I hadn’t visited the Bryn Euryn Local Nature Reserve for quite some time and thought I would rectify that last weekend. The morning weather had been varying between sunshine and showers, and arriving at the site during a sunny spell I walked first around the edge of the small quarry field to see what was growing there.
Pussy willow is a name given to many of the smaller species of the genus Salix (willows and sallows) when their furry catkins are young in early spring. Before the male catkins of these species come into full flower they are covered in fine, greyish fur and hence likened to tiny ‘pussy cats’. The catkins appear quite some time before the leaves, and are one of the earliest signs of spring. It is customary to gather branches of pussy willow to decorate the house in the springtime, particularly on Palm Sunday, as a substitute for palm branches.
From the field I crossed onto the track on the edge of the woodland which passes by an open area of allotments. There is often a robin to be seen here, which today continued with its foraging regardless of me being very close by, even stopping to pose on a nice mossy wooden perch in a patch of sunlight.
I had some good views of a dunnock there too as it pecked around amongst the dry leaves beneath the trees.
Moving on towards the bottom of the steps, another brown bird flew past me and landed on the trunk of a big sycamore tree; a treecreeper. I was delighted to recognise it as a treecreeper, the first and only one I have seen so far in this location. I watched it or quite some time as it explored the tree trunk and higher branches, probing its beak into nooks and crannies searching or insects and spiders.
The Treecreeper– Certhia familiaris is small, very active, bird that lives in trees. It has a long, slender, downcurved bill, patterned brown upperparts, whitish underparts, and long stiff tail feathers which help it creep up tree trunks. It breeds in the UK and is resident here. Birds may leave their breeding territories in autumn but most range no further than 20 km.
In Spain the very similar short-toed treecreeper – Certhia brachydactyla occurs. They are frequent visitors to our garden there, where they are equally as comfortable scuttling up the tall straight trunks of the palm trees as they are exploring the nooks and crannies of the native cork oaks. They are much easier to photograph there too being more in the open and in better light.
According to my bird books, the main points of difference between the two species are location and that the short-toed species has brownish flanks and a different voice: the short-toed’s song is said to be louder and less high-pitched and the call note louder, more piping and sometimes trilling. However, it is a possibility that there is in actuality only one species as presented convincingly in this brilliant blog: http://10000birds.com/short-toed-treecreepers-do-not-exist.htm
The woodland was full of birdsong and following the track up through the trees towards the summit of the hill (bryn) I was accompanied by a chorus of robin, blackbird, chaffinch, blue tit and great tit with stand-out performances from a couple of wrens and intermittent coo-ing interventions from wood pigeons. As I neared the top it began to rain quite heavily so I stood under an ivy-clad tree branch for a few minutes just listening until it stopped.
I carried on up to the summit, passing the trig point and over onto the open meadow or downs area that covers one slope of the hill. I was greeted by the sight of a complete arc of a rainbow that spanned a width far greater than I could fit into my viewfinder.
On the path back down to the bottom a female blackbird was taking a bath in a newly filled puddle, disturbed from her ablutions by, yes, you’ve guessed, a bounding unleashed dog. I had been standing watching a small number of goldfinch foraging in the tops of a stand of tall trees, but I know when it’s time to leave and let the dogs have their share of the day.
There were a few more treats awaiting me in the car-parking area however. Two wood pigeons, probably a pair, sat preening on a branch in a patch of sunlight and a pair of great tit were foraging around the fenced part of the field.
I have always found great tit elude me when it comes to photographing them, so I hung around for a while hoping to capture an image or two. They flew across the car park into the low trees there and attempting to pick up on them I found four long-tailed tits instead. A special favourite of mine, I was more than happy with that, especially as they stayed around acrobatically and thoroughly scouring the intricate twigs of the trees.
A robin was investigating the ground beneath the shrubbery the long-tailed tit was photographed in, then unexpectedly flew up onto a branch in full sunshine and began to sing.