Let’s go to the beach

This week didn’t kick off with a bang, but rather some very heavy frost. It took me twenty minutes to get into my car on Monday morning it was so iced up! And freezing weather for the rest of the day is obviously the best weather for heading out to a nature reserve. Actually, it was a good idea because 1) the reserve looked awesome in the frost, 2) I got some nice close-up photos of frozen leaves / lichens / etc, and 3) it was actually sunny so the light was good. This was a new reserve to me, Abercamlo Bog, which is quite near to Llandrindod Wells. I’m not gonna lie, I’m pretty chuffed with the last photo, of the fungi. Most fungi photos I take end up looking blurry (unless I use the flash), because the fungi I’ve come across so far seem to not have sharp edges / patterns.

The middle of the week saw me driving south-east back to Dorset. I was visiting the Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre for a job interview (I didn’t get it, but I enjoyed my visit and was chuffed enough to have got an interview). I got there super early, so had a lovely (albeit damp) walk along the beach.

At the weekend, I took part in the RSPB’s Garden Birdwatch – a long term citizen science project. I did it twice, first at Radnorshire Wildlife Trust‘s offices in Llandrindod Wells (you can see the results at the Facebook page). Then back at house, where the highlight was 11 Long-tailed Tits at the end of the hour.

After doing the Birdwatch, I went for a walk in the garden. Suddenly above, there appeared 10 red kites, followed not long after by about 100 crows. Evidently, the crows had spotted the kites as they were flying straight towards them and cawing away. Down by the river, I checked the usual rock for otter spraint, no luck. I had been eye-ing up another rock by the river, and managed to find a way down to it. My instinct was right, and there I found some spraint! Relatively fresh as still dark in colour and still whiffy with that distinctive musky smell – a mix of jasmine and fish (as odd as that sounds, that’s what it is!).

And lastly, a rare nice photo of me, taken by one of my line managers last week when we went to Gilfach (as described in last week’s blog post).

*I know that I said that my posts would be fortnightly now, but I underestimated the amount of wildlife I would see during winter!

Off to my summer haunt

You may remember that I was spending rather a lot of time at Gilfach Nature Reserve earlier in the year (well, August). I headed back to this lovely reserve during the week, and it really is just so fantastic there.

I was visiting Gilfach for a specific reason, every autumn madness descends upon the River Marteg as salmon leap up the waterfalls (yes you read that correctly) to reach their spawning grounds further up this tributary. These salmon have been maturing in the Atlantic, facing numerous dangers both natural and from humans. They return to the rivers of their birth to breed again, facing yet more threats as they journey all the up the River Wye. One interesting fact I discovered recently is that upon re-entry into freshwater, they stop feeding in order to develop their gonads. Seems a bit OTT to me, but each to their own. Unfortunately, I didn’t spot any salmon on this visit, but I shall be there again soon enough and they grace me with a view. You can follow the updates on Twitter with my new hashtag – #SalmonAtGilfach (and don’t forget #GilfachReserve, for general wildlife updates there).

Despite the lack of salmon, I had an enjoyable visit. I had roughly 6 layers on – I knew that patience is required to see salmon, so many layers are needed to prevent coldness – and although drizzling, the weather wasn’t too rough. Gilfach is currently a great mix of rusty reds and luscious greens as autumn sets in across the reserve.

I also found a massive pile of otter spraint near the river, so large I believe as it is protected by an overhang which means that it won’t get washed away in the rain. I often get asked how I know when it’s otter spraint, particularly since the size, shape and colour can vary depending on what the otter has been eating. But there is one particular factor that is really distinctive and memorable – the smell! It’s a fantastic smell, and trust me I’ve smelt a lot of different faeces (I used to work / volunteer in a zoo, cattery and animal rescue centre remember). There a whiff of sweetness, usually described as similar to jasmine (I can now no longer drink jasmine tea as a result), with a touch of fish and muskiness. I normally just describe it as a musky jasmine smell. The smell fades over time, so if it’s an older spraint (turned a bit grey), you really have to get your nose in there and take a big old sniff.

This might be why some non-nature people think I’m weird … but I don’t mind, like I said, it’s a relatively decent smell and it’s from an amazing animal. Plus, I’m normally finding / collecting spraint for conservation purposes, so it’s for a good cause.

I also thoroughly enjoyed being by the river, recent rain meant that it was flowing very well (possibly too much for the salmon to leap up against?). It was thundering down against the rocks, so loud that I could barely gather my thoughts! It was truely spectacular and worth going out in the drizzle.