18 Apr 2013

Signs of Spring – at last!

Ardd Fotaneg · Botanic Garden

This week we were faced with a howling gale – well, it was very windy – but at least 10 degrees warmer than all of our previous walks, and still dry.  Although Jan and Keith were not able to join us, we were very glad to welcome Marigold Oakley.  As well as being a Garden volunteer she is a Moth recorder in Brecknockshire.  If our plans work out Moth recording at the Garden will start to happen during the next few months.

So off we went, through the meadow where Coltsfoot were starting to appear and into the Welsh Country Walk wood, also known as Trawscoed Wood. April 15th is about the average date when Bluebells first appear, but although they have grown in the past couple of weeks, they are still some way off blooming this year.  But the Wood Anemones were a splendid sight and, moving on out of there we could see that all the white Crocuses around the Great Glasshouse had finally disappeared. Then, just as we were approaching the Bull we saw the first Lady’s Smock, or Cuckooflower.   According to Richard Mabey in his book ‘Flora Britannica’ “it’s full blooming was an accurate predictor of the first hearing of the cuckoo itself in 10 different locations in 1994”.  It is also the food plant of the Orange Tip butterfly, a true harbinger of Spring.  Last year was a bumper year for this butterfly thanks to the early warmth of March.  Let us hope that next month will see more of them.

Down by the bridge near the entrance to Waun Las we stopped for quite a while, watching several Grey Wagtails, a Dipper and a lot of Willow Warblers.  I always think the Grey Wagtail is a very misleading name as it is very yellow, especially this at time of year.  The section on the left of the bridge has been cleared and offered an excellent view of this part of the river.  Quite a few nest boxes have been put up and we did see a Nuthatch apparently inspecting one.[nggallery id=320]

Alas the Wild Garden below the Bull where we saw the Wheatears a few weeks ago was still rather brown and bare, but further on down below the Slate beds the Primroses were in full bloom and the rain had resuscitated the Hellebores.  Very few birds on the lake but at the edge the Marsh Marigolds were fully open and being visited by Honey bees.  Also on the banks were the first Forget-me-nots, King Cups and Dog’s Violet – and various other plants starting to put in an appearance. Of course, one of the earliest flowers, which has been evident for a few weeks now, is the Lesser Celandine.  And on a bank below the slate beds facing the lake and the sun they were a mass of glorious yellow.[nggallery id=319]

On the way back up to and along the Broadwalk we started to see more evidence of life in the shape of Bumblebees – certainly at least one Buff-tail and possible and Early Red-tailed, though it looked rather large for that and could have been a rather old Buff-tail.  Then off to the Restaurant for welcome sustenance and a chat.

One thing that has become apparent over the past few weeks is how much technology can help us. Mobile devices with cameras and apps which enable us to identify any wildlife we may find, all makes recording is so much easier, in theory at least.  Thanks once again to John James for his photos and if any volunteer or member is interested in joining us, or even starting something similar on a different day, then send an email to Colin Miles.