Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Voles and the circle of life

Bird feeders are a great focal point but it’s not always the birds; this morning there was a small vole. Was it a field or a bank vole? The mammal society website is a good place to answer such questions.  As it was feeding on seeds, had reddish brown as opposed to greyish brown fur and a bicoloured tail (black on top, white below), I’m pretty certain it was a bank vole. They’re on the menu for tawny owls which have been very noisy these past few nights. They’re also on the stoat’s menu which recently has been seen through the kitchen window.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Olympic flame

On its way from Aberystwyth to Bangor the olympic flame steamed past Campbell’s Platform. Couldn’t see any flame but the train looked great anyway. Balloons, bunting, flags and a cheery toot from the engine driver.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Tawny owls revenge

Five evenings ago a young tawny owl was pushed and shoved out of the enormous Scots pine beside the house. A pair of crows, that nest at the top of the tree, dived onto the ball of fluff and feathers until Molly (our dog) and I chased them off. The bedraggled owl scrambled through the wire fence and crash landed into reeds below where once again the crows attacked. By the time we got there it was lying on the ground, exhausted, barely able to keep its eyes open. But when I approached, it gathered enough strength to fly fifty metres or so into the refuge of a nearby willow. We watched for a while and it seemed the crows had either not seen or lost interest.

Later that night there were two baby tawny owls crying out for food by the railway track at Campbell’s Platform. The next night they were a couple of hundred metres up the line. On the third night there were definitely three of them and I was able to stand in the middle of a triangle of trees as they pleaded to be fed. On the fourth night they were a bit further into the nature reserve and, maybe because it was a bit overcast and misty, the owlets started calling out much earlier, at about 7:30.

Last night we sat on our warm, midge-free balcony; it was bright and balmy and not until nine o’clock that we started to hear them, faint and far away to begin with. But by the time we’d gone to bed, the owls had moved into the same Scots pine, in the middle branches next to our open window, and were in full voice non-stop till dawn. This morning the crow family was looking just a bit tired!

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Bleating Sheep on Air Force One

I was chatting with a visitor to Campbell’s Cottage - the night before he’d been watching Harrison Ford in Air Force One and was a bit disconcerted to hear bleating sheep on board. It’s that time of year when the sheep and their lambs are moved off the bottom fields to make way for the cattle. The lambs keep losing their mums and this is what it sounds like:

Mixed in with the sounds of the sheep are the calls of hungry tawny owlets. On these long summer days they start crying out for food long before it gets dark. This is what they look like in daylight:

Monday, 14 May 2012

Nuthatches on the line

This highly desirable nesting spot, close to Campbell's Cottage and overlooking the Ffestiniog Railway, was used by pied flycatchers last year but the nuthatches got in first this spring. They’ve made the entrance narrower with mud, set like concrete, to reduce the risk of a predator getting in. They don't seem to mind the steam. Train spotting AND bird watching!

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Woodpeckers on the line

I love this time of year when the new leaves are forming and it's easy to find nesting birds. This pair of greater spotted woodpeckers got as close to the railway line as possible, about five minutes walk from the cottage.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Dduallt Mess 45 years later

In 1967 I arrived at Tan y Bwlch and walked up the very overgrown line to meet one of the ‘Deviationists’ to discuss a group of us coming up in the spring of ’68. Due to the outbreak of foot and mouth, work was suspended and our week never happened. From the pictures it was difficult for me to reconcile the present Campbell’s Cottage with the bunk house I saw back then. But it is! I can put together the memories of what I saw then. I’m here at last just 45 years late! As a plus the Ffestiniog Railway were holding their Blaenau 30 celebrations and I got to see a ‘gravity train’ like the one I took back to Tan y Bwlch in 1967.  

Matt Baker filming for Countryfile

An edited entry from the guest book of Campbell’s Cottage written May 2012. 

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Iolo at Campbell’s Platform

Today we welcomed Iolo to Campbell’s Platform, having enjoyed a short journey on the first train of the day from Plas Halt, along with the TV crew. They are working on a new series commissioned by the BBC called Iolo’s Great Welsh Parks. The series will have four programmes, each thirty minutes long, and this programme is based on Plas Tan y Bwlch. We saw and filmed some great wildlife, in oak woodland once owned by The Plas, but it’s up to the executive producer to decide what goes in and what gets cut - fingers crossed they’ll keep the footage of the goats which were on their best behaviour. The series is due for broadcast in 2013.

If you like nature, wildlife, seclusion and steam trains .... you should come and have a look for yourself. Campbell's Cottage is available to rent throughout the year and is currently available between 15th and 29th June 2012.

Iolo’s previous two series, The Secret Life of Birds and Wild Wales, have just been released as DVD box sets. In case you don’t get to see the wildlife you are looking for, we have put copies of these in the cottage.