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September 8th – Bryn Euryn

Woodland Path

Yet another windy day with intermittent sunshine, so I’m seeking shelter in the woods. It is almost eerily silent and the damp soft earth of the path absorbs the sound of my footsteps. Something detects my presence at the last minute; loud rustling sounds from the undergrowth startle me and a panicked grey squirrel shoots out in front of me, sprints rapidly along the path and launches itself up the trunk of the nearest large tree. It pauses when it feels safely hidden behind foliage, but I spied it through the leaves, its mouth filled with an acorn, still green and unripe.

There are ripe blackberries, but on the early fruiting brambles some are already mouldering, and a feasting greenbottle fly reminds me why I don’t eat too many unwashed wild berries.

Chains of scarlet berries drape shrubbery. This one twined through holly reminded me of a Christmas garland; I wonder if sights such as this sparked the idea for festive decorations?

The berries are those of Black Bryony-Tamus communis, and will continue to ripen until they are black. A perennial plant described as twining, but often it’s more of a scrambler.

Woodland Trail

There are rose hips here

and a bramble whose leaves look as though they are almost ready to drop.

The gorse bushes have fresh golden blossom and clever spiders have spun webs in the hope of capturing flying insects drawn to their nectar and pollen. Gorse flowers throughout most months of the year prompting the old saying, “When gorse is out of flower, Kissing is out of season!”

Summit Trail – backtracking

The last time I walked here I took a slightly different route to the summit of the hill, taking an unmarked track up through the woodland to join the Summit Trail. I hadn’t planned to that, but at the junction of the paths I usually take I’d stopped to try to locate Jays that I’d heard screeching in nearby trees and a man with a dog stopped to ask me what I was looking at. We had an interesting chat comparing notes about what we both see here and where, but I didn’t catch the Jays. I waited to see which way he would go to continue his walk and seeing it was the same way I was headed, decided to go the opposite way. Not that I’m unsociable of course, rather that I see far more on my own and in my own time; and he had a dog! Anyway, the upshot was that I ended up on a narrow upward track through the trees on another windy day that was sunny but still damp from the previous night’s rain.

Spiders’ webs lit by the sunshine filtering down through the leaf canopy caught my eye and I stopped to admire the artistry of their construction and to try to find their makers. Looking more closely I saw most of the webs were broken and apparently abandoned, although this one had captured a beautiful rainbow.

As so often happens, my slow progress and in this instance, last-minute change of route brought forth a magical few moments. Until now the only sounds had been mainly of the wind rushing through the trees, but I began to hear bird calls that got gradually nearer and suddenly I was surrounded on all sides by excited little birds – a travelling feeding party! I had been standing still and they seemed not to notice me; I’ve described a similar experience in a previous post and this was equally as joyous and uplifting. It was a large party too, impossible to count the numbers of birds within it as they scattered amongst the trees, but Blue tits were probably most numerous with at least a dozen Long-tailed tits; Great-tits were there too. I didn’t see Tree-creepers as before, but was thrilled to see a Nuthatch that chose to explore a tree right in front of me.

Nuthatch-Sitta europaea

Taking photographs in the darkness of woods is rarely successful, but a Nuthatch did pause briefly from its foraging near a patch of sunlight, giving me a reasonable chance to record this bird for the first time here. Watching a tiny Blue-tit searching through ivy high up in another tree I realised it was looking for spiders, which are an important part of their diet. Perhaps the birds’ regular forays are the reason I couldn’t find any.

Blue tit seeking spiders

Back to the present 

Sycamore leaf with spots of fungus

There was no feeding party today, but there were other signs of a summer ending. Sycamore leaves, amongst the first to break their buds in the Spring are amongst the first to change colour and fall. Most of those I see nowadays are marked with dark spots; this is Rhytisma acerinum, the Sycamore Tarspot. It doesn’t look attractive, but although it is suspected that the darkened areas reduce the photosynthetic capacity of affected trees, the fungus doesn’t seem to affect the tree’s health and vigour. One consolation of the fungus’ presence is that is shows the air here is fairly clean as it is apparently particularly sensitive to sulphur dioxide air pollution. Trees growing near to industrial centres with high levels of sulphur emissions do not show any sign of the leaf-blackening fungi.

If you look at the undersides of the fronds of most ferns, their seeds, spores or more correctly sori  are now ripe. The Male Fern is the most common fern found growing here; its sori are round and normally run in two parallel rows.

There’s a large patch of Hart’s Tongue Fern growing in damp shade on a steep bank. Its leaves and sori take a different form to those of other fern species. Their ripe sori accentuate the marks on the underside of the leaves and it seemed to the person that named the plant that they resembled the legs of a centipede, so he gave it the scientific name ‘scolopendrium‘, the Latin for centipede.

Hart’s Tongue Fern-Phyllitis scolopendrium

The track passes a sheer cliff of limestone. Its surface is frequently damp, sometimes wet and its base is covered with a lush, bright green shag-pile carpet of moss.

There’s a small grove of Silver Birch trees on this shady, damper side of the Bryn that are also beginning to lose their leaves, which stud the dark mud of the track with specks of bright gold.

Nearing the end of the path the trees thin and give way to scrubbier vegetation, mostly blackthorn and hawthorn. The blackthorn has beautiful purple sloes and its leaves too are beginning to turn colour.

A number of the blackthorn shrubs here also have clumps of pretty grey-green lichens. Some looks like a tangle of moss, which I can’t accurately name.

Other blackthorns have a lichen in a different form, this one, photographed on a nearby shrubby hawthorn tree with dark red fruits (haws), has the appearance of Reindeer moss, but I can’t yet be species-specific.

Emerging from cover onto the exposed summit I braced myself for another confrontation with the wind. The sun had disappeared behind clouds that were shutting out its brightness, leaving the landscape in shadow, dulling its colours. Part of the view across the valley from here takes in buildings and fields that belong to the Welsh Mountain Zoo, located above Colwyn Bay. There are sometimes interesting animals grazing in the fields; today it was some kind of cattle.

With or without sunshine I love this hillside view of small fields bounded with hedges and trees with the mountains in the distance. It reminds me a little of a David Hockney painting.

The mountains are topped with billowing clouds that permitted some sunshine through to lighten slopes here and there and to brighten the water of the river Conwy.

On days like this you can only hope for at least a little sunshine to brighten the rest of a walk…