• Claire Stott

Castle birdwatch

Yesterday morning, desperate for a change of scenery I headed out to visit the scenic grounds of Aberystwyth Castle, just a 5 minute walk from home and so well within the government guidelines!

Despite the lure of yet more bright blue skies and glorious sunshine, the grounds were all but deserted apart from the birds who call this area home. Just the way I like it!

House sparrow in front of a castle wall

A sleek and beautiful male blackbird striking a pose

Whilst the air would usually be filled with the sound of barking dogs and excitable squeals from children in the playground, today all was quiet. With benches sat empty and the playground padlocked closed the usual chaos was replaced with nothing but birdsong and the distant crashing of the sea.

A blackbird on the playground railings, now out of bounds beyond a padlocked gate

Ruffled feathers

With very little human disturbance, aside from myself, a young robin boldly ventured out in to the open. This fledgling still has it’s speckled brown plumage, with just a tiny hint of a red breast starting to appear..

Eventually is ascended into the trees, still keeping a curious eye on me from above.

Curious robin

High up on one of the ruined castle towers, this male sparrow was certainly making his presence felt, singing his heart out to defend his nest site concealed within a stony crevice below.

Sparrow singing from his lofty perch

Perching on railings in front of the church

Another bird I could hear loud and clear was the lovely dunnock, although it took me a little longer to spot it. It’s grey and brown plumage blending in perfectly with this foliage and the grey stone wall of the church beyond.

Dunnock camouflage

A slightly better angle…

Dunnocks are a very common sight in and around the castle grounds. Although a relatively drab and dull little bird, I actually find them rather photogenic!

Between the branches

Exploring the grounds further, the usually immaculately cropped lawns have been left abandoned as there are no council workers allowed to tend to them. Nature has taken full advantage and provided with weeks of unbroken sunshine, the grass now stands tall and unkempt, bursting with daisies and dandelions.

The war memorial behind a patch of wildflowers

You could argue that it looks a little messy but the pop of colour is simply beautiful, not forgetting the vital habitat these flowers will now provide to tiny insects and invertebrates throughout the summer.

An explosion of colour on the slopes

Wall and borders invaded by nature

In sharp contrast to the overgrown lawns, the flower beds around the grounds stood bare and empty, as these would usually have been planted with fresh decorative plants just as the lockdown began.

Empty flower beds

In one of these empty flower beds, a local resident had taken matters into her own hands, planting some vegetables and flowers such as these tiny, delicate ‘forget me not’ flowers to brighten up the area.

Forget me not 

Don’t step on the veg!

A keen eyed female blackbird had also spotted the activity and an opportunity for a free meal in the freshly dug up earth, darting around collecting worms and invertebrates before they could wriggle back underground to safety.

Spotting an opportunity

The clever bird catches the worm

The blackbird was so preoccupied with foraging that she showed very little fear, coming within just a couple of feet of me at times, fortunately social distancing rules don’t apply to birds…

Extreme close up revealing the blackbird’s characteristic yellow eye ring

She almost certainly had a chick concealed within the nearby bushes judging by her behaviour. She constantly darted back and forth with her beak full of as many prey items as she could carry!

A beak full of tasty worms

She was such an obliging bird that I ended up taking far too many photos of her! Far from just dull brown, I think the female blackbird is just as beautiful and photogenic as their male counterparts.

Open wide!

This time she has caught a worm and what looks like some kind of beetle

Share the ways you are staying in touch with nature during lockdown using hashtags: #naturetherapy #mentalhealth #neednaturenow

All photographs copyright of Claire Stott/Grey Feather Photography © 2020 www.greyfeatherphotography.com

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#blackbird #birdwatching #outdoors #aberystwyth #birds #Isolationbirdwatch #daisies #nature #flowers #aberystwythcastle #wildflowers

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