A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Redpolls And Railways

The next day, Thursday 17 April, I fancied a saunter in the woods north of the Vale of Ffestiniog. I parked the car near Llyn Mair (1st photo) and followed the Nature Trail up to Tan-y-Bwlch station which is a halt on the narrow gauge Ffestiniog Railway, the oldest independent railway company in the world. It was built to transport slate from the quarries near Blaenau Ffestiniog to the port of Porthmadog. Currently another little railway, the Welsh Highland (Caernarfon to Porthmadog), is being reinstated; by next year it will be possible to travel 40 miles on a curving route from Caernarfon to Blaenau Ffestiniog by narrow gauge steam.

I took a curving route myself through mixed woodland to the hamlet of Rhyd. On the way I saw a flock of redpolls - perhaps 30 strong - in a big conifer plantation. They were teasing out the seeds from larch tree cones as acrobatically as tits. Through my binoculars I could see very clearly the rosy flush on the throat of the males and the bright red blaze on their foreheads. They took off from the trees together, chattering loudly in swooping flight. I was pleased also to hear several song thrushes singing on tree tops and from telephone wires. This area of Wales seems to be one place where they're flourishing rather than declining in numbers.

A little used, undulating path high above the River Dwyryd in the flat Vale of Ffestiniog brought me finally back to Llyn Mair and the car. (The 2nd photo is a view of the Moelwyn mountains taken from the highest point of the walk.)

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