oakwood Trail with glorious views over the valley. Anthills peppered all over the meadows We heard the familiar cries. We followed the sound to a familiar tee and spotted 2 holes, one above the other.  We sat down by the bank and waited patiently listening to the constantly clamour to be fed. A loud and resonant ‘chip’, and we knew that one of the parent was back with food. It flew into a nearby tree before landing  below the nest hole and then manoeuvred into position before entering.  A minute later, it departed, having temporally satiated the hunger of the brood. Then the cries began again. The parents will be kept busy for at least 3 frantic weeks. Then it was time for the long drive home.Gilfach Farm

We made another trip to Ashlawn Cuttings where we were serenaded by a very pleasant song from a Garden Warbler. It was singing its heart out from the electric wires that crossed the reserve. Peacock butterflies were fluttering by taking advantage of the sunny weather. We walked down the steep sided path towards the bridge. Wild strawberries were flowering profusely and the little red berries will provide food for birds and animals. The pool had shrunk and nearly covered with grass, reeds and weeds. We scanned the water and spotted a few tadpoles hiding under the leaves. We couldn’t stay too long because the thousands of midges were literally eating us alive.Ashlawn Cutting

From here, we nipped to Draycote Meadows which was down the road. Last year, Prince Charles had declared it the Coronation Meadow for the country of Warwickshire. The 5.5 hectare consisted of 2 wildflower meadows surrounded by ancient hedgerows. a spring-fed stream with small areas of scrub and wet rushy grassland. The wildflower display began in April when cowslips cover the ridges, with Lady’s smock in the damper areas. We missed that. But now, the meadow was covered with breathtaking display of butter-cups, adders-tongue, moonwort, yellow rattle, meadow vetchling, oxeye daisies and knapweed. The diversity of flowers supported a range of butterflies such as orange tips, meadow browns and small copper.Draycote Meadows

And among the thousands swathes of wildflowers, we spotted these Green-winged orchids among the butter-cups. The jester-like motley of its green and purple flowers gave this orchid its scientific name, morio, meaning a fool. It was very relaxing to be out and about in the lovely sunshine surrounded by bursting of colours from the yellow of the yellow rattle, the whites of the oxeye daisies and the purples of the knapweed. From time to time, the peaceful atmosphere was broken by the very vocal cries of the crows. There was a large rookery at the end of the meadow. We left before we got sun-burnt. Draycote Meadows

As we drove back home, we passed huge fields of rapeseed. The country had assumed a yellow tinge as it was the time when acres were in full flower. Unfortunately, many people suffer from allergies, when the plants started blooming. Thankfully, I am not affected by this but Babe do complain of runny eyes and sore throat. Demand for rapeseed in the UK had increased significantly as more and more farmers cashed in on the soaring price from rapeseed oil by swapping traditional crops. Around Warwickshire

I love the sight of the sea of gold and had always taken photographs from the car when we’re travelling up and down country at about 80 km. But today, I was completely bowled over when I’d such a close encounter. When I walked through this fabulous landscape, I felt like Alice in Wonderland. It was not hard to feel cheerful standing in the field. The golden glow from flowers eclipsed the grey clouds hovering over us. Despite their intoxicating aroma, they were truly beautiful to look at. Millions of busy bees were buzzing around me. It was like swimming in a yellow sea of flowers.  Around Warwickshire

We also made a visit to our favourite playground. Swallows greeted us as we parked close to the wall. Pied wagtails were seen with beakful of worms for the chicks. We stood quietly at the end of the courtyard and watched it crept closer and closer and then disappeared under the solar panels. I knew it was nesting underneath there. Great Crested Newt had made a home in the pond. At Baldwin Hide, Common Terns were nesting on the pontoon. A Coot was seen dragging a piece of wood towards the island near the hide. Building a nest for a second brood, perhaps? Brandon Marsh - Spring

Thankfully, as soon as we reached East Marsh Hide, the heavens opened. Outside, the Sand-martins were enjoying the rain, with their delightful cries echoing around us. 2 female Mallards with at least 20 ducklings between them were dabbling near the mudbanks. An aggressive Mute Swan cobs was busy chasing the youngsters off the lake. We were told that the Oystercatchers and Redshanks have 4 chicks each with them. I could see the Oystercatchers but not the Redshanks. We dashed back to the car as soon as the rain stopped. But we made a pit stop at Goose Pool where we heard the familiar cries of Woodpecker chicks. We followed the cries and found the nest. We saw one of the parent flying close but it spotted us and flew away. We left immediately because we didn’t want to disturb them feeding.Brandon Marsh - Spring

Finally a trip to Slimbridge Wildfowl and Wetland trust to check out the Crane chicks. Two chicks had hatched here for the first time in Western England in 400 years. Their parents, Chris and Monty, were hand-reared by The Great Crane Project, a programme hoping to re-introduce the once common  birds back to Britain. They were released as 3-month old fledglings on the Somerset Moors and Levels, where back in the 1600s, numbers had fallen due to hunting and loss of habitat.  But we weren’t alone. The car-park was full and the Martin Smith hide was standing room only. We weren’t too bothered and will check them out later when everything had calmed down. Amidst all the excitement, we spotted this very handsome pristine Spoonbill feeding very close to the hide. Slimbridge WWT

The adult male was in breeding plumage. He started feeding very actively on the shallow pool right in front of us. He was so close that we could see his large, flat spatulate bills and fed by wading through the water, sweeping the partly opened bill from side to side. The moment any small aquatic creatures touched the inside of the beak, it snapped shut. We watched him feeding followed by a preen, another feed and then went off to the end of the pool for a long snooze. Slimbridge WWT

Like old people trying to read a newspaper

through a magnifying glass

two round-shouldered spoonbills scan the mud,

knee-deep with feathers as white as snow-covered tussock

and black-rivet eyes imprisoned behind soup-ladled bills

the colour of pewter.

~Kay McKenzie Cooke~

Slimbridge WWT

While waiting for the Spoonbill to wake up. we’d the opportunity to check out the crane chicks. Last year, the parents managed to hatch a chick but it died before leaving the nest. Fingers-crossed this pair will survive to adulthood. It was quite hard to see the chicks because the grass was quite tall. But we knew they were always near their parents legs and when we could spot them, they looked like a fuzzy brown toy. They followed their parents and were fed by them, The chicks pecked the food from their parents beak. It was lovely to see them running from one parent to the other. It was believed that they grew a centimetre a day and it will take some time to reach their 4-foot high parents. Slimbridge WWT

“You are the miracle bird,

Risen from the memory of the Sun’s womb

In the heart of the Earth.

Flutter, flutter on, my heart.”

~Mahmud Kianush~

Slimbridge WWT

We left as the family wandered further from sight towards the end of the field. I hoped that the parents were aware that a Buzzard had just landed on a nearby tree. We checked out Rushy Hide where a large flock of Black Headed Gulls were making themselves heard with their high-pitched and vocal cries. A few were seating on nests on the ground which was just a shallow scrape and lined with vegetation and we spotted a pair mating. The elegant black and white Avocets too were sitting on eggs. They were quite aggressive chasing away intruders that were getting too close to their nest.Slimbridge WWT

We continued our adventure walking past the noisy Caribbean flamingos outside the restaurant. I was hoping to see some sitting on their nesting mounds but not today. Even if they were sitting on the mounds, the eggs were made of wood. This is because the wardens will come and collect the newly-laid eggs and substitute them with wooden ones. These eggs were then taken to another site to be incubated to give the eggs a better chance of survival. When they were nearly hatched, they were taken back to the original nesting parents. Slimbridge WWT

A few adorable juvenile Nenes followed us expecting to be fed and gave us the eye when they saw that we came empty-handed. Off they go to harass the other visitors who’d bags of seeds to feed them. We checked the House-martins to see if they were nesting but it was quiet under the visitor centre’s roof. It was babies galore by the swan’s lake. Mute Swans with fluffy cygn

ets were cruising around the lake. Greylags geese were hissing at anyone who dared to get close to their gangly babies. But I was more interested with the Northern Marsh orchids that were popping all over the place.Slimbridge WWT

We made our way to the Greater Flamingos lagoon to see if they were sitting on eggs. As usual, they were busy feeding and flapping at each other. I think the same was happening here as with the Caribbean flamingos. We came across Coots at different stages of growth. I love watching the very pale and less black juveniles looking after the distinctively coloured heads of their younger siblings. When we walked past the Tropical House, a family of Shelducks with a dozen ducklings emerging from the undergrowth.  They were very cute fluffy versions of the adults.Slimbridge WWT

We went back to Martin Smith hide to see if the crowd had dispersed. It was still buzzing. And the Spoonbill had flown off. We took a seat further down the hide where a crow was nesting underneath the roof. From time to time, the chicks will be shouting their heads off. The Cranes were now feeding further down the field and we could see the chicks walking very close to their parents. Then the Spoonbill flew in and we all you could hear were our cameras rattling away. What a lovely end to the day.Slimbridge WWT

In the home front, the Asiatic lilies were being decimated by the lily beetles. A pair was even mating at the top of the highest lily shoot. Sometimes they even have a menage a trois!!!. They laid their eggs in clusters and once hatched, started munching through the leaves and buds and covering themselves with their own fecal shield to repel predators. The larvae eventually became fluorescent orange pupae. We never kill them and just let them live. We find them fascinating to photograph.  I had 5 pots before and then 3 and now only one was left which I think will be thrown away as soon as the season is over. This is because they will drop to the soil in late autumn to overwinter and emerged again next spring. This isn’t the decimated lilies. They were too gross to be shown. Instead, a stunning Aquilegia vulgaris stellata Nora Barlow.Shots from Home

At the moment, we don’t need an alarm clock to wake us up. A flock of juvenile starlings flew in at 5 am at the bird-feeder, demanding to be fed. Aargh …. too early. They were squabbling among themselves trying to get to the fat-balls or the feeding tray resulting in the seeds being scattered to the ground. Sigh… But then, these will be food for the Blackbirds, Dunnocks and Robins. When everything is quiet, the very shy Jay flew in and took his turn. Shots from Home

*Quote by Eileen Granfors, And More White Sheets

Sunday, 11 May 2014

May Days

It was the month of May, the month when the foliage of herbs and trees is most likely green, when buds ripened and blossoms appear in their fragrance and loveliness.

And the month when lovers, subject to  the same force which reawakens the plants, feel their hearts open again, recall past trysts and past vows, and moments of tenderness, and yearn for a renewal of the magical awareness which is love”

~Sir Thomas Malory, La Morte d’Arthur~

Roadtrip to Wales

After a long Easter break, I was rather looking forward to getting back to work especially when there was another bank holiday at the end of it :-). But it was still never easy getting out of bed when the alarm went off and then waiting for the bus in the cold. Monday had been the longest day as my body and brain was still anchored on holiday mood. I took things very easy at work starting with clearing and correcting the monotonous 050 fields.  I also had my earphones on listening to the commentaries from the World snooker championship. Then it was my turn for the annual review which went smoothly. After years of going through the process, I was well prepared. The working week ended with a retirement party for FO before we went off again for the early May bank holidays.Roadtrip to Bempton Cliffs RSPB

We started ours with the first trip to Bempton Cliffs for this year. It was 11C when we left the casa. There was a lot of traffic on the road because of the bank holiday weekend.Traffic slowed down to 50mph on the M1 due to road-works. We drove through miles and miles of great fields of stinging yellow fields that assaulted the eyes.  After a short stop at Woodhall services, we arrived in a very busy reserve at about 12.40pm. The roof of the visitor centre was dotted with Tree sparrows which were nesting among the tiles. Some were seen flying in with nesting materials. The bird-feeder was busy with the birds taking turns to feed. Some were having a dust bath and once finished flying back to the roof top to preen.Bempton RSPB  - Spring As usual, we took the route towards the right with Skylarks singing around us. Groups of people were dotted in groups along the coastal path and viewpoints.The distinctively sounds and smells of a large bird colony assaulted our senses. We waded through swathes of Bright Red campion along the cliff top path. We stopped and was chuffed to bits to see our first puffin across a cleft in the cliff face. Every visitors wanted to see the clown-like face puffins with sad eyes and white striped bill, smartly black and white suited with bright legs and feet . But they were so tiny and it took an expert eye to spot them. Bempton RSPB  - Spring

We continued walking towards New Roll-up stopping at every vantage point because there was so much to see as thousands of birds were criss-crossing and wheeling above us in the crisp blue skis. It was a miracle that they never seemed to crash into each other. Our senses were further heightened by the sound of the waves crashing against cliffs just below us. We also noticed these drinker moth caterpillars, feeding on the foliage.Bempton RSPB  - Spring

One of our favourite place was the ridge between the New Roll-up and Staple Newk. Here, we were eye-to-eye with the large and graceful clack and white Gannets as they floated on the air currents and then landed ungraciously among the rest already on the ground. They seemed to favour this spot. We watched fascinated as these amazing birds flew head height, soaring, hovering and collecting nesting material. Check out the ink tipped wings, the piercing blue eyes and bills exaggerated with eyeliner.   Bempton RSPB  - Spring

At Staple Newk, we’d to find a space to squeeze in. Below us was the rock arch where it was literally covered with hundreds of nesting gannets. Every available ledge was booked for the season. We watched the interactions between them. There were sky-pointing, neck twisting and chest-expanding. all taking place while making a racket. A few were asleep with their heads tucked under their wings.Bempton RSPB  - Spring

We headed back to the car to have a drink and some food before continuing to the other side of the reserve. More visitors were pouring in. As we were walking towards the Grandstand, we were serenaded by ecstatic Skylarks soaring higher and higher into the sky. The delightful Pied wagtails were frantically wagging its tail up and down in front of us. But the highlight was our first sighting of a corn bunting having a rest on a strand of stock fence wire. This bulky little bird was a sad reminder of how this once common British farmland bird had declined. Bempton RSPB  - Spring

From here, the cliffs were amazing with guillemots, razorbills and kittiwakes perched magically on the tiniest of ledges, nooks and crannies. The soft eyed kittiwakes with wings that looked like they’d been dipped in ink calmly looked on from crafted raised woven nests hefted to the crumbling chalk face. We listened to their calls and it was no secret how they got their name. Guillemots and razorbills came to land to rest and mate, after spending most of their life at sea. The guillemots were dark brown and white, not as black as the similar razorbills. They have a less common ‘bridled’ form with a white ring around the eye and stripe behind it.  A pair of Fulmar were feeling a bit amorous among the noisy shindig. And along the rocky output, a Puffin popped out to see what was going on.Bempton RSPB  - Spring

Sauntering hither on listless wings,
Careless vagabond of the sea,
Little thou heedest the surf that sings,
The bar that thunders, the shale that rings,–
Give me to keep thy company.

Bempton RSPB  - Spring

Little thou hast, old friend, that ‘s new;
Storms and wrecks are old things to thee;
Sick am I of these changes, too;
Little to care for, little to rue,–
I on the shore, and thou on the sea.

Bempton RSPB  - Spring

All of thy wanderings, far and near,
Bring thee at last to shore and me;
All of my journeyings end them here:
This our tether must be our cheer,–
I on the shore, and thou on the sea.

Bempton RSPB  - Spring

Lazily rocking on ocean’s breast,
Something in common, old friend, have we:
Thou on the shingle seek’st thy nest,
I to the waters look for rest,–
I on the shore, and thou on the sea.

Bempton RSPB  - Spring

~To a seabird by Francis Bret Harte (1836-1902)~

As we continued towards Bartlett Nab, an exhausted willow warbler suddenly crashed in front of us. A summer visitor, it must have just flown across the North Sea from Africa. W. Hudson described the songs from these warblers as ‘long and passionate … the woodland sound that is like no other’. Unfortunately it was too exhausted to sing for us and sat long enough for us to take a few photographs before disappearing into the deep undergrowth. We hoped that it would have a good rest before continuing its journey. It was also our turn to leave. Before we left, we made a pit stop at the very quiet bird feeding station. The sun was still shining as we drove back home.Bempton RSPB  - Spring

After yesterday’s adventure, we went for a leisure stroll among the bluebells at Tocil Woods. We’d never seen such a spectacular display as this. The bluebells were blooming their socks off. Even Babe was impressed by the sea of blue stretching as far as the eye could see. What a sight as the sun streamed through the canopy of leaves. And the delicate fragrance when they were en masse enveloped us as we walked along the path made us want to sing with joy. It felt like we were walking through a deep blue carpet of enchantment.Warwick University - Spring

Come walk with me through bluebell woods,

and see the proof of God’s sweet love.

Long rays of sunlight trickling down,

among the trees in search of ground.

Warwick University - Spring

A piece of heaven here below,

creation at its best on show.

With perfume drifting on the breeze,

to guide us through this deep blue sea.

Bright sapphires dance in flickering light,

while silent butterflies take flight.

Warwick University - Spring

And echoes of a distant thrush,

we know that He is here with us.

~Elizabeth Mason~

Bank holiday Monday was glorious with wall to wall sunshine. We made another trip to one of our favourite place in the world, Aberystwyth. It was 15C in the car.We took the B4386 through Montgomeryshire to avoid the traffic and had to be content with bikers giving their powerful machine a run through the winding roads. Pockets of rapeseed fields dotted the hillsides. We stooped by a field full of sheep with young inquisitive lambs with stunning news over Newtown. Roadtrip to Wales

Our first stop was Gilfach Nature reserve. As usual, we parked opposite Otter Hide and checked out the rocky outcrops dotting River Marteg. And there it was. Our first sighting of a dipper perched on the exposed boulders of the fast flowing torrents. Whoop…whoop. All you could hear were our cameras rattling away. We knew that they were breeding under the bridge and was hoping to see them feeding the young chicks but not today. Gilfach Farm - Spring

Once I saw
in a quick-falling, white-veined stream,
among the leafed islands of the wet rocks,
a small bird, and knew it
from the pages of a book; it was
the dipper,

and dipping he was,
as well as, sometimes, on a rock-peak, starting up
the dear, strong pipe of his voice; at this,
there being no words to transcribe,

Gilfach Farm - Spring

I had to
bend forward, as it were,
into his frame of mind, catching
everything I could in the tone,

Gilfach Farm - Spring

cadence, sweetness, and briskness
of his affirmative report.

~The Dipper by Mary Oliver~

Gilfach Farm - Spring

But that wasn’t all. A female pied flycatcher flew on to the moss covered trees to check us out. Ooh… our summer visitor from West Africa had returned. Then the male with its mostly black on the upperparts and white underneath, with a bold white patch on the folded wing made an appearance. The males were a bit of lothario. They arrived back from their wintering quarters a couple of weeks earlier than the females, to establish a territory with its simple warbling song. After he’d created a territory and attracted a mate to start a family, he’ll be off to a neighbouring territory to do it all over again. But then he leaves the second family to go back to the first. Naughty…naughty.   Gilfach Farm - Spring

It was hard to leave these amazing birds but we knew that we could see more at the courtyard. Unsurprisingly, the car-park was quite full but we managed to find a space. After using the facilities, we made our way to the courtyard and was greeted by a very obliging Nuthatch. The warden had spread mealworms along the wood stump and he was helping himself to the huge ones. We were amazed to see him trying to swallow one whole. Lots of signs requesting not to feed the birds and not to use tripods were prominently displayed. Gilfach Farm - Spring

The Nuthatch wasn’t the only one enjoying the meal. Blue and Great Tits, Robins, Chaffinches and Marsh tits were also taking turns. But then, a splash of bright orange-red caught our attention. It was the Redstart male looking smart with slate grey upper parts, black face and wings, and an orange rump and chest with the ever-quivering red tail, Then its browner female joined in for a meal. With fewer than 100 breeding pairs in the UK, these birds were on the amber list of Birds of Conservation concern. It was a privilege to have seen this pair at the same time. But they were quite skirmish and soon disappeared into the woods. Gilfach Farm - Spring

Then I plonked myself by the feeder where dozens of Lesser Redpolls, Siskins, Goldfinches and Greenfinches were taking turns to feed. Great spotted woodpeckers could be heard drumming from deep in the forest. Swallows were taking a breather along the electric lines before flying in and out of the farmhouse. I think they were nesting in there. Buzzards could be heard with their almost cat-like mewing while they were riding the waves above the reserve. I could have stayed longer but we have to be at Nant yr Arian by 2 pm for the Red kites. Gilfach Farm - Spring

We arrived just in time to see the birds swooping in to feed. But not many came down because again, the numerous barking and growling dogs spooked them. How I wish there were signs that dogs shouldn’t be allowed near the feeding area. The birds began flying after those who were trying to feed on the wings. We found it hilarious that a Goosander got out of the lake and joined the party on the ground among the crows and mallards.  Nant yr Arian - A dark Spring day

‘Look my son! Look

There’s a kite flying high

Where daddy, where?

Let me see! Nant yr Arian - A dark Spring day

But it has no string,

No tail of red ribbons

It has no one controlling the flight

Ah, no  my son, it needs no string

Nant yr Arian - A dark Spring day

No tail of red ribbons

No hands controlling its flight

For it’s a kite of the air

A kite that is free”


Nant yr Arian - A dark Spring day 

Then we headed straight to Borth to check out the petrified forest again. Unfortunately, the tides had came in and they were covered by sand and seawater. We walked along the beach where I spotted a flock of waders flying in and began feeding along the mudbanks. I slowly crept in and came so close to a flock of Little Ringed Plovers and Dunlins. Borth and Ynyslas - Dark Spring day

A Bird came down the Walk –
He did not know I saw –
He bit an Angleworm in halves
And ate the fellow, raw,

Borth and Ynyslas - Dark Spring day

And then he drank a Dew
From a convenient Grass –
And then hopped sidewise to the Wall
To let a Beetle pass –

Borth and Ynyslas - Dark Spring day

He glanced with rapid eyes
That hurried all abroad –
They looked like frightened Beads, I thought –
He stirred his Velvet Head

Borth and Ynyslas - Dark Spring day

Like one in danger, Cautious,
I offered him a Crumb
And he unrolled his feathers
And rowed him softer home –

  ~A bird came down by Emily Dickinson~

The second half of the working week was spent at meetings, meetings and more meetings !!!!First was the departmental meeting. Our manager updated us on the Study Happy campaign, ENCORE Duet and Warwick Digital Collection Group. We were also informed that a temporary router was installed which meant that we finally have wi-fi in the ground floor. From the Unique Collection Group, we whizzed through the various collections which we think needed to be synchronised. I wrote the minutes for the International Student Group where we welcomed our newest member, FG, who’ll be co-coordinating the Stratford induction. We also planned to highlight our activities during the Staff Open day and get prepared for the pre-sessional orientation in July and August.

Babe and I ended the week with a trip to our favourite playground. We were walking through the courtyard when a swallow whizzed right above our heads. We’d to ducked down and watched it taking a breather under the beams. Another flew in and they began chattering and twittering away, exchanging news about what they’d had been up to. Meanwhile, on the roof, the Pied wagtails were flittering in and out of the solar panels. I was right. They were nesting there again. But, the highlight was when this beautiful Grey wagtail flew in with a beak full of food. It was waiting for the courtyard to be empty before flying to its nest which was situated in a nearby planter. Oh dear… not the best place for a nest. After taking a few photographs, we left so that she can feed her chicks in peace. Brandon Marsh - Spring

Along the path towards the hides, Peacock butterflies were basking in the sun. At Baldwin Hide, we saw Moorhens sitting on nests along Willow island. The Common Terns too were beginning to occupy the pontoons. Coots were being territorial and fighting all over the place. They were striking each other violently with their huge feet striking each others chest and pecking each others bills furiously, while flapping their wings for balance.  It was like a scene from a kung-fu film. Brandon Marsh - Spring

From East Marsh Hide, Galdwall and Shelduck were dabbling in the lake. The very grey-coloured Galdwall if seen close-up was made up of exquisitely fine barring and speckling. Because it nests in low numbers in the UK, it was regarded as an Amber List species. The familiar trills “tser, si-si-si” outside the hide caught my attention. A party of Long-tailed Tits were flitting through the nearby hedgerows  and were communicating with excited contact calls. One even posed for us with its distinctive colouring with a tail that was longer than its tiny, pinkish body.Brandon Marsh - Spring

We continued towards the screen where a Whitethroat was perched on top of the bushes and singing its heart out. I stood there watching him pouring out its chattering song with its throat extended. The song seemed to reflect their preferred habitat, thorny, scrubby patches of hawthorn and bramble.  He was singing in brief bursts, sometimes taking to the air in a high song-flight and coming back to another bush to mark the boundaries of his territory. The rich rusty back and ashy head was in contrast with the white throat. The screen was dead and we made a pit stop at Carlton hide.Brandon Marsh - Spring

Here we saw at first we spotted a Little Grebe paddling along the reed-beds. Suddenly it made a whinnying call and 2 more appeared and they began paddling and diving alternately. According to one of the regulars, they were nesting in the reeds. Ooh… I’m looking forward to that.Brandon Marsh - Spring

“Upon this promise did he raise his chin

Like a dive-dapper, peering through a wave

Who being look’d  on, ducks as quickly in.

~From Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis~

Brandon Marsh - Spring

In our garden, we have a visitor that we were looking forward to see. A Jay was coming in regularly to feed at the feeders and it tended to come early in the morning or late evening. Despite its colourful plumage, Jays behaved in such a way that they could often be missed, being heard more than seen. The most typical sound is the harsh screeching calls as they flew away with their white rump and white and blue wing-patches just visible. The alarm call earned them the Gaelic name of ‘schreachag choille’ which meant ‘screamer of the woods.’ No matter how loud they scream, they were always welcome to our garden.

Shots from Home

This month we lost another member of staff, JC, who lost her fight battling with cancer. RIP JC.