Spring Song and Sunshine

A gloriously sunny day today.  It felt uplifting to be out and about for a walk in this sunshine.  On an early afternoon walk with the dogs, I noticed the Spring song of the robin.  According to the RSPB :

Only for a short period in late summer while they are moulting and inconspicuous do robins stop singing. Both sexes sing. 

As with the nightingale, the song is usually delivered from a concealed perch within a bush or a tree exposed perches are infrequent. Autumn and spring songs are distinctly different. The autumn song starts after the moult, from late summer onwards. It is more subdued and melancholy in its tone, while the spring song is powerful, confident and upbeat. 

The spring song can start as early as mid-December, reaching full force in spring. Its purpose is two-fold: to defend a territory and to attract a mate. Therefore, spring song is far more powerful in males.

Dark in the Park

In the morning I noticed a bold-as-brass robin that didn’t flinch until I walked within a few feet of him.  He was still as a stone hoping I would pass him unnoticed.  As he turned to the side, I saw his flash of orange.

Later that morning I saw two flocks of Canada geese in ‘V’ formation fly past, around sixty geese in total.  I suppose that the geese gain aerodynamic efficiency by flying in a close ‘V’ formation and that each formation gains further efficiencies by flying with an ‘ally’ flock.

In the evening, I joined friends at the Dark in the Park running event held at Ynysangharad Park, Pontypridd.  It was part of Rhondda Cynon Taff Council’s ‘Couch to 5k’ initiative… good to see the local public parks being used for such healthy activities.  Around 150 people joined in the event, running as groups from 6pm, three laps of the Park, around 4k in distance.

At the Park I noticed the light quality, the contrast between artificial and the little natural moon light.  Many runners wore LED lights on head-straps.  From the distance, as they jogged around the park as a group, they looked like miners with headlamps on their way to the mine.

The temperature was cold, near freezing with an Ice Warning from the Met Office for much of Wales from 10pm that evening.  I could see my breath steaming in front me as I exhaled on the run.

The River Taff gurgled by our side for part of the way through the Park.

Geese and Pigeons

In the morning, I noticed a small ‘V’ formation of Canada Geese flying near Trecynon, perhaps from the nearby Aberdare Park, to a destination unknown.

In the late afternoon, I noticed a flock (or is it flight?) of racing pigeons above.  I’ve grown up in an area of the South Wales Valleys where there are still many racing pigeon enthusiasts.  It’s a sight I’ve been familiar with since childhood, racing pigeons exercising in the skies above me.  

Cocooned within Concrete

I was a windscreen tourist today.  On the morning commute I was struck by the clouds as I drove the winding road of the Graig mountain, above Aberdare.   The clouds seem to be stratified in parts with a layer of grey and a layer of lighter blue peaking through.  

I was cocooned within concrete again for most of the day, barely noticing nature.  It was, as I’ve mentioned previously, merely ‘wallpaper‘ for me. Something to be viewed through the screen of my office windows, in the distance, abstracted.

I feel at ease noting the absence of contact with nature and noticing the feelings and thoughts that arise.  As I try to establish a practice to support this nature diary, I am reminded of the advice of Natalie Goldberg in one of her books – perhaps it was ‘Writing Down the Bones’ (1986).  She advises noting meditation… when you practice, when you sit, what arises AND also when you DO NOT practice or sit.  I think what I’m trying to explore here in this Nature Diary is my relationship with nature and with practice.

That’s enough.   Tempus fugit.


Place for Barking Dogs

Visiting the splendid Cyfarthfa Park in Merthyr Tydfil this morning with the dogs, parking in front of Cyfarthfa Castle.   The skies were gloomy grey and there was a fine mist.  There was little wind and it didn’t feel cold today.

Noticing today… many tree stumps in varying degrees of decay.  The tree stumps were swiftly being reclaimed by nature.  In some of the photos I’ve attached with this post, there are tree stumps camouflaged in moss, ivy, grass and many other living things.

I noticed the clipped beech hedging as there is much of this in the park, the tree bark on a conifer that looked like a Scots Pine, bed of hellabore in flower, daffodils pushing through the leaf litter, the variety of moss and lichen growing on trees. 

My attention was drawn to a nuthatch (Sitta europaea) gawkily climbing a tree ahead… easily recognised by its blue/grey and orange colours.

There were many dogs walking their owners today in Cyfarthfa Park.  The Welsh word ‘cyfarthfa’ can be translated as ‘place of barking dogs’.  There are other possible translations I understand, but I like this translation.  

On the last leg of my journey around the pack, I spotted a Weimaraner pointing intently in the distance near a hedge… When his owner passed, he explained that the dog was pointing at squirrels!

Birds of a Feather

There is an old English-language saying ‘birds of a feather flock together‘.  But today in the Rhondda I briefly witnessed a small flock of black coloured birds, I presume were crows, flying amongst a flock of pigeons.  It looked like a ‘V’ flying within a larger ‘V’.  I noticed the contrast in colour of the two types of birds.  Were the crows attacking the pigeons, or vice versa?  I’ve no idea, as I’ve never noticed anything like this previously.

Another theory : two flocks were flying and collided.  These Rhondda birds perhaps need an air-traffic controller!  Some interesting research here from Cambridge University on mixed bird flocks :

The researchers discovered that birds prefer to fly close to members of their own species, and that the larger and more dominant rooks take the lead by flying near the front of flocks.

Birds fly as a collective ‘flock’ for a number of reasons : safety in numbers, to conserve energy as there is less wind resistance.


Molehills and Mountains

MolehillA frost down today but it didn’t deter the moles… On a playing field in Cardiff I noticed the many molehills.  The soil uplifted by the moles looked freshly dug.  I wonder how the moles adapt when the soil is frozen solid in a deep, hard frost?

Other things  I noticed on a brief walk during my lunch break : the lichen and moss on trees and the different textures of bark.

I also noticed an absence of something today … the sight of hills and mountains.  From this urban vantage point in Cardiff, I couldn’t see any of the familiar hills and mountain sides I’m used to.  Many years ago working from a multi-storey office in Cardiff, I could see the hills in the distance.  It felt re-assuring.  It also reminded me how I was in a very different landscape working in Cardiff.


Walking the dogs this morning I stopped to listen to the birdsong.  It was very lively and at first I thought there were several birds chatting to each other… but it was a thrush, a song thrush.  

I was unable to see the song thrush but identified it because of its repetition of phrases… two, three times, then a new musical phrase and that repeated.  And so on.  



Thought Suppression in Rhondda

Azure skies above the Rhondda

Today was such a contrast to yesterday’s grey skies… the sun shone, you could see the azure skies above the Rhondda and Cynon Valley in the sunshine. To my mind the picturesque parts of the Rhondda look better than  Switzerland.  It’s how you notice and appreciate it!

I tried to focus on the shape and contour of the hills and mountains in the valleys from one side of the Rhondda Valley and give my attention to this and not to the man made elements : the patchwork of stone walls and hedges on the Rhondda hillside. 

My attempt at thought suppression was a failure, it merely made them rise more prominently.  This process is described by psychologist Daniel Wegner‘s ironic process theory.  See Wegner et al’s research too 1

Driving over Maerdy mountain in the afternoon, the sunshine was amplified by the dead yellowed grasses on the mountain-top.  The scene was ethereal.  The mountain above Aberdare seemed to glow.  

I went for a short run in the late afternoon.  I noticed the pretty pattern on the pink-tinged clouds above Treherbert mountain.  Making an educated guess, I think they were stratocumulus clouds.