May 27, 2013 by welshcyclist
I’ve gotten into a lazy habit over the past few months. When I’m off work, and say I have two or three days off between shifts, I’ve been staying in bed till 8 or even 9 in the mornings. Before that laziness set in I would be out on my bike riding up and down the valley in all weathers, and early.
Yesterday, the alarm went off just after 5 and I was out and about on my two wheels, on a bright but very chilly early morning. It was parky indeed, but thankfully I soon warmed up. Despite the cloudless blue sky and bright sunshine, I had to keep my jacket on for the next three hours. Not that I pedalled that far, I only went down the valley as far as Ynysarwed, stopping frequently to look what was about, and take a picture or two with my moblie phone camera.
Again as far as the eye could see off into the dark shades of the woods blue everywhere.
Then there was a different colour of carpet, a sea of white alongside a small brook, that feeds into the Neath canal.
OK so I took virtually the same shot twice!
Then I came to the entrance to Pentreclwyda forestry, which looked so much more enticing in the sunshine.
Not that the motorbike scramblers care, as they leave the tracks churned up so badly!
After Resolven, as I continued down the valley, I thought the sunlight catching the white barks of the ash trees would make a kind of arty shot, for me anyway. Sadly my phone camera, despite its 5 megapixels, failed to do the sight justice.
I’d already been on the road for over an hour, dawdling as I was, admiring the beauty of this fantastic valley where I have the good fortune to have my home, still only 7.00 a.m., and the sun still hadn’t risen completely above the opposite valley side. Perhaps it was the combined effect of being both a Sunday morning and on a Bank Holiday weekend, but I hadn’t seen a car all morning, other than those parked roadside in Glynneath, Cwmgwrach and Resolven.
But here I spotted one, just coming out from a track to a woodman cottage.
But I had to get a shot in of my Pioneer anyway.
By the time I got to Rheola pond I went off road to follow the canal towpath. Now it was glorious sunshine. I wanted to check the site of the dipper’s nest I had spotted a few weeks ago. It was situated under an old iron bridge over the canal. I parked the Pioneer on the bridge, and waited, and yes one of the dippers flew out from under the bridge. Too quick for this hamfisted mobile phone cameraman to get a picture. The dipper sensing something was wrong sat perched on a wall some 40 yards or so away, watching me, then flew off.
I knew the nest was under the bridge so I decided to have a look, and though it was dark under there, I was able to take a picture of it. I also knew there were young in the nest but it was silent, obviously the nestlings sensed my presence.
I hope you, my reader, can make it out.
The best was yet to come.
I decided to push on down the valley, I was enjoying the sunshine and sights so much. Eventually I came to Ynysarwed, and stopped to gaze at the river as it flowed under the canal aquaduct. I saw a few mallards, another dipper, again either to distant or fast for me to get a shot. Sat there at a sort of picnic area, as I soaked up the sunshine, I noticed movement on the river, coming upstream. With no binoculars, I strained to see what was causing this movement. Quite quickly though, I was able to make out a goosander, with lots erratic movement alongside. As this procession came closer, hugging my side of the river, I realised it was a female with her ducklings. I’ve seen many goosanders on the river Neath before, both male and female, sometimes in quite large groups, fourteen females all together once. But I’d never seen them as ducklings.
These looked tiny, only a mouthful each for a large fish. As they scampered about, feeding themselves on flies etc at the waters edge, the female glided along close by, occasionally diving under water to look for a fish for herself, before surfacing with a whistle to keep her family close by. As they all got closer to my position on the river bank, I got more and more excited at the prospect of getting a photo. Then they went out of view, behind bushes jutting out from the bank. Impatient, I moved towards the family under cover of those bushes, only to see them all gliding towards the far shore.
Thinking positively, I believed I could get a better shot of the far side, from the aquaduct.
So I made my way onto the aquaduct, using the railings as cover, the mother goosander, spotted me, however, and had her party scooting at high speed under the aquaduct and up river away from me. From where I stood I couldn’t see them any more.
I needed to act fast to catch them up. It meant riding up over the tunnel that transported the canal beneath the A465 dual carriageway down to the opposite side of the canal itself then get to the riverside again. I did all this but the family group were nowhere to be seen. On my bike again I proceeded upstream, out of sight of the river, but knowing there were gaps in the vegetation where hopefully I would be able to get a shot of my quarry.
A few minutes later, I was in such a position, and my luck was still holding, I could see the group still swimming upstream. They were a long way off for my phone camera, but I started taking pictures, hoping I could download and magnify them on my computer.
Not a happy ending, the following are those shots. I’m afraid I can make very little out.
There’s the aquaduct where my adventure began.
Can you see them?
Can you see them yet?
I cycled further upstream, for another chance to glimpse this fabulous family scene of nature, but I failed to find them again, no doubt mum decided it was time for a rest and they had all settled in a shady spot, at the waters edge, safe, out of sight.
All I can say is, I wish you, my dear reader, had been as priviledged as me, and had seen them also, I’d have loved to share the experience with you.
On the plus side, I had a great time, didn’t get back until 09.30., very poor stats though.
14 miles at most pedalled, only 4.66 mph, and good photos…..zero.
I’ll just have to keep trying. Sadly, days like these come along far too rarely.