We walk our dogs on the Begwns, an area of moderately high grassland common that sits between the Black Mountains and the Wye Valley to the South and high moorland to the North. Some mornings when mist or rain obscures the view I do wonder why we are plodding across open grassland and bracken without any shelter from the howling winds or wandering about in thick mists trying to find: (a) the dogs and (b) the way off. But on every other morning we are treated to views like the one below.
Looking across the Wye Valley to Mynydd Troed early this morning with the sun rising over Hay Bluff.
Most of the snow and ice has disappeared now from the southern hillsides of the Begwns but not on the little ponds and streams that appear in the autumn and are gone again by summer. Jill and I have started to visit them every morning to see how the ice has changed overnight and I thought that I would share a few of them here. There seems to be no end to the variations in the ice formations or the patterns made by the frozen plants.
Finally one image of the Begwns as it was a week ago after the thaw had begun. No images of it under snow – there was nothing to see but snow.
It has been four and a half months since we moved to our new home in the Welsh Marches. I foolishly thought that once we had unpacked all the boxes and hung a few pictures on the walls that it would be back to normal and out of the door for a long walk with the camera. I had forgotten how long it can take to get a new home straight and an unfamiliar garden under control: four and a half months in our case.
By the time December arrived we had completed all of the urgent jobs and felt that the rest could wait until the new year, so it was time to get outdoors with the camera again. I’ve made several attempts in the last week to capture the clouds that have been sitting on top of the northern edge of the Black Mountains range. Last week a blizzard hid the tops and finally drove me off Hay Bluff, this week the weather has been kinder but is still very wet. Yesterday Hay Bluff was completely hidden by cloud but from about half way up the single track road that leads to the car park and the Gospel Path beyond it was possible to watch the clouds formations over Twmpa, or Lord Hereford’s Knob if you prefer, and what I think is Mynydd Bychan beyond. This was hand held into a howling gale and driving rain, so no opportunity for graduated filters, tripods and other luxuries.
In December 2015 we want at least one of the 122 countries who are signed up to the Treaty of Rome to table an amendment, a proposed addition, a 5th international crime to this statute (4 already exist: Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity, War Crimes, Crimes of Aggression). This would mean that corporations, countries, politicians, government ministers and even individuals would have a duty of care to not commit or allow Ecocide to be committed and thus give the long needed protection to the planet we live on.
Those who commit Ecocide in the territory of a state or country can be called to account by the International Criminal Court. An exception to this rule is that the ICC may also have jurisdiction over crimes if its jurisdiction is authorised by the United Nations Security Council.
We, the people, as individuals need to help make this proposed law happen for the future survival of our planet and biosphere before it is too late…
Please visit the http://www.eradicatingecocide.com website to see the many ways you can be part of enacting this law.
Our garden is full of trees, hawthorn and blackthorn and is intentionally quite wild; it backs onto woodland so we regularly get all sorts of interesting insects turning up in the house, and of course at this time of year with the windows open we get a lot of moths.
This is the first Common Emerald that we have seen here and we were taken by its distinctive wing shape and the chequered fringes. This particular individual appears quite travel worn – its verdant green colouring beginning to fade. They fly from dusk onwards, in June and July, around woodland and hedgerows, and occur in the southern half of Britain. The books say that they prefer woodland and hedgerows; particularly hawthorn and blackthorn which are food plants for the larvae. We have never seen them in the garden before, despite it being ideal habitat, so wondered if the species is moving westward or if this is just an odd occurrence. An hour or so later two more arrived, both in perfect condition, presumably this years hatch. For a closer look at the beauty of this beast, click on the image to open the full size version; as a guide the adults have a wing span of between 24 and 27mm.
Two very hungry chicks and just one fish.
‘A savaged, stripped, blasted land.’ is how Chris Townsend describes parts of the Scottish Highlands, devastated by the shooting industry in an article in The Great Outdoors magazine.
If you have a spare couple of minutes please read the article and if you are minded to, sign the petition.
“Grouse shooting has become an issue due to the strange coincidence that the areas where raptors are rare or non-existent happen to be the same as grouse moors – though of course the estates protest that this is nothing to do with them and they love raptors. In England there is now a petition calling for driven grouse shooting to be banned in order to protect hen harriers. The petition says ‘intensive management of upland areas for the ‘sport’ of grouse shooting has led to the near-extinction of the protected Hen Harrier in England, as well as increased risk of flooding, discolouration of drinking water, degradation of peatbogs and impacts on other wildlife.’” © Chris Townsend
To read the article please click here: http://www.tgomagazine.co.uk/viewpoint/the-devastation-of-the-eastern-highlands-by-chris-townsend
There are more photographs and well informed comments on Chris’s blog here: http://www.christownsendoutdoors.com/2014/05/the-devastation-of-eastern-highlands.html
The petition is here: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/65627
We went back, last week, to see how the Grebes were doing and to check on the eggs. To our surprise and delight two of the four eggs had hatched and the young were already quite active. You will notice that the parent feeds the chicks with soft, downy, feathers; a quick look in the RSPB Handbook revealed that this may help in the formation of pellets.
Click on the image and you will be able to see the chicks.
There is another batch of images of the parents swapping over at the nest which I will post later.
One of the sure signs that summer is here: a nesting grebe with at least four eggs. The hide log reported that they had started nest building on the 28th of April so we can expect babies toward the end of May.
This is one of several falls that bring the Marteg from high up in the Cambrian Mountains to its confluence with the mighty Wye. The falls are all situated in the beautiful setting of the Gilfach Nature Reserve – part of the Radnorshire Wildlife Trust. Gilfach is a traditional 410 acre hill farm – untouched since the 1960’s. It is locally unique because of its wide variety of habitats: high moorland to enclosed meadow; oak woodland to rocky upland river. The reserve is worth a visit at any time of year so I’ve included a link to their web site below.
A long easter weekend with friends in Wales and a stunning walk through the valley of the Mellte river in Brecon. At the point where the Afon Hepste, a tributary of the Mellte, leaps over a 50 foot cliff between high banks can be found the curtain waterfall of Sgwd yr Eira. The unusual feature of this fall is the narrow path that runs behind its thundering curtain of water and under the rock overhang that forms the lip of the fall.
I’ve read that the path was once used by sheep farmers which is, I think, a mark of how tough the people here have to be. The only way down to the river bed is by a long, steep decent on wooden steps – a recent addition – taking the track down before the steps were built would have been a dangerous venture. The approach from the river bed to the fall path is over loose, wet rock and the path itself is narrow and wet. The climb up the other side is also steep and narrow. Herding sheep this way would have been as tough as it gets.
In the Welsh ‘Eira’ means snow. Standing under the thundering falls your immediate attention is taken by the main force of water, no more than a metre away, as it crashes into the pool just below, but on either side where the force is less the water appears to fall more slowly and where the light catches the droplets you could be forgiven for thinking that it was in fact snowing.