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Pontypool Uplands

Pontypool Uplands and Cefn Ila

Yesterday's upland birding session with Craig Constance brought about some nice migrants passing thru, starting off the day with a Juvi Merlin hunting over the moorland above the British, later picked up again as it flew over our parked car and flushed a flock of starlings off the road side! It continued to mob a Red Kite while heading south to the next mountain. Nothing great to show you photograph wise, only this very distance shot of it heading off in the distance. We also noted 2 Spotted Flycatcher, 1 Yellow Wagtail, 2 Redstart, 2 Wheatear and plenty of resident birds like Green Woodpecker, Buzzard, Kestrel (3), Raven and plenty of Stonechat fledglings. It's starting to get a little colder on the mountain now but still plenty of insect life and this Devils Coach Horse Beetle put on a good show walking across our path. 

I visited Cefn Ila today also in search the Wasp Spider, previously introduced by local spider expert Mike Kilner. I was shocked however upon visiting to find that most of the pristine Wasp Spider habitat has since been lost and overshadowed by newly planted Trees and shrub. The site is run by the Woodland trust who've done a marvellous Job at planting a great variety of broad-leaf trees. No-doubt a wonderful woodland to come! But a shame to lose a fantastic spot for such an iconic species of Spider. I did however find plenty of the Spiders food with lots of Grasshoppers and Roesel's Bush Crickets (My favourite british cricket). Also at Cefn Ila were lots of Spotted Flycatchers near the Bee Hives / Orchard. 

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. 

Upland Specials

I seem to be surrounded by development lately.. with South Sebastopol well on its way and further destruction in our upland habitats from 4x4 vehicles, I'm starting to see a lack of appreciation for our local habitat in general. With the comforts of modern society and everything we've come to cocoon ourselves in our day to day lives, who needs a variety of habitats? When people do want their wild fix, they prefer to watch nature from a distance, rather than getting their hands dirty and appreciating the ground they step on. Habitat is so underrated and it's down to lack of knowledge and understanding. We should all know the basics about the world we live in, it should be drilled into us from birth how important habitat is to our wildlife and ourselves: How industry has effected our landscape but also how nature is fighting back and using some of our darkest hours to their advantage. We paid a heavy price in the valleys to industry but it's not like we've turned a new cheek! We still neglect our land, our environment and every delicate treasure we have on our doorstep. Below are two species that are quite delicate in their daily needs, both are a lover of Gorse Bushes and due to cultivation and pressure in the farming industry, many of our upland farmers are cutting this down to maximise growth of grassland for their live stock. (This is what ecologists mean by habitat loss). I approached one of the 4x4 drivers about them driving on the moorland and their response was 'it's just grass'... This goes to show how un-educated people really are because it's far from just grass! It's a very complex ecosystem made up of thousands of specialist plant species and you need only look closer to work that out. I didn't get mad at that person though because it isn't their fault, it starts with the Government and with parental teachings, it starts with the foundations of living in Wales and something needs to change for people to start appreciating the land we live on. A spark is needed and I hope I live long enough to see it happen, otherwise, it's going to be a very sad story for generations to come and whats worse is, they won't even know what they're missing. 

Local Spring Arrivals

Signs of spring are growing every day and today was no exception with Yellowhammer in full song back on territory and Curlew returning to some of their upland breeding grounds. Today marks the first day of the year for Upland Curlews (for me) and I've not heard of any other recordings in Gwent of such activity yet so think this may be the first record. I visited several favourite spots locally today and all of which were upland / moorland. Each day I grow to love our uplands more and more as I realise just how important the habitat is for the majority of our wildlife. I went out with an open mind today prepared to take whatever was presented to me and I was pleasantly surprised to find Yellowhammer back on territory singing their hearts out. Spring has already started for some birds. My local Long-tailed Tits are already starting to build their nest from spiders webs, lichens and feathers. 

I've spoken about the Yellowhammer Dialects project before so I won't go into too much detail but if you're interested in sound recording and have any records, even phone recordings, of a Yellowhammer, please contribute to this incredible project -

I'm the only one that has submitted recordings in South Wales so records here a looking thin despite our abundance of Yellowhammers. It is important to record birdsong for this very reason so please have a look at their website as Pavel is doing a great Job. 

It was my brother that spotted this Curlew flying in from Llandegfedd direction and immediately after he saw it the bird gave off that iconic call giving its identity away. It later on landed in a cultivated field and later flew further north.