February
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Storyman

February 1

Walking by the Cammarch, a tributary of the Irfon, I saw pawprints on a beach of black sand. I think they were probably an otter's. I have never seen them but they continue to haunt the valley.

footprints

It continues very cold. They reported -11 in Llanwrtyd and up at Carreg yr Adur I'm sure much colder amongst the snow.

February 8

A gorgeous cold day with bright sun and very dry. The river was alive with dippers. Two flying back and forth to each other and others all along the river bank. I love the way they land like seaplanes skidding down into the water and then bounce up onto a stone or twig. Also more Mallard's that I have seen here before and many other small birds including a flock of bumbarrels. The river itself, much reduced in volume, was doing its best to freeze. Amazing pools of water where it has frozen in ripples and around the stems of reeds tiny jewels of ice sparkled in the sun. And all the while from the Eppynt, where the snow has all but disappeared, the occasional mighty crash of artillery, sometimes even echoing back in a second wave of thunder.

Pool

February 10

A visit to Llandovery where we walked by the Towy. I quickly saw on a log the familiar white breast of a dipper and soon enough a second bird, they were acting in a manner very similar to the two I had previously seen on the Irfon. I got the impression they were courting and preparing for nesting. This was confirmed when I listened to the podcast of The Living World which was about dippers in South Wales. They said they are one of the earliest birds to nest and also that although dippers are declining somewhat in rural areas they are making a return to more urban rivers now that pollution has declined. There was much of interest in the program in particular that they said they showed their white breast when they observed something that might be a predator so that the predator knows they are being watched. This was very similar to a program I watched last year about wild turkeys in America who when they encounter a rattlesnake don't run away but surround it and hassle it until it slithers off.

February 15

A brief walk by the river, wet and cold. I was thinking that I hadn't seen a merganser for some time when one flew out from under my feet. It was a female, I have not yet seen a male here although we did see a pair on the Wye at Hay

February 23

An early-morning walk and I was feeling rather sleepy. Bird song is becoming more noticeable. I climbed down to the beach at the mouth of the stream where I found long thin trails of white bird droppings, the Living World said this is a sign of dippers. I am beginning to feel more like a naturalist.

February 25

A bright sunny day and everything beginning to feel like spring. Sunlight sparkling on the water not yet shaded by leaves and undergrowth and in a rough patch of tussocky grass the single bright yellow bloom of a wood anemone

February 27

There has not been much rain and the river is getting low. It is hard to believe that it was once such a torrent, but there are reminders. Hanging feet above the surface of the water the detritus of river life is snagged in low hanging branches. This hanging and dangling is now curiously mirrored in the emerging catkins of the alder which are brightening up the river bank with their pale but vivid yellow.

 detritus

The beach is now well exposed and at its end covered with dipper droppings; confirming that this is a favorite place for them. One was active on the opposite bank dipping and splashing into the water before flying off with its familiar rapid wing beats. Above in the upper branches a nuthatch scampered busily searching for food.

Droppings