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7th August 2020 – The British Birds of Prey Centre

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As  I said in my last blog it was rather sad seeing the birds of prey in cages at the British Birds of Prey Centre but we both enjoyed the morning show of the birds of prey in flight.

In this session we saw a Gyr  Falcon,  a Barn Owl, a Little Owl, Black and Red Kites and a Merlin.

If it hadn’t been so hot we would have been very tempted to stay for a second show in the afternoon with different birds of prey. However, the journey home and the thought of unpacking brought us to our senses.

My only regret was that I only took my bridge camera with me and missed out on an opportunity for better bird shots.

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7th August 2020 – National Botanical Gardens of Wales

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We set off early from our lovely holiday cottage in Ceredigion (extra time is needed for greater disinfection and sanitisation of properties between lettings) and we were going to explore the Cambrian Mountains a little further. However, as we set off it started to rain and, as the hills were shrouded in mist, we didn’t think the detour would  be worth our while.

On our way home, on the quickest route via Carmarthen, we passed the National Botanical Gardens of Wales and, following a recommendation from a friend, we decided to stop for  a visit.

It wasn’t until we were paying our entrance fee that I remembered that the British Birds of Prey Centre is also based here. The extra entrance fee was very reasonable and so we ended up spending quite some time here. In fact, if it had not been so hot, we could have easily spent the whole day here. My only regret was that I only took my bridge camera with me and missed out on an opportunity for better bird shots.

I particularly liked the juxtaposition of meadows with the formal gardens which created a softer edge to the beautiful countryside all around.

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We both were very impressed by the spectacular Great Glasshouse. It was designed by Foster and a Partners and is the largest structure of its kind in the world. The structure is 95 m long and 55 m wide, with a roof containing 785 panes of glass. Housing plants from several Mediterranean climate regions, the plants are divided into sections from Chile, Western Australia, South Africa, California, the Canary Islands and the Mediterranean itself.

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There are lots of different gardens but one, the Apothecary’s Garden, was particularly interesting. Each bed contains plants that have been used to treat systems of the body. An extra bed has also been added to show plants that were used by the legendary Welsh herbalists, the Physicians of Myddfai.

I found this piece by Phillipa Davies about the Physicians of Myddfai on the NBG website:

“Myddfai is a village in north east Carmarthenshire.  It was here that the first of the physicians practiced. His name was Rhiwallon and  his descendants are said to have continued his work, in an unbroken hereditary line, until the eighteenth century.
As well as having mortal lineage, Rhiwallon was believed to have had mythical ancestry. His mother was said to have been the lady of the lake, from the legend of the same name. She is said to have handed to him the secrets of making effective herbal remedies derived from local plants. Rhiwallon became a skilled practitioner, his reputation spread beyond his immediate locality, and along with his sons Cadwgan, Gruffydd and Einion, he was appointed court physician to Rhys Grug (circa.1165 – 1233) of the House of Dinefwr. Rhys Grug was the third son of Rhys ap Gruffydd, ruler of Deheubarth, an area roughly equating to south west Wales. Rhys ap Gruffydd (circa. 1132 – 1197) is regarded by historians as one of the most successful and powerful of the Welsh princes during the early middle ages.
With time the remedies and treatments of the Physicians of Myddfai came to be handed down in written form as well as orally. In the fourteenth century, some five hundred of these were incorporated into a renowned collection of poetry and prose known as The Red Book of Hergest (Llyfr Coch Hergest), one of the most important medieval manuscripts written in the Welsh language.
This brief synopsis of their achievements illustrates how, unsurprisingly, the Physicians of Myddfai have come to occupy a unique position in the historical consciousness of Wales. However, their story also relates strongly to the narrative of the Garden. Firstly, it is reflected in our strong commitment to medicinal plants and the traditions of the apothecary. Secondly, the story of the Physicians fixes the Garden in a context that is historical, cultural and intensely local. As a result of these connections the Garden emerges as the embodiment of both scientific study and magical heritage, the modern world and the ancient past.”

 

 

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At the British Birds of Prey Centre it was rather sad seeing the birds of prey in cages but we both enjoyed the morning show of the birds of prey in flight. If it hadn’t been so hot we would have been very tempted to stay for a second show in the afternoon with different birds of prey. However, the journey home and the thought of unpacking brought us to our senses.

See next blog for photos.

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6th August 2020 – Llwyn-y-Groes, Tregaron, Ceredigion, Wales

I accept that the contents of today’s blog may have a very tenuous link with nature but, nonetheless, I wanted to share my photos of today’s trip as it was a really worthwhile outing and a wonderful insight in to the culture and heritage of Wales.

We visited Ty Zinc: Wales` destination shop for Welsh blankets & Welsh quilts. Jane Beck’s website describes it as a trip through 200 years of the Welsh woollen industry on the borders of Ceredigion & Carmarthenshire.

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An overview of Jane Beck’s Woolllen Blankets on Tripadvisor has this to say:

“Wales destination shopping for traditional Welsh blankets. a purpose built tin shed shop replicating the local vernacular for roadmen’s houses a century ago. Fitted out like a mid century mill shop with floor to ceiling Welsh blankets, quilts & accessories. The only place you can buy new, vintage & antique Welsh blankets. An old fashioned service, with complementary tea for our customers. A place to sit & watch the birds or overnight accommodation in our vintage shepherds’ huts in the hay meadow.”

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As well as exploring Jane’s shop (and making a suitable purchase) there was an added bonus as Jane is a keen birder and she talked with enthusiasm about places to bird watch in Ceredigion. I told her how much we had enjoyed our visit to see red kites at Bwlch Nant Yr Arian but red kites are now so common in this part of Wales that I knew she was as interested as I would be in talking about pigeons. However, she showed great interest in all our other sightings and encouraged me to look at the Ceredigion Birds and Wildlife Public Facebook Group (http://www.facebook.com/groups/515853885290832).

DSC00074My only bird photo of the day (an afterthought) – a red kite on our way back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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5th August 2020 – Teifi Marshes near Cardigan, Wales

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The Teifi Marshes are about 30 miles from where we are staying in Ceredigion but they are actually in Pembrokeshire near Cardigan.  They are designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC).  We had visited them before and, as the weather didn’t look too promising, we thought this would make a good day out.

On our journey there the weather actually looked encouraging but the moment we arrived it started to rain and didn’t let up until we were back in our cottage late in the afternoon.

We made our way down to the river edge where we saw a number of birds. In the distance we could see some goosanders diving and, on an island in the river, there were Canada geese, greylag geese, cormorants and gulls. I was very reluctant to take out my camera as the rain was quite heavy but needs must …

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DSC09442Goosander

DSC09457A mixture of Canada and Greylag geese and other birds

DSC09474This dunnock was happy to shelter from the rain right next to us

On the marshes we took refuge in a bird hide and were particulary pleased to see in the gloom (and the mud) a couple of curlew.

DSC09586The view from the hide

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A little further on there was another hide from where we had seen (online) a video of a kingfisher. There were a number of branches suitably positioned for kingfishers but  at first we saw nothing. In fact all we could see were a couple of mallards. We were about to leave when suddenly the mallards stood erect and looked very attentive.

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Then the show began:

The Teifi and some of its tributaries are designated as an SAC because of their habitats and the species which live in them, some of which are threatened or endangered both in the UK context and on a European scale.

The website says:

“Another reason for the special designation of the Teifi is the Otter (Lutra lutra) population, and there is much anecdotal evidence to suggest that Otters breed within Teifi Marshes Nature Reserve.

Verification of the presence of Otters is always difficult, because they are extremely shy and keep well out of our way. Often the only evidence is their paw prints in the muddy parts of the river banks and their droppinghs (spraints) left on riverside rocks.”

Little did we know that we were going to be treated to such a wonderful display.

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The otter flushed out what I thought at first was a curlew, but with its shorter bill I think it may be a whimbril. (On reflection probably a curlew).

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Soaked we may have been, very excited we definitely were.

 

 

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4th August 2020 – Clywedog Reservoir

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The weather was not so kind to us today. We drove north from our base near Aberaeron in search of adventure, but for most of the day there was drizzle or low cloud.  Our fill of nature was the landscapes which we saw. Bear in mind I only took photos when it was dry enough to venture out!

We stopped at RSPB Ynis Hir but we hadn’t done our homework and the reserve was closed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

We  had a sneak view of the Dyfi Estuary where all we could see was a small flock of Canada Geese.

DSC09262Canada Geese on the Dyfi Estuary

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DSC09259The delicious Welsh lamb kebabs we had for our evening meal could well have come from these salt marshes

DSC09264-2It would have been a bonus to photograph a train on the bridge

We then made our way via Machynlleth, the ancient capital of Wales in the heart of the UNESCO Dyfi biosphere, to the Clywedog  Reservoir  – lovely views but not many birds, certainly not ospreys which we had seen reported here – mainly house martins, sand Martins and pied wagtails.

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DSC09388-2The ubiquitous rosebay willowherb – “fireweed”

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DSC03128The Clywedog reservoir

We returned home via Devil’s Bridge but not stopping as again it was very busy with tourists.

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DSC09441Cardigan Bay had a very different mood to it this evening

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2nd August 2020 – Ceredigion, Wales

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Only a few years ago I couldn’t imagine I would be visiting a raised bog in Mid Wales during the summer  holidays. These are different times and there’s no doubt about it my tastes have changed.

We visited Cors Caron National Nature Reserve in the hope of seeing some birds. We saw few birds and I photographed even less. In fact all I managed was a red kite just as we were entering the reserve.

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According to Wikipedia Cors Caron

“is a raised bog in Ceredigion, Wales. Cors is the Welsh word for “bog”: the site is also known as Tregaron Bog, being near the small town of Tregaron. Cors Caron covers an area of approximately 862 acres (349 ha). Cors Caron represents the most intact surviving example of a raised bog landscape in the United Kingdom. About 44 different species groups inhabit the area including various land and aquatic plants, fish, insects, crustaceans, lichen, fungi, terrestrial mammals and birds.”

We very much enjoyed the walk but, apart from the red kite, the best thing was the wonderful views across the bog of the lovely Ceredigion countryside.

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After this we made our way, via the famous tourist attraction of Devil’s Bridge (not stopping), to the red kite feeding station at Bwlch Nant Yr Arian. I had read that they were varying the normal feeding time of  3 pm to avoid large crowds but I hedged my bets and arrived for 3 pm, reckoning that no one would have told the red kites about Covid_19. As it turned out we were very pleased with the number of kites that turned up.

The one red kite I had seen at Cors Caron seemed rather pitiful after all this.

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1st August 2020 – Aberaeron, Wales

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We are staying in a cottage in Ceredigion, 4 miles outside Aberaeron on the west coast of Wales. We had a slow start as it was pouring with rain first thing. By the time we arrived in Aberaeron it had stopped raining but it was still very gloomy (all this after one of the hottest days of the summer).

We wandered around the harbour and, as it was low tide, we saw a number of birds feeding off the insects and worms in the mud. There were lots of House Martins (how do they stay so clean in all that mud?), rock pipits, starlings, house sparrows and, as well as a variety of gulls, a little egret.

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On the way home we stopped off at the National Trust property of Llanerchaeron, a 200 year old Georgian villa designed by the architect John Nash which is set in the wooded Aaron valley. We visited the walled gardens, the lake and the farm but are saving the woodland walk for later in the week.

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On returning to the cottage I could hear a buzzard screeching nearby and was rewarded when it made an appearance in the beautiful landscaped gardens of the cottage.

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The last bird I saw before disappearing indoors to watch the FA Cup Final was a robin. The red breast proved a good omen as my favourite team Arsenal triumphed in their famous red strip.

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29th July 2020 – WWT Slimbridge

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This was our first visit to WWT Slimbridge since the lock down. Even though we have  memberships to the Wetland Centre we had to book tickets online, as numbers of visitors are restricted. We foolishly arrived at a time when most families manage to get their children organised and out of the house and had to queue (with two metre gaps) for half an hour. Looking at the length of the queue when we arrived I had anticipated longer and so the wait was not too painful.

As soon as we were in the Centre we made our way to the hides along the estuary walk, leaving all the crowds behind. There were restrictions on the number of people who could go in to the hides but this was never a problem as there were very few people wishing to visit these hides.

I had seen reports of spotted redshank but we could not see any. There were lots of black-tailed godwits and a few greenshank. I also discovered, when editing my photos, that there were dunlin too.

DSC08017Goldfinch regularly appeared in front of the hide

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DSC07900Dunlin tucked in among the black tailed godwits (centre right)

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DSC08289Something spooked a large flock of greylag geese (but most of them flew between me and the sun).

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From the new estuary hide we could see nothing except common crane. A few years ago these would have been a major rarity but nowadays they are often here.

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DSC08129-2Common crane on holiday from the Somerset Levels

It was quite warm in the sun but the sunny periods were infrequent and we both felt quite chilly at times; so we avoided the crowds and restricted our visit to just a couple of hours. Just as well with the number of photos I took in that time.

 

 

 

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25th July 2020 – Pembrokeshire, Wales

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I think it would be appropriate to refer to this blog as accidental bird watching in Pembrokeshire. We have spent the last week on holiday on the coast of West Wales where our main focus has been to entertain two youngsters.

Whilst walking coastal paths, spending a lot of time on beaches and exploring estuaries I couldn’t resist taking a few nature photos. I was especially pleased to see a family of choughs which, in the UK, are best seen in Cornwall and Pembrokeshire.

On the estuary by our holiday cottage we saw redshank, a common sandpiper,  little egrets and a buzzard.

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Along the coastal path, with good views of the nearby islands including the island of Skomer, famous for its puffins but currently closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we saw the choughs and two kestrels with chicks.

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In the car park at Carew Castle a thrush and a robin posed nicely for me.

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At Martin Haven a seal seemed as curious about us as we were about it.

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Everywhere there were barn swallows.

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… and house sparrows.

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My last photo I’m not too sure about but think it could be a sedge warbler.

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