Only Three days in Wales



So far, so good, 2022 and it hasn't been raining too much here in lovely wet west Wales! I recorded all the birds and other wildlife I saw over three days last week ( only grey squirrels from the 'other wildlife' POV!) and it was so heartening. Bad news for wildlife everywhere as our own numbers grow and grow ( despite crazy proclamations to the contrary by the lovely Elon Musk!) but on a journey from Cardiff home to Ceredigion and in the two days thereafter, there's been so much to see! I love the Welsh names for birds. Sometimes they're very similar to the English, describing the creature, but other names are even more deliciously whimsical ( see below). I love the local names for our birds and wildlife, both in Welsh and English, though sadly many have fallen from use.


Getting into the car in Canton there was commotion amongst the small birds everywhere as a male merlin passed over. Coming out of Aber Sili near Y Barri, I had the first sighting of a green woodpecker since leaving Y Fenni four years ago. What wonderful colours; almost parrot standard! Once on the motorway there were buzzards hanging the air and small flocks of starlings lifting and settling on the winter fields. As we moved west the red kites started to appear, so light on their wings compared to the stocky buzzards.


We spend two hours a week on the harbour wall at Cei Newydd, doing a sea mammal survey for the Wildlife Trust out of the Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre there. No dolphins, harbour porpoise or seals this week, but great birding. As well as the ubiquitous cormorant, with its perfect, curled dive (sometimes mistaken for dolphins!) we often see guillemot, sometimes gannet, purple sandpiper and razor bill as well as rock pipits. We see gulls - herring, great black-backed and the confusing black- headed very often, but there have been sightings of rarer birds too such as the Arctic gull. I think I saw a minke whale once - but that's another story...


Back on the small holding, the feeders are out and covered with blue and great tits, chaffinch, goldfinch on the niger seed, dunnocks and frustrated robins. A big flock of herring gulls passes by high up. They never seem to land with us. Greater spotted woodpeckers swoop down, bullying; fly jerkily away, complaining. Birds are starting to appear in pairs now and the nuthatches are amongst my favorite. They often come to the seeds and the other birds give them a wide birth. The wren picks its way through the wall whilst sparrows chat in the holly.


There are small flocks of starlings and winter thrushes everywhere, rising up from the overgrown hedged and soaking fields. Crows and rooks call to one another - I hope they don't decide to pick one of the trees near the yard as a rookery!


A pied wagtail comes down off the roof and flirts its way across the yard. Though blackbirds are everywhere they're shy here and we see them properly only through windows or hear them grumbling and raising the alarm when we set foot outside. A tree creeper works its way up the trunk of the ornamental thorn as magpies chase a jay away. As I cross the yard to fill up the feeders, strange squawking stops me in my tracks - ravens. Four pairs are flying quite low, their croaking interspersed with more gentle, fluting noises and some parallel skirmishing; must be spring around the corner.


Watching the news online or otherwise is a brutal, soul - destroying exercise. The statistics surrounding biodiversity loss are horrifying, yet just getting out and seeing the creatures that are left gives the boost to carry on working and campaigning. As a historical novelist I value it too: these are the sounds, the birds and animals that would have been familiar to my ancestors, the people in my books. Just three days in Wales, wow!


Raven - cig fran ( meat crow); cormorant - mul fran ( literally, 'donkey crow', one of my favorites!) or bili doca; blue tit - titw tomos las; wagtail - sigldi gwt; nuthatch - telor y coed ( the harper of the woods); jay - sgrech y coed ( screamer of the wood, love it!); sparrow- aderyn y to, 'roof bird'; chaffinch - ji-binc; thrush- bronfraith, 'speckled breast'; rock pipit - wid wid.



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