20 July 2021


 When I found out about the Carneddau landscape partnership, and liked it on Facebook, I didn't realise how much they would be offering with regard to activities. It started modest with an online lecture about archaeology, but from there things really took off; a week or two after that I was on top of Carnedd Dafydd with the same organisation. And two weeks after that it really kicked off; there were two separate activities that weekend, and I registered for both. I had had such a good time!

The first one was called the Bioblitz; the idea was that people would do a bit of a biodiversity survey on the terrain of a campsite-cum-conservation site. And part of that there were two guided walks; one about birds and one about plants. When I registered, I could only register for the one about the birds, as the other one was booked full. That was a pity! I know so little about this, and I had had so much fun increasing my limited knowledge the previous time. But I know little about birds as well; it would be fun to improve on that. I already made a concerted effort to get to recognise the ones in my own garden, but when I am in the hills, I always see lots of little birds scooting away, having no idea what they are.

I biked up to the campsite; incidentally, it was the same campsite where my bike had had its maiden voyage, but then I had come to climb. It was incredibly busy in the valley. Of course it was; it was a sunny Saturday and few people were travelling abroad. But I was on bike so I was going to be all right!

When I got there I saw a woman who looked somewhat official, and indeed she was associated with the event. She recognised me from one of the pictures of the Carnedd Dafydd walk. She pointed me in the right direction. And there I found lots of gazebos with nature-oriented people in them. I found myself at an RSPB stand. There was a very enthusiastic duo there who had been rummaging around in an owl pellet. It had been borrowed up by a barn owl! And I think barn owls are cool, so I ended up rummaging with them. They had a small mammal guide, so I tried to identify a skull I had found. I decided it was not a shrew or a vole; it was a mouse. The identification guide only had two mice; the wood mouse and the yellow necked mouse. Neither me nor the people behind the stand could tell the difference from the drawings of the skulls in the guidebook. So there goes; I identified a mouse! Not very impressive, but it was a start. And soon the actual walk started. It was led by the bloke from the stand, who had a bit of a thing with barn owls. But we wouldn't see any, of course. He had a sidekick who spoke Welsh; he was from the British Trust of Ornithologists. And we were off. The BTO guy had a thing for twites; I had never heard of them, but it seems there are rare but present and nesting in Snowdonia.

The BTO guy talks about twites

I was also approached by one of the other participants; I hadn't looked at her closely, so I hadn't recognised her. But she had been on the previous walk! It was nice to see her, and we caught up a bit. She is clearly also keen on activities like this, so I think I will see her again!

The first bird we actually saw was a magpie, but anyone can identify those. It got better when we heard a willow warbler and saw a whole array of redpolls. I had never heard of them, but they are very cute! Later we saw a meadow pipit; it was sitting quite ostentatiously on a rock, and seems to relish all the attention. The RSPB guy, Jack, also heard goldcrests. I would have to look these up as I had no idea what they were!

A meadow pipit!

By then the walk came to an end. And I was keen for some food! So I went back to my bag and had my coffee and my cake. And I have a rummage through the flyers the RSPB had there. And I wondered if I could blag my way into the plant walk after all. They had allowed additional people on the bird walk! They might very well also do that with the plant walk. But that wouldn't be in another hour. I decided to go have a walk to the nearest hilltop; the nose of Gallt yr Ogof. I just made it to the top and back before the walk left! And indeed they let me on.

View from the hilltop

This time, we were all encouraged to grab an identification sheet and a magnifying glass. And then we were let loose into the meadow! The biodiversity expert in charge also had some more specific identification guides; one for trees, one for grasses, et cetera. I took the grasses one. I was keen to see if I could identify anything! I been doing some very limited grass identification (for grass, read: grasses, sedges, and rushes) in saltmarshes, but there was a lot more going on here. And one of the participants turned out to be quite a plant specialist as well. The biodiversity expert ended up asking him for advice quite a lot!

Staring at plants

What are all these grasses?

I turned out to be absolutely crap with the grasses. I sometimes had a reasonable guess, but I found them hard! I suppose it's easier if you have a more extensive guide, where you can see the various stages in the development of the grass. And the variability within the species. But I had fun! And the others were sometimes drawing attention to whatnot, such as eyebright, tormentil, bedstraw, and an orchid. On the way back we accidentally saw some sundew. That was a nice cherry on the cake!


By then I was thoroughly boiled. I later heard on the radio that it had been the hottest day of the year so far in most of the country. And I had been traipsing around without the hat! So I thanked the organisers and headed back to my bike. It had been a good half day! And I still had another one to look forward to an the day after…

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