Dew: Noun; tiny drops of water that form on cool surfaces at night, when atmospheric vapour condenses (Oxford Dictionary).
And I thought yesterday was hot!
On day 26 of #30DaysWild the temperature hit 29°C here in Penarth, even hotter than yesterday. And while people may be enjoying this weather (I am not!), it’s really tough for wildlife. I’m not sure what caused this little shrew to die but it’s easy to believe it was the heat, or perhaps thirst. We’ve had a couple of dry months now, and ponds and streams are running low and / or drying up. So, if you’re in a position to put water out for the birds and the beasties, please do – they really need all the help they can get right now.
I thought I’d avoid an April Fool’s Day visit to ‘my patch’ in case a long-extinct Dodo should suddenly appear before me (!) so my first wander this month was on 2 April.
There were no particular surprises lurking, just the standard avians – two Pied wagtails and one Grey, and two Redshanks, but the treat was a total of 15 Turnstones, many now showing signs of their change to summer plumage. I assume these birds were enjoying a short stopover in Cardiff Bay before continuing their journey north. According to information on the Joint Nature Conservancy Committee website, the Turnstones that winter on the coasts of north-west Europe (including Britain and Ireland) are part of the Western Palearctic population and breed on Canada’s Ellesmere Island, and in north and east Greenland.
The rest of April reads pretty much like that first visit – the occasional one or two Redshanks, the occasional one or two Pied and Grey wagtails, and Turnstone numbers in the low to mid teens. The weather varied considerably, from damp and foggy winter-like gloom to brilliant blue skies with the water so still you could perfect reflections mirrored in it, but the bird numbers and varieties remained fairly static.
So, what I think I will do in subsequent months is expand my monthly catch up to include the whole of Cardiff Bay. I walk right round on a regular basis and, as the habitats are more varied, there is more chance of spotting something a little more interesting. Let’s see what May brings …
Nature’s cold weather events may be lovely to look at – and I freely admit that, as a Kiwi unused to snow, I absolutely loved the heavy snow we had last week as a result of ‘The Beast from the East’ and Storm Emma – but such events come at a high cost, particularly to wildlife. The extreme cold and gale-force easterlies blew across from Europe thousands of Fieldfares and Redwings, and displaced a myriad of other birds: Golden plovers and Lapwing, Woodcocks and Snipe were all reported in parklands and farmers’ fields, all desperately looking for food.
I’d not seen many Fieldfares before this storm hit but a walk around local parks and Cardiff Bay on Sunday and Monday gave me the opportunity to see large numbers of them and Redwings.
In Penarth Marina Park, I spotted five of Britain’s six thrush species grazing (Song thrush, Mistle thrush, Blackbird, Redwing and Fieldfare) (accompanied by a Green woodpecker), and in trees alongside the River Taff, I got my closest views yet of Fieldfare – such beautiful markings.
Let’s hope they now have the strength to head back to where they came from and that the cold blast won’t have any long-term effects on their populations.
Icicle: noun; a hanging, tapering piece of ice formed by the freezing of dripping water (Oxford Dictionary). The word comes from the Old English word gicel, which morphed into ikyl or ikel, and later ickle, a word which is still used in parts of Yorkshire.
My photos were taken on the Ely embankment in Cardiff Bay yesterday, as Britain shivers its way through a blast of chilly Siberian air. The combination of freezing temperatures and the constant lapping of the water on to the branches that litter the shoreline resulted in some beautiful icicles.
My original title for this blog was ‘A mad Kiwi and an Englishwoman go birding in a howling gale’. I decided that was a trifle long but it was certainly an accurate reflection of our day at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve. Nevertheless, we persevered, though we did put off walking the beach-top path – I think we would’ve been blown all the way back to Rye township if we’d tried that.
As you might expect, the birds were mostly hunkered down, sheltering where possible behind clumps of grass or huddled alongside sandy banks. Still, with brief stops here and there to scan the shingle and reeds with constantly watering eyes through fogging-up binoculars and short pops into hides (as much to warm up as to look out), we managed to clock up a total of 35 species. They were: Kestrel, House sparrow, Herring gull, Lesser black-backed gull, Black-headed gull, Mallard, Shelduck …
Shoveler (above, seen through a netting fence), Brent goose …
Wigeon (those handsome birds above), Oystercatcher, Carrion crow, Tufted duck …
Redshank (always a favourite of mine), Coot …
Cormorant (already beginning to nest in trees near Castle Water) …
Great black-backed gull and Lapwing (both above), Little grebe, Mute swan, Teal, Little egret, Goldfinch, Woodpigeon, Blackbird, Green woodpecker, Great tit, Coal tit, Magpie, Mistle thrush, Pied wagtail, Greylag goose, Egyptian goose, Pheasant, and Starling.
Pluviophile: a lover of rain; someone who finds joy and peace of mind during rainy days.
Of course, some might label such a person crazy and I’m not sure I would categorise myself as a pluviophile but, if I’ve got plenty of indoors things to do, some tasty food to eat, and I’m warm and cosy, then I do find pleasure in the pitter-patter of raindrops on the window panes.
brumous: adjective; meaning foggy and wintry; dating from the mid-19th century; from the French brumeux, meaning misty, from late Latin bruma meaning winter and also the winter solstice (I should have posted this blog last week!). The Merriam-Webster Dictionary gives the following list of synonyms for brumous: beclouded, befogged, hazy, clouded, cloudy, foggy, gauzy, misty, murky, smoggy, soupy. I think you get the idea.
Who hasn’t looked at a cloud and imagined they saw a giant, a face, a … ?
Today is World Meteorological Day, the brainchild of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), and this year’s theme is ‘Understanding Clouds’. The WMO has a great website that not only explains the importance of clouds in weather forecasting and in driving the entire climate system but also has free downloadable resources to aid in cloud identification. Or, if you’d rather have a book with ‘hundreds of images of clouds, including a few newly classified cloud types’, plus ‘other meteorological phenomena such as rainbows, halos, snow devils and hailstones’ then 23 March also marks the launch of the latest edition of the International Cloud Atlas, which ‘has now been produced in a digital format and is accessible via both computers and mobile devices’.
I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn I’m a big fan of clouds and, though I’m utterly hopeless at naming them – yet another subject I need to study, I do have rather a lot of cloud photos. The sequence below covers a period of about 18 months, from my time living in an apartment in Auckland, New Zealand, where I had the most wonderful views.