One last journey down the wooded track, now starting to be overgrown by the bracken and bramble. It is high summer and there is a heat I haven’t felt here before. This time there are no blackbirds guiding my way on the wing and the only sound is the undergrowth being brushed away by my car. As I break out into the harsh light of the open fields and walk to the river, the air is still and the birds are hushed. An occasional call of a flitting bird breaks the calm but not the cacophony of spring. The flowers are almost gone with the foxgloves dying away and the irises finished; only a few marsh woundwort remain. The insects are here though, the crickets and grasshoppers calling from the long grass, butterflies by the dozen dancing around the meadows and damselflies chasing each other above the river. Perhaps it is the recent heat and the lack of rain, but there appear to be the first tentative signs of autumn in the valley – with the brambles weighed down by a bumper harvest of blackberries and the bracken starting to turn brown. But this is the height of summer, we may be almost two thirds of the way through the season but this is the peak of the heat. The young ospreys, now fledged and learning their trade in the air, now seem to spend their days hiding from the sun beneath the large trees around the nest or wandering further afield to strengthen their wings and seek new lessons.
These were my last two shifts of the year down at the Glaslyn osprey protection site. The last three and a half months, and nine shifts, have shown the changing seasons as much as progress of the breeding osprey pair and their chicks. The scenes in the valley have gone from the grey dampness of late winter, through the clean and freshly bright colours of the new leaves and flowers of spring, to the dazzling brightness and drying land of high summer.
I was first to see an egg in the nest this year but missed the hatching. I retuned to see three gawky reptilian chicks only a fortnight old and on each subsequent visit, with weeks in between, they have grown larger and more confident, until now when they are as large as their parents and just as magnificent.
During these two shifts, I spent quite a bit on time in my favourite spot – sat on the bridge, feet dangling. With the river now at the lowest I’ve seen; it’s hard to imagine during the spring that it was close to the bottom of the caravan, high up and far from the water. I spent time watching the fish, from shoals of small minnows to larger fish hiding under the bridge. The insects chased around, hovered and landed on the weed and the birds gathered food from the surface or beneath the slow moving water.
Well, that’s it. I get back in my car, opening the windows, a breeze washing in from across the fields. It’s with a sense of melancholy that I turn on the ignition and start my journey home, but there is also a sense of satisfaction of being involved in another successful breeding season for the Glaslyn ospreys. I have played only a small part compared to the other volunteers, who have made such a great start to the running the community interest company that now watches over the ospreys and shows them to the public. However, its all now down to the ospreys themselves; will the parents return for another year and how will the youngsters cope on their first long journey down to Africa and will they also return, in two or three years time, to breed themselves?
I slowly make my way back up the track, windows still open to let the last sounds of the valley in. The trees soon to be changing to their autumn colours, the bracken to die back, the other birds to seek their winter homes and a silence to descend over the land once more. I cross over the cattle grid and pull out onto the main road, accelerating away, not to see that old track through the woodland again until next spring.
The viewing site will be open to the public on selected weekends until the end of August. For more information, click on the following link: