Just meeting people is strange enough. In two days I got to know someone I had met briefly once but had kept in touch with online, oh and his two friends, and I met a 2 year old great-grandchild for the first time. As if that wasn’t enough, throw in both daughters and spouses, two grandchildren, a peacock by the roadside, my ex-wife and two more great-grandchildren I hadn’t seen for ages, and things began to look like a mad-hatters tea party. I should add that I didn’t meet them all at the same time!
The first port of call was Goldcliff lagoons near Newport, where I can stay in the camper. I arrived on a gloomy Friday afternoon and was almost the only person there. Although I enjoy wandering around on my own, it usually means the proper bird people know there won’t be anything worth seeing, and they were right – well almost. Coming from a village where Swallows have become scarce in the last few years, I was delighted to find hundreds of them here, and even more delighted to watch them roosting, along with some Sand Martins, in the reeds.
I’d been in touch by email with my fellow bird-blogger Blair Jones. He lives just up the valley in Pontypool, and I got this message:
I will see you in the morning.
I am not going to Dinas.
To which I replied:
That sounds good, though I have to leave at the latest by 11. I’ll be on my way to a family re-union in Wiltshire. Hope that fits your plans. Since we are both early risers that shouldn’t be too much of a problem!
One Ruff, one Whimbrel this afternoon.
See you tomorrow
He then sent this:
Lol 😂 I will be there not long after dawn. See you tomorrow.
Dawn? In May? Allowing for travel that meant around 5:30! I decided I would join them if the light was good. It was not, but I heard some cars pull up at 5:30 so guessed it was them. This time last year I was up on the mountain catching the sunrise. Now it is dark and dreary. I decide to have a leisurely breakfast and then set out for the hides. Here we are: from the left, Blair, Paul and me doing combined elbow-bumps and social distancing.
We had some nice views of the more or less resident Godwits, but the Swallows stole the show. Blair wrote about it here The Wildlife Occulus and we produced some near identical pictures. Here are someof mine. The Godwits are the Black Tailed species except for one at top left which is a Bar Tailed.
The next day was a riot of family. This is daughter Hannah with partner Dave, and Dave again to show that he doesn’t always look gloomy! They are doing in a few months what would take me years – transforming an ex-council house near Bradford on Avon.
It was wonderful to be together again, but complicated and tiring so I made my escape on Sunday morning. The forecast was for some sun and heavy showers so I decided not to go further south but try to walk along Aust Warth, an area of saltmarsh between the two motorway bridges. The strange name apparently comes from an Old English word for marshland, and it is known as a good place for Short Eared Owls, one of the few owls which fly during the day, and much prized by nature lovers. I’d been here before but the paths and the little road from Old Passage were closed then. They still were, so I walked down to investigate and found a big flood defence being built. Could I find a way through? There seemed to be footpaths on the map so I packed a sandwich and some juice and set off to explore.
All around is the steady hiss and roar of motorway traffic. Here is an overgrown path, deserted and lovely with May blossom; here a concrete bridge over the motorway which leads to a footpath. There is an air of neglect – grass and moss creeping onto the path; up some steps and into an empty car park, an abandoned motorway restaurant, deserted picnic benches, and in one corner a tiny sign and a footpath through the bushes. I walk behind a dense hedge high up above the water until there below me is a combined sewage works and power relay station and beyond that a refugee camp for fishermen.
I sit on a log and eat my sandwich in the rain watching the few Shelduck and some gulls who seemed quite at home in this future fiction. It was a fitting end to a strange week-end.