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Brecon Beacons National Park

Last week in the Beacons

One more week before the Job change and I'm making the most of early spring in the beacons. I am going to miss working for BBNP, they have been so great to work for. This view was ontop of the Alt Mountain overlooking Talybont and Brecon. It's a fabulous view and well worth the climb. I luckily got to go up in a quad bike however and that seemed hard enough at times! 

The Alt 

This weekend I spent most of my time in the Garden. Last year we planted lots of wild flowers to encourage wildlife and this year we've installed a pond. Something I've always wanted to do! If you don't have a pond, get one! They can be really easy to make, can even make one out of an old washing bowl if you want to, and it will encourage wildlife, damselflies, dragonflies, toads, newts and frogs ect. Can't wait to see what ends up in the pond as we live just down from the canal so I'm sure something will end up in there. In the garden I also had a visit from a Dark-edged Bee Fly, 2 weeks earlier than in previous years. April is ahead of us however and it's my favourite month of the year! So much to see and hear with birdsong in full swing. With a new Job locally, I will get more time with my camera so will hopefully pick up where I left off. 

Dark-edged Bee Fly

Gard Pond (In Progress)

Traditional Breconshire Style Hedge Laying

Traditional Breconshire Style Hedge Laying

Last week in work my colleagues and I were introduced to a true traditional -'Breconshire style'- way of hedge laying. The location was just above Llangorse Lake on the west bank on a SSSI site. We've done work in this beautiful area before so it was nice to visit again and hear all the birds in the background, including seeing two Great White Egrets that were using the flooded fields catching early spring frogs. Rather than explain everything we did, I thought I'd put a short video together showing various stages of the Hedge. If you're familiar with Hedge Laying but perhaps not with the Breconshire style, I'd highly recommend it, it has such a great finish but is also made strong and most importantly, stock proof. 

Work Goals

Geez! I'm absolutely shattered, the last couple weeks have been flat out in the lead up till Christmas with two assessments back to back. First, my B+E Trailer test which I was chuffed to pass and also I had my Chainsaw / Crosscutting assessment today, after a weeks crash course in Mid-Wales (Rhayadar) last week, which I also passed!. Fabulous part of Wales mind you! Red Kites everywhere, also saw a lot of Crossbill while felling with a Great Grey Shrike deep in the woodland too. Both physically and mentally draining however so ready for a 'relax' this Christmas. Doubt that'l happen but who knows! 


If you're following my flicker page  you'll see that I have been uploading a few pictures this month. I've started a winter feeding station at a remote location with a pop up hide set up, in the hope to get some of the more common species. I've noticed that wildlife photographers tend to neglect the common species of bird because either they find them boring or don't find them a challenge to photograph. I for one know how difficult it can be to get decent, natural images of these species so I'm going to try this winter to get some in the bag that I'm happy with. Here are a few so far. 

Work, Weather and Health

People seemed to like my blog post about the Red Grouse & the BBNP last week so I thought I'd show you the final stages of the heather restoration progress. The picture below shows the next stage of filtration, in the basket you'll see the brash that we don't want and in front of the wood is the finer seed that will then need to be fully dried before being bagged and stored for future restoration. 

Today however we were building a bridge over a fanatic waterfall in.... any guesses where?... I only had my phone but tried my best to get a slow shutter photo without a tripod.  

I'll post up some more picture of the bridge once its finished tomorrow. We did run into a few problems, including a broken drill so we'll have to re-visit in the morning. 

Something to look forward to, I'll be starting a new winter feeding station like last year, but in a different location. I have a few birds in mind that I'd like to photograph but to be honest, I'll be happy enough to just get a Blue Tit in the lens. 

Red Grouse Conservation @ BBNP

I know, it's been a while since I've blogged...and what have I brought you after all this time? Pictures of poo.

Apologies for that. As you probably guessed I've been extremely busy. I haven't picked up the camera in weeks! As sad as that is, these last two months have been pretty amazing. I'm loving my new Job and thought I would share with you the areas which I enjoy the most. The BBNP take conservation quite seriously, with a great ecology team ever pushing the standards. Red Grouse are one species that are of particular concern as they are a good indicator species for the health and well-being of our heathland. The BBNP participate in annual Grouse Counts to monitor the species but they also do everything they can do improve the Grouse' chances of breeding. Below you'll see pictures of Grouse Poo.. quite easy to identify once you've got your eye in.


We also like to supplement the grouse with piles of grit to help them digest their food. Grit can be found naturally on the mountain but by purposefully placing the grit in areas that are more secluded, the Grouse don't have to venture out into the open areas to find it which gives them a better survival rating. 


Heather restoration is also very important and a massive Job to maintain thanks to climate change. The mountains are getting warmer and Heather being an upland species, actually prefers the colder altitudes (which is why you usually only see these species of plant on the top). Heather is also victim to encroaching species like Bracken that is actually moving up the mountain due to warmer temperatures. There are other factors of course like heather beetle that actually damages the heather. 

So how do we tackle these issues? Well the BBNP take two approaches; 

  • Bracken Bashing is a simplistic, but effective way of killing the bracken, giving the heather a better chance of growing and reclaiming the outer edges.  
  • Heather Seed Harvesting is another way of ensuring the future of the heather and can be either stored ready for future restoration, or it can be dried and sown the next year in the areas that need it the most. 

Below is a picture of the first bag of seed we gathered this week. This bag will be filtered through a finer mesh back at the depot to filter out the leaves/twigs from the seeds. Eventually we'll end up with just the pale round seeds ready for sowing in the future. 


I've really enjoyed this activity. Red Grouse are really incredible upland species and a Joy to have on the hill. If you haven't seen one, get up at the crack of dawn to your local heathland and you may just get lucky. They are most active in the morning I have found and can be heard and seen, moving into the open areas of young heather to feed. 

Below is a beautiful picture of a Red Grouse, taken locally by superb photographer and friend Mike Warburton. Click the picture for a link directly to his Flickr page. 

Red Theme

Red Grouse, Red Fox Moth Caterpillars, Red Kites and Red Foxes made up an un-intended theme for the day today in work. We set off, a group of around 10 to re-visit a site on the edge of the national park on the boarder of Hereford, to carry on with this autumns grouse count. We had to call the last survey off due to bad weather after getting on the hill and being greeted with a strike of thunder on the ridge opposite. Todays weather however was much better! and we did end up seeing a decent amount of grouse. I did bring the camera with me, just incase one flew my way but all I got was the back end of a few just before they dipped back down for cover. 

Beacons Air Lift

If you're following me on Facebook or Twitter, you would have read already that on Wednesday I got the pleasure of exploring the mountains of Talybont in a Helicopter as part of a project to repair erosion on the local moorland. The task required traffic control, both on the ground and on the mountain, which was surprisingly busy considering we were in the middle of nowhere. 

I was lucky in that I got the upland part of the challenge which meant riding up and down in the Helicopter. I was also lucky enough to be able to bring my camera and phone from which I got just about enough footage to put together a little video for you all to watch. As you can see in the video, the bags being transported were pretty large and full with stone, soil and surprisingly water, which added excess weight that did make it pretty challenging for the Helicopter. 

We managed 38 passes which, given the conditions, was pretty impressive. The ending was a bit sketchy with fog getting too thick for the pilot to find us on the mountain top, he actually had to ditch the last load of rocks further down the mountain to make sure he had the best chance in bringing us back down. Either way, the day was very successful but still lots more bags to go up.

I had a fantastic time, it was my first time in a Helicopter and hopefully not my last. It is a great project and for a great cause, we need to look after our uplands / Moorlands. It's taken hundreds of years to form the way they are and our moorlands are our first defence from flooding. 

Red Grouse Theme of the day

Today had such potential to be my favourite day so far working at the beacons, on an Annual Grouse count, high up in the hills surrounded by miles of flowering heather. Sounds amazing right? Well, theme of the day was set by the picture below that pretty much described our day before it even started. 

As we climbed up to the highest peak of Cwmyoy, the fog got thicker and before we knew it, visibility was pretty poor. 18 of us turned up for the count, joined by three highly trained spotter Dogs that would aid us tremendously, providing there were any grouse. By now I'm sure you've worked out the outcome but apart from a few grouse droppings, we pretty much only found Fox Moth Caterpillars and two Heather Bumble Bee's. 

Not for lack of trying though! The word 'yomping' comes to mind and I certainly have the blisters to show for it! I'll refrain from posting pictures.. not a pretty picture.

I've edited this photo of a Ram in such a way that it minimises the Fog so this doesn't give you a true indication of how foggy it was. A clearer day will probably result in more grouse but even still, I don't think the numbers are doing so well up there. 

Beacons Job

Brecon Beacons National Park

Yesterday I started my new position in the Brecon Beacons as a trainee Warden. So far so good! Getting all the mandatory things out of the way first with quick tours of the area and health and safety checks to get on with for now. Really looking forward to getting stuck in and seeing more of the beautiful beacons. I should have brought my camera to work today as the views were incredible. Phone pic of Pen y Fan below. 

Photo 02-09-2016, 11 33 10.jpg

Straight after work I went to my local patch at Llandegfedd again, only to find that the Wild Flower Meadows had been cut for hay crop. While this is technically a good thing for the wild flowers next year, I couldn't help but feel really sad that all that biodiversity had to be killed for the sake of profiting off this small bit of land. It was only the other day I was speaking about how great this year was for Roesel's Bush Cricket and perhaps that is because most of them successfully bred last year as they didn't cut the grass last year. Can't have it all I suppose and in the greater scheme of things, perhaps this is a good thing.

On a good note, it was nice to see that my local Hobbys bred in the same place as last year with one or two successfully fledged chicks. I'll certainly be keeping an eye on this site in the future as it's doing the Job for these fantastic birds.  

Wheatear Success

It was lovely to see chicks all over my local moorland today. Spring is officially over with the first day of Summer today, and what better way to cross into Summer than with a fledge of Wheatears! Happy to say that 4 of them fledged today, I hope they all survive because they are an welcomed visitor and a pleasure to watch out our moorlands.