Thursday, February 12, 2015


Snowdonia in North Wales is a region I visit on a regular basis, not just for the stunning scenery and exhilarating walks, but also for some fabulous wildlife. An additional bonus at this time of year is the presence of snow on some of the higher peaks which makes the region eminently attractive for landscape photographers. I have to admit to just snapping the scenery as I concentrate my photography mainly on the wildlife, but the images are quite pleasing nevertheless.
Last Sunday dawned with a thick fog shrouding the fields around my home on the Wirral, but the forecast was for sunny spells, so I set off early for the Welsh hills. The sun didn't break through the clouds and mist until I was well into the Snowdonia National Park. My first stop was at a layby in the Nant Ffrancon valley, were that scarce relative of the Blackbird, the migratory Ring Ouzel had been seen over the previous few weeks. I don't know whether these birds were very early returning migrants hoping to set up territories before their rivals, or if they had overwintered in the valley for the same reason. But a number of birds had been seen the previous day. A small group of birdwatchers had gathered at the layby and one even pointed out a nearby rock where he had seen a Ring Ouzel perched the previous day, but during my stay at the site the target birds were not seen. But it was a great spot for admiring the surrounding snow-clad hills, with views up to the Ogwen Valley and the Devil's Kitchen.
But the short winter daylight hours were ticking away and I, along with my friend Jane, fancied a short walk up Mount Snowdon itself. We drove to Capel Curig and stopped to take more scenic photographs, and admire a small flock of ducks diving on the lake. They were mainly Tufted Ducks, but also present were a few Goldeneye and a "redheaded" Goosander; the Barracuda of the bird world.
We drove on to Llanberis, where I took some shots of some confiding Jackdaws before we set off up the Llanberis footpath. We only planned to walk as far as the snowline which last weekend was about two thirds of the way up the mountain. It was a very pleasant walk; the route known as the "tourists path" up Snowdon was not very busy and the views were stunning. It even felt pleasantly warm at times in the February sunshine. We stopped for a picnic, but could not entice the local Ravens very close. These beautiful crows are intelligent but wary of people. We also encountered a few Herring Gulls near the snack bar part way up the mountain. Although this was closed, these large gulls obviously associate people with an easy meal, and perched on the roof of the building where they could scan the area for any scraps. Interestingly, I observed one gull eating the snow, probably as a source of water to wash down some scavenged food item.
We reached the snowline at about 2pm, which gave us some time to admire the views and take more photos before returning to LLanberis for a very welcome hot cup of coffee.

Nant Ffrancon minus the Ring Ouzels

The Snowdon "Horseshoe" from Capel Curig

Jackdaw at Llanberis

Snowdon's Ravens

Herring Gull dining on snow


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