Nature Notes

You will need to scroll down on this page to see my “Nature Notes”, which will be in date order (latest ones first, of course) and, probably, infrequent!   But “one never knows, do one?” to quote a famous man . . .

If you enjoy what you read here, please feel free to pass a comment, or contact me via e-mail:   cosmic.cornflake@hotmail.co.uk

Oh, heck!   It’s November, 2013, and I haven’t entered a single post on this Nature Notes page since – never mind.   I shall correct that laxity by promising – myself, mainly – to start keeping up to date with Mother Nature every month as from January, 2014.

Sat., 23rd April, 2011.

          There’s been such a complete leap forward by Mother Nature this month that it’s been all but impossible to keep up with her in these Nature Notes.

        The “top news” must be that on Wednesday, 20th April, when walking in Trawscoed Woods, Rosie briefly heard a cuckoo (I missed it!).   To make up for my disappointment, I was working in the garden that afternoon and, half-a-mile away in our Community Woodland, another cuckoo was really piping it out (is “piping” the right word for cuckoo calls?).

In Trawscoed Woods, there is the most startling display of “mollyblobs” (Marsh Marigolds) we’ve ever seen – masses of ‘em everywhere!

A patch of Mollyblobs in Trawscoed Woods

And, apart from Trad’s assurance that “Spring is here when you can cover the flowers of five daisies with the sole of one shoe” (which I did a week ago), the greening of the ancient woodland – mainly oaks – on the side of Pen-y-Bannau, the mountain behind our village, happened two days ago!   That greening came three weeks earlier than last year.

So perhaps I should simply list the “events” which we have seen in the last three weeks.

2nd April:  Wood Anemones, Trefriw Hill;  Daisies are everywhere;  Garlic Mustard, Bont Green;  Blackthorn flowering EVERYwhere (wonderful show this year!);  and we saw a pair of Grey Lag Geese flying over Swyddffynnon.

Garlic Mustard at the top of our Village Green          5th April:  Horse-chestnut leaves and “candles” are showing, Llanafan Bridge;  sycamores in leaf, Penwern Hill;  Mouse-eared Chickweed, in lane between New Cross and Llanfihangel-y-Creuddyn;  hawthorn leaves showing in Penparcau.

Week commencing 10th April:  swifts and swallows are back in these parts;  Violets, Lisburne Road, Bont;  Purple Vetch, Lisburne Road;  Ivy-leaved Toadflax, all round the village;  Cuckoo Flowers on The Green;  absolute carpets of Dandelions everywhere;   beeches (my favourite tree) just about coming into leaf in one or two places.

One of MANY dandelions!

Week commencing 17th April:  Ground Ivy and Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage, Black Covert;  Hawthorn flowers;  Storksbill here and there;  Speedwell, Eyebright, Lords & Ladies all around Denmark Farm yesterday; Greater Celandine down by the Teifi today.

Cuckoo Flower

And, if the old adage about the oak and the ash is anywhere near accurate, we should have “just a splash” this Summer – the oaks round here leafed marginally earlier than the ashes!

“That Tree” (see my Facebook Album): a sycamore now in full leaf.

I keep this record so that we can check the times of the flowering and leafing as it happens in the Spring of 2012.

Friday, 31st March, 2011

It seems that, over the last week or so, Mother Nature is full of the joys of Spring.

We had a sort-of heat-wave last week and, on our drive to Wolverhampton and back – across five of our old counties – we saw lots of evidence that “Winter’s gone away-o!”

On our way to Aberystwyth, we’ve noticed two geans (wild plum trees) in full and brilliant white flower in hedgerows at New Cross.   There are primroses flowering, too, of course, and lots and lots of daffodils.

A Radio Wales report last week mentioned that it had been a bad year for daffs:  the warmer weather had brought them forward a fair bit, but the sudden hard frosts had killed them off before they’d had chance to flower.

That does not seem to be the case in these parts.   Their yellow smiles are all about, brightening the lives of passers-by.   And, on that Wolverhampton trip, there seemed to be acres and acres of them along the roads and lanes (though not, of course, over the Cwmystwyth mountain road!).

Hereabouts, I’ve seen Shepherd’s Purse flowers round the top of The Green for about three weeks, and the patch of Garlic Mustard up there has sprung up and up and is nearly in flower.

The “bread & cheese leaves” are out and both Rosie and I have enjoyed sampling their slightly bitter taste.   (Perhaps, dear reader, you do not know what those leaves are – details on request.)

Yesterday, we even saw a few beech-leaves – bright in their Spring green – up at Ysbyty Ystwyth.   That’s a very high and weather-swept area, so it’s good to see that Winter failed to slow Mother Nature down, even up there.

Everywhere, it seems, there are signs of greening.   Last year, the general greening happened in these parts in about the second week of May – so maybe we’ll have that general greening earlier this year.

Sunday, 6th March, 2011.

I failed to mention in my last entry that the forsythia in our garden has been showing its yellow flower-buds for a week or two.   Now, there are proper flowers there, all shining and sunny.   Not a true Nature Note, of course, it being a garden plant (one which I first heard of when Phylliss Piggott, who lived at 69, next door to us at 71, Dunstall Road, grew a small bush in her back garden;  exotic it seemed way back then in the late 1940s – wonder where she got it?!).

Anyway, as Bess and I took our morning walk this morning just before eight, we heard the rattling sound of a woodpecker over in Coed Dolgoed:  the wood that we’re making into a Community Woodland.   And, somewhere, there was the call of a curlew – a sound I haven’t heard since late Autumn.

Then, as Rosie and I were dropping flyers advertising Saturday’s Table-Top Sale, I heard down by the now-empty chapel (not the one on the main road) in Swyddffynnon, another woodpecker began banging away.   This one was quite close, but I couldn’t see him.

And, for about three weeks now, there’s been a song-thrush chirping loudly around our home – mind you, he only seems to know the opening bar of his song . . .

Monday, 28th February, 2011.

It’s been really good over the past week or so to see signs of the greening which happens more abundantly in Spring itself.

There are tiny, green(ish) buds on the hawthorns:  we used to eat young hawthorn leaves when I was a kid, and they were known as “bread and cheese” – I still eat ’em to preserve the old tradition.   Mind you, that “tradition” started in the poverty-ridden days of yore when the common folk would eat whatever they could simply to survive.

On the blackthorn bushes, there are tiny buds, too.   These show white rather than green because blackthorn flowers before it leaves.

Dandelions are showing their leaves, as are celandine (which seems to have green leaves all Winter), and I saw bluebell leaves poking up in a hedgerow a couple of days ago.

“Morning has broken” – on the last day of February, 2011.

And the sky was so clear this morning that I could see for miles on my walk with Bess before eight.   The whole scene – fields, hedgerows, woodlands –  showed real signs of the coming, soon, of Spring in all its glory.

PS (Tues., 1st March):  And honeysuckle has been in more or less full leaf for a fortnight, and it showed green buds way back in January;  and does the greening up of lilac and flowering-currant in our back garden count as a Nature Note?

Sunday, 20th February, 2011.

I noticed before Winter set in properly that, on a not-very-big oak tree just beyond the top of the Village Green (where I stroll so often, with or without Bess the dog) there was an enormous amount of “oak apples”.   And some of them were very large, too.

Such amounts did not seem to appear on other oaks nearby.

As Winter passed, of course, most of those “apples” disappeared, though a few still remain.

I understand that they are caused by an insect (I shall try to find the name of its species) boring into the oak’s twigs and branches and making its home there.   I do not know why that tree should have been specially favoured last year.

I shall keep my eyes peeled to see what happens in 2011.

Oh, and “Oak Apple Day” was so-called – after the Restoration of the Monarchy, of course – to commemorate the escape, at Boscobel, Staffordshire, of Prince Charles (who became Charles II).   He hid in an oak tree in the field near Boscobel House when being sought by the Roundheads after the Battle of Worcester..   Rosie and I have happy memories of our strolls in that area in our courting days.

Thursday, 10 February 2011.

My comment on my Homepage last Thursday – 3rd February – certainly seems to have heralded this Nature Notes entry.   For, during the last few days, there have been not only noticeably earlier sunrises and later sunsets, but also a few indications that Spring cannot be far away.

Our back-garden, Tuesday, 8th February, 2011, 0730 a.m.

The birds, of course, have been pairing off for a few weeks now – they never do wait until St. Valentine’s Day!   And, this morning before eight as I walked with our dog, Bess, a pair of noisy ravens skimmed overhead.   I’ve not seen ravens for months, so it was good to see them and hear their gruff calls.

On Monday, whilst driving grand-daughter Ceri into Aberystwyth, I noticed the golden-yellow flowers of a gorse bush beside the road.   Rosie – who knows about matter botanical – has often told me that one or other type of gorse is in flower for most of the year.   But, after passing through “the worst Winter for many years”, it was cheering to see them shining out.

We saw there were more gorse flowers near Aber when we went there today.   And, when we walked along the track beside the Rheidol after we’d shopped at Morrison’s this morning, Rosie was delighted to see celandine leaves showing.   She tells me the flowers should be on them by the first of next month.

At last – a little late this year, it seems – there are snowdrops carpeting the hedge-banks.   And we noticed that the hazel catkins are yellowing, too.

I suppose “townies” (like we used to be) still think that “Spring lambs” start arriving in March.   They don’t.   We saw our first lambs in late October up in Ty’n-y-Graig, but there are lots of them about now.

So, although we’re told that we’re heading into another spell of very cold weather after the coming weekend, Mother Nature is doing her stuff and the signs of Spring are with us.

Our Village, about 5 p.m. on Wednesday, 8th February, 2011.

Wednesday, 26th January, 2011

The snows disappeared in the first week of this month, though the frosts remained for a while.   Then came the heavy rain which fell on already soddened ground and caused flooding in parts of Wales.

As soon as the snows had gone, it seemed, a blackbird started the dawn-chorus each day.   Other birds have joined in, especially robins.

Then, over the last couple of weeks, I’ve noticed that loads of squawking jackdaws have whizzed overhead when I walk the dog before eight.   Last weekend, on both Saturday and Sunday mornings, the whole flock of jackdaws attacked half-a-dozen rooks which had strayed into “their territory”.

The mornings are noticeably lighter now, and my regular five o’clock evening stroll is back to its usual time (!) now that I can look across the fields at the distant view.

All this avian effort will be part of the mating rituals – though I think some birds have been building nests for many weeks.   Yesterday was St. Dwynwen’s Day, so maybe Wales has it right when it comes to the “all the birds will have mated by . . . ” stakes.   St. Valentine – not even a Briton! – has his Day in the middle of February, and it’s too late then!

Tuesday, 18th January, 2011

We had to visit the bank in Tregaron this morning (not that we have much cash therein!).   On the way back, we stopped at the new(ish) car-park which has been constructed – along with some excellent and clean public-toilets – beside the old railway walk along the edge of Cors Caron (Tregaron Bog).

It’s always a pleasant stroll, that old track.   The views across the raised-bog equal any in Britain.

As we parked, we noticed a woodpecker (and lots of titmice!) on one of the bird-feeders hung on a tree beside the car-park.   We haven’t seen a woodpecker for a year or so, and it was grand to see him (or her) enjoying the food left there to get our avian friends through the hard Winter.

There’s a decline in the number of these woodpeckers – I do not know the reason for that.   I suppose it’s blamed on “Global Warming” and “The Climate Crisis” – of course, there’s now a denial-lobby developing about such things . . . !

Strolling, we came to Maes-y-Lllyn (Field of the Lake), beneath which the ancient and wicked town of Tregaron is said to lie.   The birds swimming there were making a real racket!   There were coots and widgeon and moorhens and common old mallards.   As we listened to and watched them, a pair of mute-swans splashed down on the water a few yards from us.

On a bright day like today, one notices with joy the signs of the coming Spring.   It is only six weeks to Gwyl Dewi (St. David’s Day)!

Sunday, 16th January, 2011.

Rosie and I did some flyering (advertising the local panto) last week.   The snow has well and truly gone, but the rain is coming down in buckets.   It’s caused flooding in some parts of Wales.

So this is a brief note to record that I saw my very first primrose bloom on Wednesday, 12th January, whilst wandering around with a bundle of flyers.

Mind you, Rosie says that it sometimes happens even as early as this.   Ah, well – just thought I’d tell you . . .

Oh – and Rosie saw a siskin on our bird-feeder outside our back-door last week:  the very first one ever to be seen in our garden!

Saturday, 8th January, 2011.

How swiftly the changes came.   It seemed that, suddenly, the snow had all-but gone.

As soon as that had happened, it was an unexpected treat – if that’s the word – to see the green of the grass.   We went for a stroll to celebrate our liberation from icy roads and slushy trackways.   And there, to our delight, we noticed that many wild plants had kept their green leaves.

Of course, we knew that it happens every year, but it was so good to see Mother Nature’s children had survived through the snow and frost in the coldest December since records have been kept.

Yesterday, we strolled on the Old Railway Walk – a favourite haunt of ours – along the edge of Cors Caron:  Tregaron Bog.   And I had another great surprise!

As we left the car-park, I looked across the farm-field towards the Bog.   In a tree was what looked like an enormous bird.   Indeed, my small pocket-scope showed that it was.   “Wow!” I thought.   “I’m seeing the Golden Eagle again!”

As we walked on, we kept looking to see if we could get a positive identification.   When we lost sight of the perching bird for only a few moments when trees blocked the view, the creature moved and settled on a telegraph-post.   But I still could not positively identify the big bird.

Oh, how I hoped it was the Eagle again!

We got back to the car and I took out my powerful binoculars. Training them on the pole and the bird, I could see what it was:  it was the largest buzzard I have ever seen!   I can only say that it must have been a female, for they are somewhat larger than males of the species.

Which makes the point for all observers, whether of Mother Nature’s wonders or anything else:  do all that you can to identify properly what you see – and don’t just jump to the conclusion you want it to be!

* * * * *

Saturday, 25th December, 2010

The crust of snow which is lingering over our area has made my strolls beyond the top of our Green more interesting.   Though it blankets the fields – and makes so many people say how fed-up of it they are – it reveals a lot about the ecology of these parts.

I’ve noticed that, to the right of the road, there’s clear evidence of a fox-run.   Old Reynard ducks under the fencing on top of the hedge-bank, walks (and slides!) onto the level (snow-covered) strip along the roadside, nips across to the opposite side, and goes up that bank and under the fence there.

Obviously, a-hunting he does go.   As Rosie and I took our gentle stroll towards Hafod-yr-Eos this afternoon in what felt like warm sun, she pointed out tracks in the fields just beyond and on the same side as our terrace.

Tracing them back, we found that those routes converge on the gap under the fencing on that side of the road.   Clearly, our fox friend courses his patch and, from the amount of tracks we saw, must be finding food in those fields.

Though I have seen in all seasons the places where he gets under the fences, the snows have shown his activities so very clearly.   So perhaps those complaining about the lingering of the snow need to use this as a time of observation.

Note the frosted crystals on today’s snow’s surface.

* * * * *

Thursday, 23rd December, 2010.

Just had a note from my pal Archie Lowe (whose “Weekend Wales-Watch” is always politically incorrect).   He sends me this report on natural-history:-

“A home to one of the largest lesser horseshoe bat roosts in Europe has received nearly £100,000 in grant aid.

“The upper Usk Valley, between Brecon and Crickhowell, is recognised as a nationally “important stronghold” for the rare flying mammal.

“Funding of £52,000 from the Brecon Beacons Trust and £40,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund will support a three-year project starting next month.

“The cash will be used to develop a “greater understanding” of the animal.

“The project in the Brecon Beacons will be run by the Vincent Wildlife Trust (VWT).

“It said the upper Usk Valley was an “important stronghold” for the bat, and it included the largest lesser horseshoe bat roost in northern Europe.”

Thanks, Arch – I’ll plug your column as requested (it’s updated each Saturday, folks), and you can find him at both http://www.pulsewales.co.uk/wordpress/ or http://archielowe.wordpress.com/

* * * * *

Wednesday, 22nd December, 2010

Over the last few days, I’ve noticed the lack of the big flocks of starlings and fieldfares which were very much in evidence throughout November and early this month.

Obviously those birds, and a fair few other species, have wandered closer to the coast away from these Wintry uplands.   I hope the pickings are better for them there, though the snow and ice seems to have hit even the coast of Cardigan Bay.

It’s unusual for Aberystwyth to have more than a sprinkling of snow, even in a bad Winter.   That’s due to it being on the coast.   But this year, it’s had a fair bit.

And the coast-road down from Machynlleth to Cardigan has been giving problems to motorists.   Of course, that road is a little inland from the sea-shore.

The weather-forecasters on both radio and television are saying that it has been difficult to predict this Winter’s weather.   Indeed, the famous John Ketley admitted to the difficulties – due to Climate Change – on Radio Wales morning news programme on Monday.

Jock, who lives next-door at Number 9, mentioned again yesterday that he’s getting through much more bird-food than in any year he can remember.   And, added to that, the roads out of our village have been too dodgy for us to get out and replenish our bird-food supplies.

The holly-bush between our back-garden and Jock’s is now totally stripped of its berries.

We shall do our best.   It was encouraging to note yesterday that there are little green leaf-buds on the blackcurrant bushes in our garden.

* * * * *

Wednesday, 15th December, 2010.

I wonder why I seem to have chosen Wednesdays for updating this page!

In all the books I have on ornithology, the dunnock (or hedge-sparrow) is described as “a secretive bird”.   I’ve seen dunnocks from time to time and in all sorts of places, but I can only think it’s their habit of foraging among bushes which gives them that “secretive” reputation.

This morning, there was one in our small front-garden.   It hopped along the cast-iron fence and along the stems of the rambler-rose which the fence supports.   Clearly, it was there to enjoy the seeds which Rosie puts out for birds.   Usually, the sparrows – which Dennis Nextdoor has allowed to nest in his roof unchecked – seem to chase smaller birds away.   But they must have thought the dunnock was a close cousin it’s no relation, in fact) and allowed it to feast on the seeds at will.

When Bess the Psychodog brought me back from our morning walk, a robin was perched on the garden-gate and would, I’m sure, have hopped onto my hand – had not Bess looked it in the eye with her eyebrow raised.   It must be the same one which approached neighbour Simon and me a couple of weeks ago (see entry of Wed., 1st Dec.)

I shall try to get it to come onto my hand when Bess isn’t around.

Oh – and a kestrel zoomed quite low past our front downstairs window this morning.

It may be worth recording that, in the course of this year, I have seen thirty-two different species of bird from the windows of our house – oh, that means the dunnock has made it thirty-three!

* * * * *

Wednesday, 8th December, 2010.

Since the coming of these first snows (see last entry), the poor birds have been hard-pressed as they scavenge.

The holly-bush in our garden – well, between our garden and Jock’s next door – has been well pecked and has very few berries left.   Jock told me on Monday that the big bag of bird-food which he bought only a week ago is all but empty.   There must be starving birds, but one can only help as best one can.

There are the usual visitors to our feeding-place (we hang various things on the now-bare flowering-currant bush outside our back-door), and they’ve been augmented by the occasional jackdaw.

That bird which over-Wintered in the trees round the parish-church just over the road is back – well, either last year’s visitor or one of its relatives.   It does look like a mistle-thrush, but I haven’t identified it properly yet, and did not do so last Winter, due to its secretiveness.

The forecasters – who don’t seem to be as clever at their job as they used to be twenty and more years ago – claim that it will be getting warmer later this week.

This morning, Radio Wales reported that the coldest place in Wales last night had been Trawscoed at -9.   Then a listener rang in, at just gone 7:15 a.m., to say that in his garden at Ammanford, the temperature was -11.   In any case, the Trawscoed weather station rarely reflects the weather for more than a mile from its location.   And, it being situated so close to the Ystwyth, it’s likely to be colder than, say, Llanafan which is not very far away.

And we saw the first “Spring lambs” in a field at Ty’n-y-Graig when we went to Aberystwyth yesterday!   Calling the lovely little things that makes townies gasp when they see ’em at this time of year.   Another urban-myth shattered!

* * * * *

Wednesday, 1st December, 2010.

This is the first entry on this page.   The sudden and early onset of Winter has provoked me into keeping some sort of record of the passing of the Seasons (though it’s been on my mind for some time).

The first snows of this Winter came last Friday, 24th November.   The roads were suddenly a bit iffy, and everyone was complaining about the cold (“Whatever the weather,” I tell them, “we have the privilege of living in Wales.”)

Even in this icy-grip, there are still unexpected pleasures.   The yellow-corialys (or however it’s spelled) in our front-garden has a couple of flowers on it.   And a couple of days ago, while I was talking with Simon Batty at No. 12 standing on the road beside his car, a first-year robin hopped around our feet – there’s bold!

Over the way by the parish-church, there’s at least one fieldfare lurking – and I think that mistle-thrush which hung out there last Winter is back.

There have been no sightings of that stray Golden Eagle which was in Ceredigion (Old Cardiganshire) at the end of last year.   (It was, apparently, a young male which had flown off course somehow – and I saw him twice!

Seeing one of these big fellahs hovering by the side of the road when you’re driving along a quiet country road in rural Wales is quite an experience! They’re unmistakable – but being suddenly close to on e in these parts really is something to remember.

Today – and for the past few days – the “Siberian wind” (BBC Weatherpeople-speak) has been cutting in from the North-East and now East.   But we did not have, either yesterday or today, the blizzards which they had forecast.

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1 Response to Nature Notes

  1. Karin Holloway says:

    Buzzards: we have them back in Michigan, too, and I once saw two of them spiraling upwards, on an updraft I suppose, lazily up and up and up! I didn’t have binoculars with me but they looked like buzzards as they were rather unkempt looking. But still beautiful.

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