They Keep A Welcome

P1050509I enjoy marking holidays on this blog, as I have Christmas or Halloween in the past. I reckon there’s always a way to bring any subject back to birds. Perhaps I should indulge a sense of celebration more often by sifting through the calendar for more obscure dates such as ‘International Talk Like A Pirate Day’* and covering those as well. Which reminds me that yesterday was St David’s Day: that patron of Wales and wearer of leeks. Lest I offend potential Welsh readers, I should point out that this isn’t an obscure holiday at all round here, but the national day of one of the United Kingdom’s constituent countries.

Or is it a country? I’ve never been entirely sure. England certainly is, Scotland is currently arguing about whether to become a fully independent one, and Ireland is a nation divided between two states. Wales, though, both stands proud and alone on the one hand, but also subsumed by its larger neighbour on the other. The English crown annexed it as a principality, though as to when or how my knowledge of history is too slight to say. Despite this, Wales almost seems more at home with itself than any other part of Britain. I’ve no doubt there’s a problem or two lurking somewhere deep in the valleys, but to the casual observer such as myself Wales simply gets on with being Welsh.

P1060125Maybe the residents of Wales are just quietly satisfied with life in one of the world’s most beautiful countries – principalities – regions – whatever it is. For such a modest area, only the size of, er, Wales, it is diverse, rugged and wild. Extensive tangled oak woods home to pied flycatchers, wood warblers and redstarts aplenty rise up the valley slopes before giving way to majestic mountains of granite and slate. Wales is a refuge, the last stronghold of British red kites before the reintroductions began, and still home to the biggest nationwide population. Britain’s most southerly pine martens may still scratch a living in some hidden corner of Cymru.

P1070671Heading seaward, the biggest concentrations of breeding seabirds in the southern half of Britain nest on cliffs and islands off Pembrokeshire, overseen by the thrilling red-billed chough, king of the Celtic corvids. To cap it all, it’s home to one of my favourite places on earth, the ‘Book Town’ of Hay-on-Wye, which sits snug up against the border with Herefordshire. It occurs to me that I have only been once since starting this blog, which seems to me a perfect excuse to put up a few pictures of past happy visits. And a good moment to wonder when my travels will next take me into this nature rich jewel of a…whatever you want to call it. It’s lovely.

*What’s a pirate’s favourite bird? The Aaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrctic Tern!

 

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