Spring 2014 part 2: Exodus

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It's June 7th and I can finally get the blog up to date before getting on with more overdue work. To describe the past month as chaotic would be an understatement. It all began in late March with the arrival of a letter addressed "To the Occupier". Such things normally contain a biro in an attempt to make one feel ravaged by guilt for not giving to whatever charity sent it. But this one had an official look to it. Opening it, I was shocked to learn that LPA Receivers had taken charge of my HQ. Without boring readers with the gory details, the end result was, a month later (for luckily a decent place had turned up to let), a hasty dismantling of my rented home of 13 years whilst attempting to keep up with getting my mineralogy textbook finished. Pretty exhausting stuff but on May 24th I finally spent the first night in my new place. It's only a mile out of Machynlleth but has a pleasantly rural feel to it - somewhere quiet to get over all the major upheavals that have dominated the first half of 2014.

Unsurprisingly, April and May have seen few chances for weather- or wildlife-photography, but I did manage the odd moment here and there. April 8th saw me heading over to Cors Dyfi, home of the Dyfi Osprey Project for the first look-around of the year. First stop was the hide right by the entrance, to see what was visiting the bird-feeders: all the usual suspects were in evidence:

Cors Dyfi

Cors Dyfi

Cors Dyfi

It was quiet elsewhere, so on the 24th, with spring a bit more advanced, I returned:
a grand new Observatory has opened, allowing visitors to get a lot closer to the nesting site, so I thought I'd go and check it out on a bright morning.The new building is reached via a greatly extended boardwalk out across the acres of bogland. Warm sunshine and a light breeze filled the air with the scent of bog myrtle and small warblers flitted in and out of the low bushes of that and sallow....

Cors Dyfi

Here is the entrance to the Observatory with its multiple balconies giving excellent views in all directions......

Cors Dyfi

Looking back down the access ramp towards Glandyfi and the Llyfnant Valley....

Cors Dyfi

The view out to the nest is excellent. It is still quite some distance away - the two shots below were taken at 500mm - a good pair of binoculars is still essential....

Cors Dyfi

Cors Dyfi

Closer to the building, this willow warbler obligingly posed for a few shots...

Cors
                      Dyfi

Cors Dyfi

Fishing has also fallen by the wayside of late, but on May 15th I headed up to Aberdaron and its peaceful rocky headlands to see what summer species might be showing. A dry and sunny day but not much about - a few mackerel, dogfish, wrasse and launce was my lot and the water had a milky look to it - possibly a sign of an algal bloom. They often occur in May and can kill off the fishing until they disperse. All day long a bank of fog was visible out to the west and as I packed up it moved in, streaming down over the cliffs to my west....

Mist on Llyn

This shot was taken walking home. Very Mists of Avalon, complete with a white horse grazing out along the headland. Wider shot below, showing the shallow depth of the fog and its density...

Mist
                                      on Llyn

The semi-wild ponies are said to be there because they graze the cliffs in a particular way, thereby creating ideal habitat for choughs.

Mist
                                      on Llyn

Up in the farmer's fields above, I was out of the fog and into the sunshine
. Bardsey was visible in the distance, its higher parts rearing out of the dense blanket of white.

Mist on Llyn

May 19th saw some notably explosive thunderstorm development across Wales, with a storm arriving over Machynlleth at lunchtime. These were all elevated storms, so as is often the case, lightning activity was intense. The plot below shows lightning strikes up to 1410 BST:

sferics 19th may

Elevated daytime storms are generally not much to look at (apart from the lightning), but I walked around the corner to my local and watched it through the windows (several better views there!). In the shot below, the Machynlleth storm is fast approaching:

Approaching
                                              thunderstorm Machynlleth

....5 minutes later!

Thunderstorm Machynlleth

Here, it is moving away northwards, but one storm-cell after another then moved past just to the east, with thunder continuous for a good hour. All very impressive!
 
Thunderstorm Machynlleth

This view shows the line of storms just east of town. More cells arrived over Machynlleth later that afternoon with several more very close strikes accompanied by instant, classic gunshot-thunder....

Thunderstorm Machynlleth

A brief clearance at one point revealed building cells to the SE, but the murk soon closed back in again.

Thunderstorm
                              Machynlleth

The poor garden, too, has been neglected, except for quick visits to gather chard and broccoli. But I took the camera along to record it coming back to life - first was the wild garlic:

Wild garlic

...with an abundance of orange tips this year:

Orange tip

On the same day the commas showed up:

Comma

One with its wings closed and the "comma" clearly visible....

Comma

The perennial onions as ever were attracting lots of insects: many bumblebees and hoverflies and longhorn beetles such as this one were in evidence on sunny days...

Longhorn beetle

The top end of the garden, allowed to go with what Nature intends, is still ablaze with wild flowers at the time of writing, with a massive population-explosion of campions this year. Elsewhere, the past weekend saw many hours of weeding where the wild flowers had had a month of unchecked expansion - the compost-heap is immensely tall now! Oh, and don't even mention the slugs......

Garden

And so to the new abode. After 13 years of looking across a busy street with a continuous rumble of traffic by day, this is the new view: it certainly makes a pleasant change in more ways than one!

view from new place

Kites are abundant up here. The following shots are from my front doorstep:


Kite

Kite

Kite

The birds diving for food are a challenging subject for the camera. Fast panning is required: even then the birds often veer out of the field of view and of several shots attempted this is the only one that has come close to working so far. Hopefully the summer will bring plenty of fine days when I can get more practice!

June followed and the end of the first week was marked with a Spanish Plume of warm air moving up into Wales on the 6th. Challenged by troughing and a cold front from the west, it began to destabilise during the afternoon, giving very high-based (estimated at 3,000m cloudbases) downpours. One such shower produced lightning in the Brecon district before moving northwards and giving this part of the world a quick soaking. As is sometimes the case with the cloudbases of these high-based storms, some remarkable and rather menacing structure was visible from my front door once it had passed (rain-core is the smooth area on the left):

plume destabilisation - June 6th

plume destabilisation - June 6th

Destabilisation continued overnight with a band of thunderstorms working north on the morning of the 7th. The lightning plot below, from Netweather, shows the situation at 0645. At that time I was sat in the kitchen with a coffee, having gone round unplugging everything of value first! Lightning was not frequent, with 10-20 seconds between each flash, but several strikes were close and one very bright C-G was accompanied by instantaneous thunder with a sound like a shotgun-blast. A couple of strikes later, the power went off for several minutes. Unlike the previous afternoon, this activity was, apart from the lightning, nothing much to look at. Occasionally flickering murk would be an accurate description!


Sferics, June 7th

Unsettled conditions seem likely to persist at first this month: there are, though, hints that high pressure could take over towards mid-month, which would be welcome even if for just a few days!

More soon.

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