25/366 Grey, but a grebe

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Today’s seven-mile walk was through thick grey drizzle-like mist and, except for the raucous gulls at the edge of Cosmeston’s east lake (where everyone feeds the birds), the land was hushed and still. Not wanting to get my gear wet, I only got my camera out of my backpack once, for a few shots of this handsome Great crested grebe.

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24/366 Black swan

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This Black swan was a nice surprise during my ramble around Barry today. Though it wasn’t ringed, it may well have been an escapee from a wildfowl collection somewhere, which is the case with almost all British Black swans. As far as I’m aware, these now-wild birds have not yet established a self-sustaining local population so are not yet considered official British birds … but they must be close to reaching that level.

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Back in August 2016, I wrote a longer blog post on Black swans, using photos I’d taken in New Zealand, where there is a large wild population. You can see that blog here.

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23/366 Siberian chiffchaff, 2020

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It’s just over a year since I saw my first ever Siberian chiffchaff. These Siberian birds are a subspecies of the Common chiffchaff we all see during the summer months but, as their name suggests, these scarce but regular winter visitors to Britain spend their summers and breed in Siberia.

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Two Siberian chiffchaffs were found in Cardiff Bay yesterday so, of course, I had to go and see for myself today. I only saw one of them, though both birds have been seen today – this one seems the dominant bird and chased the second bird away when that bird ventured within its territory.

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As you might expect of a bird that comes from Siberia, it was quite confiding, as it may not have seen many humans before arriving in Cardiff. Hanging out in the small garden area in front of a Cardiff Bay pub has probably been a bit of a shock to the wee creature!

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22/366 First Snowdrops

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I saw my first Snowdrops of 2020 today in Cardiff’s Bute Park.

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Candlemas bells, Mary’s taper, Snow piercer, February fairmaids, Dingle-dangle – all vernacular names for Snowdrops, according to my Flora Britannica. In Welsh, Snowdrop is Eirlys (pronounced Ire-liss), a lovely word that’s sometimes used as a girl’s name. How pretty!

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21/366 Siskin

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On yet another very frosty morning, I met a friend to explore a woodland near Caerphilly called Coed y Werin, which I hadn’t been to before. And it was a delightful place, full of grand old trees, small streams and an iced-over pond.

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And we saw Siskin, birds that seldom venture into my coastal patch, though these were very high up, nibbling at the cones in the tall larch trees, so my photos are heavily cropped. But hopefully you can see the birds today – not like yesterday’s Snipe challenge.

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20/366 Crispest

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It was frosty white again this morning so, in the hope that the chilly temperatures might have lured the resident Snipe out of their hiding places in the reed beds, I headed to Forest Farm Nature Reserve for a meander. And I was lucky – though they were very distant, I managed to spot three Snipe. Full marks if you can actually see them in this photo.

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Of course, the cold temps also meant the birds were hungry and frantic to be fed. I took plenty of seed with me but many of the good folk who walk this reserve regularly had already covered fence post tops and feeding tables with food of various types. This Nuthatch was stocking up, taking away several seeds and nuts at a time to stash in nooks and crannies in nearby trees.

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Jays were also busy stashing. Birders were spraying the grass in front of the bird hide with peanuts, which at least two Jays were gathering and carting away to their local hiding places. Best to be prepared in case this chilly spell continues.

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17/366 Starry soils

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I know we usually speak of starry skies rather than starry soils but, three years ago, when I still lived in Cardiff, I found this one small patch of dirt, ’neath towering conifers in a local cemetery, where the stars could be found emerging from the soil.

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These Collared earthstars are the reason for the name of this blog: they show how amazing things can be found in everyday places if we only look; they show how incredible Nature is; they inspired me to write this blog, to try to get people to open their eyes to the beauty our world has to offer, even ten minutes’ walk from home.

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This cemetery is no longer managed with wildlife in mind – it is overly neatened and tidied – so I was particularly delighted, during a recent walk, to find these earthstars had escaped the over enthusiast strimming and pruning and scraping and chopping of the council’s operatives. Fingers crossed they continue to thrive.

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16/366 Beneath

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When wet weather forces a change of plan, sometimes the only thing for it is to head to the woods and turn over some logs, because there’s never nothing to see under a log!

Two slugs, possibly even the same species despite their obvious colour differences.

Eggs? Those on the left might well be slug or snail eggs but the ones on the right were much smaller and seemed caught up in a web or perhaps just strands of slime. I didn’t poke them – didn’t want to disturb them – so I’m not sure of their texture.

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A slime mould, though not as much slime as I was hoping for. Possibly one of the Trichia species, perhaps Trichia persimilis.

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A springtail, probably one of the Entomobrya species but I really needed a photo of its upper side to be able to confirm its identification.

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Hairy snails (Trochulus hispidus), I believe, as the only other hairy snail has a more conical shell. It always seems odd to me for a snail to have hairs … but odd is good, interesting, never boring!