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A snippet from my volunteer work on the ‘Dedicated Naturalist’ Project, helping to decipher and digitise, record and publicise the life’s work of naturalist extraordinaire, Dr Mary Gillham.

Mary’s notes from a walk through the Cwrt yr Ala basin, near Dinas Powys, on 7 September 1975 are so very descriptive that I fancy I can almost hear the birds she heard:

Robin ‘ticking’ at our disturbance. Another squealing like a young bird – the squeal is a late summer call. One ‘playing dipper’ on stone in stream below Cwrt yr Ala lakes.


Wrens singing. House martins chirping. Swallows twittering. Long-tailed tits churring, blue tits scolding, woodpigeon cooing, jay screeching, magpie chattering, chaffinch chinking, bullfinch sibilant piping, pheasant barking. Chiffchaff and willow warbler, though with very different songs, have similar calls today, difficult to distinguish. Generally, as one would expect from the song, the chiffchaff has a more clipped, emphatic, less musical call, the willow warbler a softer one.


Goldcrests alarm note, blackbirds ditto. Mistle thrushes on wires saying nothing, song thrush on road ditto. Jackdaws and crows croaking, ravens flew past with scarcely a honk. Goldfinch. Grey wagtails – 3 on lower lake and spillway, one on stream below – have a more delicate call than the pied wagtails. Moorhen cronking on lake.


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