Thursday, February 12, 2009

The mountains are still picked out in white snow against dark morning skies, bones of dark rock now showing through. Whilst shaving, morning still dark, thin whistles of Redwings are heard from beyond the bathroom window, a party having roosted in tops of the nearby Spruce plantation. Last week, a light brown, Robin-sized bird hit the same frosted window in the dark, fluttering fall seen in the shaving mirror but no sign in daylight.

Here in the valley, spring is gaining momentum with bursts of Woodpecker drilling like muffled machine-gun fire. Wood Pigeons ‘coo’ from open woodland or clatter off overhead through open branches, wings whistling as they break into cold open air. Dunnocks, normally skulking deep in undergrowth, are up in the branches to sing, though not head up and proud, like loud Thrushes, Blackbirds and Robins, but a self-effacing set of whistled notes delivered from a horizontal, mouse-like stance by a rich brown streaked bird with narrow, insectivore’s bill and soot-grey head and mantle.

A group of Cornelian Cherry is yellow-green, twigs covered in early flower, tiny petals the colour of pollen and stamens. Elsewhere, Witch Hazel, with longer, strap-shaped petals, has been in flower for several weeks, with deep red buds of Spring Rhododendrons still held in tight heads amongst leathery evergreen foliage.

After the last diary entry, the first velvet-red, snake-tongue Hazel flowers are now protruding from tight buds to catch catkin-shed pollen in the cold air; the summer’s Hazel nuts in the making. Whilst attempting to photograph this new phase of Spring, the bushes come alive with thin squeaks and harsh trills of a party of Long-Tailed Tits working through the undergrowth: smallest bird in the country were it not for the tail; shades of brown through to white, via buffs and fawns almost pink.

Wildlife Wales Short Breaks: Autumn, Winter & Early Summer
For details, telephone (01341) 241469

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