10th June 2018
From the roadside, the hay meadows at Hirnant Farm (Caeau Hirnant) on the winding road along Craig Goch Reservoir are a rare picture of summer colour; yellow with rough hawkbit, bird’s foot trefoil, yellow rattle and buttercup, white with pignut and eyebright and dashed purple with red clover and marsh orchids. The meadow buzzes with day flying moths, bees and other insects; small pearl-bordered fritillaries keep low and work the trefoil. Swallows and house martins flick over the fields before rising and banking round to start another sortie; all have nests in the farm buildings just over the hill. In the improved pasture next the farm, house sparrows feed in a busy jumble of hopping and fluttering. A buzzard is chased from a fence post by a desperate pair of carrion crow with their recently fledged young sitting stupidly nearby.
Curlews snooze on the hill crests awaiting the time to swap over with their partner on a nest far across the valley in the rhos grassland and rush pastures that blanket the low lying ground next to the reservoir. Birds fly directly across under a cloudless sky against the rapidly clearing, morning mist then suddenly in the far distance, wiffle down and are immediately lost from sight; they head to their nests with fluting calls and bubbling song that echo across the valley.
On the mountain road to Cymystwyth at Gors Lywd, the valley mire is also alive with moths that work the flowering bog bean. Sundews litter the sphagnum and the mire quakes on passing as it floats on the acid water. Cotton grasses are white puffs, sedges are either out or just coming in to flower and pretty pink, bog cranberry sits on moss hummocks. A snipe drums briefly overhead and slides across the sky.
The next morning, a common sandpiper paces along the top of Garreg Dhu dam wall, calling anxiously and trying to keep an eye on its recently fledged young that hide in the bank side vegetation below.
Above Dol y Mynach reservoir, Caeau Penglaneinon rises on the slope above a mature, mixed woodland which rings with singing wood warblers and redstarts; a grey wagtail pair has a nest under the bridge, a mistle thrush with a beakful of food flies from the meadow to perch high in a tree on its way to a nest high in the wood; and song thrushes and tree pipits sing without a break from the adjacent ffridd.
In the meadows, the dew drenches the feet and the midges swarm in the still morning air but the flowers are rich and colourful; wood bitter-vetch carpets much of the ground with more yellow rattle, trefoil and eyebright and large numbers of greater butterfly orchids, most still in bud, speckle the ground a pale yellow.
At Vicarage Meadows in the Irfon Valley, bright yellow petty whin is more dominant and great burnet is just out, sadly with no attendant scarce large blue butterflies, which are restricted to mainland Europe; heath spotted orchids are common but there is only one butterfly orchid. There are no small pearl-bordered fritillary butterflies but that may be just for lack of looking in the rush pastures below. They are present almost everywhere this year: near Nant y Fedw in the hills above the Devil’s staircase, also in the meadows at Caermeirch and in the young forest on Nant Melyn.