Picture the scene before the Saxons appeared. Winding down from the Berwyn mountains through ancient forest, the river reaches a flat plain at what is now Machynlleth. A few miles further west it is pinched in by high land one either side, but then opens out dramatically into wide expanses of marshland and tidal flats. To the north are more mountains but South and West is a huge peat bog interspersed with patches of higher land – Ynysoedd or Islands in the marshes. One of these is on the coast – a huge dune complex which pushes out into the estuary at Ynyslas, the Blue Island. Further inland is Ynyshir or Long Island. Part of it is a posh hotel and restaurant, but most of it is an RSPB reserve, and this was my first destination last week.
Any serious bird watcher will tell you that mid July is a lousy time. The birds have no more need to claim their nesting territories so have stopped singing. Most will have had enough of parenthood too, leaving their offspring to fend for themselves. They are still around, but you neither hear nor see them – they’ve disappeared into the riot of vegetation or flown off to the shore. So, it was not with any expectation of much avian excitement that I set off on a hot day to walk slowly round this beautiful place and cherish all it has to offer.
Stepping ahead of me on the path was a group of feral ponies. Native grazing animals or their equivalents are important in keeping the balance in conservation areas. In other parts of the reserve there are cattle too. I had a new 90mm macro lens and was keen to test its capabilities. It performed well in close up, landscape and in an unexpected encounter with a pair of swallows in one of the hides.
One of the great pleasures of this time of year in this kind of landscape are the purple and pink flowers, particularly Rose Bay Willow Herb, but also Purple Loostrife, Bramble and even the invasive Himalayan Balsam.
Back at the car park, the squirrels strut around expecting to be fed. They seem to regard us humans as servants or even as furniture.
The next two days were to revolve round the well-known Osprey nest just up the road at the Dyfi Osprey Project. In the next two posts I will cover the topics of Heat Haze, Livestock Farming and Hay Meadows as they impact on these spectacular birds.