A first night shift of the year!

After a drive to Lincoln and back already in the day, I head out again into the rain. It has come down heavily over the past few hours and the roads are flooded in places, water stretching from gutter to gutter. The hills across the border have a low cloak of cloud, with wisps of mist in the fir tree forests. The familiar route is a bit of a drag today, hours spent in the car already take the enjoyment out of the travel. Rising higher and higher, I take the moor-top route this time, a little bit of fun to cheer up this damp, dark and dreary journey.

Turning through the gateway, the dusk is closing the light and the track is littered with woodland debris, brought down by wind and rain. Opening the windows, with drops coming in, there is very little to hear and no chorus this time, no birds calling, no spring prime display. A night-long shift this time, a first of the year, and eight hours to while away, enclosed and protected from the weather. Out in the tree top nest, no defence from the weather is offered and the female sits hunkered down in the scraped out bowl.

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Friday night brought yet another rainy protection shift. The rising water in the nearby river looked like it could block the path to the forward hide, so I (and Dan, my fellow nocturnal watch keeper) spent the shift in the protection caravan.

The Glaslyn female was still in the company of the unringed male and they seem to have bonded very well over the past week since my last shift. She was sitting on the fifth egg of the year and there was hope that it could be the first fertilised egg. However, on Sunday the it was seen to be cracked; another hope dashed.

Night shifts are usually less eventful than those during the day and this one was even less so with the persistent rain. With the female sat in the nest and the male roosting elsewhere, there wasn’t much to do but talk or doze. There’s always at least one person either watching the cameras or in the forward hide but it’s always good if there’s a bit of sleep involved too!

The pay back for a night shift usually comes from being able to experience the dawn chorus and I usually wander down to the river and stand on the bridge to listen. Saturday was no different, and with the water levels not as high as they might have been, I took my usual position. However, it was a very subdued chorus probably due to rain still being in the air and a strong breeze.  It didn’t take long for me to decide to give up and return to the shelter of the spy cave.

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We were relieved at 6:00am and drove around to the static caravan at the lovely Aberdunant site. I got an hour or so’s sleep before heading down to Port’ for a cooked breakfast. Before heading home I made my first visit to the viewing site this year and saw the new visitor centre for the first time. It’s a huge improvement on the previous accommodation and provides lovely floor to ceiling views over the river and towards Snowdon. It’s not all about ospreys and there’s plenty of other wildlife to see – there were loads of swallows and house martins skimming low over the water and a woodpecker on the bird feeders.

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On the way home I made a diversion via the Dyfi Osprey Project and visited their new 360 observatory. That’s a great visitor facility and the new walk out to it also provides good views and sounds – I saw my first cuckoo for a couple of years.

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The drive home was stunning, as a passed through the mid-Wales valleys between Machynlleth and Welshpool – the night shift was worth it for the drive alone!

It’s going to be a couple of weeks before I return and maybe, even by then, there might still be just that last glimmer of hope for some chicks this year.

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