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  • Writer's pictureAlistair

Returning visitors ...

Some things come back every year … the swallows are the most obvious ones for me as I get a dawn wake up call, currently at around 4.30am.  The one (the same one?) that sits on my windowsill seems content to let me go back to sleep after half an hour or so.  I like it (easier to do when you realise it will stop)


Well, this year the number of swallows seems light.  But one thing that has come back in equal numbers, with even more vigour, is the conservation volunteer group from Bridgend College, led by their lecturer, Lyn Evans.  As per last year they arrived for the bank holiday weekend at the end of May, setting up camp on the Friday night and (kind of) following a packed program put together by Rob Parry, who leads the team at my favourite ecologists, the INCC (Initiative for Nature Conservation Cymru).

The Bridgend team cooked over the open fire ... come rain or shine!

The weather was not so kind this year, but a bit of rain did not get in the way.  Bats, moths and pond dipping all featured, as did a repeat of last year’s quadrat survey in what we hope will become a proper wildflower meadow.  This all gives us valuable data to see how things are progressing (and hopefully improving) at Cefn Garthenor.  However, some really exciting stuff comes out of just having a lot of interested and knowledgeable people walking the land.

Pond dipping in the sunshine ... this group found water stick insects, newts, damselfly and dragonfly nymphs, water boatmen, backswimmers, pond skaters and much more

A prime example was on Saturday morning when the group did a biodiversity recording walk.  Rob had planned a route covering a vast arc of Cefn Garthenor.  Note to self for next year: if we are to get more than 500m from the yard in the three hours allotted we will need to blindfold everyone and lead them to a new starting point.  Fourteen pairs of eyes (should probably exclude mine as they are not great) can’t help but spot something noteworthy every couple of metres.  One thing was a set of paw prints in the mud.  These caused much consternation.  Were they the dreaded mink or the beloved and welcome polecat?  Sadly, not every noteworthy thing is good.  The jury was out, but my sense was that the majority were siding with them being the responsibility of a mink.  Judge for yourself.

Are those prints from a polecat or the dreaded mink?

We set up a camera trap to see if we could spot the print maker in the same location.  Well, we are pretty sure that we did and this time the slightly grainy video pointed in a better direction … we are pretty sure it was a polecat. 

We also spotted a herd of very wet (so perhaps the collective noun should be a deluge, maybe a stripe when dry?) badgers trotting along the bridleway.  Very cute, especially with the volume up and on hearing the pitter patter of tiny feet.

Sunday saw the worst of the weather and the hardest of the work.  The group turned their attention to removing fencing within the area which will become the beaver enclosure, taking out a few hundred metres of netting, barbed wire and posts along a big ditch.  The beavers will want to get in here and create a whole new landscape as they dam what can be a very fast flowing waterway after rain.  So, while strange to remove perfectly good fencing, there is method in the madness.  For now, the pigs were delighted to get into the ditch for the first time.

Removing fencing was back breaking work ... hope that the beavers will be grateful!

A big thanks to all those who came along and worked so hard:

Top from left: Vaughn, Harvey, Robyn, Alex, Tom, Richard, Ffion, Ros

Bottom from left: Alistair (minimal contribution from him), Luca, Lyn, Freya, Eliza, Rob


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