Sunday, 29 December 2013

Moel Phoenix

One of our Christmas walks was to Moel Dduallt, to see how it was recovering after the big fire last April. Six fire crews were out that night, one of which guarded our house in case the wind brought it our way.
April 2013

When we first saw the smoke we ran up the mountain with a couple of beaters but as we crested the ridge and saw what was coming our way, we knew to leave well alone. The flames were huge and moving fast.

The trunks of the trees look charred but alive. Bilberry is sprouting beneath what were dense stands of heather. New heather is emerging.  I particularly liked the island of sphagnum which had held fast in the height of the blaze.

Island of sphagnum

Winter gales and the birds

Nineteen months ago I enjoyed watching woodpeckers in Coed y Bleiddiau, next to the Ffestiniog Railway.

Oblivious to steam and whistles the parents kept up the relentless supply of food. I mentioned this nest to a fellow walker the following summer, saying we might be lucky and see them there again. He politely explained that they never nest in the same place and recent gales explained their wisdom as the tree lay on its side. It was a good opportunity to see the inside of an old woodpecker nest; deep with lots of soil and a few worms.
Entrance hole into the nest

Several years ago a good friend gave us an owl box as a Christmas gift. Each new year, just before he comes to stay, I check for pellets at the base of the tree but to no avail. I went to check this December and the box had been blown off the tree. Lots of leaves which could have been blown into the box but the woven grass and moss must have been carried in. Molly loves squirrels and can spend hours patrolling the base of a lone tree; I think she recognised their scent.

Molly inside the owl box

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Fat Bats?

It’s that time of year when bat people go into the mine adit beneath our drive in the Maentwrog nature reserve to count the hibernating bats. The adit runs 200 feet into the mountainside with waist deep water at the entrance, best not tackled in leaky waders. 150 feet into the adit you rise out of the water and that’s where the lesser horseshoes start to be found.

Lesser horseshoe
The highest number recorded in recent years was 116 but today it was just 25 plus a solitary (and very rare for these parts) greater horseshoe.  Is it the same one as last year? Is it a he or a she? What are the chances of he or she mating?

It’s been an exceptionally mild autumn / winter to date with only one night going slightly below freezing and this morning it was 3° outside and 10° at the far end of the adit. Six lesser horseshoes were seen flying at Plas Tan y Bwlch the evening before so maybe the bats are enjoying a much longer feeding season. Will this mean fat bats next year?

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Campbell's without the platform

It's difficult for me to imagine the Ffestiniog Railway without Campbell's Platform as this was my first sight of the railway. But Mr Wilcke from Denmark took some photos in the 1950s and Andrew from the FR has kindly forwarded them to us.

Tank curve. Photo taken 1950s by Mt Wilcke from Denmark 
This photograph shows the reeds growing well out of the track and bracken thriving. The tank of tank curve is hidden by a tree.

Conspicuous by its absence is the conifer plantation, planted with larch after the land was acquired from the Oakeley estate. That aspect of the view is about to be reversed with the felling of the Phytophthora ramorum infected trees. The oak trees to the left of this photo will be revealed once more after the larch has gone.

I was hoping to see Ffestiniog rolling stock in action moving the harvested timber but alas their bid was not as competitive as a haulage company.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Persil plumes?

That puffy white steam is not Persil white
against a fluffy white cloud
above Campbell's Platform.