Birds, Ecology


It has been snowing hard all day but yesterday I had lunch with my friends. All three who live here, in the country (rather than the town) agreed that they were starting to have qualms about their bird feeders. Seems we have all created sparrowhawk feeders.

These small, fast predators whizz around the side of the house and bowl over their victims in a whirl of what seem pointed wings — an arial dogfight. The unfortunate tit will be consumed on the grass or caried off. If lucky, or quick, it may drop into the dense foliage of a protective shrub like our box bush. The little birds — the tits, sparrows, robins, siskins and finches — will cower there until one sounds the all-clear.

Every day we see buzzards and red kites, silhouetted against the sky as they soar above us.

Occasionally we see a kestrel.

The peregrine falcons, thicker set, which are common place in Kettering are conspicuous by their absence in Mid-Wales although we saw this one on the flood plain of the Dyfi estuary and have seen one in the Elan valley.

Photos are a boon to bird identification — do you remember this one — I published it years ago. So blinded by rage was I that I failed to notice the most sought-after bird of prey in this area — the majestic goshawk — eating my last bantam cock under the bedroom window! Goshawks live in the woods and whistle in and out, weaving between the trees, gone before you know it! Much bigger than a sparrowhawk and much less commonly spotted — at least this year.

This year is the year of the sparrowhawk.

Prospering from the largess of the kind pensioners who fill up their small bird feeders — Nature red in tooth and claw!


A Miracle? That’s what we need.

It is an apparition — a visitation — something from beyond our world — or perhaps from a time long gone —  extinct in Wales for decades, centuries — usually only seen with the dragons and griffons on coats of arms drawn long ago.  It is the Welsh fish-hawk, gweilch y pysgod,  hovering once more over the shallow waters and mud flats of the Dovey (Dyfi) estuary: an osprey.SONY DSCThe strenuous attempts of local, national and international ornithologists have been successful in luring back a single pair of nesting ‘fish eagles’ to a  muddy, midgey corner of Wales.  The female now sits on an untidy nest on a man-made platform at the top of a very tall pole.  They have returned from West Africa, where they migrate, to breed and lay their eggs.  She incubates them while fed by her mate who fishes in the waters around.  She looks out, moving her head jerkily to scan for intruders and all the while the CCTV mounted on the nearby pole scans her — recording her every movement and the visits of the male and those of the little train that clatters past every hour, around the water’s edge on its way to and from the university town of Aberystwyth.  Students on the train, often of natural sciences, know she is there and point her out to fellow travelers.

The nest is a place of pilgrimage — a birdy shrine.  Birdy folk come, they walk the half mile along the new board-walk to the soft-wood cathedral in the marsh — the new observation tower.

From the weather proof lounge at the top they can divest themselves of their long distance lenses and state-of-the-art cameras and unwrap their sandwiches.  There is a telescope fixed on the precise spot and, once you know it is there, you can indeed just see the nest platform with the naked eye and once you get the image home and magnify it — bingo:

The live-feed from the CCTV is excellent (you can view it online) — displayed on wide screens in the cathedral and at journey’s end — the gift shop.  It is also transmitted to the hide near the car park  for those who cannot make the pilgrimage along the board-walk through the peaceful marsh where only the dim twitter of warblers and reed bunting reminds us that this is a habitat — a sanctuary for birds — you can’t blame the usual inhabitants for keeping their heads down today — there is an osprey about!.

Thanks to Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust for their permission to show photographs Creative Commons License   taken from their live feed.  View the birds yourself at

Dovey Estuary

Dovey Estuary