Friday, 30 April 2010

Chantilly Lace And A Pretty Face


The pretty face is not the face of a human though, but the face of Mother Nature: as I walk around the lanes the Sloe hedges are covered in beautiful white blossom.  Some patches are just the size of pocket handkerchiefs of lace, and other patches look as though half the lane has been draped in beautiful delicate reams of it.  No photograph could do the sight justice, or correction, no photo that I have managed to produce could! :-)  I opt instead to show the beauty of an individual bloom.  I hope you enjoy its charm as much as I do. :-)

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

New Arrivals And Old Friends


The migrants are starting to show themselves now, with my first view this morning of a Whitethroat: such a beautiful and distinctive bird.  Over the past few days I have also seen several Wheatears, but perhaps these are the Greenland race, that will only be stopping over for a short period of time, before continuing their long journey to their breeding grounds in the Arctic tundra of Greenland and northern Canada.  Swallows have become much more abundant over the past few days as well.  

This morning I saw my first fledgling of the season: a young Blackbird.  Somehow it had ended up in one of my shippons, and the poor thing flew into a terrible panic when I entered.  It ended up covered in cobwebs from its frantic flight around the roof, looking for a way out.   I moved into the furthest corner and it flew down and headed out, back towards the field.  

And the most pleasant discovery of yesterday was that the Great Tits are once again nesting in one of my chimneys. :-)  I can't wait to see the youngsters.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Shrouded In Mist


The weather forecast had said that the low cloud would lift and visibility would be good, but why, oh why do I ever believe the forecast?!  When I arrived at Mynydd Rhiw this morning, the low misty cloud shrouded the whole of the peak, with visibility down to a few yards.  I was there, so the walk would go ahead regardless of adverse weather conditions, after all it wasn't as though I could get lost or be injured.

The dogs jumped joyfully from the car and galloped off up the path into the mist.  I whistled, and they galloped back to join me.  We took the left hand path that would take us around by the dry-stone wall, along the southern edge of the summit.  There was an acrid smell in the air from the burnt stumps of heather and gorse, remnants of the winter land clearing.  Skylarks twittered overhead, and a bird, about the size of a Blackbird, flew over to the right, calling loudly - could it have been the Ring Ouzel that I had so long wished to add to my 'seen' list? The mist did too good a job of hiding him for me to be certain.    Normally, as I walk along this path, I would have a view of the wide curve of Cardigan Bay, but today I could just about spot a sheep on the other side of the wall. I had brought three lenses for my camera, just in case, but it looked as though I wouldn't even need one.  The path had become quite overgrown since I last visited, the combination of rocks and weed making it a little treacherous, so I decided that it would be safer to take a wider path over towards the middle of the summit. 

I walked on, feeling disorientated, a fog not just in the air, but also in my mind.   It was like walking in twilight, giving me a sense of sleepiness: a desire to sit down and snooze, rather than walk on.  Then suddenly I came to a car: I had already reached the far side Mynydd Rhiw.   I must have walked much further than I had thought, and somehow I had managed to totally miss the towering outcrop that housed the gigantic masts for the TV and mobile phone companies, as well as having missed the stone hut circle - a home to Iron Age man.   I turned and headed back, taking a path over to my left to head along the northern edge of the summit, but once again I became disorientated, and suddenly looming up on my left, instead of on my right, were the aerials, shrouded in mist.   By now I just wanted to get away from the place.  I had a sense of unease, a sense of being followed.  I know there were no humans there, or living humans at least, but perhaps the spirits of the past were joining me on my walk, wondering who I was, and why I invaded their solitary home.

Monday, 26 April 2010

A Good Year


I had always thought of Blackbirds as being common birds, birds that were always around the garden, the parks and the roads, but then I moved here, and suddenly they were rare.  There was an emptiness without them, not just on the land and in the sky, but also in the energy of the air: a gap where there should be a tin whistle melody.   Winters would see an influx of them if the rest of the country had bad weather, but they would disappear as quickly as they had arrived: like a favourite guest who only had time to stay for a drink instead of the whole party.   But this spring has been different: not just one pair, but several have graced us with their presence.  Two handsome males battle for territory on the front lawn, and to the rear of the barn a female is already feeding youngsters.  Wherever I go along the lanes I see Blackbirds flitting too and fro, or hear them singing loud and clear.  I know that there had been concern, that after this hard winter many birds would suffer come the breeding season, but so far that doesn't seem to be the case here.  Perhaps the birds sense that we are in for a good summer, instead of the rain-drenched ones of the last few years.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Small Copper


I saw the first one of the season yesterday, and what a delightful sight it was: a flash of iridescent coppery-orange and brown, flitting quickly from plant to plant.  This specimen would have emerged from its long winter hibernation, spent as a larvae, in a silken shelter on one of its food plants: dock and sorrel.  I don't see many of them in this area, which makes a glimpse even more special.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

A Fateful Journey



It was Easter weekend, early April 1901 when the Stuart set out from Liverpool on its long journey to New Zealand, a journey that would be over almost before it was begun.  The 912 ton sailing ship, built in 1877 in Dundee, started its voyage along the coast of North Wales in a southerly wind and thick drizzle, drizzle that prevented the ship from seeing the Caernarfon Bay Lightship, thus depriving it of the opportunity to  move further out to sea, away from the jagged rocks of this treacherous coastline.

The Stuart sped along much faster than they had expected, and in the early hours of Easter Sunday the ship hit the rocky shore before anything could be done to avoid the collision. In the dark and drizzle the crew were unsure just how close to land they were, and so immediately abandoned ship.  The hours until daylight were spent trying to find a place to land, with the crew totally unaware that all they had needed to do was sit tight on board and wade ashore at low tide. 

The shipwreck proved a welcome bonus for local people, as it was filled with a large cargo, containing amongst other things a large number of cases filled with whisky.

At a very low tide, part of the wreck is still visible and can be seen lying a quarter of a mile west of Porth Colmon.  Pieces of pottery can still occasionally be found along the shore line.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Another First!

I get the feeling that it is going to be a good year for firsts. :-)  About two weeks ago I heard a bird call that I have never heard before.  It was coming from low down in some gorse that grew along the border of an area of scrubland.  The image that immediately came to my mind was of a warbler with a machine gun!   I didn't get to see the bird, and never heard the call again, until this lunchtime that is: I was walking along the lane heading homewards after my midday walk with the dogs.  Camera in hand, I was just pottering along, looking for insects, when suddenly I heard the call again.  I stood still and listened carefully.  It was coming from what was once an orchard, but has long since become an overgrown scrubby area, quite close to a farmhouse.  It was clear and distinct and the same image sprang to mind: I couldn't get beyond the machine gun. Finally this evening I had time to sit down and work my way through the bird songs on the RSPB site.  I started looking at warblers that I didn't know and when I came to this one: The Grasshopper Warbler -  http://www.rspb.org.uk/wildlife/birdguide/name/g/grasshopperwarbler/index.aspx I recognised it instantly.   Apparently it is a bird that has suffered massive declines.  Let us hope that perhaps it is now doing a little better and expanding its range.

Has Saint Patrick Visited Us?


I first spotted the Adders by the gate post, at the edge of the lane, in March last year.  There were three of them then, but this year there is only one.   I was lucky to first discover them when they were still docile from their winters hibernation, as I managed to put my face within inches of one of them.  I was on my hands and knees, looking into the crevices of an old stone wall, trying to see where the bumblebee had gone, and only on rising did I spot the snake.  At first I thought he must be dead, as there had been no movement, and it was then that I realised how easy it is for someone to get bitten, someone who has the urge to closely examine a creature that they wouldn't usually get close to: I felt the same urge, but luckily caution won out, and then he moved!  I say a he, as I asked an expert to identify a photograph and they sexed it as a male. He slithered off into the long grass and out of sight, but he was back there on future days, along with two others.

This year, despite it being a harsher winter, I saw the first snake nearly three weeks earlier, on a cold spring day. He was basking in a patch of weak sunshine, on a warm west facing bank.   I kept searching daily for more of them, but sadly it was just the one, and now he has gone.   He disappeared after shedding his skin, leaving behind a memory and another souvenir for my collection.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Where Did All The Toads And Frogs Go?


It seems to have been a really bad year for toads and frogs in this area: they initially came out of hibernation much later than usual, and just as I was decrying the inhumanity of mankind when it came to the treatment of these creatures, regarding the numbers killed on the roads, they all suddenly disappeared.  Usually the road kills can number into the hundreds, but this year there were only around 50 over a few nights.  Frog spawn has been scarce for a few years now, with less and less appearing along the ditches - usually I gather it and transfer it to a pond where it stands a chance of survival, but this year there was not a single patch along the ditches and none in the ponds.  Asking around people in the area, it seems that this has been the case in their ponds as well, with both frogs and toads fairing badly.   There has been a massive decline over the decades in both of these species, and it seems that this unusually cold winter has been devastating for them in this area.  I can only hope that they will recover.

The photo is of one that was sadly killed on the road - it looks as though it was praying, and perhaps if toads can pray, it was asking the Gods to make mankind more considerate of others on this planet. 

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

The Llyn Peninsula


The Llyn Peninsula is like an arm outstretched from the main body of the UK, its finger pointing towards Barsdey Island, and beyond, across the Irish Sea, to Ireland.  As you enter the Llyn from the Caernarfon direction you will pass, on your right, on one of the summits of Yr Eifl, the Iron Age hill fort: Tre'r Ceiri - Town of the Giants.    As you look to your left you see the wide open expanse of Cardigan Bay.  

This is a peninsula steeped in history, with a strong religious connection, being on the Pilgrim's Trail, and as you carry on along the Peninsula, you will pass, over on your left, several other Iron Age hill forts: Boduan, Garn Fadryn and Mynydd Rhiw.  These are situated on the remnants of the Llyn's volcanic past.  The views from these summits are quite stunning, giving you clear views to Snowdon and Ireland when the weather is fine.  We will visit these peaks in more detail in future posts, as well as taking a look at the Pilgrim's Trail.

This is a land of small farm fields bounded by dry stone walls and hedges; a place of sea cliffs, long stretches of sand and small quiet coves.   Lonely single track lanes meander across the countryside, lanes where you can easily lose yourself, and certainly no place for those drivers who can't reverse!

It has the ever changing climate of a land governed by the sea: one minute calm and balmy, the next wild and stormy; one moment basking in the sun, and the next moment the fingers of sea mist creeping in to grasp you; gentle lapping waves, or wild leaping torrents of foam lashing the cliffs.   A place of extremes.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Who Sits Here?



At the far end of my favourite little cove, the rock rises steeply up to form a miniature headland, before falling into a deep ravine of rock.  It is to this headland that I clamber, before heading homewards after my hour or so of pottering.  I stand, or sit, and stare off into the distance, soaking up the peace and the tranquility, but I am not the only one to make use of this mini headland: scattered all across the 10 sqare feet of grassland, are the remnants of someone's meal.  There are crabs legs, crab cases, mermaid's purses (the egg shell of a fish, probably a dog fish in this area), the bones of small mammals or even of sheep, the spines and backbone of a fish, or the head and neck of a bird.  I have never seen anything on this headland, so I have no idea whether it is the favourite place of a bird or a mammal.  Perhaps gulls are the diners, but whoever it is, I can always guarantee a new item of interest to add to my collection.  Yesterday I found these two crabs legs, a lobster claw and another case of the body of a crab: such beauty even in death.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Sun-kissed Day

As the dawn chorus serenaded a calm sun-kissed day into life, I was presented with a terrible dilemma: the headland or the lanes.   When you live by the coast, calm days are few and far between, and every single moment of one is treasured, especially when you are into macro photography: trying to photograph a flower, that is being whipped around by a gale force wind, is nigh on impossible.  Only three more weeks of the headland until the autumn, but will there be anymore calm days?  I looked at the dogs and thought of their enjoyment, as well as my own, and the headland won out.

I decided to head down to the little rocky bay, the only one that is accessible easily on this stretch of the headland.  To enter it you drop down a steep incline into a valley riven by a stream.   The path zig-zags to and fro, cutting deeply into pebbled-clay as you descend, and then, after jumping the stream, you climb back up, before once again dropping down over jagged rocks, on to a beach of storm-tossed pebbles.  There are pebbles of pink, green, grey, amber and yellow and pebbles mottled or veined with white.   This is a landscape created by volcanic action, and by receding ice at the end of the last ice age when boulder clay was left behind. 

The cove can be walked in under two minutes, but never yet have I managed to do it, as there is just too much to distract my attention.  At low tide rock pools are visible, and these have to be searched for anemones, winkles, delicate lacy seaweed, and the occasional fish or crab.  The pebbles that line the beach have to be examined carefully for tiny baby mollusks or periwinkles: I would hate crush anything.  The jagged mini-cliffs have to be scoured in search of the wild flowers and lichens that cling on precariously to existence in such a harsh salt-lashed environment.  Shells have to be examined, whether they be on living creatures, or just the remnants of  a life gone by. And of course there are the seals to look out for: sometimes they sleep in the kelp that grows in the shallow waters. 

An hour passes with only the distant sound of a tractor, or a boats engine.  Skylarks sing from the fields and seagulls and wading birds are my companions.  And all is well with the world.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Hairy Yet Pretty



I first saw Pink Campion when visiting Tenby in South Wales: it was growing in abundance along the cliffs in that area.  It was such a stunning flower, and yet its gaudy cerise pink petals seemed so out of place in the mellow Welsh countryside.   It would be many years before I would once again have the pleasure of seeing it, and this time it would be along lanes, at the base of hedgerows, in North Wales.  For some reason it doesn't grow along the cliffs in this area.  I am not sure why.  Perhaps it is due to over-grazing, or perhaps a different type of soil.   

This is another plant that disappeared over the cold spell, after having grown continuously all year round, for years and years.  Even during the depths of winter I could guarantee seeing that beautiful bright splash of colour, warming and cheering a cold and bleak day.  Winter was much the worse for it absence.

It is supposed to be attractive to moths and butterflies, but I have rarely seen insects of any kind on it.  Whatever its usefulness, it is a delight to have around.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Making The Most Of It


It won't be long now before I am unable to get through to the headland due to cattle in the fields: cattle hate dogs, and I have three of them.  My dogs are not the Lassie type, who are forever committing heroic feats in order to rescue Mother from all oncoming dangers, they work more on the principle of "We love you Mummy, we really do, but if someones going do die, then it might as well be you!"  When they see those bolshy cattle, come hurtling across the fields in our direction, they hide quickly behind me, or leg it as fast as they can.  They don't notice the fence in between them and us, they just run and ask questions later.  To be honest I don't know how they manage to run, as my legs normally turn to jelly, and I freeze and hope that the fence holds tight.  I still have nightmares about the large black beast with glowing eyes and animosity flowing through every vein in his body, the body that was hurtling towards me and the fence at breakneck speed.  When he skidded through the mud, and stopped a quarter of an inch from the fence, I finally understood what they meant in the novels when they talked of people fainting from fright.  It was some moments before I could even breath, never mind move!  I did mention to the farmer that I thought all cattle should be banned from the fields that 'I' want to walk through, but I assume from his howls of laughter that he thought I was kidding.  Does the man not realise that 'I' am the MOST important person in the world?! :-)

So for now I am making the most of the peace and tranquility of these desolate headlands; the domain of the Chough, the Peregrine and the Hare.  A place that is left to nature, and the sheep, for 95 percent of the time.   It is an area of steep cliffs that tumble down to jagged rocks and small sandy coves, coves that only the birds and the seals visit.  The paths along the cliff edges are treacherous: narrow foot wide gullies that cut deep into the pebble-dashed clay; paths that trip you unless you pay attention to where you are going.  You need two hands to climb up and down the steep slopes, and it is no place for the faint hearted.   Deep gullies cut through from the fields, where streams have run for hundreds and hundreds of years, gullies that are a-swill with mud and reeds. You need to be good at jumping to avoid sinking into the quagmire.

Sometimes the dogs and I just sit and stare: with views on a clear day across to Ireland and Holyhead, it is a great place to just pass the time.  And sometimes we scramble up and down, all of us breathing loudly, and feeling truly alive.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

A First!



Today I really have had little time to stand and stare due to vets visits, but I did manage a quick walk with the camera at lunchtime, and I was certainly glad that I took it with me: I saw the first Comma butterfly that I have ever spotted in this area.  Over the past couple of days I have spotted a butterfly on two occasions, each time though it was flying too fast to identify, but this one had settled on a patch of Lesser Celandine.  They are a distinctive butterfly with jagged edges to their wings, making them look like ragged Small Tortoiseshell.  It was this distinctive shape that immediately caught my eye, rather than the colourings.  Their name derives from the comma like markings on the underside of the wing. They come out of hibernation at the end of March, so this beauty had survived our long hard winter.   It was certainly a sight that made my day, as I always get a real buzz out of seeing something new to the area, or a species completely new to me.  This one is also extra special as it is a species that nearly became extinct, but has now rallied and has become widespread, unlike many butterflies that are suffering from lack of habitat.

Monday, 12 April 2010

I Have No Time To Stand And Stare...................

.............but I do it anyway!   Each day I promise myself that I will catch up with the work left over from the day before, but then the sun rises on another beautiful day, and all my promises are forgotten.  

Today I went for a brisk walk, or at least it was supposed to be one.  It is easy to walk briskly when the wind harries you from all directions, and the warmth and shelter of a house seems like an attractive proposition, but when the day is calm, and gentle, it seems only right that I should mirror its mood.  I started to saunter within minutes of beginning the walk, and a half hour walked turn into an hour and a half.   How could I pass by that delicate cobweb that glistened with the diamond dew drops?  I had to stand and stare, and admire its beauty! And then there were the translucent wings on the sapphire-backed fly: such exquisiteness on such a maligned little creature, a charm that is missed without a macro lens or a magnifying glass.  I came to the shimmering sheet of yellow Lesser Celandine and sat on the ground to get a better view.  The sun warmed my back and made that small section of the world appear golden.  In the distance skylarks sang their beautiful melody.  Ah, such bliss!  

And then, treasure of all treasures, I spotted an Oil Beetle!  I had been trying to photograph this little chap for years without success, and there he was, near the top of a bank in good view.  Lots of photos were an essential item -  not that I hadn't taken lots already, but you know how it is when obsession takes over! :-)  He is such an interesting beetle: the female lays thousands of tiny eggs in holes and cracks on the ground.  Eventually these eggs hatch out into larvae with long legs.  The larvae then climb over plants and await their victim: a wild bee.  The only larvae that survive will be the ones that manage to find a host.  They will be taken back to the wild bees nest and will devour the eggs and grubs, and eventually the store of honey, once they have changed into grubs themselves.  They overwinter as headless, legless maggots, then once again change shape before finally pupating.  The adults eat buttercup plants and can be seen on heaths and open grassland. 

Isn't he a beauty?


All pleasant days have to come to an end, and as dusk fell, the cry of my husband could be heard ringing out loud and clear: "What the hell have you been doing all day, or should I say not doing!"






Sunday, 11 April 2010

The Primrose, The Fly and The Beetle



Today has been just beautiful: warm, calm and sunny.  As I walk the lanes I see new flowers appearing daily, though the insects seem to be sparse so far this year.  With all the mild winters we have had, I have become used to seeing imsects all year round nearly, so to have gone for several months seeing little has been very strange.   I have seen quite a few queen Bumblebees this past few days, which came as a relief as I had started to worry that they had been very badly hit by the weather.  Last year I saw Bumblebees on Mahonia on New Years Day.

I did spot an insect new to me today: the Common or Green Tiger Beetle.  I spotted him dashing through some grass and only just managed to get a fleeting shot of him.   Not a great photo but good enough for identification purposes.  Isn't he a handsome chap?


Well I am off to bed after a long and tiring day.  Hope your day was as enjoyable as mine. :-)

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Missed Chances



Nature photography can be an unbelievably frustating hobby: all those missed chances when you spot the animal too late, all the times when you have the wrong lens on the camera and are either too close or too far away, forgetting to check settings on the camera body and finding all the images are under or over exposed, not to mention the excitement of seeing something wonderful, but being so engrossed in its beauty you miss the fact that something awful was also included in the frame.   Yesterday I managed two mistakes, one that I could rectify later and one chance that will probably never come again. 

I had been out for my morning walk and headed up to an area we call 'The Forest' - it  actually doesn't remotely resemble a forest, but there are a few trees there, and living in an area almost denuded of them, it is easy to get carry away with descriptive titles!  Alongside the lane that runs by The Forest there is a ditch where the Marsh Marigold grows.  As with all the wildflowers it is much later this year than normal, and I had been checking it almost daily in the hopes of catching the first blooms to appear.  I spotted its golden glow immediately, it was there, just on the edge of the ditch, where it first drops down from the road.   Straight away I went blank!  Eyes glazed, camera up and shutter being pressed.  I looked at the screen on the back of my camera and the exposure looked great.  All I saw was that beautiful flower, with eight deeply veined golden petals.  I ended my walk in a daze of happiness.  

Then I got home and brought the images up on the computer screen! :-(   In my enthusiasm I  had missed the finer points, such as the dead leaves that surrounded it, causing unsightly brown splodges that totally distracted your attention away from the flower.  Oh well, at least I didn't have far to go back.  I could wait until softer light in the late afternoon and try again.  

Late afternoon came and I fitted my 70-300mm IS lens, along with an extension tube (if you have never tried this combination, it is great for getting flower shots, as it allows you to get nearer to the blooms. thereby producing frame filling images).  I then called the dogs and headed off along the lane.  I hadn't gone far when I spotted a movement on my left, in a hole, on the top of a bare banking.  I was sure I had just seen the beady eyes of a Weasel.  I know from past experience that a Weasel always has to come and have another look, they are such curious creatures who like to check things out and see what you are up to.  I was left with a terrible dilemma: the combination of lens and extension tube is great for blooms but it has the problem that it no longer focuses on infinity, and I now wouldn't be able to focus on the hole, as I was too far away.  If I moved forward I would probably scare the Weasel off, but if I stayed where I was, there was no chance whatsoever of me getting a photo.  Suddenly the Weasel once again appeared.  He stayed for a long moment and stared at me and the dogs, and then he shot back down the hole.  I decided to quickly remove the extension tube and hope that he would reappear.  Sadly he must have disappeared out of another hole, or decided to wait until he was sure the coast was clear, because despite waiting for half an hour I didn't see him again.  I carried on with my walk, cursing my luck as I went.

The Gods must have felt that I needed my spirits lifting, because above me, as I walked up the lane, the swallows filled the sky with their acrobatics, as if putting on a show soley for my benefit - where this morning there had been one, now there was a dozen or more.   And to lift my spirits even more, I got the shot of the beautiful Marsh Marigold bloom - I hope you enjoy seeing it as much as I did.


Friday, 9 April 2010

Farewell And Hello



The last Starling has finally left us and all is once again calm and peaceful. It seems strange without them. They arrived late this year, not coming to visit us until well into January, whereas nornally they are here in the autumn. In previous years, when they have arrrived late, it has been due to farmers not having been able to harvest all of their crops because of bad weather, and the Starlings making the most of a bountiful food supply.   Once they do arrive there is certainly no chance of missing their presence: the noise alone would be enough to notify you that they were in the area, but even if you managed to miss the babbling cacophony, you certainly wouldn't miss the hundreds, if not thousands of birds, swirling in the sky like a massive swarm of bees.

The countryside is never silent for long though, and only this morning I saw my first Swallow of the season: he swept in from my left and flew fast and low along the lane, then upwards and back to the left over the barbed-wire fence and the golden coconut scented gorse.  He  then disappeared across the fields and off into the distance towards the sea, but he, and many of his companions, will soon be back to grace us with their melodic song.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

What a difference a day makes............................

Twenty-four little hours 
Brought the sun and the flowers 
Where there used to be rain



Yesterday we dripped with moisture from the lashing rain and the sodden air when the rain occasionally ceased to pour, but as dusk arrived, the winds dropped and cloud cover slowly moved away.  Looking out towards Ireland, and the mountains of Wicklow, you could see clear blue sky above the foaming Irish Sea. 

But even bad weather brings its blessings, and the Earth soaked up the much needed water, quenching its thirst and giving new life to all its many dependants.  This morning the sun shines, not just on us, but on the first of this years blossoms.  Where two days ago there was nothing, now there is beauty.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

A Long Journey


I spotted it first in the budding willow that sits above the stream, where it passes under the road.  It was the flitting movement to my left that caught my eye.  It wasn't the usual movement of a Blue Tit or Chaffinch, the birds I would regularly see in that area, it was quicker and more graceful.  I stopped and scanned the branches, and then I spotted it: the first warbler of the year.  My heart always skips a beat when I see the first migratory bird, a bird that will have flown thousands of miles, just to come and nest, and rear young, in my area.  Many humans think that they are so superior to the other species that inhabit this planet, but could you imagine a human managing to travel 3000 miles, without a compass or map, and managing to arrive back in the country of their birth?  Most of us would be lost after the first one hundred miles.

My view of the warbler was all too short, as he quickly flew across the lane, through the spiky hawthorn hedge and into an area of scrubland that grows alongside the stream.  My view of him was so brief that I didn't even get a definite identification, but I am pretty sure that it was a Willow Warbler, a delightful yellow-tinged little bird, that weighs only 10 grams.  This bird is unusual in that it moults twice a year, once in its over wintering area and once in its summer home.   The experts aren't sure why this happens, but it might be due to the extremely long migratory journey that it makes.  

It has been two days since I spotted it, and I have had no views since.  The weather has turned colder and much more windy, with winds once again in the region of 50 miles an hour.  I do so hope that he, or she, makes it through this snap of rough weather: after such a long journey it would be a tragedy if it didn't.










Sunday, 4 April 2010

Violet is for faithfulness................

Which in me shall abide
Hoping likewise that from your heart 
You will not let it slide
It seems that each year the voilet chooses her time badly to bring forth her blooms from her leaf-strewn abode. The day before the harsh winds and rains enveloped us, the first delicate flowers could be seen gracing the barren-banks of the lanes. They looked so fragile, and yet, amazingly, they withstood such horrendous weather: where the daffodils were burnt and withered by the wind, the violets looked pristine, as though washed and polished ready for the Easter church parade.   As I walk the lanes, everywhere I look along the bankings, there is a scattering of purple petals, looking like confetti left over after a wedding.  Perhaps  this is the time when Nature renews her vows with the Earth. 

The poem is "A Nosegay Always Sweet" by William Hunnis

Friday, 2 April 2010

Renewal


For the past few years we have had no destinct Spring season: Autumn has slipped into Spring, with Winter barely waving as he passed. There has been no real renewal, as many plants never truly died off.  This year was different though.  At the beginning of the year, Autumn finally waved goodbye, as Winter swept in with a harshness that has not been seen for many a moon.   Jack Frost repeatedly visited us, freezing the ground hard.  The birds flooded in to the feeders, desperate for energy from sunflower seeds and fat balls.  And all the plants withered and died.  No more Pink Campions brightening the hedgerows, no early Lesser Celandines turning their yellow faces to the sun, just barren land, brown dry grass and dead leaves.

And then Spring danced back in, covering us with her colourful cloak of beauty.

To see a dead withered branch, suddenly sprout a tuft of new green leaves, is truly awe inspiring. A shoot of new life, coming from bare soil, lifts the spirits and gives a sense of renewal to the soul.  And the first budding flowers are like manna from Heaven.
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About Me

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I live in North Wales and spend my time caring for animals, walking in the countryside, photographing nature and reading. I hope to share, in photographs and words, some of the beauty that I see. If you enjoy the photographs on this blog then you might like to take a look at my Flickr photostream. View my complete profile for links to both of my blogs.