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.
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?!
True to form the weather has been a mixed bag recently. From Gale strength winds battering your car as you traverse the Menai straits to stunning sunshine in Spring-like Moelfre. There’s been torrential downpours too as well as snow on the aptly named Snowdon mountain range. A glance out the window now though is met with cornflower blue skies and white fluffy clouds. There is a hint of something a little more ominous though as the clouds are travelling at speed and the television aerials are shaking.
On Sunday morning I was out, not in the aforementioned torrential downpours or dramatic winds, but in a dreary grey drizzle that was to be found at Bangor harbour. I had gone along to watch ‘cannon netting’. The professional bird ringers were there to entrap wading birds in order to ring them, a process integral to species monitoring. After a hefty hoard of 400 Dunlin the previous day I think we were all out of luck. The logistics of setting up such a net means that you have to get the birds in the right place and that day there weren’t any birds playing ball. There was just a few dozen bird enthusiasts getting wet in a carpark! Nevertheless, it was great to meet the crew. There were local ringers and trainees as well as some folk from the BTO (that’s the British Trust for Ornithology if you weren’t sure) and everyone was very informative. I was especially happy to hear about all the measures put into place to safeguard the health and wellbeing of the birds. The prospect of firing a net over the birds can seem rather daunting in that respect, but all my doubts were squashed by the various rules and regulations surrounding the process that enables these bird lovers to find out more about the thing whch they devote so much of their lives too.
I was pleased to hear Alan Titchmarsh extolling the virtues of connectivity with nature recently on BBC Breakfast. He may have been plugging his new book but nevertheless our connection with nature is something very close to my heart which I am keen to promote. Go Alan! Two recent visits I’ve made have had a similar thread running through, that of getting our young people involved with nature in their local area. One was a scheme at Treborth botantical gardens, just outside Bangor where local school children have been involved with creating a wonderous wildlife garden equipt with multi-level dipping pond, bug hotel, sensory butterfly patch and even beehives!
The other community involvement project I visited is at the Pili Palas near Menai Bridge. Here, local College lecturer Geraint leads a team of lads who volunteer their time to create a wildlife-rich outdoor area at the acclaimed tourist attraction. Head-keeper Ed showed me around the site recently and showed me the cracking start the group had made in turning the overgrown, unusable area into a specially planned wildlife area which could also be used as an educational facility. Top marks guys! I hope to catch up with group soon and then I can let you know more.
So for now I’d like to leave you with a clip of my dear friend Rob talking about Robins. It’s from a Nottingham university e-advent calendar…it’s festive! http://blogs.nottingham.ac.uk/adventcalendar/2011/12/02/2-december-robin-red-breast/ red-breast/
Kathy x x x