Archives for February 2010

Weekend weather forecast

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 15:52 UK time, Friday, 26 February 2010

The forecast hasn't quite gone according to plan today with rain on the North Wales coast and in North East Wales.

The rain will slowly ease and move away this afternoon with a few showers following. Further south and west - drier and brighter with some sunshine and a scattering of showers.

Top temperatures 5 to 8 Celsius with a brisk west to south-westerly wind making it feel chilly.

It should be dry in Cardiff for the rugby this evening. The wind easing with temperatures around 6 Celsius.

Tonight dry and clear for a time with a slight frost in Mid and North Wales. The wind falling light. However, more rain and showers will spread from the south after midnight.

Lows of 4C in Swansea, - 2C in Wrexham, 1C in Aberystwyth.

Tomorrow morning plenty of cloud with a few showers. These wintry on high ground but during the afternoon most places should become dry and brighter with some sunshine.

The wind lighter than today with highs between 6 and 9 Celsius.

Sunday looks much more unsettled. Cold, wet and windy and some heavy rain with a risk of localised flooding.

Some sleet and snow is possible too, especially on high ground and in
North Wales. Highs 4 to 7 Celsius with strong to gale force north to north-easterly wind.

Latest from the Met Office

So a cold and miserable end to February but the weather should cheer up on Monday for St. David's Day!

Turning drier and brighter with some sunshine. The wind dying down with highs around 8 Celsius.


A taste of spring

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 14:59 UK time, Thursday, 25 February 2010

It's been a funny old week weather wise, with sleet and snow on Tuesday but yesterday most of Wales enjoyed a taste of spring with 7 hours of sunshine on Anglesey.

In Pembrey temperatures rose to 12 Celsius making it the warmest day of the year so far on the Carmarthenshire coast.

Mind you, I wouldn't put your winter woolies away just yet. The daffodils and crocuses may be out but I wouldn't be surprised if there is more snow in March. In fact snow is more likely at Easter than Christmas.

In the short term, most of Wales can expect some rain tonight. This will clear tomorrow followed by drier, brighter weather and some sunshine.

If you're going to the rugby in Cardiff tomorrow evening it should be dry but a red scarf will come in handy as there will be a chilly breeze blowing!

As for the weekend, Saturday looks the best day at the moment. Some sunshine and a few showers.

On Sunday, there is some uncertainty in the forecast depending on the track of low pressure but we could be in for a dose of wet and windy weather. Some snow possible too, especially on the high ground in North Wales.

And a word of warning if you're heading to Portugal, North West Spain or the north and west of France, especially the Brest Peninsula.

A nasty low pressure in the Atlantic looks set to bring some stormy weather over the weekend. Plenty of rain and potentially damaging winds.

In the Bay of Biscay winds will reach violent storm force 11 with very rough seas. So I wouldn't fancy being on a ferry crossing over to Spain.


Severe weather warning

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 11:19 UK time, Tuesday, 23 February 2010


Heavy Snow

For the following areas :

- Blaenau Gwent (Severe)
- Bridgend (Severe)
- Caerphilly (Severe)
- Carmarthenshire (Severe)
- Ceredigion (Severe)
- Conwy (Severe)

- Denbighshire (Severe)
- Flintshire (Severe)
- Gwynedd (Severe)
- Isle of Anglesey (Severe)
- Merthyr Tydfil (Severe)
- Monmouthshire (Severe)
- Neath Port Talbot (Severe)

- Newport (Severe)
- Powys (Severe)
- Rhondda Cynon Taff (Severe)
- Swansea (Severe)
- Torfaen (Severe)
- Wrexham (Severe)

Sleet and snow will become heavier as it spreads northwards during the day, gradually turning back to rain from the south later.

Temporary accumulations of 2 to 5 cms of snow are expected locally at low levels, with accumulations of as much as 10 to 15 cm above 200 metres. The public are advised to take extra care and refer to Traffic Wales for further advice on traffic disruption on roads.

Issued by the Met Office at 09:57 on Tuesday, 23rd February 2010

Valid from 12:00 on Tuesday, 23rd February 2010 until 23:59 on Tuesday, 23rd February 2010

Sleet and snow turning to rain this evening overnight.

Milder tomorrow with a thaw of lying snow.

Rain on the way

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 07:53 UK time, Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Most of Wales was dry yesterday but it's not going to last. Low pressure is heading our way bringing a mixture of rain and snow for today into tomorrow

At the moment, the areas most likely to have snow today are Monmouthshire, Powys, Ceredigion and North Wales as well. Mainly on ground above 200metres or 600 feet. 2 to 5cm of wet snow likely in places. 1 to 2 inches. Possible 10cm, 4 inches, especially on higher ground. Such as the hills of Powys and the Berwyn Mountains.

Tonight the sleet and snow will continue to spread north. Turning less cold from the south with spots of rain or drizzle. Some mist and hill fog forming as well.

Tomorrow will be less cold with a few bright intervals but also showers or longer spells of rain. On Thursday it may dry up for a time but more rain is expected during the afternoon and evening. And this could be heavy in the south with a risk of localised flooding. While on Friday more snow is possible in the north.

A mixed bag for the weekend

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 16:47 UK time, Friday, 19 February 2010

I think we can expect a bit of everything this weekend!

Some sunshine, frost and ice. Some rain, a few showers, hail and more snow in places too. It's what we call a wintry mix.

This picture of a snow shower was taken by Rhian Pole this morning, looking North West from Crwbin, Carmarthen over the Gwedraeth Fach Valley:


If you're wondering where the jet stream is at the moment, well it's way to south of Britain over North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean with some unsettled weather there.

Back in Wales, a few more wintry showers tonight - most of them in the north and west as well as a few heavy showers with hail and snow in places.

Southern and eastern counties will become largely dry with clearer skies and a widespread frost with temperatures tonight dropping down to - 5 in central Wales. Even lower in a few spots with snow on the ground.

So, tomorrow morning take care if you're heading out as icy patches are likely on some untreated roads.

Wintry showers are expected in the south. A few cm's of snow possible in places, (1 to 2 inches) especially on higher ground.

North Wales should be brighter with some sunshine and a few wintry showers.

Through the day, the rain and snow in the south will clear away leaving a better afternoon. It will be generally drier and brighter in the afternoon with one or two scattered showers and some sunshine.

Top temperatures 4 to 6 Celsius with a mainly light west to north westerly breeze.

Saturday night - A dry start with some frost and icy patches but later in the evening/ overnight another band of rain, sleet and snow may spread across Wales. This should clear early on Sunday although there is some uncertainty.

The rest of the day should bring some sunshine and a few showers. Highest temperatures 4 to 7 Celsius with a south to south easterly breeze.

Sunday night - There is a risk of more rain, sleet and snow, gradually clearing on Monday.

Tuesday should be drier and brighter but low pressure may bring more rain and snow later in the week.


Pelican attacks weatherman

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 16:43 UK time, Wednesday, 17 February 2010

An Australian weatherman has been attacked by a pelican whilst presenting the forecast on a local breakfast programme.

Network Nine's Steve Jacobs was broadcasting live from Taronga Zoo, when Marnie the pelican launched at him as the weather graphics were being shown...


Luckily I've never had anything like this happen to me but there's always this years Royal Welsh Show!


Risk of heavy snow for South East Wales

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 13:09 UK time, Wednesday, 17 February 2010

The Met Office has issued an early warning for heavy snow tomorrow. South East Wales will be most at risk including - Cardiff, Newport, The South Wales Valleys, Monmouthshire and Powys.

5 to 10cm of snow is possible in places, 2 to 6 inches. Locally there will be more snow on higher ground with a risk of disruption.

Of course, things could change as new information comes in tonight and a small change in temperature can make all the difference between rain and snow.

Tonight, rain, sleet and snow in north and east Wales will slowly move away. Some mist and fog patches forming with a risk of icy roads. Temperatures falling close to freezing or below.

Tomorrow another cold start with some frost and icy patches.

Grey and misty in places too with fog patches. The fog will be freezing in places but brighter in the west.

Most of the county will be dry but in the far south a little rain or sleet is likely. During the day, the rain and sleet will spread further north.

As time goes on it will turn more to snow and some of the snow will settle with a risk of some disruption.

North and West Wales will be drier and brighter with just the odd light shower. Another cold day. Top temperatures 2 to 5 Celsius with a north easterly breeze.

Tomorrow night sleet and snow will slowly move away with some frost and icy patches.

Friday and the weekend, staying on the cold side with a mixture of sunshine and wintry showers.

Some of the showers heavy with hail and thunder. Further snow in places too, especially on higher ground.

Wrap up warm and kilt wearers may want to consider putting on some extra layers.

Snow art galleries on BBC Wales Nature


Searching for the great northern diver

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 11:22 UK time, Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Every year 200 great northern divers make the journey from Iceland and even Greenland to spend the winter off the coast of Wales.

As many as 30 have been seen in Caernarfon Bay this year alone. A group of birdwatchers were at Dinas Dinlle trying to get a sighting...

Cleaner rivers for Wales by 2015?

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:29 UK time, Wednesday, 17 February 2010

The Environment Agency Wales and the Welsh Assembly Government have announced ambitious plans to improve all waterways in Wales by 2015 and return them to a "near natural" condition by 2027.

They aim to ensure water companies, farming groups, industry and councils work together to tackle pollution.


Here are some recent water quality findings from the Environment Agency website:

  • Biological quality - an indicator of overall 'health' of rivers
"Our aim is to get as many rivers as possible iclassed as excellent or good. In 2008, 72% of English rivers were at this level - the best on record, this is up from 55% in 1990".

"88% of Welsh rivers were of good or excellent quality - again, the best on record, compared with 79% in 1990".

  • Chemical quality - an indicator of organic pollution in general
"In 2008 79% of English rivers were at excellent or good quality, up from 55% in 1990".

"95% of Welsh rivers were of good or better quality, up from 86% in 1990".

  • Nutrient status - phosphate and nitrate in rivers
"Our aim is to continue to reduce the number of rivers with high concentrations of nutrients.  High concentrations are classed as greater than 0.1mg/l for phosphate and 30mg/l for nitrate".

"In 2008, 51% of English rivers had high concentrations of phosphate compared with 69% in 1990.  High concentrations of nitrate were found in 32% of English rivers in 2008 compared with 36% in 1995".

"8.5% of Welsh rivers had high concentrations of phosphate in 2008, compared 26% in 1990. High concentrations of nitrate rarely occur in Welsh rivers".

It sounds like great news for Welsh rivers, wildlife, anglers and other water sport enthusiasts if all of the proposed plans are effective.

The implications are huge especially for rivers where overflow pipes, agricultural run off and sewage can be a problem during and after heavy rain fall.

So what condition is your local river in? Does it support a good eco-system or is it in dire need of a clean up? I'd love to hear your views and comments.

You can read more about this story on BBC News online.


Dirtsurfing in Llantrissant forest

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 14:01 UK time, Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Dirtsurfing is a combination of surfing, biking and mountain boarding. It's great fun but there is a downside - you have to walk back up any hill you surf down!

Simon Watmore sent in this clip of himself (yellow board), Andy Davies (yellow board) and Gavin James (green board) flying down the fire tracks in Llantrissant forest which have been opened up and maintained by a group of local mountain bikers.

Tim Davis filmed it from his own board whilst hanging on to a Sony HD camera!

Andy said "They're really quick runs and lots of fun!"

Talbot Green - Wales - Dirtsurfing from Simon Watmore on Vimeo.

I had a few attempts at this last summer and I have to say, it is a lot of fun but hard work on the old thighs!

*If you've got video footage of any outdoor pursuits (surfing, mountain biking etc) that you'd like me to feature - drop me an email to

Remember - if you're editing clips for BBC, please don't add any music tracks unless they're your own compositions and you're happy for us to use them.


There's something fishy going on

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 11:23 UK time, Tuesday, 16 February 2010

I mentioned in an earlier blog about the fishy fun happening all this week at the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff.

Well the fishy theme continues... as we've had a number of great shots sent in recently. Here's my pick of the bunch so far:

Tony Llewellyn captured this remarkable looking spoonbill, devouring what appears to be a good sized roach. I think the largest roach I ever caught as a boy was about a third of the size of this!
Meanwhile, Happy Snapper 63 caught this gull practising it's beak stands:
Christian Roberts took this amazing shot of a pair of otters playing at the waters edge somewhere in the Conwy Valley:
And last but by no means not least are these lovely shots of a cormorant catching its lunch by Tony Llewellyn:


You can see more great photos in our Flickr group or visit our new picture galleries on the nature website.


New winter Olympic sport - ice waddling

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:41 UK time, Tuesday, 16 February 2010

I've got a feeling this duck is too late to qualify for team G.B but it's a nice little clip anyway, sent in to our Nature Flickr group by Simon Palmer.

In this clip, the melting ice signifies the changing seasons as the duck moves from ice (winter) to the melted water (spring)... ;)


Half term weather update

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 16:54 UK time, Monday, 15 February 2010

I hope you had a good weekend and enjoyed that traumatic game of rugby on Saturday!

Unfortunately, there was a little rain in north west Wales on Sunday, which wasn't forecast.

Despite trying, it's impossible to be right all of the time when it comes to predicting the weather, but we have got better over the years.

Our three day forecast for instance is much more accurate than the one day forecast we used to offer back in 1980.

Read the Met Office forecast.

It's half term for schools this week and the weather is on the change...

A cold area of low pressure near Iceland is going to move south across Britain and Ireland bringing some rain and wintry showers. There will also be some snow in places.

However, there's no need to rush out to the supermarket and stock up on bread and milk!

I am not expecting a repeat of the conditions we had back in January when there was widespread disruption.

Most of the snow will be on the higher ground with some significant falls possible on some hills and mountains later in the week.

Some frost and icy patches are likely too but in between the wintry showers there is the prospect of seeing at least some sunshine, so the kids shouldn't have to stay indoors all week!


Fishy fun for half term week

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:25 UK time, Monday, 15 February 2010

As part of the National Museum Wales 'Fishy Fun' theme, RSPB Cymru staff and volunteers will be holding 'Albatross Antics' events during half-term.

The events are held from 14 to 21 February from 11am until 4pm every day and will teach children of all ages about the plight of the albatross - the largest flying bird in the world with a wingspan reaching up to 5.3m!

Craig Leitch from RSPB Cymru said: "There will be activities such as albatross mask making, a huge board game to play and children will also be able to meet 'Albie the Albatross' himself."

There will also be a 'threatened species tour' of the Natural History Collection at 12 and 3pm every day, exploring the decline of many of the UK birds species and the work being done to reverse it.

It's all free, all ages welcome and you can book when you arrive at reception.

Find out more at the museum's website


Weekend sporting weather

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 15:17 UK time, Friday, 12 February 2010

It's been a cold week here in Wales but at least it's been dry most of the time with some sunshine to cheer us up and the days are slowly getting longer too.

Over the weekend, the weather is going to be fairly quiet. If you're unlucky you might catch a light shower of rain or a snow flurry but most places will remain dry with some sunshine and frost. Any mist and fog patches will lift around mid to late morning.

Swansea City are at home to Newcastle tomorrow and it promises to be a nice afternoon at the Liberty Stadium - fine and sunny.

Top temperatures 6 Celsius with a chilly north easterly breeze. Full commentary on BBC Radio Wales, live text commentary online and score updates on BBC Sport website.

If you're off to Cardiff to watch the rugby at the Millennium Stadium, the weather looks dry. After a cloudy start it should brighten up with some sunshine.

Temperatures peaking at 6 Celsius with a cold breeze from the north east. You can watch the game live on BBC One Wales (also online, 1330-1555 GMT).

Sunday is St.Valentine's Day, and it's not looking too bad for a romantic stroll. If you fancy listening to some romantic tunes then visit the BBC Wales music website for 12 of the best Welsh love songs.

I wouldn't rule out a light shower but most of Wales dry. The best of the sunshine in the south and west. Temperatures 3 to 6 Celsius with light winds.

Next week will bring a change. Turning more unsettled. Low pressure bringing some rain and sleet and a risk of some snow too, mainly on the hills and mountains but not exclusively!

Have great weekend.


Spring is sprung

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 13:46 UK time, Thursday, 11 February 2010

"Spring is sprung, the grass is ris.
I wonders where the birdies is?
They say the birdie's on the wing.
Ain't that absurd?
I always thought the wing was on the bird

We've recently had our first spring like photos of 2010 featuring frog spawn and snowdrops, despite the spate of cold weather so spring must be well on the way.

Owen Pritchard photographed some frog spawn at Cantref in the Brecon Beacons where the frogs are particularly hardy:

Meanwhile Sharon Jones-Williams from Gaerwen snapped these snowdrops covered in early morning dew:

Now all we need is our first daffodil and we're complete. I've a feeling it probably flowered in December though...

Add you spring pics to our Flickr group or email them to me here at


Photos of surfer being rescued off Newgale

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:33 UK time, Thursday, 11 February 2010

It's been a great winter for surf in Wales so far this year and the lighter mornings and evenings come as a great relief. (It's no fun getting changed in the dark in sub-zero temperatures!)

We've been blessed with solid ground swells, big wave periods and offshore winds which occasionally all combine to produce perfect waves for surfers.

Bigger swells however can also bring danger to the less experienced, so if in doubt - don't paddle out! 

The swell was massive on Saturday, 6 Feb with a 10ft+ swell and there weren't many braving it.

Local surfer, Tim Plumb had this to say on the BBC Wales surfing forum: "There was a crazy rip in Newgale in the white water, which was ripping badly from south to north. The rip was only in the white water though and was fine out the back. I'm not surprised someone got taken round by it, it was very strong".

However, one unlucky surfer decided to take on the might of the ocean that day and lost.

Luckily a member of the public reported him being swept along in the rip towards the north end of the beach.

John Hooper, a surfer from Cardiff was on hand to capture the rescue which luckily ended without incident thanks to the great work done by the RNLI.

The inshore lifeboat, all weather boat and helicopter begin the search:

The winch man descends to get a closer look nearer the rocks:

The winch man hovering above the waves, which gives you an indication of the size:

The surfer is finally located in a sea cave and winched to safety:

Luckily the only things injured that day were his hip, pride and surfboard.

RNLI rescue report

Newgale beach surfing guide


Read the rest of this entry

It's Buchan cold

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 15:56 UK time, Wednesday, 10 February 2010

There's been a few snow flurries in places today but don't get too excited - I'm not expecting much more snow over the next couple of days at least here in Wales.

Most of the snow will be in Kent. But it is going to stay cold with some more sunshine and frost.

Cold weather around this time of the year is called a Buchan cold spell.

Alexander Buchan was a meteorologist born in Scotland in the 19th century.

He was the first person to use a weather map as the basis of weather forecasting and using statistical methods he developed the so-called 'Buchan spells' - either cold or warm spells that he claimed happened at roughly the same time each year.

The first cold spell is in the week leading up to Valentine's day - the next one is around the second week of April. The first Buchan warm spell is in the second week of July.

The Buchan cold spells are:

7 to 14 February

11 - 14 April

9 - 14 May

29 June - 4 July

6 - 11 August

6 - 13 November

The Buchan warm spells are:

12 - 15 July

12 - 15 August

3 - 14 December

It would be great if these could be relied upon every year and would make my job easier, but in reality weather patterns tend to be much more random.


Robin goes bananas for bananas

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 15:07 UK time, Wednesday, 10 February 2010

A robin has developed a taste for home grown bananas in Carmarthenshire.


Ancient oak splits in two

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 14:43 UK time, Wednesday, 10 February 2010

A tree which has stood for hundreds of years in the Ceriog Valley near Chirk, Wrexham, has split because of recent cold weather.

The Great Oak at the Gates of the Dead has stood for 1,200 years and was recently featured on BBC's Countryfile programme.

BBC News Online

Fen raft spiders on the rise

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:30 UK time, Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Mike Davies photographed this amazing spider in 2009 on the Tennant Canal at Pant y Sais Fen - an SSSI not far from Neath.


These amazing spiders reach around 5cm in length when fully grown but are completely harmless and extremely rare so don't panic.

To put it into context - up until a few years ago, this species was only found in two locations in the whole of Britain and they were both in eastern England.

It is one of Europe's largest and rarest spiders and protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.


We're very lucky to have them in Wales and the population seems to be thriving. The spider feeds on small fish such as sticklebacks and tadpoles and other aquatic invertebrates.

When the prey is located the spiders can actually run across the surface of the water to attack and can even hunt underwater by running up and down reeds!

Watch a clip about this remarkable arachnid from Iolo's Welsh Safari:

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions

You can see some nice photos of the spider on

Find out more on this website dedicated to the fen raft spider

If you've been lucky enough to see one - lets me know in the comments section of this blog.



Hibernating horseshoes

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 15:52 UK time, Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Huw Jenkins has been in touch regarding a recent bat count he took part in:

"It's been a harsh winter with lots of wildlife suffering from the cold but one of the Meirionnydd colonies of rare, lesser horseshoe bats, seems to be thriving".

"Sunday, 7 February was the agreed date for the count organised by the Gwynedd Bat Group".

"I lowered myself into the flooded mine adit, with frog spawn at the entrance and my waders filled with water through the cracked rubber!"

"With hard hats, torches and clickers we made our way to the end of the 200 foot long adit, counting as we went".

"The total was 113, significantly up from 74 this time last year. Lucky horseshoes!"

"Bats are protected by law and should not be disturbed".

"The counting of bats during hibernation surveys is done under supervision and with permission of licenced bat workers".

For more information contact the Gwynedd Bat Group.

You can watch a clip of the count here on You Tube. .


Groundhog day

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 15:50 UK time, Monday, 8 February 2010

Last Tuesday was Candlemas Day.... now I know what you're thinking  - that was last week but read on - It will all become clear :)

Candlemas is a traditional Christian festival and it was the custom on Candlemas Day for clergy to bless candles and distribute them to people. A lighted candle was placed in churches and windows to brighten up the dark winter nights.

In Pagan times, it was known as the 'feast of lights' and celebrated the increase in the strength of the sun between the winter solstice in December and the spring Equinox in March.

In the United States and Canada, Candlemas Day is better known as 'Groundhog Day' - made famous by the film starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell.

Some people believe that the weather on Candlemas Day can tell us what the rest of the winter will be like and there's an old rhyme:

'If Candlemas Day be fair and bright, winter will have another fight but if Candlemas Day be clouds and rain, winter is gone and will not come again.'

Well, last Tuesday it rained so the worst of winter must surely be over. If only it were that simple!

It has turned colder today and it is going to stay cold for the rest of this week with north easterly winds.

There will be a few light wintry showers at times but on the whole plenty of dry weather but some sunshine and frost too.

The cold spell looks set to last into next week as well with a risk of more snow.


Flood warnings set to increase

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 13:48 UK time, Monday, 8 February 2010

The Environment Agency is set to increase it's flood warning service to give people more time to get ready or prepare or evacuate.

From March, the agency plans to issue warnings to an extra 40,000 homes and businesses and will be issuing letters. You can find out more at BBC News online.

If you wish to know whether you're living in an at risk area, you can call the Floodline number on 0845 9881188 or visit the Environment Agency website.

Remember the November 2009 floods?

We had some amazing flood photos submitted to our picture gallery.


Dim Pysgota!

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 12:03 UK time, Monday, 8 February 2010

I've been bowled over by the standard of pictures submitted to our Flickr group recently.

Truly amazing shots and such a wide range of species, right here in Wales!

These kingfisher pics caught my eye today. Such an exotic looking, native bird which wouldn't look out of place in a tropical rain forest!

How about this for irony? A kingfisher leaving it's 'No Fishing' post, snapped by 'Musical Tone' on Flickr:

Moses Davies snapped this lovely shot of a kingfisher on it's perch:

And finally this one capturing what these birds do best - diving for fish at Llanelli. This one was submitted by 'Happy Snapper 63' on Flickr:

Watch some kingfisher videos


Too early for cuckoos?

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:27 UK time, Monday, 8 February 2010

Luckily this is a nature blog so I don't have to mention the weekend's dismal rugby game...

Anyway, moving on...I had a lovely email from Judy Parker from across the border who'd googled 'cuckoo' and found our article.

She think she's just heard her first cuckoo of 2010 whilst walking her dog on a warm sunny day in Warwickshire on 5 Feb.

The following day was colder and there was no sign of the bird so perhaps the weather made a difference. Maybe this lone individual arrived early by mistake and was confused by the spring like weather?

I blogged about the decline of cuckoos last year and asked for your responses and sightings.

Reading back through the comments, it seems that most were heard from around April onwards.

So has anyone heard a cuckoo in Wales yet and if so - when and where?


An article about cuckoos on BBC Wales Nature

Listen to a cuckoo call on the RSPB website


Six nations weekend weather

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 17:43 UK time, Friday, 5 February 2010

You may have heard that there is another big freeze on the way next week, well don't worry I think that is a little over the top.

Yes it is going to turn colder but nothing out of the ordinary for February.

As far as snow is concerned, I wouldn't rule out the odd flurry in Wales at some point next week but at this stage I am not expecting anything too heavy or disruptive.

At the moment, it looks like most of the snow will fall on the eastern side of England. Next weekend, more general sleet and snow may affect southern Britain but this is just a risk at this point and it is too far ahead to be sure.

Tonight low cloud may bring a few showers to south Wales. Elsewhere dry with some low cloud, mist and fog patches forming and turning chilly.

Temperatures where skies remain clear falling close to freezing with a slight frost.

Tomorrow mixed fortunes. Most of Powys, south and east Wales will start grey dry with mist and fog patches. I wouldn't rule out a spot of drizzle otherwise dry.

During the day, the mist and fog patches will slowly lift and in places it will brighten-up.

The best of the sunshine probably in the southwest, parts of west and north Wales.

Top temperatures 6 to 10 Celsius with a light east to north-easterly breeze.

If you're heading up to Twickenham for the rugby, cloudy here but dry and not too cold. Temperatures peaking at 8 Celsius with a light breeze.

Sunday in Wales largely dry with plenty of cloud. Some patchy mist and hill fog. Some sunshine in places too, most likely on the west coast and in northwest Wales.

Feeling colder. Top temperatures around 4 or 5 Celsius with a light to moderate east to south-easterly breeze.

Enjoy the weekend and goodluck to Wales tomorrow!


The tools of the trade - ensemble forecasts

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 12:55 UK time, Thursday, 4 February 2010

Last month was the coldest January in Wales since 1987, while December and January combined were the coldest since the winter of 1981/1982.

In a temperature series that goes back to 1914, January was the ninth coldest in Wales with a mean temperature of +1.0 Celsius, the average is 3.9 Celsius.

The coldest January in the temperature series was in 1963, when the mean temperature was a very cold - 2.5 Celsius!

So what about the rest of February? Well, since my last blog when I mentioned there was a hint of more very cold weather after the 6th, the various computer models around the world that predict the weather began to oscillate and change their mind, with big differences from one output to the next.

Because of this, confidence in the forecast dropped and it became more difficult to know what was going to happen 5 to 10 days ahead.

Ensemble forecasts:

A forecast is an estimate of the future state of the atmosphere. It is created by estimating the current state of the atmosphere using weather observations, and then calculating how this state will change in time using a computer model.

As the atmosphere is chaotic, very small errors in its initial state can lead to large errors in the forecast. This means that no forecast will ever be perfect because we can never observe every detail of the atmosphere's initial state.

Tiny errors in the initial state will be amplified, so there is always a limit to how far ahead we can predict any detail.

To test how these small differences in the initial conditions may affect the outcome of a forecast, many forecasts are produced and these are called ensembles.

Instead of producing just one forecast, the computer is run several times, changing the initial starting conditions of the atmosphere very slightly to see what happens.

If the computer forecasts vary a lot then there is a lot of uncertainty about what the weather will actually do in the future, but if the forecasts are all very similar confidence in the outcome will be higher.

Take a look at the ensemble chart for Cardiff from the American model which shows the forecast temperature at 850 hPa or approximately 5000 feet, based on the 6am run of the computer. Temperature in Celsius on the left hand side and date below:


The different coloured lines represent the computer running with slightly different starting conditions.

What this shows is that up until 8 February, the lines are very close together, indicating high confidence in the forecast up to that point.

After this the lines begin to move apart and confidence in the forecast evolution falls, the lines eventually look like spaghetti which means anything could happen!

Notice the red line which is the mean or average of the ensembles, this does have a downward trend until about the 12 February and this suggests a drop in temperature!

Time will tell but the majority of the ensembles want to develop a block of high pressure to the north of Britain next week.

The thick green line refers to the operational run of the model which uses actual observed data as its starting point, so you would expect this to give you the most reliable outcome.

If most of the ensembles follow the operational run, confidence in the outcome is increased. In this case, the green line has a downward trend until around 11 February and most of the ensembles follow this trend which increases confidence in a drop in temperature!

There are no guarantees, but based on the latest evidence I think we should be prepared for another cold snap next week with some sharp frosts and the possibility of snow for some areas.


Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Llangollen canal

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 11:01 UK time, Thursday, 4 February 2010

Just came across this page on BBC Wales NE Wales so thought I'd share it with you.

It's a nice little interactive map following the route of the canal and aqueduct marking out points of interest along the way as well as articles, photos and videos:

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Llangollen Canal - on the map

Now all you need is a canal boat and Admiral's cap!


Twm Sion Cati - wanted dead or alive

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 16:40 UK time, Wednesday, 3 February 2010

I'm sure many of you are sat at home reading this and thinking who on earth was Twm Sion Cati?

I have to confess I knew little of him until I began work on the new Weatherman Walking website.

In episode 2, Derek walked part of the Twm Trail - a 22 mile trail opened in 2009 near Tregaron.

Local Twm enthusiast and walking guide - Dafydd Morgan walks Derek through the bandit country and chats about Twm and the myths & legends that surround him. Keep an eye out for Dafydd's alter ego...

Twm Sion Cati has been hailed by many as the 'Welsh Robin Hood' - a bandit, bard and prince among thieves. His scrapes were legendary, constantly outwitting his rivals and the law and evading capture at every turn.

Unlike Robin Hood though, Twm Sion Cati was a real person and there is plenty of written evidence by the man himself to prove it.

Twm even had his own hide-out in a local cave on Dinas Hill, near Ystrad-ffin and Rhandir-mwyn, on the RSPB reserve.

For a poor man he got around a fair bit too - at one point fleeing as far as Geneva to avoid religious persecution and the law in 1557.

However he received a royal pardon from Elizabeth I in 1559, enabling him to return to Wales and live out a fairly respectful life as a landlord, Justice of the Peace, historian and poet.

The later years of his life were devoted to the study of Welsh history and literature and his work can still be seen in the British Library and the National Library of Wales.

Find out more about the walk in Tregaron.

Read Derek's blog at the time he did this walk.

Twm Sion Cati on BBC Mid Wales - two excellent articles

The Twm Sion Cati website


Iolo Williams goes wild!

Post categories:

Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 14:52 UK time, Monday, 1 February 2010

Tuesday, 2 Feb, 7.30pm on BBC Two Wales.

Iolo Williams has spent the last 12yrs or so making wildlife programmes with the BBC.

He started out as the species officer for the RSPB but a BBC series about 'Snowdonia' catapulted him onto our screens.

During that time a lot has happened, not only to his career but to the wildlife and landscape he has featured.

Now Iolo, who remembers finding his first nest on the moors of the Berwyn mountain above his childhood home in Llanwddyn, is a full time wildlife presenter.

His new series - Iolo's Wild Times starts tomorrow night - Tuesday, 2 Feb, 7.30pm on BBC Two Wales and runs for four weeks.

First port of call is Puffin Island, off Anglesey, which, when Iolo first visited for his 'Birdman' series in 1999, had just a few remaining pairs of the eponymous birds, the majority having been killed by rats which arrived after a shipwreck.

Iolo's first visit to the island was when he worked for the RSPB, and poisoned the rats to encourage puffins to nest. Now he returns to the island to see if it is still rat free and find out the effect on seabird numbers.

Iolo diving off Skomer Island for the new series:

"It was an odd sensation to return to some former haunts for the first time, in many instances, for over a decade," says Iolo.

"Puffin Island, now that rats have been eradicated, was a revelation. The habitat had changed and we saw nesting eider ducks - a first for Wales."

Iolo says the "greatest privilege" of the series was being allowed to land on Grassholm Island with a group of scientists".

"The island is home to 39,000 pairs of breeding gannets and has been closed to the public for a decade".

Don't try this at home kids! Iolo releasing a gannet:

"However, I was allowed to land with two biologists from Plymouth University who are studying gannet movements at sea by fitting satellite transmitters onto these huge seabirds."

Iolo also finds out what has happened to the red squirrels in Anglesey that he first encountered in Wild Wales in 2000.

Skomer marine nature reserve off the Pembrokeshire Coast is another stop, to see how the ban on scallop fishing has changed marine life, and finds how otters have fared in Porthmadog.

In many cases, the changes have been for the better, thanks to the hundreds of volunteers across Wales who pitch in to monitor, record and fight for the wildlife in all its many forms across Wales.

But Iolo says that with the loss of habitat such as rough field edges and scrubland, cleared to make way for grazing, or reclaimed for housing or factory use, Wales's wildlife continues to struggle.

He cites the decline of the water vole, which he covered in his Welsh Safari programme in 2006, as an instance where, after a 98 per cent drop in population in just 30 years, the animal is in danger of dying out in the wild altogether.

But one incident still stands out for Iolo - the destruction of an area which he says was the "single most important site in Wales" for the increasingly rare lapwing, cleared to make room for factories, which, as he discovers, have still not been built.

"The former lapwing site at Ebbw Vale, destroyed by political vandalism, brought back a mixture of despair and anger - it still makes my blood boil 13 years on!" he says.

You can watch more of Iolo's wildlife archives by visting our video collection.

BBC Programme information page

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