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!

Beginning to settle in

The past week has seen me working on a variety of tasks at work – including (but definitely not limited to) making new information displays for the visitor centre, writing Facebook posts for the Trust, rearranging some of the interpretation at the centre, starting research into a report that I will be writing and of course, the usual running of the visitor centre for the long weekend (Fri-Mon).

I say “the usual”, but each day is different! I see different species, particularly if I’ve been moth trapping or decide to go out with a sweep net (tomorrow’s plan), listen to a variety of programs as I work if the centre is very quiet (mostly Radio 4 – Just A Minute, Ramblings, Inside Science and Costing The Earth), and every time someone walks into the centre, I know that something new will happen. I have had such a variety of conversations this week – the politics of conservation, the process of CRB checks and the Scouting movement, the bizarre forms of ladybird larvae, and of course, how cool moths are! Inevitably, I meet at least one new dog every day which I absolutely love.

So a round-up of some of this week’s wildlife. Not many butterflies as the summer draws to a close, but I did see a new favourite of mine – the Small Copper Butterfly. And I took a photo of it that is now one of my favourite butterfly photos that I’ve ever taken. It was resting on the wall of the Visitors Centre above my head, and I had to lean into the wall and look up to get the photo. I feel like it’s thinking “What are you doing?!” There were also moths about of course, including some new ones for me such as the Autumnal Rustic, Hedge Rustic and Rosy Rustic (I sense a theme …), and the ever-fabulous Canary-shouldered Thorn.

I also found a dead bee, which made me sad. But I took the opportunity to study it closely, and saw that what I believe is it’s tongue sticking out the mouth. There are three parts to the tongue it seems. Very interesting, and now I want to look into bee anatomy.

Three-part tongue?!

Three-part tongue?!

Towards the end of the week, I went to a local theatre production by Mid-Powys Youth Theatre at the Willow Globe (open air theatre- my favourite!). They were performing Humans On Trial – An Ecological Fable, and they were fantastic! The premise is that humans are trial for their actions against animals. With witnesses, a judge, a prosecution lawyer and a defence lawyer, the crimes of the accused are laid forth and debated. It’s a great play and very thought-provoking. If you get the opportunity to see it, do so!

Next week should bring even more variety as I continue moth trapping, go out with the sweep net, potentially assist on a bat survey, sort through some of the interpretation at the centre (including skulls!) and attempt some wildflower identification.

 

You can follow the wildlife, news and events of Gilfach by following #GilfachReserve on Twitter!

Shersby’s back, tell a friend

Well, that break turned out to be slightly longer than planned, but a lot has happened including a life-changing decision, a couple of holidays and more!

To start with, the BIG SCARY life-changing decision. As of the beginning of August, I was no longer a trainee with Dorset Wildlife Trust but on a Jobs Growth Wales position with Radnorshire Wildlife Trust (in mid-Wales). I am now the Assistant Environmental Engagement Officer at RWT!

To cut it short, I do the day-to-day running of the visitor centre at Gilfach Reserve (follow #GilfachReserve on Twitter for wildlife sightings and events!), have started doing some of the social media for the Trust (see my most recent Facebook post!) and will be assisting with events, activities and school groups. There is also the opportunity to do more surveying, which I am thrilled about – I’m already running a moth trap at the reserve and hope to assist others in the Trust with their survey work.

So backtracking to the end of my traineeship in Dorset – despite having a new job to prepare for (and all the preparation of moving house / finding somewhere to live / etc), I still had plenty to get on with. The biggest thing that was taking over my life was planning for the Big Wild Chesil Event, a celebration of Chesil’s wildlife and the work of Dorset Wildlife Trust. It was a fabulous day in the end (albeit slightly stressful since I was the organiser!), and I think my favourite bit was probably trying some Morris Dancing – I do believe there is a photo somewhere, but I won’t look too hard for it!

I also managed to fit in some adventuring before I left Dorset, with the result of seeing a wide variety of species – some of which I hadn’t seen before. Thanks to Sean Foote for doing most of the identification!

Holiday-wise, I went a minibreak to Anglesey with family. We went off to the Anglesey Show which was fantastic! I think the most thrilling bit was the Shetland Pony Grand National, there was so much drama! And it is possibly one of the cutest things I have ever seen! We also went to Newborough Beach where I may have annoyed my parents slightly by stopping to take photos of lots of invertebrates. However, by doing so, I also saw a red squirrel which they didn’t see! No photo though as it was very quick and off in the distance. NB: why was there a red squirrel at the beach? There’s also lots of woodland there!

So yes, quite a lot has occurred and it’s all been a bit mad! But then, that’s life and I’ve been enjoying it, and I’ve seen lots of beautiful wildlife.