Fersiwn Gymraeg ar gael yma.

An exciting project in underway on one of Wales’ biggest mountain ranges. RSPB Cymru Conservation Officer, Jack Slattery, tells us more about it.

The Carneddau is a spectacular mountain range located in Snowdonia National Park, north Wales. The remarkable landscape, shaped by extreme weather and geology  as well as humans, is home to a wide range of wildlife.

Rare sights

Carnedd Llewelyn, the second highest peak in Wales, and its neighbouring mountain tops provide a refuge for rare arctic-alpine plants, such as the Snowdon Lily and the purple saxifrage These colonised the Carneddau after the last Ice Age, over 10,000 years ago. The summits also provide an opportunity for birdwatchers to look for the Eurasian dotterel. Each spring, they stop off on migration as they travel further north. The mountain heaths closely resemble those where the dotterel breeds in the Highlands of Scotland.

A long history

 The influence of humans on the landscape is more obvious at lower altitudes where habitats, including grassland, ffridd, heath and blanket bog, have been managed by livestock grazing for thousands of years. Historians believe the iconic Carneddau ponies have occupied the mountain range since the Bronze Age.

Appropriate grazing is vital to the conservation of many rare and endangered wildlife. Red-billed choughs depend on short grazed grassland for access to soil, in order to feed on ground and dung dwelling invertebrates. Insect-eating sundews and butterworts inhabit blanket blogs maintained on the slopes of Llwytmor, and the ffriddoedd provides a mosaic of grass, heather, bracken and scrub for nesting and foraging ring ouzels. Hay meadows, with a diverse community of wildflowers, support the last breeding population of twite in Wales.

In addition to farming, mining has also offered benefits for wildlife in the Carneddau. Artificial nesting sites resembling natural ones have been created for many birds including choughs, ravens and peregrine falcons.

On-going projects

The Carneddau Landscape Partnership is a scheme funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund to celebrate the natural and cultural heritage of the Carneddau mountain range and protect its most important species and habitats. RSPB Cymru is focusing its efforts on conserving chough and twite.

11 breeding pairs of choughs have recently been recorded nesting in the Carneddau. This is 5% of the total population in Wales. As part of the Carneddau Landscape Partnership, funding is available to track choughs with GPS loggers so we can develop a better understanding of their ecology and habitat use throughout the year. This will inform conservation plans for the species in the future.

We already know one of the main threats facing choughs is traditional foraging sites becoming dominated by gorse. Coincidentally, gorse is also damaging the integrity of many Scheduled  Ancient Monuments in the same areas of the Carneddau. During the scheme, vegetation will be cleared across the landscape which will increase the area of foraging habit available for choughs and protect the Scheduled Ancient Monuments. Invertebrates will also be monitored to understand the impacts of vegetation clearance on their abundance and distribution.

The last breeding population of twite in Wales is located at the bottom of the Ogwen Valley which is south-west of the Carneddau mountain range. During the nesting season, twite rely on species-rich hay meadows for their food. As each species of plant produces seeds at different times of the year, biodiverse hay meadows ensure nesting pairs of twite have a constant supply of food. We will be working closely with land managers to restore species-rich hay meadows and ensure that appropriate grazing regimes are implemented supplying breeding twite with food throughout spring and summer.

Click here for more information about the Carneddau Landscape Partnership.