A Difficult Week

The week started well  at three a.m. on Monday morning when I went off on one of my favourite delivery runs to Aberdare and Mountain Ash. At Aberdare there is a nice river walk where I usually see a Dipper. This time before I arrived at the river bridge I could hear a Dipper singing. I approached slowly to avoid flushing and was rewarded by great views of the bird sat on a rock in the river singing and then feeding. The bird then flew, passing under the bridge and off downstream. As I moved onto the bridge to watch it a Kingfisher flew from a nearby perch. Later on along the river at Mountain Ash two Goosander were busily fishing and a Grey Wagtail was also seen. With it being a lovely sunny morning, having seen some good birds and with a first for a long time day of birding planned on Wednesday I headed back towards Swindon in good spirit. However just after crossing the Severn Bridge I received a phone call that changed it all. It was to tell me that a close family member had tragically died and I spent the rest of the journey deciding how I was going to break the news to my wife and children. Later on with my wife I was back on the motorway heading to London to see my chidren and mother. Tuesday was spent sorting the logistics of getting eight people across to Northern Ireland for a funeral on the coming Friday. I went to work on Wednesday and on Thursday it was a drive to Bristol airport for a flight to Belfast. Having previously been to family Catholic funerals I knew that attending one in Northern Ireland would be a very intense and challenging experience. Friday dawned bright and clear but with a cutting wind chilling all. After walking to the church, the service and then the walk to the top of the hill in the town we drove to the cemetery, on arrival several Hooded Crows flying overhead provided a welcome distraction from proceedings. Later on in the day the family headed for the nearby seaside town of Newcastle which nestles along a bay in the shadow of the Mourne Mountains. Many happy memories of family walks here were brought back, with some of my best sightings of Black Guillemot amongst them. In hope I scanned the waters of the bay and was rewarded with fine views of a single bird fishing. Also in the bay were Common Scoter and Cormorant. Along the waters edge were many waders, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Turnstone and Curlew. This walk and these sightings were just what was needed at this time and will provide a happy memory of a very sad day. My Brother -in-law had always lived a slightly chaotic life with many of his journeys to and from England having been eventful, with oversleeping and last-minute dashes to the airport and it seemed his spirit was still with us on the journey home. A plane had made an emergency landing at Belfast during the afternoon causing many flight delays. On arrival at Bristol airport fog had descended and we were unable to land. The plane diverted to Exeter and after a wait and a coach transfer back to Bristol we finally arrived home at three in the morning.


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