I pull back the curtains and the day welcomes me with rain drops on the window and puddles on the ground; of course it’s raining, I’ve got an osprey shift! However, the rain has been and gone, and looking up, there’s blue. Leaving home and driving through the Cheshire fields, I can see what has gone, rain falling further east. Ahead is more clear sky and my shades go on as I cross the border. It may be sunny but there still a chill in the early morning air and the heating soon warms the car. Despite my expectations, breaks remain in the clouds and the sun goes in and out on my way. I choose the moor top route again but stop part way to look down on the stone bridge over the mountain river.
Passing through the gateway and over the cattle grid, my windows are already open and the woodland is full of bird song. The chiffchaff, willow warbler, robin and wren welcome me while the breeze helps to bring the scents of the damp-covered land into the car. The debris on the track cracks and snaps as I drive under the dappled sunlight. The roadside bluebells are now past their best but the summer flowers are starting to show; the first foxgloves are bursting up their stems. Leaving my car, a cuckoo calls from the hillside trees and buzzards are feeding on the recently ploughed field. The swallows skim low over grass and a redstart chatters in a lane-side tree.
Out in the open, the ground is now dry, made more so by the warm sun and cooling wind. In shelter it is almost summer-like; away from cover, when a cloud rolls over, it’s almost cold and could be the first days of spring. Hope still stands in the nest across the meadows, both birds are up in the tree-top bowl as I arrive. The two eggs have some time to remain intact until they start to be chipped at from inside.
The early part of my shift made it almost easy to forget the soap opera-like drama of the past few weeks. Two ospreys quietly marking time while incubating a clutch of eggs in that well established nest and territory; they looked quite content in the sunshine. The peace and quiet wasn’t to last long as there were two intrusions in the first two hours. A third osprey was in the area and made concerted attempts to land on the nest. The male gave chase on both occasions and was gone for quite some time, trying to drive off the incomer. When the male returned in the company of the intruder, the female successfully drove it off and then had a brief skirmish with the local crows. Later on, when the male had gone fishing, the intruder returned but only made one dive at the nest before heading off east.
This was the penultimate day of the meteorological spring and with the sun out it felt almost summer-like but the stiff breeze made it seem much earlier in the year when cloud cover returned. The trees also don’t quite seem to be in tune with the time of year with not all fully out in leaf. Maybe there’s a theme here in the Glaslyn Valley this year with the ospreys being behind the usual schedule too.
I don’t often have an excuse to sit listening to Test Match Special for most of a day. For once, the internet worked well on my laptop so I had a shift accompanied by Geoffrey, Aggers & co. (with the backing of a constantly calling cuckoo). It wasn’t a great start to the day with the New Zealand tail wagging but after they were all out for 350, England had a good opening partnership – only for this to start falling apart when I was on the way home!
That was my last shift for a while but hopefully usual osprey service has been resumed. Maybe, just maybe, there might be four ospreys in the nest next time I make my way west and down through that wooded valley.