‘Cardiff Bay approach, Swan 1702, level two hundred.”
‘Swan 1702, Cardiff Bay approach, descend and maintain one hundred.’
‘Down to one hundred, Swan 1702.’
‘Swan 1702, Cardiff Bay Tower, cleared to land.’
‘Swan 1702, roger, cleared to land.’
‘Cardiff Bay Ground (er, Water), Swan 1702, off runway 28T at alpha five.’
‘Swan 1702, roger, alpha five.’
‘Swan 1702, swim straight ahead to gate bravo five.’
‘Straight ahead to bravo five, roger, Swan 1702.’
I saw something last Friday afternoon that I hope never to see again – two male swans fighting, almost to the death.
I had just finished feeding seed to the water birds and pigeons when the battle commenced. I presume the second male had made a move towards the mate of the first, rather than it being a dispute over territory. This happened on Roath Park Lake in Cardiff, where the swans seem to move freely all around the lake and only get truly territorial in the mating season, which this was not.
These males were vicious, flapping their broad strong wings at each other, using their necks to wrestle and push, biting each other’s wing feathers. At first I was intrigued and took quite a lot of photos but, as the fight continued and neither swan was prepared to give way, I became concerned.
The female and this year’s two cygnets also grew more and more agitated. Both the female and one of the cygnets chased away other swans that came close, and the female tried to intervene but just got battered by the flapping wings of the males.
After twenty minutes or so, it was obvious both swans were getting weary but one, the interloper, was definitely weakening more. The dominant male tried to climb onto the back of the weaker bird, to push it under the water, and grabbed its neck, holding its head under the water to drown it.
By this stage a small crowd of people had gathered and we were all rather shocked and becoming increasingly horrified by what was happening. Luckily, the swans were very close to the edge of the lake where there is a concrete pavement and one rather brave man managed to grab the neck of the dominant swan and held on until the other male could get some air and recover enough to swim away. If it hadn’t been for his actions, the weaker swan would definitely have drowned. I know this is a natural occurrence, this is how Nature operates, but it was still really shocking to see such violence play out in what is usually such a calm and peaceful setting.
Today was a glorious early winter day: bright blue skies; chilly enough to wrap up in winter woollies, hat, scarf and gloves; crisp underfoot. So, duly rugged up, I headed down to the riverside. I walked part of the Taff Trail north from Blackweir, crossed the river at the next bridge and continued on along the riverside trail to Llandaff, then completed the circuit back to Blackweir on the western side of the river. I hope you can see from my photos why I think it has been the most perfect day!
Bute Park is, well, beaut! Cardiff’s green heart has wilderness and playing fields; cycling tracks and walking paths; a stone circle; an ambling canal on one side and a roaring river on the other; grand avenues of ginkgoes and limes, and a botanical treasury of trees. Though some of my photos were taken 10 days ago, on a bright blue-sky day, the majority were taken during this afternoon’s long ramble hither and yon. Luckily, winter’s first official storm, Angus, which blasted the city with rain, hail and high winds over the past couple of days, hadn’t blown away all the splendid autumn hues but I fear this may be my last autumn post for this year … so, enjoy!
I’ve blogged about Heath Park before: 37 hectares of fields, woodland, a stream and two ponds, lots of biodiversity and one of my favourite places for invertebrates during the summer and fungi over the winter months. And, right now, its trees are painting the park red and orange and gold. It’s another stunning place to soak in these stunning autumn hues and crunch a leaf or two!
We are having such a spectacular autumn here in Cardiff that I feel the need to share some of the stunning colour I’m seeing in my almost-daily walks in my local parks. I chose well when I found a flat across the road from Roath Park – or, at least, part of it, the recreation grounds, a large grassy area of playing fields. There are also pleasure gardens, a botanical and rose garden, a large lake, and an area called the wild gardens. The park contains a huge variety of trees, both native and exotic, so the colour at this time of year is just magical.
Summer has come to Cardiff so, although she loves our Welsh rain, Dawn Redwood is also a lover of a sunny location and has been basking in the long sunny days. Her leaves are now fully developed, a rich vibrant green in colour, with leaves arranged opposite each other on the branches, flattened in shape, and around 12mm long and 1.5mm wide.
Although she doesn’t provide the dense shade of a horse chestnut, an oak or a beech, Dawn is much favoured by Cardiffians as a shady spot for a lunchtime picnic – on the two recent occasions I’ve passed by, there have been groups sitting on the grass below her, which is lovely to see but also means I haven’t been able to get too close for more intimate photos (I was intending to check her bark more thoroughly this month).
It surprises me a little that I’ve never seen any birds perched in Dawn’s branches, as I’d have thought she provided the perfect cover for the smaller birds as well as a well-elevated viewpoint for the larger birds like magpies and crows. However, Dawn is surrounded by trees – several varieties of prunus and some lovely magnolias, as well as other species I’m not sure of – so the birds have plenty of other spots to choose from.
Dawn is no longer a naked lady. As April progressed, she gradually acquired her vibrant new covering of leaves, though it has been a slow process, perhaps because we haven’t had much rain to help stimulate leaf production.
Considering her stature resembles that of a giantess, Dawn’s leaves are surprisingly fine, feathery and delicate, so her new attire is still coquettishly flimsy, seductively see-through.
It was lovely to see Dawn being enjoyed by the locals when I popped by on an unseasonably warm day late last week. Her leaf covering may not yet be lush but she was providing ample shade for a picnic lunch.
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