by Kathy James

From the sublime to the ridiculous!

Yes, I am talking about the weather. I’m going to hark back to just over a week ago when Ken and I spent April Fools Day in the mountains.

Over the past year I have been listing the bird species that I’ve seen, I will come back to this point in a future blog, and there is one bird that I have particularly wanted to see…a Ring Ouzel. When I was first working at RSPB South Stack (around this time last year) I remember my birder friend Neil texting me all the way from Nottingham to tell me that there had been a Ring Ouzel spotted on the reserve. I also remember getting half way along the track to said Ring Ouzel, looking at the clock on my phone and realising that I was due at the train station to pick up one of my many summer visitors (yes, I’ve noticed that I’m less popular in winter guys!!). So that was a very half-hearted attempt to see a Ring Ouzel.

A little down the line I had to trip into Snowdonia with Ken and we sent ourselves crazy searching for a ring ouzel in the environs of Cwm Idwal. I saw plenty of apparitions but we failed to connect. We were probably just being greedy though as we had spent a glorious morning in the forest at the start of the Watkin trail up Snowdon. It was a feast for the eyes and ears with redstarts and pied flycatchers zipping in and out of their nest and wood warblers alerting us to their presence but remaining hidden amongst the foliage. Either way, no ring ouzel for me.

Ring ouzels really appeal to me because of their usual habitat, up high in the mountains. I feel a spectacular romance in the mountains, whether in the valley gazing upwards, or at the summit seeing the world before me. It’s an awe inspiring place for me. I am astounded by the feat of glaciation and the rivers of water cutting jagged lines down the ravines. I think it’s an incredible place to survive in and I think I am attracted to the elusive nature of the bird.

Ken caught up with a ring ouzel just a few weeks ago as it passed through South Stack on it’s way up north. I was getting ready to meet a friend when I received Ken’s text. I was in two minds whether to be late for this rendezvous or whether to try to catch this ring ouzel. I decided that I would honour my arrangement. Two reasons: firstly, it’s polite and secondly, this romantic side of me wanted to see one in it’s proper habitat and secretly I wanted to find it myself. (I did drive off chastising myself for missing a ring ouzel).

So back to the 1st April 2012. The sun was shining and we drove down the Nant Ffrancon pass in the direction of Llyn Ogwen (and Cwm Idwal where we had previously searched for ring ouzel). Our first stop was a bubbling river, we thought we’d look for dipper. My spider-senses were tingling and i knew exactly where to look, there in the distance sat quite still on a rock was sure enough a dipper. I showed Ken and then our little dipper obligingly dipped. Ken often looks at me thinking *how on earth did you spot that?* and on this occasion I thought *this is going to be a good day!*.

We saw tits, wheatear, pipits and a reed bunting as we progressed along the road. We paused momentarily at various pull ins and Ken scanned the surroundings as I drove. We reached a farmstead and pulled in alongside some tiny lambs, very cute! And terrible with mint sauce before you say it. Ken suggested “We better have a scan for ring ouzel”. “Ken, I’ve got a ring ouzel shaped rock” I said with some urgency as I had blatantly found my quarry, but distrusted myself. A bit like the birding equivalent of your lottery numbers coming out and not quite believing what you’re seeing. As I tried to describe to Ken where I was looking and he tried to fix the scope onto the ‘rock’ it moved. Yes!! A white collar! My ring ouzel 😀 😀 Over the moon! Ken got it in the scope and we spent around fifteen minutes with good views of the bird. A high five was had.

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That day we left this winning spot, had lunch by Llyn Ogwen and then parked at Swallow falls and walked into Betws Y Coed. It was a lovely day, we saw 32 species of bird and Ken was dismayed that I spotted them all first. It’s a one-off so I can mention it 😉

Then two days later the weather had gone crazy! I admired the crashing waves as I travelled Anglesey’s north coast and arrived home to the news of a ship wreck off Llandulas – not good at all. This is the same spot as I mentioned seeing the huge flock of Common Scoter (among others) in my last entry. Luckily, all the crew were rescued. The rescue-men came home safely and it appears that the fuel can be salvaged successfully. Phew.

Snow on the mountains, but by the end of the week we were back to stunning blue skies, a warm welcome to my visiting friends as I showed them Moelfre, Cemlyn and South Stack.

Today’s downpour has completed the full weather range I think. What will tomorrow bring?!

Kathy x

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One response

  1. Hi Kathy

    “I feel a spectacular romance in the mountains, whether in the valley gazing upwards, or at the summit seeing the world before me. It’s an awe inspiring place for me.”

    Oh yes! I once lived near Llanberis and I’ve also done some bird surveying in Eryri so I’ve many good memories of mountain wildlife, landscape and climate – the words above really capture some of what I felt at times – absolutely superb nature writing!

    When in the hills I was drawn to the coast and now I’m down by the sea I often feel pulled back to the hills – at least this way I can choose the weather when I visit the tops! We really are spoilt for choice in this part of the world…

    I really love the sheer enthusiasm for birds and nature that shines through on this blog – keep it up!

    Good Birding & Best Wishes

    Andrew x

    P.S. I can see the cute lambs and the grinning birder (obviously just ticked something)… but the other photo… is it of the moon, a rock or a Ring Ouzel? ;-p

    April 9, 2012 at 11:26 pm

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