At the end of October, and in brilliant sunshine, we had a wonderful day out marine wildlife spotting on the Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre’s boat the Sulaire with its capable skipper Steve Hartley.
Dolphins in New Quay harbour, seals on the pebbly beaches, harbour porpoises, cormorants and shags, and a red throated diver. But there was more………..
Don’t all auks go way out to sea in autumn and winter, feeding and building up before they come back to their breeding grounds in West Wales in spring? Well, certainly not these landlubbers!
Guillemots on the southern edge of their range often come back and visit their breeding ledges in the autumn and the winter, after they’ve moulted and are in their smart white-faced winter plumage. And very pleased we were to see them too.
I was looking through some old photographs, and found this image from nearly ten years ago. I was suddenly back in the boat…..
An impossible-to-describe life experience: a completely still sea, enclosed by mist; the haunting song of seals echoing across the surface from the rocks of the Smalls lighthouse; the tiny boat drifts, with engine cut, though an unending raft of shearwaters, each one almost close enough to touch. The only sound apart from the seals is the occasional muted splash as a shearwater lifts off from the surface.
Spellbound for few moments, I was as loathe to leave this memory as I had been to head back to the shore. Treasured memories stay with us forever.
NEVER CROSS A COOT
Now that grebe he is a vandal
and a thug as well to boot
And he’s never got the handle
that he should be nice to the coot.
‘Cos the coot he’s nice as pie when
he’s mated and he’s calmer
but spring - well, never cross him then
As there’s bound to be a drama.
‘Cos with his giant fighting feet
He’ll lash out on his back
And if, perchance, the grebe he meets,
That crestfallen grebe back-tracks.
So our grebe duffs up the tufted ducks
They never see him coming,
Neck low with threat now, up he rucks -
’Cross the water they go running.
Passing Stonehenge, there are indistinct spectral shapes on the frosty field, that suddenly rise together and split into three great glorious flocks of lapwings, twisting together on rounded wings in charismatic co-ordination. Further along, silvery white hoar frost covers the rolling landscape, picking out the loping golden figure of a lone hare in stark contrast. By lunchtime, the sun is shining warm on the fields, and a single deer leaps and is away……
A watchful eye transforms what could be a mundane Monday into a magical exhilarating experience.
Today was still, not a breath of wind, and as afternoon drew towards evening, a clear winter soundscape started to unfold. My flock of jackdaws began to return with their sharp ‘jac, jac’, joined by a few crows cawing. As dusk approached, the blackbirds chinked louder and louder, spooked by the evening shadows. In the back field, a small flock of lapwings landed, ‘wheeup’-ing with their almost impossible, evocative calls. The jackdaws and crows quietened, and the manic ‘chinking’ was replaced by rustling as the blackbirds settled.
A single ‘wheeup’ was accompanied by a sheep bleating. Then a moment of quiet, and a mournful hooting of two owls began down in the copse. Slowly, that died away with the last of the light.
Silent night – time to go home.
I was driving home tonight after dark, and as I approached the junction close to home, I was suddenly disorientated. What was that magnificent big house, had I unthinkingly gone past my turning? Suddenly I remembered – it was the Cross FoXes Hotel. So long a landmark, giving the local area its name, but for so long derelict and forlorn…… but now brought back to a blazing life by Dewi and Nicol.
The opening had been magnificent, packed to the brim with well-wishers for a full and bright future. As it was tonight, already busy early in the evening. Thanks to a big vision, huge commitment and hard work, we all have our landmark back, shining a welcome into the night.
Diolch yn fawr a pob lwc, Dewi a Nicol!
If you’re out walking in a nature reserve, you may overhear snippets of conversation: “have you seen much today?” , “No, not much out there”. But I think it’s not what’s “out there” as much as what your eye lets you see.
Last week I saw a single crab apple , beautifully lit by thin autumn sunshine against a dark sky.
So? It’s just a crab apple. But it took a year to grow, and what has happened to all the other apples? Food for woodmice, maybe badgers. And the harvest coincides with the influx of winter thrushes, redwings and fieldfares from Scandinavia. I wondered how many seeds will make it to a new crab apple tree next year?
So it might be a small apple, but if you look, it contains a whole world within it.
I had a wonderful wildlife lift while driving along the Dysynni Valley yesterday amongst grey skies and buffeting wind. Suddenly the hedgerows erupted with 40 or more small brown shapes with yellow flashes and a tinkling twittering sound – a charm of goldfinches! How appropriate is that collective noun, especially on such a dark day, and later when they all arrived on the birch tree in my garden. Wildlife can always charm your spirit…….