Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Seasonal Update

Time is doing its thing and I haven't written much yet this year - busy with other things, I suppose.

We often have a period of cool but fine weather in Spring, but it doesn't seem to have happened this year.

It was a mild winter, but although there were only a few frosts (probably because I'm now closer to sea level and the sea), it has been a relatively cold Spring. Storm Imogen in February damaged the garden shed (and those of my next-door and next-but-one neighbours) and tossed an empty compost bin across the garden. Storm Jake at the start of March continued the shed damage and tossed the compost bin across the garden again. We missed the worst of Storm Katie at Easter (an early Easter this year, soon after the equinox). We've had some other very windy times which have not been named storms, although with yellow weather warnings. The Met Office criteria for naming a storm is where there is expected medium or high impact of high winds. The vicious easterlies in the first week of April should have qualified, but strangely, not so. Apart from being very cold, it was also strong enough to move the garden store cupboard, turning it 180 degrees and tossing it onto its side a couple of metres from where it normally stands against the wall of the extension. Fortunately, only one of the ceramic pots stored in the bottom was smashed, although others now have chips in them. At least it didn't take long to pick up and return the rest of the scattered contents.

There were a few fine days in mid March, when I was training as a LIFT leader with Age Cymru and was either inside or otherwise too tired to do much else. One day after training, it was much too nice to go home straight away, so I went for a little stroll down 'Fortune's Frolic', a path by the River Cleddau between Haverfordwest and Uzmaston. It was a sunny but still chilly evening, with happy, smiley people walking happy, waggy dogs. As I got to the first viewpoint, there were a pair of Small Tortoiseshell butterflies flitting around, and a flash of blue as a Kingfisher disappeared up Merlin's Brook.

A mute swan glides upstream on a spring evening on the River Cleddau at Fortune's Frolic
The river Cleddau is tidal here. It was quite low as I walked to the end of the level riverside path, and sat on one of the benches to enjoy the river. A pair of swans made their way upstream, and a group of 50 or so ducks descended out of nowhere and started to preen and dabble near a shingle bank further downstream. Without binoculars, I couldn't see what they were; I wondered if they could be Widgeon, but they were more likely to be Teal. There was also a pair of Mallard, just getting on with business. Unusual ripples in the water close to the bank below me attracted my attention. The shallows were seething with small fish; the last time I had seen so many was in the river Cèze, in the Cévennes.

April brought a few more sunny but chilly days. I happened to be out and about on the 9th, so took sandwiches down to Gelliswick Bay and was rewarded with the sight of a very low tide.

A very low tide at Gelliswick Bay on 9th April 2016
It wasn't as warm as it looks in the photo! At tides this low, the wooden remains of some wrecked boats can be seen (although not from this photo!) on the rocky point just in front of the oil jetty on the right of the photo. I didn't walk out that far, not having brought footwear (let alone knees!) which could deal with the mud and rocks. I'm not sure what the angular concrete block, whether it's a gun emplacement left over from WWII or some sort of mount for some other bit of ship-related kit. Some visitors use it as a bird table, dumping a pile of stale bread on it and retreating to a safe distance while the gulls descend in a mob to squawk and squabble over their bounty. The other (east) end of the beach has the slipway and yacht club and is overlooked by Fort Hubberston. Built in the 1860s and last used in WWII, it is now disused and derelict. The tide was still retreating when I arrived and after a couple of hours, just before it turned, a JCB with a block and chain in its bucket trundled down the beach to a small cluster of people, and proceeded to put in a new mooring buoy.

Pottering in the garden on the 13th, I saw Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell and Orange Tip butterflies, one of each just passing through the garden, since there's still nothing much of interest for them here. I also saw my first Swallows, although I'd seen a post from a garden centre the other side of Haverfordwest that they had seen their first the week before. Poor Swallows, arriving back in such chilly weather! It occurred to me that perhaps the first sighting of birds, butterflies and so on each year could just be a matter of luck; they happen by when you happen to be looking.I didn't do the Big Garden Birdwatch this year; every time I looked out, there were no birds to be seen!

Where did May go? Ah, yes, I picked up a vile cold in the last week of April and was still trying to get rid of it in mid May! The weather picked up a bit throughout the month, and various boats and yachts have come out of their winter quarters and onto moorings and marinas. It's all starting to look quite summery. Suddenly it's the end of May. I've now been in my 'new' home for a year. And I am STILL gradually unpacking, cleaning and sorting out. Incredible!

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