Let’s Go Get Away

It being winter still in the middle of nowhere, we’ve had lots of snow flurries recently (and plenty of ice!). I was coming to the end of my contract at Radnorshire Wildlife Trust, and realised that I’d not visited the closest reserve to me – Werndryd. So as the snow started to fall outside the office window, I packed up my laptop and notebooks, drove back to the house. I swapped my work bits and pieces for more layers and two puppies, and we headed out. The light was fantastic, since it was between heavy snow flurries, and I saw a Great Spotted Woodpecker and two birds of prey – Red Kite and Buzzard. Werndryd wasn’t much – but it is mid winter! I admired the large pond and brash piles – they must both be absolutely buzzing with invertebrates in the warmer weather.

Back at the house, a walk around the large garden revealed something rather odd … pink, gelatinous, with a definite shape to it. Apparently it looks a lot like otter anal jelly. Yes you read that right … otter anal jelly. How lovely. And no-one seems to know why it’s produced, suggestions of *ahem* lubricant were offered. Well, indeed. Having seen a number of spraints on the stream, I know that it is indeed used by otters.

Otter anal jelly?!

Otter anal jelly?!

A brief interlude for Welsh wildlife occurred, when I made my way down to Dorset (and back again the same day!) for a job interview at Lulworth Cove. What a stunning place – I’ve visited before of course, having lived not too far away from it last year, and also on a school field trip. The geology of the place is just amazing – beds of rock that were horizontal are now pointing diagonally up at the sky. I’ve made a crude diagram below of some of the rock types there. Naturally, if I get the job, you can expect plenty more information on Lulworth Cove to appear in this blog!

I recently went over to Stanner Rocks and my head exploded. Not literally of course, but I went over with a local ecologist who knows the site well and I learnt so much how plants, geology, birds, and general natural history that I did feel my head was going to explode from all the knowledge I was trying to stuff into it.

NOTE: Should you wish to visit Stanner Rocks, there is very limited access due to the sensitivity of the plants and that the landscape can be quite hazardous. Contact National Resources Wales should you wish to visit I think.

The main reason we went there though was for the plants, as Stanner Rocks is a nationally important location for a number of rare plants and lichens. Whilst I went at an awful time of year for seeing the plants – they’re all very small at the moment, and zero flowers are about, at least I got to see them and know where to look for them if I can visit again later in the year.

A lovely finish to the visit was a goldcrest flitting about in the bushes. It flew further away before I managed to get a photo, but the photo isn’t too bad considering it is a fast and constantly moving little bird, and about 60m away from me! A Peregrine Falcon also flew overhead, but I didn’t manage to get a photo of it. The ecologist I went with said that one had been in the trees just before I arrived, hopefully I can show you his photo in my next post!

Blurry Goldcrest from a distance

Blurry Goldcrest from a distance

Below are another few photos I wanted to include – the litter I picked up in a #2minutebeachclean when I was at Charmouth (see this blog post), some books that I’ve treated myself too, and the only wildlife seen on the camera trap I’ve recently put out: myself getting annoyed at the lack of otter spraint!

Wild Winter Days

Brr, what a cold couple of weeks it has been! Not all that surprising mind, since it is mid-winter in central Wales! We’ve even had snow, which was very exciting indeed! Just below are my photos from the offices in Llandrindod Wells when the snowfall began. The last one looks a bit Narnia-esque with the falling snow and that lantern! If there was more grass / trees, it could almost be Lantern Waste (not far from the Land of Spare ‘Oom!).

The snow started falling a bit heavier, so I decided to make a dash for it. Where I’m living currently is very definitely in the middle of nowhere and any sort of snow / ice makes travel a little difficult! Actually scrap that, living in the middle of the Welsh hills means driving through the little Welsh country lanes, which is always difficult – whether you’re turning a corner to suddenly being faced with a large lorry taking up the whole road, or a Tak-tak (how I pronounced tractor as a child) rumbling towards you, or a confused block of sheep bleating everywhere. That’s not taking into account the potholes / puddles that are dotting the road, or the occasional open field gate, or ALL the mud and / or hay strewn across the road.

Nonetheless, I enjoy the commute – it takes me up over one of the big local hills and shows off some fantastic views, which are even more spectacular when in the snow! I did love this drive, as the altitude increased, I could see the snow level also increasing. I absolutely had to stop and take some photographs, but I couldn’t stop for long. With the darkness rolling in and some heavy snow clouds rumbling up and over the hills behind me, I had to get myself back to the house before it got dangerous.

I went to sleep quite excited, I knew that heavy snowfall was due overnight. And what a vista I woke up to – a thick blanket of snow sparkling in the mid-winter sun. I chucked on the wellies and waterproofs and got out there, chasing the dogs through the snow, hurtling down the slopes on a sledge (slightly worrying since there is a stream and trees at the bottom of the slope) and generally having a wonderful time! I did get round to doing some work in the end of course.

A couple of days I was back at certain reserve, can you guess which one? Gilfach of course! As usual, it was absolutely stunning!

I also had a look at some lichens down by the river. Whilst I have no idea what they are, some helpful people on Twitter gave me some insights to the world of lichens – C.coniocraea, C.chlorophaea, U.florida, and P.membranacea/hymenina.

A last couple of photos from the day. My line manager’s awesome wizard-like stick, where the swirls were caused by honeysuckle. A hailstone caught in some moss. And being in the back of a little truck briefly when we were on a farm – it’s was like being back in South Africa and going round in the back of the bakkie (truck!), except for the temperature!