Spring is in full swing as I head out for my first osprey protection shift of the year but as I make may way across the border, the season seems to go into reverse. Into the hills, a familiar story begins to play out, with the cloud growing and blocking out the early brightness, my car beeps as the temperature falls below five degrees. It is not only rain that starts to fall from the sky but sleet, snowflakes thrown in to make my hopes for a nice day fade.
Up onto the top of the moors, hope no longer seems lost as the first few breaks in the gloom start to form and the sun shows its strength as the moisture on the road begins to lift. Steam rises from the tarmac and the car parts the mist which gathers in the hollows. Patches of fog hang over the fields and forestry blocks, drifting across my path on an increasing breeze. As I reach the crest before dropping down into the valleys, the scene opens up below and in the distance is the sea, shimmering blue beneath the strong glare of the newly emerged sun.
Turning through the gateway, the brightness is unexpected, the clouds diminishing as each moment passes. Driving through the wooded valley, the leafless branches of the enclosing trees cast shadows; I’m driving along a zebra-patterned track.
Leaving the trees behind, emerging out into the flat wet meadowland, little of the cloud remains. The sun falls strongly onto the land but the wind has a sharp chilling edge and the mountains tops have a new coat of white, showing winter, not spring. Here the season is less progressed, the permanent residents may have been singing for a while but the summer migrants are few in numbers and weak in their calls, yet to make this place their own. Those that have arrived seem unsettled, one in particular; she stands alone in the nest at the top of the fir tree copse looking out into the distance, patiently waiting for another to return.
Writing is a bit of a struggle, the flu that has knocked me for over a fortnight still drags on my energy, both physical and creative. Others don’t seem to have such trouble; buzzards, four or five at a time, were performing their aerobatics, rising into the sky only to stoop into a rapid dive before racing back up high again. At one point in the day, they got too close to the nest and they were chased by the newly arrived female osprey, protecting her claim while waiting for her new partner from last year to make an appearance.
There were plenty of other birds present in the Glaslyn Valley today but few signs of other new arrivals. The great tits, chaffinches, meadow pipits, pied wagtails and robins were all busy going about their days feeding and calling loudly from tree, bush, wall and post. As well as the buzzards, other raptors were about, with a red kite sailing past and a large sparrowhawk staring fiercely at me from a low branch. The corvids were in evidence too with carrion crows and jackdaws feeding in the fields and an occasional raven ‘cronk’ could be heard from the hillsides. The summer migrants though were thinly spread, no hirundines yet and the slightest of hesitant calls from a willow warbler came from a nearby wood.
The landscape seems a bit further behind here too with only the willows showing leaves so far although there are buds coming on other trees. The gorse is showing its bright yellow flowers but the grass has yet to turn a more vivid shade of green.
Maybe this osprey breeding season will be as melodramatic as the last, with the female having returned but the new male from last year still yet to appear. There’s plenty of time for him to come back though as it wasn’t until the end of last April that we first saw the handsome new partner for ‘Mrs G’. During the day, both before and during my shift, there were several ‘intrusions’ by other ospreys including by Blue 24, one of the usual suspects who has an eye on the Glaslyn nest. No doubt much will happen before my next shift in May.
I finished my shift in my favourite spot, sat on the bridge in the sun, listening to a robin and song thrush and watching a peregrine circling high above the woodland – perfect!