Where the Mute swans do their grooming and preening, there is always a profusion of white feathers, large and small, stiff and downy. I grabbed this one because I liked the way it showed the constituent parts of the feather.
Rather than repeat what others have so ably published, I thought I’d just post the pretty pictures here and, if you want to learn more, you can check out this particularly good post (with excellent illustrated drawings to aid their explanations) on The Cornell Lab website.
This morning’s wander took me down to Cardiff Bay to walk the path along the embankment of the River Ely, my first walk that way for a while, as there tend to be less interesting birds to see during the summer months and more people to avoid. And so it was, though there is never nothing to see.
House martins were still filling the air with their calls and zipping swiftly back and forth, hunting low over the water then taking insects back to feed their young, which must be second or even third broods now.
Large numbers of Coot and Mallard were feeding on the water weed or sitting preening on the water’s edge of the embankment, and several Swan were floating regally past. A couple fell out and were half-heartedly chasing each other.
I saw only three Great crested grebes, a low number for this location. Two were adults and one a well grown juvenile that was snoozing amongst the weed.
And I saw only two Pied wagtails, which is also a small quantity for the embankment. Their jaunty striding back and forth always makes me grin.
When I spotted a pair of Mute swans and their six cygnets on an inlet of the River Ely on yesterday’s exercise walk, the old song ‘Way down upon the Swannee River’ immediately came to mind. The song has nothing to do with swans, of course (it’s about an African slave longing for ‘de old plantation’), and most of you are probably too young to even remember the tune – I think it was just the combination of swans and river that made it pop into my brain. But enough of the strange workings of my mind during lockdown…. Isn’t this little family just gorgeous?!
As the thick fog began to lift from the lakes at Cosmeston this morning, I caught sight of these two Mute swans engaged in their delightful slow-motion courtship dance, gracefully moving their necks from one side to the other and confirming their connection with quiet grunts and hissing sounds. I didn’t quite capture their necks making the classic heart shape but it was a delight to watch them.
On Friday, after I’d paid a visit to the tree I’m following, I enjoyed a stroll along the trail in Cardiff’s Bute Park that meanders through mature woodland alongside the River Taff. Despite this summer’s drought conditions, the recent rains have revived the local trees and plants so everything was looking wonderfully lush and vibrant.
A female Goosander sailing down river was a pleasant sight. Both males and females can often be seen on this part of the Taff from autumn through to spring.
Near the far river bank, a Grey heron stood tall on one of the many exposed rocks and boulders. The river is quite low at the moment.
There weren’t a lot of signs of autumn yet – only the leaves of the Horse chestnuts were yellowing and curling up and beginning to drop.
A Speckled wood was well camouflaged on the woodland floor. There weren’t many butterflies around, just half a dozen Speckled woods and a few Small whites.
A Mallard enjoyed a snooze near the river’s edge.
I liked the colours and patterns of the pebbles and the occasionally blue sky reflected in the river water.
This was one of two Mute swans feeding.
I’ve seen this particular Carrion crow many times before when I’ve walked this way. I know it’s the same crow, not because of how it looks but because it has virtually no voice. It tries to croak but hardly any sound comes out.
Most of the wildflowers have finished flowering but this Green alkanet was a pretty exception.
Just a few hints of autumn showing here. I love how this path meanders through these magnificent trees.
The woodland trail finishes just below Blackweir, where the current low water level means many rocks and boulders have been exposed. This was the perfect spot for a group of perhaps 20 Grey wagtails to fly-catch, and watching their aerial antics was the perfect end to my wander alongside the Taff.
My regular followers will remember that, over the winter months, when there were more birds around, I posted a regular monthly roundup of the action along the embankment where the River Ely flows in to Cardiff Bay. Today, for day 15 of #30DaysWild, I thought I’d take another look. Here’s what I found …
Just like their makers, nests come in all shapes and sizes, and they’re made of all sorts of materials: twigs and branches, feathers, moss, paper and plastic, mud. They can be seen high in trees and on buildings, hidden secretively away in hedges and behind reeds, or plonked in a hole in a concrete platoon, as I saw some Coots do recently in Cardiff. Some are messy and loosely constructed, others are cosy and snug, still others are miniature works of art.
This is prime bird-nesting season so it’s quite likely you’ll see nests when you’re out walking. Please stay well away and do not disturb parents, eggs or babies. In Britain (and I’m sure in most countries) it is, in fact, an offence under The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to ‘intentionally take, damage, destroy the nest of any wild bird while it is in use or being built’ and to ‘intentionally take or destroy the egg of any wild bird’. (You can read more details here.) And, rest assured, my photos were all taken with a long lens, well away from the birds, so as not to disturb them.
Following on from yesterday’s blog about our Glamorgan Bird Club outing to Parc Cwm Darran, we also ventured a little further north to Rhaslas Pond. I presume the pond is artificial as it has a grassed-over dam running along the north side and concrete to the south. And, as it has a large black drainage tube running into it, I further presume that is, or was, a reservoir or drainage pond for the huge ugly blight on the nearby landscape that is the Dowlais opencast coal mine.
Despite its industrial connections, the pond is very well frequented by both local and passage-migrating birds, and it provides a crucial breeding site for endangered birds like Lapwing and Curlew, amongst many others. As soon as we arrived, we saw birds – a friendly little Stonechat was dotting around in the long grass, a Pied wagtail was ‘chissicking’ merrily along the old roadway, and I saw my first-ever Fieldfares grazing on the grass nearby.
On the pond itself, there were lots of Wigeon, Tufted ducks, Mallards, Great crested grebes, my first-ever Goldeneyes, Lesser Black-backed and Herring Gulls, Goosander and a single Mute swan. We also saw Red kites flying overhead.
Though this was another stunning location and the birds were sublime, there was a bitterly cold wind blowing so we didn’t linger too long. There are plans afoot to destroy this pond and the surrounding landscape to excavate another huge opencast mine. Let’s hope local authorities realise the madness of allowing such a mine and, rather than destroy the pond and surrounding land, recognise its environmental value and turn it into a local nature reserve for all to enjoy.