A 01:30 start was early, even for this masochist, but there had been fabulous displays Noctilucent Clouds <http://spaceweathergallery.com/nlc_gallery.html> reported, Thursday and Friday nights, so I wanted to be on Mynydd Aberdar early enough to photograph any that might be in the northern sky, before doing the raven count. I wasn't sure if there were any then and having seen the photos, I am still not convinced, but if there were, it could hardly be described as a classic display.
It soon became time to abandon the photography and set up for the raven count. As I trudged down the road, at 02:15, to my usual position, I could hear, faintly but distinctly, a reeling Grasshopper Warbler, over to the north of the parish road, in the area of marshy grassland above Abenant ponds I know as Blaen-nant. Martin had one here in the spring, but this is the first time I have heard it here this year. It continued reeling almost non stop right through the count and was still going as I was leaving, after six.
Apart from the Gropper, all was quiet as I sat waiting for the ravens to start flying over and as I looked about at the darkness, I wondered how the hell I managed to get any count done in July 2013, when they started flying out at 03:25. Another question that often crosses my mind in these situations is when does night become morning? For that matter, when does night exist at all, for most of us refer to the period from about five or six until midnight as evening, then after midnight we are into the early hours of morning.
A raven call, almost overhead snapped me out of that pointless area of contemplation. It was 03:45 and still bloody dark. I could just make out a couple of ravens gliding past, against the blue glow of the N. Eastern horizon, but I couldn't see the one or more above me, nor the ones calling on the S. Western side of me, lost against the gloom of the valley. Luckily they were leaving in small groups, so by constantly scanning the crown of the hill that hides the roost from me, I could pick them up as they emerged over it, all the while crossing my fingers that there wouldn't be one of the mass fly outs that seem to have become all the rage in the roost.
Gradually, the light improved and I was able to relax and count by naked eye, and enjoy the spectacle of a couple of large flocks, filling the sky. Time crept on and the total increased, still they came. Every time I thought it was over and gave them my usual 15 minutes to be sure, another group would appear, then another and another, but finally, at 05:20 it ended, the final total being 378, which is just one less that the all time July total (2002) for the roost. I Know I missed some birds in the darkness at the start of the count, but it is pointless guestimating their number. As seems to be a regular trend, this month's total was a little down on June's, but if the trend follows previous years, August's total will be larger than either June or July.
Right, I'm off for a nap and then to watch Le Tour.