Archive: July 2012

Buzzard (Buteo buteo)

Majestically soaring on the thermals above the National park landscape, buzzards are now a common sight. They have a wingspan of 115-130cm and are the largest of the birds of prey commonly seen in North Wales. Their varied diet consists of small mammals such a rabbits and invertebrates like earth worms. They also eat carrion.

Buzzards pair in the spring. At this time 6 or more may be seen circling in the same area. Part of the courtship may include strong and deliberate wing beats from the male as well as the exchange of nest material in mid flight. Often repeated swooping flight can be seen especially near the desired nest site. They nest in mature trees and build large bulky nests from sticks. Grass and other materials such as wool are also used. They will also takeover abandoned crows nests. Two or three chicks are usually reared.

When they are not soaring aloft buzzards are commonly seen sitting motionless on a telegraph pole or bare branch. Particularly during the nesting season magpies, crows and rooks will mob buzzards that stray too near their nests. During these encounters buzzards often lower their talons to strike, whilst at the same time twisting and turning in the air. This display seldom deters their tormentors who will stay just out of reach mobbing the unfortunate individual.

Size: 50-55cm Female larger.  Call: Mewing. Colour: Brown with lighter flecks in the plumage but can be very variable, particularly on the underside which from a distance can look almost cream/white.

Posted in Mountain Flora & Fauna

The Raven

The raven is a big black bird, a member of the crow family. It is massive – the biggest member of the crow family. It is all black with a large bill, and long wings. In flight, it shows a diamond-shaped tail.

Ravens breed mainly in the west and north although they are currently expanding their range eastwards. Most birds are residents, though some birds – especially non-breeders and young birds – wander from their breeding areas but do not travel far.

Known as scavengers, ravens are also effective hunters that sometimes use cooperative techniques. Teams of ravens have been known to hunt down game too large for a single bird. They also prey on eggs and nestlings of other birds, such as coastal seabirds, as well as rodents, grains, worms, and insects. Ravens do dine on carrion and sometimes on human garbage.

In Norse mythology, the omniscient god Odin had a pair of ravens, Hugin (mind) and Munin (memory). They flew around the world every day to learn of the day’s news and then returned to Odin. They sat on each of the god Odin’s shoulders (maybe on the coracoid bones), and informed him of everything that happens in the world.

The Vikings, when sailing around looking for new land to conquer, would use the raven to look for land. They would let this bird go, it would fly up to five thousand feet, look around, and if it saw land, it would fly in that direction. If it couldn’t see any land, it would come back down to the boat. This wouldn’t work with just any bird, of course. It had to be a non-migratory bird that was not accustomed to flying over and landing in water. It had to be big enough to see at that altitude, and have excellent eyesight. Because it despised water so much, the boat was a better option when no land could be seen.

The name Bran, from Welsh Brân, from brân, raven, refers to gigantic Celtic god and ruler of Britain. After he was mortally wounded in battle his head was buried in London where it served as a protection against invader. Some believe the still-current practice of keeping ravens at the Tower of London is associated with this story of Bran. Bran is an archetypal British Celtic hero, and it has been surmised that he is the root of the character known as the Fisher King from Arthurian romance.

 

Posted in Mountain Flora & Fauna

Bog Asphodel (Narthecium ossifragum)

Ossifragum, Latin for bone-breaker, was used as the species name as farmers believed that when sheep ate it their bones became brittle (in fact, it was a result of calcium deficient soil). In Donegal, it was known as cruppany-grass, for farmers belief that it gave their sheep foot-rot, or crop-pany. The ancient Greeks associated it with the underworld and planted it on graves! in medieval times, the mashed roots were used as protection against sorcery and snake bites. It was valued as a substitute for saffron in Shetland. Lancashire women gathered it from the moors to use as a hair dye! Bog Asphodel flowers during July august and september and is a great indicator of boggy terrain!

Posted in Mountain Flora & Fauna

Multi Activity Week, Day 5

Day 5, last session of the week for the group.  We headed up to Castle Inn Quarry and were rewarded with good weather after yesterday’s soaking.  Earlier in the week we had success and a full day of training at the Indy wall so today was just a case of putting it all into practice.

I placed top ropes in the second bay right of the main buttress.  These routes are relatively new and appear in the second edition A55 guidebook.  The boys easily attacked two F4’s and two F5’s.  All seemed pleased with their mornings work and indeed the achievements of the entire week.  Every individual had tried at least one new activity.  Mission accomplished!

Posted in Mountain adventures

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