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  • Writer's pictureAlistair

Starting the habitat survey

After getting the sheep off the land, the next most important thing is to work out what we have at Cefn Garthenor in terms of habitat. That will provide a baseline against which progress can be measured and will also help to determine what should be done in various areas. I simply do not have the expertise or knowledge to do this on my own, so have enlisted Rob Parry at INCCymru to lead the way. There is of course a cost to this, but Rob’s help is invaluable. With 210 acres spread over around 60 fields this process will take four of five days. So, what does the habitat survey involve? Essentially, we look at a relatively contained and uniform area, typically a field, but sometimes part of a field if there was a marked divide (for example a marshy bit and very dry bit) or even a track, which is likely to have formed its own habitat due to different use (tracks are great because they are unlikely to have been grazed or fertilised). We then list all the flora and fauna we find. At this time of year much of the wildflower stock is flowering, so relatively easy to spot. We look at what is in the hedges, what is growing in the verges and then into the field. Plus, we note whatever insects, birds or signs of other animals we hear or see. It is an overview, as opposed to a very detailed survey of a square meter. Things will be missed, but realistically there are limits given the time allocated. We take photos and have a list of what is there. So perhaps 30 to 60 species. It may be raining, and it is all scribbled in a notebook on the move. I also use a voice recorder on some days. Rob will come up with a general descriptor. A field a farmer may like for grazing would an “improved” field. That is bad for my purposes … it means a monoculture of bright green rye grass which has been fertilized. “Semi-improved” would be less uniform, with more other type of grass and plant life … in the case of Cefn Garthenor some Self-Heal or Birds Foot Trefoil, perhaps Red Clover or Creeping Buttercup, plus Thistles. Better for nature. “Unimproved” would be rougher still from a farmer’s perspective … best from the perspective of getting nature back. But we also have large areas of Marshy Grassland, some Wet Heath, Woodland and Wet Woodland.

Pictured below clockwise from top left (a) track (b) felled trees in soft rush (c) silver birch plantation (d) self heal (e) ringlet butterfly (f) six spot burnet moth on marsh thistle


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