I have read of old lags re-offending when they are released in the hope of returning to an environment where decisions are made for them. It felt a bit like this when the Covid restrictions on travel were relaxed. I was happy with life at home when the task was to make the best of it. Now, despite the wild flowers flourishing in the garden (above) I feel a restless urge to travel. I am pushing against the gathering clouds of old age and a stricken world, and some of my trips this month seemed more driven by this sense of approaching doom than by the on-going search for the perfect living image.
At the beginning of the month I was in Slimbridge. I knew it was the dead season for the wild birds but I was not quite prepared for the extraordinary emptiness of the place. Tack Piece is a huge grassy field which in winter is a feeding ground for thousands of birds. Today it is empty, but in a typical Slimbridge twist the only two living things on the drying-out pond by the hide were both rare: a Spotted Redshank and a Green Sandpiper.
With little to lose I decided to do some exploring of the surrounding countryside and discovered the little village of Purton where a nice farm campsite offered wonderful views across the estuary towards Slimbridge, and gave me easy access to the footpath along the canal south to Sharpness. In the early morning of a dull day I discovered the Hulks – a collection of old barges deliberately beached to strengthen the banks of the estuary.
Sharpness dock is like a dystopian film set. It’s web presence is of a flourishing port, but on this morning it looks deserted and very strange. What is happening to all those warehouses and all that ironwork?
Every Tuesday, when I’m at home, I do my volunteering stint at Dinefwr Park in Llandeilo. The new County Ranger, Stuart, is very much on my wavelength and it has been a pleasure to be part of his mission to restore lost biodiversity to the estate. This month I discovered the Flood Plain – the flat land between the Castle and the river. On a quick buggy tour we found an old wall beside one of the Oxbow lakes, and Stuart was positively encouraging when I asked to set up my pop-up hide there. He later did some research on the wall and found that it was a jetty, built to help British troops train for the Normandy landings – yes, here, on a lake in the middle of Wales! The troops were stationed on the estate at Newton House.
Here is a selection from my month at Dinefwr. (Kingfisher from the Kingfisher Hide, Goosanders on the Towy and cleft oak fencing.)
Mid month I had a message from one of the other bird enthusiasts in the village to say that the Hobby falcons were here again. Falco Subbuteo (it gave its name to the football board game) is a summer visitor to Southern Britain with around 2000 pairs nesting, mostly in Southern England, and spending the winter in Africa. We were, last August, very excited to find three of these charismatic birds taking up temporary residence just outside the village. After a few frantic days tracking them round the fields they were gone, and we decided it was probably a family group making a temporary stop on their way south.
And now here they are again, four of them, in the same season and the same area! Clearly they are creatures of habit. I spent several long sessions trying to get a closer shot, but in the end had to settle for this distant interaction between one of the parent birds and a youngster.
I wrote about my trip to the Dyfi last month to see the Ospreys: http://phototwynog.co.uk/the-fish-eagle
Still feeling frustrated that I had failed to get the images I hoped for, I decided to try again before they departed for Africa. I didn’t quite get the iconic pictures of them fishing, but I did get some good flight shots, and wrote about it here:http://phototwynog.co.uk/return-to-the-dyfi
I also wrote about the extension to this trip further south. Here are a few different pictures. (Thrill riders in the sunset at St. Justinian, A mushroom breaks the surface at Skomer and Rabbits against the sea at Skomer)
The end of the month produced a rarity at Dinefwr – a Wood Sandpiper, and found me in my favourite lunch spot, the Kingfisher Hide. A typical report for an hour spent by this long, narrow oxbow lake at this time of year would be:
2 Mallards, 2 Moorhens and a Kingfisher!
However, at other times I have seen Otter, Great White Egret, Little Egret, Teal, nesting Coots, Redstart, Wren, Jay, Magpie, Greylag Goose, and lots of dragonflies.