Things have quietened down on the reserve since the busy days of summer. It can seem like there isn’t much wildlife about here at this time of year but goshawks, peregrines, finch flocks (brambling, crossbill, etc.) can still be seen. On Tuesday there was a rarer visitor to the lake in the form of a great northern diver, the first recorded in Montgomeryshire since 2005. These beautiful (especially in summer) birds breed mainly in Iceland in their European range and some then winter around the coastal and occasionally inland waters of the UK.

Great northern diver at Lake Vyrnwy by Gavin Chambers

RSPB staff have spent some time working away from the reserve recently. At the end of November, we went to the Tanrallt reserve, on the Migneint, to help the farm staff herd down the ponies which graze there during the summer and bring them back to Vyrnwy. These five Carneddau ponies are more selective grazers than sheep and help to maintain the desired mosaic of habitats at the site.

Pony herding by Gavin Chambers

Last week five of us visited Carngafallt in the Elan valley along with staff from other Welsh RSPB reserves, where we removed wooden fencing that had been put up to protect saplings in an area of wood pasture nationally important for its beautiful and ecologically rich veteran oaks, many of which are over 500 years old. It’s good to see different reserves and to get to know other RSPB staff and there’s always plenty of cake provided on these days which is another plus! We’re off to Ynys Hir next week to take part in another work party there.

Veteran oak at Carngafallt by Gavin Chambers

We’ve also been working at Blaen coed, off reserve on the Migneint within the North Wales Moors, where there is an ongoing project to rewet peat which was drained, probably at the start of the 20th century, for agricultural purposes. This draining led to the drying out and erosion of the peat, which acts as a vital carbon store when in good condition. Dams made from heather or peat have been put into the drainage channels to stop water from escaping, and our work at the site consisted of assessing the effectiveness of these dams and looking at where future work might take place.

Heather bale dam by Ed Morris

Us interns passed our chainsaw course recently, so are now able to start work on removing self-seeded conifers from the moorland as well as other jobs. My personal project of trying to establish whether there are any pine martens on the reserve continues – I’ve been baiting camera traps with sardines (their oiliness is quite rain-resistant and so the smell lingers) and peanut butter and jam (martens have a very sweet tooth!) but have not had any sightings yet. If they are not in the area yet it is surely only a matter of time, however, as they are spreading from their reintroduction sites and there is abundant good habitat for them here at Vyrnwy.

Ed Morris, Intern

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