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A woodland in spring… no better time to visit!

Posted: Monday 6th April 2015 by CoedPendugwmDiaries

Wood Anemone at Coed Pendugwm copyright Tamasine Stretton 2015Wood Anemone at Coed Pendugwm © Tamasine Stretton 2015

Sunshine bathes the floor and all the plants reach for it, while they can! Right now, Lesser Celandine and Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage, the earliest blooms, are being joined by Wood Anemone’s pretty white stars. It won’t be too long before the Bluebells take over; their leaves are bursting forth in abundance once again.

One of the new nest boxes at Coed Pendugwm under a carpet of Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage © Tamasine Stretton 2015

Of course, the magic of spring is not restricted to floral splendour. The winter quiet has gone and now the wood is filled with bird song. It is still too early for the real stars of a western oak wood – Pied Flycatcher, Redstart and Wood Warbler – but the Chiffchaffs are in full voice, having arrived from warmer climes some two weeks ago. You can almost hear the urgency in the bird’s voices, as they seek to attract a mate and defend a territory from rivals. 17 bird species, many of them singing their socks off, were recorded during yesterday’s visit, including Nuthatch, Treecreeper and the diminutive Goldcrest. The latter has a subtle song which my Mum used to describe as ‘piddly-piddly-piddly’; always brings a smile to my face when I hear it.

As I walk around I wonder whether any of the birds are setting up in the new nest boxes we put up in early March. The majority of the 40 are designed for Pied Flycatchers, so I hope the Blue and Great Tits leave some vacant for their arrival! There are also a few boxes for Redstarts and a couple specifically designed to attract Willow Tits. These are hollowed-out willow logs, packed with sawdust. Apparently, they like to excavate their nests. I am particularly expectant about their use, I just hope I can find them again as they blend in very well!

Most people probably don't give it a second look, but I am always delighted to see the little Beefly. It looks like a bee, but is in fact a fly and the long proboscis allows it to access nectar, a bit like a hummingbird's long tongue. I had barely walked 20m on to the reserve when I spotted this one, sunning itself on the path. A sure sign that spring has sprung!

Beefly at Coed Pendugwm © Tamasine Stretton 2015

The large clumps of frogspawn I spotted back in March have now largely hatched. The pool isn’t very big, so it’s packed full of tiny tadpoles. My waterproof camera allows me to get a closer look, for the first time. They look emaciated to me, but I don’t know if that’s normal at this stage. How long before they start eating each other, I wonder.

Tadpoles at Coed Pendugwm © Tamasine Stretton 2015

These are some of the day time delights of the reserve. It may seem quieter at night, but there is still much going on. Night time is when most of the mammals emerge – fox, bats, even the dormouse might be stirring from its winter slumber by now – most of the moths come out then too. With the aim of studying the early spring species in Coed Pendugwm, the Montgomeryshire Moth Group ran an event at the end of March (rather wonderfully coinciding with Earth Hour!). They are a brave, determined bunch, rarely put off by the weather, but unfortunately they picked a rather stormy night for their excursion and had to beat a rather hasty retreat (after four hours – yes, that’s hasty for them!!). Not before they recorded 14 moth species, including the “striking Oak Beauty (the star of the evening)”. More on their exciting evening here: ‘The Hobbits of Pendugwm ‘Middle Moth’ Woods

The woodland isn't the only habitat at Coed Pendugwm. The Nant-y-Pandy flows along the northern boundary, a clean, fast-flowing stream, home to otters, Grey Wagtails and Dippers. The latter hunts for small creatures underwater and perhaps these would be a feast for them? I have no idea what they are; any ideas?

© Tamasine Stretton 2015

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