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

Saturday, 17 February 2018


Stepping out into a keen Blaenavon wind I soon questioned the wisdom of choosing to walk the Garn yr rew landscape as an alternative to a more sheltered lowland location. Waiting to cross the main Blaenavon to Brynmawr road a police mobile speed camera obscured my footpath access. Traffic slowed accordingly, bunching into mini conveys to ensure compliance with the 40 mph limit. As I scampered across I passed close to the parked speed correction unit. The seemingly unmanned vehicle complete with darkened windows clicked, whirled and hummed just like the grumblings of a loafing predator.

Away from the road into the expanse that is post-industrial Blaenavon, the wind dug deep, dislodging my hat and watering my eyes. A buzzard drifted over as two hardy sheep appeared, staring at me from the summit of a coal tip, in motionless disbelief. I peered at the lichen heath community that is such a feature of coal spoil in this area. Past Hill Pit chimney pondering my route. South it was to be, passing the part restored engine break wheel and a shiny length of discarded motorbike exhaust. A small valley with a stone outcrop caught my eye so changing direction I followed a muddy bike track. Dropping into the weathered depression there was a freshly dug hole complemented by the pungent odour of fox. A mature overhanging patch of scrubby flowering gorse focused my attention. A closer look revealed the distinctive colour of  golden jelly fungi, frequent on gorse around the valleys.

By this time my face felt abraded by the icy blast as I trounced towards the disused reservoir near Ty Abraham Harry (a derelict building).  As I did a couple of croaking raven scoffed as they flew overhead. The reservoir was full of water but without any hint of sheltering tufted duck and even a solitary pochard. That was it, I resolved to make it back to the refuge of my car. All downhill through a mosaic of wet and dry heath, molina and acid grassland- not a passerine in sight!

Saturday, 3 February 2018

This weeks gull round-up

It was only a whistle stop visit to a few waterbodies around Brynmawr in between the routine domestic chores. It was pleasing to see a party of around 23 wigeon at Beaufort ponds along with three goosander. At Dunlop Semtex Pond a group of 30+ very mobile gulls included this adult yellow -legged gull.

A midweek lunch break jolly around Cwmbran Boating Lake turned in the usual flock of baying Canada goose and other assorted bread feeding wildfowl. It seems the two water rail present the week before had gone, to be replaced by a pair of great black-backed gull - not a regular occurrence at this venue. Within the ever present yet flighty black-headed gull assemblage was this German ringed bird. 

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