Promoting observation, free range exploration, sense of place and citizen science, through the field notes of a naturalist.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

A naturalists playground

Those blog followers will know that Canada tips on the outskirts of Blaenavon is a favourite haunt of mine. A landscape bedeviled by the utilitarian activities of past generations is now a naturalists delight. A mosaic of early successional lichen-heath communities sitting on the edge of heather moorland and rhos pasture. But for me one of the main attractions is the variety of unplanned ponds, runnels and other moist habitats formed through the pillaging and abandoning of this land for its carbon riches.

A 7am start was early enough for nature to provide me with a chilly reminder that it is still just April. Predictably skylark and meadow pipit were in in good voice but the first notable bird was a flyover sand martin heading north-south over the blackened tips. Shortly after the sand martin came a peregrine once again low over the tips. I thought about a photo but trying to change a 50mm to a 500mm lens in time to catch a peregrine in flight just isn't realistic.

At this altitude and at this time of year flowering plants are at a premium, nonetheless did come across a thriving patch of early dog violets (Viola reichenbachiana) on a spoil mound of a more neutral chemical composition.

Climbing to the top of the tips and viewing back towards Cefn garn yr erw and Waunafon bog I could just make out a lapwing. This is the area where the former mining activity gives way to more traditional upland habitats. To my surprise this exceptional wildlife resource has recently been burned, nonetheless I flushed a pair of red grouse from just about the only patch of unburned habitat for 200 square metres.

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