The sun is shining, birds are singing and the Coed Garth Gell reserve is looking at it's best. What more incentive do you need to go for a nice walk in the woods?
Maybe the chance of seeing some really gorgeous butterflies? Within the wood, speckled wood butterflies flutter in the dappled shade of the trees, landing on oak leaves to show-off their checker board patterned wings. However, it is in the clearings and on the heath that most of our butterflies hang out.
The brown butterflies, meadow brown and ringlet will be on the wing in the next few weeks but their smaller relative the small heath is flying already, watch out for a small, dull orange butterfly darting off from in front of your feet.
For the sharp eyed observer, the green harstreak is a treat. It sits still on the tops of gorse and bilberry bushes until any other insect flies through it's territory, then it launches itself into the air and chases the intruder away energetically. It is quite confiding and when it is sat, it shows off it's emerald green wings, coloured just like the bilberry bushes where it often perches.
If you are lucky you may see a fritillary butterfly. Two species are on the reserve, the dark-green and small pearled-bordered. Both look superficially the same, and often they don't give you a chance to admire them as they are active butterflies, flying purposly through the glades that they prefer, looking for violets where they will lay their eggs.
Why not come along and see if you can spot them?
Today was a dull, foggy day on the Mawddach. The spectacular view from the top of the hill was lost behide a curtain of drizzle. Through the fog a tree pipit sang and in the woods below a pied flycatcher chirped and a wood warbler blasted out it's shimmering trill in defiance of the misserable weather.
The path through the heath was brightened by yellow western gorse bushes in full flower and further along the path bog myrtles were coming into leaf. Bog myrtle is a short shrub, it's dull glaucous foliage is unfamiliar to many people since this plant is most at home in acid bogs, somewhere where most people would rather not go! It's most notiable feature is it's distinctive smell. In the summer, the glade at Coed Garth Gell where it grows is full of it's aromatic scent. Now, by crushing some of it's leaves, you can get a faint whiff of it's scent; a reminder of the heady summer days ahead.
Further along the path I saw some pale shapes coming out of the fog. 'Strange', I thought, 'what's Meirion's sheep doing here?'. 'Come to think of it, I don't remember his sheep looking so scruffy and those two foot long horns don't look right either....GOATS!'
Feral goats are a familar sight to many Snowdonia hill walkers, but at the Mawddach they are a rarity. The southern Rhinog population has increased in number in recent years and this winter about a dozen have been seen close to our reserve boundary since February. These goats are thought to have come from domesticated goats that went wild in the middle ages. Unfortunately, they do casue a lot of damage to woodlands by eating out all the regenerating trees and in the mountains they are notorious for munching rare mountain plants. For these reasons they are not that popular with local conservationists and a lot of money has been spent in trying to fence them out of some of our more special woodlands.
As I watched these spectacular, graceful animals slip silently out of sight through the trees I could not help but be enthralled; however, I will have to have another look at our boundary wall before they make themselves to much at home!