Why Our Lives Depend on Dark Skies - Halen Môn

Why Our Lives Depend on Dark Skies

by | Dec 13, 2023

North Wales is home to the Eryri (Snowdonia) International Dark Sky Reserve where light levels are controlled to protect our night skies, and right here in Anglesey the night sky is much darker here than in many other places across the UK.

Dani Robertson has spent a long time studying these skies and we have an excerpt of her brilliant book All Through the Dark Skies: Why Our Lives Depend on Dark Skies to share with you here.

North Wales is home to the Eryri (Snowdonia) International Dark Sky Reserve where light levels are controlled to protect our night skies, and right here in Anglesey the night sky is much darker here than in many other places across the UK.

Dani Robertson has spent a long time studying these skies and we have an excerpt of her brilliant book All Through the Dark Skies: Why Our Lives Depend on Dark Skies to share with you here.

‘I love to walk outside in the hours of cyfl ychwr, when day is slipping into night. That brief period that lingers after the sun has dropped below the horizon; not light, but not yet dark, either. In late autumn and winter it’s the time you can see huge congregations of all sorts of birds. A walk to Coed Niwbwrch (Newborough Forest) and you will hear the raucous ravens, roosting in the towering Corsican pines, their roots enmeshed with the dunes, the anchor to this privateering crew’s home in the canopy. Their conspiring carries through the dense needles and cones. From my lowly position on the woodland floor, a ‘conspiracy’ of ravens, as they’re collectively known, certainly sound like they are concocting a clever scheme or two. It’s an odd place, where the treeline meets the shore.

A plantation created to protect the residents of nearby Niwbwrch from inundation by sand, completely artificial yet home now to over two thousand ravens, living their secret lives up in the trees. Hidden from me where I am on the ground, is the life of this court; the rituals and displays bonding each pair for life; the emerald mosses that line their treasure troves of precious eggs in shades of speckled sapphire and aquamarine. The blues of their nests are traditionally symbolic of wisdom, intelligence and loyalty, reflected in the nature of these characterful corvids, the largest of their species.

As your feet find the edge of the forest floor, it gives way to dunes and a flat expanse of golden sands. At low tide the sea leaves an architectural maze, a miniature of contours, canyons and capillaries. Water left behind, trapped by ridged dams of the exposed seabed, creates pools of mercury, polished and placid, shining the lingering light of dusk back into the sky. A rush of air overhead announces the steady stream of shapeshifters, starlings (from the Old English for, ‘little star’).

Hovering over Ynys Llanddwyn, Jupiter arrives. Fitting that the god who had a dubious record with women would appear above the island of Santes Dwynwen, the Welsh patron saint of lovers, who fled to this tiny island in the fifth century to live out her life as a nun, due to men being, well, men. From Ynys Llanddwyn you see seabirds gathering for the night on the small outcrop of rock called Ynys Yr Adar (‘Island of the Birds’). Here, a huddle of comical cormorants, prehistoric-looking birds, stretch their wings out in the fading rays, drying their glossy black feathers as if suspended on a crucifix or outstretched in offering, worshipping the sun, asking it to return to them again as their world is swallowed whole by the night.’

From ‘All Through the Dark Skies: Why Our Lives Depend on Dark Skies‘ by Dani Robertson. Published by HarperNorth

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