14/366 Peter and friends

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During my early morning walk my little Redshank friend Peter (the bird ringed at Peterstone in 2016, hence my name for him) was on the foreshore where the River Ely flows into Cardiff Bay.

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And he wasn’t alone – his companions included 5 other Redshanks, 21 Turnstones (a large number for this site), 1 Pied and 5 Grey wagtails, 7 Great crested grebes, 2 Mute swans, 7 Mallards, 5 Goosanders, and the usual large numbers of Coots and gulls.

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Were there so many birds because they were all sheltering from Storm Brendan’s wild winds or is it simply that I need to walk early more often?

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13/366 Sweet violets

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As the gusty winds of Storm Brendan began to blow the trees around and I slipped and slid along Cosmeston’s muddy paths, I came upon this host of spring flowers.

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Not the traditional host (of Daffodils) these, but rather Sweet violets (Viola odorata), considered native in some parts of Britain, invasive garden escapees in others. I’m not sure which these are but they were lovely to see.

I didn’t detect any smell but that could perhaps just have been the wind and rain or my inadequate nose, as I’m fairly sure they are Sweet violets – blunt sepals, hairy stems and leaves, the right leaf shape and growth pattern, flowering very early. A delight on a grey day.

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12/366 Robin redbreast

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Today’s was just a quick showery stomp to Cosmeston and back, for the refreshing air and to keep my mileage up (I’m aiming to walk 1500 miles this year). It wasn’t the weather for photography, too damp and dim, but I couldn’t resist this cheery Robin redbreast singing its merry tune.

11/366 What a hoot!

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For the past four years, each time in early January, I have been lucky to sight a Tawny owl – the same bird? – perched, snoozing, on this nest box in a local park. It gets screeched at by Jays and its box gets invaded by Grey squirrels during the warmer months so I don’t think it actually raises its young in this place, but rather uses it as a place to sleep during the short winter days. And, for that, I am extremely grateful, as the sight of this gorgeous creature brings me much joy.

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10/366 In my cups

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It seems appropriate that I should be ‘in my cups’ on a Friday night, the traditional night at the end of the working week for downing an alcoholic beverage or three. But, in my case, I neither work nor drink, and my ‘cups’ are fungi, Scarlet elfcups to be precise. As these are one of my favourite species of fungi I’ve blogged about them several times before and explained, in a blog back in 2017, how I know these are Scarlet, not the less common Ruby elfcups. They are always a joy to find, and they recur at this particular site every year.

(Though, as you’ll see in that previous blog, I was excited to learn how to identify fungi using microscopy, I didn’t continue with it. SEWBReC moved to an out-of-town location so it would now be a two-bus ninety-minute journey to their office, and I didn’t want the expense of buying my own microscope.)

8/366 Mandarin!

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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.

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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).

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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.

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I decided not to overstay my welcome and headed off, leaving Mr Mandarin to enjoy his sleep. And I smiled all the way home!

7/366 Reluctant Reed bunting

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I felt a little sorry for this handsome male Reed bunting today.

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I had put seed on the fence post tops and the littler birds – the Blue and Great tits, a Robin, a Dunnock and a Chaffinch – were all helping themselves but Mr Reed bunting just wasn’t brave enough to grab something for himself. He watched, looked all around in case of unseen dangers, watched again, hopped closer, even did a couple of fly-pasts but never quite summoned the courage to land.

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6/366 Crow vs Raven

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You’d think in a contest between a Crow and a Raven, the Raven would win hands down every time. After all, it’s Britain’s biggest corvid, a hulking beast of a bird. And I’m sure if this had been a real contest, the Raven would have won – but it was not.

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As you can see, the Raven was sitting on a rooftop aerial, on a house in a lane not far from my house, not somewhere I’ve seen one before. The Crow had taken exception to the Raven being in its territory, so was harassing it repeatedly. The Raven ignored the Crow for a while but then, I think, simple got fed up, and flew off.

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The Starlings were spectators, watching with interest from a neighbouring aerial. It was a charming little interlude on my daily walk.

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5/366 Musk mallow

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This Musk mallow (Malva moschata) must be the prettiest wildflower I’ve found still in bloom so far this year.

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They can usually be found in dry places, like ‘chalk pastures, roadsides, churchyards and old quarries’, according to my Flora Botanica: this one was on a roadside verge next to Grangemoor Park, a former rubbish dump now park.

Plantlife’s website has some fascinating snippets about this pretty plant. Did you know …

  • The ancient Greeks used musk mallow to decorate friends’ graves.
  • Musk mallow was once an ingredient in soothing cough syrups and ointments, and it was also valued as an aphrodisiac!
  • In the Victorian “Language of Flowers” it is said to be a symbol of ‘consumed by love’, persuasion, and weakness.
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Can you spot the itsy-bitsy spider?