Welcome to my first nature diary of the year! I will try my best to commit to writing one every month but we shall see how we go. I have missed nature writing, something that has got away from me in the past year or so. But having the opportunity to have my writing published in the Connections With Nature anthology has inspired me to write again. So here are my favourite wild moments from January.
Wild moments from the month
On my usual lunchtime walk to my local nature patch, Hendre Lake Park, I hear a high pitched squeak of a call. Instant recognition clocks in my brain: kingfisher! I sweep my eyes for the distinctive flash of blue and I’m rewarded with my first kingfisher sighting of the year. A vivid blue star shooting down the reen. A kingfisher sighting is always special.
The winter sun is showing off, a beautiful day following the long grey of Christmas. A moorhen preens, red and yellow of her beak shining and the mud brown and coal-black of her feathers delineated in the sunlight. The usually unremarkable made remarkable.
Another sunny lunchtime walk, a little egret perched in a bare oak tree’s impressive crown, a beacon of white, long black beak swivelling unbothered by my gaze or the screeching of a halting train.
Pouring rain this time, but it doesn’t deter a flock of sparrows overcrowding a bird feeder and a brazen long-tailed tit flickering from branches to another feeder, picking at peanuts. I’m used to them being flighty so it’s a charming novelty to be so close.
A less than wild experience at a central city lake, many a domestic goose and duck gone feral. And the wild, turned tame. Greylag geese feeding from our hands. A swan begging for scraps, literally hanging from Alex’s bag filled with food. Quite an encounter with such a large bird!
Heavy fog appears to encourage bird talk, house sparrows and magpies chattering extra loudly in hedges made of dark smudges and tall trees turned into nothing but ominous silhouettes in the gloom. A robin shape fades into view, rich song sharper than ever. A startled blackbird bounces away from my footsteps into the grey.
A flurry of flashing black and white as a startled flock of tufted ducks rises into a winter sunset-warmed sky over the gently shifting waters of Cardiff Bay, metallic silver-blue in the low light. We watch surprisingly ferocious swan battles play out before us. We hear what can only be the pig-like squeak and squeal of a water rail, what seems like inches from our ears but no matter how much we peer into the reeds, we cannot see it. Crowds of black-headed gulls whirl above our heads and dabbling mallard ducks dart below the bridge, under our feet.
Driving along a dual carriageway in Cardiff, a predator suddenly descends from the sky ahead of my car, beak and talons reaching down for what I suppose is roadkill hidden in the tussocks of the central reservation. A buzzard sighting to brighten my day.
Our log pile and mound of sticks, remains of a huge oak branch that fell from our tree, attracts several visits from a wren seeking insect snacks to see them through the winter. As most birds have fled our garden due to magpies taking over, it is a cheering sight.
A dark empty Saturday. I am overwhelmed by a sudden need to be somewhere, anywhere except inside my own head. I grab my car keys in a rush and flee to the sea even as the sun sets. Clambering over the sea wall, I am instantly rewarded with the soothing rush of waves, an open sky and a distant horizon, land barely visible across the Severn estuary.
Little egrets keep me company stalking over the marshland, even as I watch them at a distance. I sit and watch the last few minutes of the sun’s descent, the yellow, pink and lavender pastels of the winter sky calming my turbulent mind. Redshank flocks leap into the air and land again between soft waves. As if in a dream, for less than a moment, I catch the curlew’s haunting cry.