|Summer 2011 part 2: Big
June storms hit Mid-Wales
(plus an attempt to photograph diving gannets!)
& Dyfi Valley landscapes Slide-Library - Click HERE
rain is hammering down out there as yet another
line of showers pushes in over Machynlleth. Conditions have remained
unsettled, with the occasional exception, with an active Atlantic
letting low after low drift its way across the UK, and with little real
sign of a change until - perhaps - July. There are hints of dryer
conditions then - no heatwave as such - but a break from the
Sou-Westerlies would be met with approval from most of us, especially
farmers and fishermen.
Although heavy showers and thunderstorms have been around on a number
of days, mostly they have not been worth intercepting. In the dominant
SW airflow, at this time of year storms form over the land and move
away NE quickly, meaning that they have to be chased over long
distances for images. With the cost of diesel, this is not really an
option right now!
On June 10th, strong forecast instability coincided, for a change, with
a much slacker airflow, meaning that storms would move much more
slowly. I thought I'd see what I could get for a gallon of fuel and
headed SE to the top of the Machynlleth-Llanidloes Mountain Road.
Looking north, some towers were building lazily, but didn't seem to be
On the south side of the pass, a mature cumulonimbus was visible
to the SSW. With the SW steering-flow, this would drift into range:
As it neared, I spotted a shelf-cloud - at cloudbase, to the LHS of the
rain-shafts - protruding like, well, a shelf. I figured this would be
worth a closer look. Heading down through Dylife and Staylittle, I took
a narrow lane that crests and then follows a broad, undulating
As I topped a brow the
shelf-cloud came into view:
Such features occur
along mature gust-fronts - the cloud condenses as the storm-cooled air
spreads out near ground-level and lifts the ambient air to its
condensation level. They can come in all shapes and sizes - this was a
particularly linear example. The shot below was a bit closer:
And looking right along it. At this point, lightning started up to the
right of the field of view. I headed on, reaching a vantage-point
overlooking Llyn Clywedog with a clear view to the S, SW and SE....
The storm was clearly getting its act together now:
Mammatus canopy on the back of its anvil to the SW....
Torrential rain (and likely hail) was falling from the main core;
within this, lightning was infrequent but nicely
visible, just a mile or two away, with deep booming thunder echoing
around the hills:
After about half an hour, the storm had cleared off towards Newtown and
I headed home.
Reaching the valley, I saw a sharp new cell developing to the NW (the
steering-winds having veered sharply) which was heading straight for
Machynlleth. Remembering that my cold-frame was open in the veg-garden,
I headed over to sort that, and by the time I was back in town the hail
was coming down copiously, rivers of rainwater and floating hail-slush
running down the streets:
Just SE of town is the golf-course so I headed out there to get a shot
of the hail accumulating!
beaches have recently been so weed-bound
that they are mostly unfishable. A couple of forays is all that has
been possible, but the first of these brought a notable catch in the
shape of a personal best bass of 10 to 11lbs in weight and 77cm in
length. I put the fish back - females of this size are prime breeding
stock - and besides, they are not particularly good eating. Bass in the
3-5lbs range are best - and they'll fit in the oven of my titchy
On another occasion I tried Borth only to find the beach strewn with
weed and debris....
The surf looked lovely but in fact was chocker with weed too - it was
almost soup-like in places. I abandoned the fishing and waded out into
the breakers as this beautiful cirrus came overhead:
Amongst the debris washing ashore were many jellyfish, including these
spectacular Bluefire jellies (Cyanea lamarkii). Large bubbles and froth
were everywhere too - evidence for an algal or planktonic bloom, a
common early Summer occurrence. It was only when converting the image below from RAW that I realised I had caught my
reflection - entirely unintentionally!
Also present were hundreds of By-the-wind Sailors (Velella velella).
I've featured these small cousins of the Portugese Man O'War on here
before but I think this is a far better image. They drift around
wherever the wind takes their little upright sails.... in this case to
stranding on the sand!
One day, a transient ridge of high pressure allowed a
fishing-visit to Bardsey Sound. Although the sea was a bit choppy,
were dropping away so I set to and bagged up on mackerel and sunshine!
The gannets had the same idea about the mackerel. They were a bit far
out for a decent photo (this is a digital crop from full telephoto) but
I managed to catch a sequence of shots of one diving:
A very tricky subject! The timing was OK but exposure is difficult to
get right - the highlights of the gannet's plumage tend to burn out
when shot close to the darker water. The shot three above is the
poorest - I've pulled the exposure compensation back a bit and then one
loses the lustre of the sea surface. I guess being closer is essential
and also perhaps a dull day would be better - the sky was rather
diffuse so there was a lot of glare. A great challenge though, to try
and get some decent shots!
Slower, larger and closer targets are much easier!
On the garden front, a creeping buttercup cull was required. Most
non-food plants that have over-invaded get composted but this is one
tough critter, so it has to be incinerated....
The ash is still useful - with burnt soil mixed-in, it's a useful
source of minerals, so is worth putting through a sieve....
...and tipping onto the vegetation placed on the compost-heap.
going mostly OK this year, although a second planting of runner beans
was required. Something dug up most of the first lot when they were
just getting going!
It's good to leave some corners free for Nature to do its thing:
Mostly I keep the veg-beds clearer, but now the garlic has grown to
full height, with the plants slowly dying back now, I've let the herb
robert (Geranium robertianum)
run riot - it won't do any harm, and it is a tremendous attractor to
pollinating insects. It seeds itself all over the garden and provides a
bit of cheerful colour, too:
The good news
is I've noted a big increase in honey-bees of late - that has to be
good in the face of the strains this species has been under:
Butterfly species #12 for the year was also noted on the same afternoon
- the Large White! Time to be vigilant with the broccoli plants - they
seem to be making a recovery from the major slug-offensive of early
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