Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Llandegla Forest (part 1)

At the end of April I booked a day off work with the intention of visiting Bempton Cliffs RSPB in Yorkshire. Unfortunately I was a bit unwell in the morning so I didn't fancy the long drive from the Wirral, but I didn't want to waste my day and decided to go for a walk around Llandegla Forest in North Wales.
Coed Llandegla is a commercial forest that opened to the public in 2005 as a mountain biking venue. But alongside the great biking trails are some fantastic wildlife habitats, indeed 50% of the Welsh Black Grouse population can be found within one mile of the forest, and in the summer the clearfell areas are home to Nightjars. Jane and I were too late in the day to witness the lekking of the grouse but we were happy to stroll around the forest in search of other wildlife.
Warblers were much in evidence as we wandered the trails through the conifers. The cascading song of the Willow Warbler is definitely one of my favourite sounds of Spring and they were probably the commonest songster on our walk.

We walked to the hide that overlooks the moorland where the Black Grouse lek in the early morning knowing we wouldn't see any but Ravens and Buzzards provided some consolation. It was quite a warm day and the willow flowers were a welcome source of nectar for foraging bees.

 Chiffchaffs, Chaffinches, Blackbirds and Song Thrushes added to the mid-morning chorus, and the twittering calls of Siskin and Redpoll reminded us that the forest is a great habitat for these species.
A very obliging Wren perched and sang on some conifer logs and provided me with some memorable images.

Walking up a broad forest track near an area of clearfell we saw a largish brown bird disappearing behind a stand of conifers. "Cuckoo" we both said, more in hope than anything else. We quickly walked to the other side of the conifers only to find that our 'Cuckoo' was in fact a Mistle Thrush! It was a lovely bird but Llandegla is one of our favourite sites for Cuckoo, but maybe we were too early in the season for this African migrant.
We picnicked on a seat that overlooks Moel Famau, the highest hill in the Clwydian range. The hill is crowned with a tower which was built to commemorate the golden jubilee of George III in 1810. The tower gives the hill a unique profile that makes it easily recognised from some distance.
I shared my lunch with an unusually shy Robin and then we set off back to the visitor centre. As we neared the carpark I thought I heard the call of a Crossbill as two finch-sized birds disappeared over the forest canopy. I could not be sure though, so it didn't make it on to the day list. Crossbills used to be a guaranteed sighting a Llandegla, to the point that one area of the forest was nicknamed "Crossbill Corner". But after a cold winter a couple of years ago they have become more infrequent. They are a mobile species anyway so an irruption might boost the numbers here in the future.

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