Saturday morning was warm enough to fish in just shorts and top, 4 silver-armoured, spine-finned bass sufficient for 2 family meals. The Tuesday wildlife walk proved uncomfortably cold, fingerless glove and dew-drop weather out on the estuary. Cold was forgotten as dun Curlew and silver Gulls streamed out low over shining mud from exposed salting to alight in estuary shallows. A brown, first-year Peregrine, remarkably like a Curlew, swooped repeatedly at a ducking flock, relatively safe at rest in shallows, vulnerable if spooked into flight. The apprentice assassin provoked a few short chases, proving fruitless without the surprise, speed, and impact of a full 160 mph stoop from altitude. Tiring of the game, it flickered over to rest on the salting bank.
Climbing up from the wooded valley bottom into the lower sheep pasture on the Sunday run, there are commonly family groups of Mistle Thrushes at this time of year. This Sunday, a vast flock of over 50 birds launched from sheep-cropped pasture and farmstead trees, passed high overhead to woodland safety with harsh churring calls; possible portent of hard weather to come. Later, picking our way through heather on a narrow moorland track of grey rock and black peat, whirr of wings and different harsh churring as five and a single Red Grouse buzzed over the mountain shoulder, leaving distinctive, arrow mark tracks in black peat. Later still, in warm sun, we trotted over vast expanses of bare grey rock, rasped smooth by ice: dry rock colonised by stonecrop and lichens; puddled hollows with sedge, moss and rushes; perfume of heather wafted on rock-warmed air. At two points, bare rock is split by deep, square-sided, vertical ravines, the almost imperceptible track reappearing in rocks below, then again opposite, giving just enough faith that rock-climbing is the best option.
Wildlife Wales Activities: www.wildlife-wales.co.uk
This weekly diary was first written for a local newspaper, based on observations and events recorded in the beautiful area of Ardudwy in the old county of Meirionnydd.
Most of the entries are based on regular wildlife walks of the northern shore of the Artro Estuary, including the sandy heath landscape of the Maes and adjacent shore of Tremadog Bay, a designated European marine reserve for thousands of over-wintering Common Scoter.
Several entries are from inland observations made in the wild & remote Rhinogs mountain range and associated moors, wood and rivers, the inland border and hinterland of the Gulf Stream warmed Ardudwy coastal strip.
It is hoped that the diary entries convey the richness & beauty of the landscape in which we are so lucky to live and encourage the reader to visit the area or to open his or her eyes to the riches of their own environment.