I couldn’t resist sharing the floral delights from my various wanders in the local woodlands during April. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have – the wildflowers have been simply gorgeous!
I write often about my wanderings in my local woodlands so I thought I’d share one of my walks in a series of landscape images. There are, in fact, several separate areas of woodland, sandwiched together, and this is just one of them, a combination of ancient woodland and a newer area of trees planted to mark the turn of the millennium. Not surprisingly, the ancient part has many huge old trees, is cool and dark in the summer when their foliage shades the paths. Above, along the plateau at the top of the hill, is the millennium woodland with its wide open rides and small meadows. This area has more wildflowers and is where I look for butterflies, dragonflies and other insects. Often, I don’t see a single soul when I walk here, which, for me, just adds to the attraction – it’s my own little piece of paradise.
I thought for this week’s Sunday wildflower post, I’d take you on a walk through parts of my local woodlands to show you some of the gorgeous plants a’blooming there at the moment. There are other wildflowers too, of course – Primroses, Violets, Dog’s-mercury, etc – but my video features Wild garlic, Opposite-leaved golden saxifrage, Wood anemone, Herb-paris, Lesser celandine, Moschatel and Bluebells.
I don’t often take landscape photos these days but the combination of sunny spring weather, fabulous trees, and what looked to my inexpert eye as good land management, plus the colours and leading lines, prompted me to start clicking during a recent walk.
This piece of countryside, about an hour’s walk from home, is a combination of farm and woodland. Perhaps a hedgerow would be better than a fence alongside this field (happily, there are a lot of hedgerows in this area) but at least there’s a wide area of ‘set aside’ where, hopefully, wildflowers will be allowed to grow. And there are some magnificent towering old trees in the surrounding landscape, to which my photos really do not do justice.
Monday’s walk saw me striding out on a circuit of Cardiff Bay, a walk of just under 8 miles that day as I meandered here and there to look at particular things. (This panorama of the Bay was taken in April a couple of years ago and a few things have since changed but I just wanted to give those unfamiliar with the Bay a general idea of my walk. The Bristol Channel is to the right; Cardiff city centre at the top, slightly left of centre; the view is as seen from the town of Penarth.)
These are some of the birds I encountered on my circuit: three of four Redshanks that flew in to the embankment of the River Ely where it flows in to the Bay.
A Grey heron using some of the old dock infrastructure as a lookout.
A pair of Goosanders on the embankment near Mermaid Quay – the red-headed female mostly snoozing, her partner using the time out of the water to spruce himself up.
One of a pair of Mute swans also preening, then snoozing.
One of many Great crested grebes that make their home in the Bay.
I counted 20 Turnstones in total on Monday; this one had lost a chunk of feathers on its back, perhaps an encounter with a bird of prey that the Turnstone was fortunate to survive.
And, last but probably the most numerous, one of hundreds, perhaps thousands of Black-headed gulls to be seen around Cardiff Bay.
I was recently reminded by a fellow birder that it’s a very good idea to have a thorough read of your local area bird report. (I belong to the Glamorgan Bird Club, which has just published the 2018 Eastern Glamorgan Bird Report, its 57th.) So I did, and today that paid off.
Though the walk there and back totalled seven miles, every step was worth the privilege of seeing this bird (and half of that distance was in beautiful countryside, which was a pleasure to walk through anyway).
I’d heard that this male Mandarin duck could be a bit of a skulker, keeping to the sides of its watery home, frequently hiding under or behind vegetation, but not today. As I slowly approached, it swam away with a couple of Mallards so I grabbed a couple of quick photos, thinking I might not get very good views.
I was wrong. I walked on a little so as not to scare it and, looking back, saw the bird had climbed on to a log near the opposite shore and was preening. I edged slowly closer and was able to watch it for perhaps another twenty minutes. By that time, it had finished preening and was settling for a snooze but keeping one eye open to check what I was doing.
I decided not to overstay my welcome and headed off, leaving Mr Mandarin to enjoy his sleep. And I smiled all the way home!
Today’s was another merry meander, this time around Forest Farm Nature Reserve. The sun was actually shining for part of the time, which was a very pleasant change, and I was lucky with my bird sightings.
As soon as I stepped on to the pedestrian bridge that crosses the River Taff from Radyr Station to Forest Farm, I could hear a Dipper singing – such a delightful melody! And there it was, sitting on a rock on the far bank, almost directly under the bridge. I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the day.
The little birds – the tits and finches, Robins and Wrens – were also very vocal and it wasn’t long before I had paused to hand out some sunflower seeds and enjoy their feasting. As I watched, I caught a flash of red – my first Great spotted woodpecker of the year. I also heard, then saw a Green woodpecker but wasn’t quick enough for any photos.
I popped along to the second bird hide but all was quiet there and I’m not one to just sit and wait for the birds to come, so I headed along to wander the length of the old Glamorgan Canal, and back. I was soon lucky there too – a Kingfisher was flying and perching on low branches, trying to fish but being almost continuously disturbed by passing dogs and their walkers and noisy families.
Four hours later, I had dished out all of my seed offerings and managed to clock 30 species, four of which were new for 2020 and all of which were lovely to see. But the highlight of the day was probably the sight of 10 Grey herons in one huge dead tree (at one point also joined by a Buzzard but two Magpies soon saw it off)!
Normal weather service (i.e. wind and rain) has resumed here today but yesterday, Christmas Day, was glorious – blue skies, cold but no wind, so I took myself on a 6-hour 8½-mile walk right around Cardiff Bay. I saw 44 species of bird (and dished out some Christmas seed to a few), and had some nice chats to random strangers. The birding highlights included …
Grey wagtails and my favourite little Turnstones on the Ely embankment
Seven Linnets in a tree
A Moorhen and a Little grebe at Cardiff Bay Wetlands Reserve
The day’s surprise, a Great spotted woodpecker in trees, also at the wetlands reserve
Two Cetti’s warblers seen (and more heard), plus a lovely male Stonechat
A Common gull puddling for worms with the Black-headed gulls in Hamadryad Park