Sunday, 11 October 2015

Quality Time

Having been forced to abandon two attempted raven counts this month, due to fog, I was really hoping for third time lucky this morning. As it happens, the weather played ball and the count went ahead with no problems. A respectable (for October) total of 162 was the result and although I haven't seen any yet, I heard my first Redwings of the season, calling overhead in the darkness before the count started.

I wondered what to do and where to go next and on a whim, decided to visit Llyn Fach, which as well as being a SSSI, is in the process of becoming a Wildlife Trust managed reserve. Parking at the entrance to the forest access road, just above Tower colliery, it took me over an hour to walk/bird my way to the this beautiful, natural glacial lake, noting amongst other things, four large Long-tailed Tit flocks along the way.

Once at the Llyn Fach, my main object was to search the screes and rock faces for clubmosses, so I began to ascend the S.Eastern side, following the well defined terminal moraine until it met the side of the cwm, then heading into the cwm, traversing the small open patches of scree and scrambling through the tall heather and whimberry.

Llyn Fach from the South

A sound like stones being tapped together, alerted me to the presence of a Ring Ouzel, which was perched in a low, bare Rowan. It called and twitched its tail and wings, obviously agitated by my presence , so I carried on my way, moving away from it and noting that there was another calling. I stopped to check on the original bird and it had left the tree to join another on the ground. One of them was definitely a male, but I was unable to work out whether the second one was a female of a Juv.
All the Rowans were bare, but the Whimberries were still laden with fruit and such fruit. I have never seen such huge Whimberries in all my days. Most were around 10mm in diameter, but some were as large as the commercial Blueberries one sees in the supermarkets. It was these I think the RZs were feeding on.

I carried on around the scree slope, heading for what seemed to be the most accessible section of rock face that side of the cwm, but it was more of a struggle to get to than I'd anticipated. On the way, I saw another Ring Ouzel, which was another male.

Finally getting to the rock, I was immediately surprised and delighted to see a Harebell still in full bloom. There were plenty of others there that had gone over and had only seed pods, but this plant was still looking beautiful.

Harebells (Mr Bell might know them as Bluebells)

Just after noting the Harebell and only a few metres away, I found my target species; Fir Clubmoss. Later I was to see lots more of it, but this was the only accessible plant of it I saw.

Fir Clubmoss

I was getting excited by the site and wondered what it might turn up next. I decided to look for Filmy Ferns, which although I've never seen them there, are to be found in Dare Valley country park. I explored the damper parts of the rock, where a constant drip occurs and under a wet overhang, deep in shade, I came across a colony of them, all hanging down from the roof. I am not familiar with the filmy ferns, having only seen one once, a long time ago, so I took lots of photos, hoping to be able to identify it at home. As hoped, I was indeed able to identify it as Wilson's Filmy Fern, which although far from common, is the commonest of the three filmy ferns and probably the one I saw all those years ago.

Wilson's Filmy Fern

At another section of rock, in a wet area at its base, I found some ferns I didn't recognise. They were obviously deciduous and in the process of dying back, so I took photos and collected a frond. Right next to them was a colony of Oak Fern and both growing as they do, on running rootstocks, the two ferns intermingled in places. At home, I identified it as Beech Fern (the names Oak and Beech are pretty meaningless, in the context of these ferns, as neither has any affiliation or association to its namesake). I now recall the Warden of the fledgeling reserve mentioning Beech Fern being present, so it was nice to actually see it.

Beech Fern

I had now run out of time and for some reason decided the only was was up, so noting the distant call of a fourth Ring Ouzel, I struggled long and hard, eventually, miraculously, reaching the top without either having a heart attack or having my knee caps pop out.
All in all, a pretty successful day.


  1. great read and jam sod with the Ring Ouzels and i still not seen one in the valley yet this year .

  2. If it's any consolation, Llyn Fach isn't in this valley; it's in the Neath Valley.