Tag Archives: Newborough Forest

Orange ditches

You might notice, as you wander around the forest, that many of the ditches are choked with an orangey-brown “gunk”.

A "rusty" drainage ditch, Newborough Forest

A “rusty” drainage ditch, Newborough Forest – this one isn’t too gunky yet, just rusty.

The gunk is caused by bacteria that “feed” on iron: it looks like rust, and that is pretty much what it is: oxidised iron.

Although it is “natural”, this gunk is not good for wildlife. As the year goes on and the temperatures rise, the bacteria become more active, the trees take up more water and the ditches become more and more sluggish and suffocating.

Historically, the ditches would have been flushed through from time to time by rainstorms.  In those days, the gunk wouldn’t be able to build up so much. But nowadays, the ditches are neglected and choked and they never run freely anymore.

Habitat creation and/or destruction in the forest

For months now Newborough Forest has been thronged with machines and workmen.  There have been warning signs and hazard tapes all over the place and, all in all, it’s seemed quite an unfriendly place to be.

Early stages of the felling operations along the Postman's Trail

Early stages of the felling operations along the Postman’s Trail

Happily, the works are now nearing an end and the results are open for all to see. To the south east of the main car park and along the Postman’s Trail felling and chipping of the pines and cypresses that fringe the dunes has continued. Now there are piles of brash and mountains of chippings. Further around on the Postman’s Trail the path has been re-routed and a new area of wetland has been sculpted.  This is a favourite spawning area for frogs and toads so it will be interesting to see how they take to it over the next few months.

A newly cleared and sculpted wetland area - you can just make out the bund at the end which blocks the old path and diverts it to the right

A newly cleared and sculpted wetland area – you can just make out the bund at the end which blocks the old path and diverts it to the right

Update late April 2015

Sadly, things didn’t turn out well for the frogs. They spawned prolifically, but by the end of April, before the tadpoles had become froglets, the ditch was dry: the wetlands became drylands:(

The new "wetland" area, now dry.

The new “wetland” area, now dry.

Crossbills (Loxia curvirostra) and a squirrel

Like the red squirrels at Newborough Forest, you’ll often hear crossbills (Loxia curvirostra) before you see them. They crack open the scales of pine cones to get at the seeds within.  You’ll hear the crackling and often see bits of scale and seed falling from the trees. The birds are also quite chatty and talk to each other in a jingly way.

Crossbill male

Crossbill male – blending in well with this rather stressed pine tree

Close by, there was also a red squirrel that scampered to a safe distance to watch.

Red squirrel

 

Burrowing bees

The burrowing bees were out in force today along the edge of Newborough Forest. The area is renowned for the little Creeping Willow Bee (Colletes cunicularius ssp celticus) and that may be what these are, I’m not too sure about bees…

Burrowing bee, Newborough forest. Possibly Colletes cunicularius

Burrowing bee, Newborough forest. Possibly Colletes cunicularius

Burrowing bee at Newborough Forest

They were certainly behaving very aggressively, bombing earwigs, bumble bees and pill bugs that crossed their path. The small creeping willows (Salix repens var argentea) are just coming into flower and they were buzzing with bees and hoverflies.

A few longhorn moths were also feeding on the willow flowers. These moths have ridiculously long antennae. The moth in this photo was only about 15mm long, but its antennae must have been about 50mm long.

A longhorn moth on a creeping willow catkin. The red line shows the length of its antenna.

A longhorn moth on a creeping willow catkin. The red line shows the length of its antenna.

It was also very nice to see a peacock butterfly. A few of these had ventured out earlier in the year, before the bitterly cold weather of March set in. Hopefully, we really are heading into spring/summer now and today’s butterflies will fare better than those early ones.

Peacock butterfly

Peacock butterfly

 

The sweet sweet smell of . . . balsam poplar

Finally spring feels and smells like it has arrived, heralded in by the sweet smell of balsam poplar.  There aren’t many poplars in Newborough Forest. However, a few balsam poplars were planted as part of a trial.

Poplar - Newborough Forest

Poplar – Newborough Forest

When their sticky buds start to open, they fill the air with a distinctive smell.  It’s hard to describe: it’s very heady and smells quite exotic, not like the usual smells of Wales and pine forests!  Some say it is sickly, and it’s true that it can be.  But for me, it always smells like spring.

These are the male flowers - a beautiful mulberry-like colour. A piece of the bud scale is still attached to the top one

These are the male flowers – a beautiful mulberry-like colour. A piece of the bud scale is still attached to the top one

Poplar flowers, twig and bud

Here you can see the sticky buds on the twig, blown down by last night’s storm.

If you’re visiting the forest in the next few weeks and you smell a strange, sweet, heady smell, there’s a good chance that the poplars are where it’s coming from.

A walk to the wishing well – Crochan Llanddwyn

Legend has it that the pool in Newborough Forest known as Crochan Llanddwyn (Llanddwyn’s crock or pot) used to be a wishing well. And more than that, it used to be a fortune telling well, where young lovers would go to learn what the fates had in store for them.

Crochan Llanddwyn: now overgrown by weeds and trees, but popular with newts

Crochan Llanddwyn: now overgrown by weeds and trees, but popular with newts

Crochan Llanddwyn - the old wishing well

Crochan Llanddwyn – the old wishing well

These days, as you can see, it looks a little inauspicious and uninviting. The pool is very neglected and overwhelmed by weeds and algae, and forestry workings have obliterated its original form. Nevertheless, it is still in a lovely place. The pond itself is a good place to see newts. Further along the forest track there are mature Monterey pines (Pinus radiata) which are a favourite place for red squirrels.

Pine trees laden with cones, near Crochan Llanddwyn

Pine trees laden with cones, near Crochan Llanddwyn

You can make a nice circular walk either from Newborough itself, or from the first car park (known as Cwnhingar) along the forest toll road. And maybe it is still worth making a wish as you pass the pool…

The grid reference for the Crochan Llanddwyn is SH40986478 (click here to see the location via gridreferencefinder.com)

The grid reference for Cwnhingar car park is SH4077464097 (here’s the map link). To find the pool, head out of the back of the car park on the main track (through the barrier). Turn right when you meet another track and just keep on that track.  When the main trail sweeps up to the left, keep straight on: you’ll be beside the big old pines then and Crochan Llanddwyn is just a little further on.

Update – April 2014

Many of the trees that had grown in and around the pool, and the ones that had fallen over it, have been cleared and now you can see the pool much more clearly. It looks a bit raw at the moment, but later in the year, it will look beautiful again.

Crochan Llanddwyn after its clean-up, April 2014

Crochan Llanddwyn after its clean-up, April 2014

Newborough: a forest of many trees…

Approaching Newborough Forest from the Malltraeth Cob

Approaching Newborough Forest from the Malltraeth Cob

That seems like a silly title – of course a forest has many trees, but what I meant in particular is that Newborough Forest contains many different kinds of trees. It isn’t “just a pine forest”, although it certainly has lots of pines. It also has a diverse range of other species of trees too, including a wide range of broadleaves. Eagle eyed tree spotters can look out for:

Corsican pine – Pinus nigra ssp laricio. This is the tree most often planted and represented over 90% of the canopy in 2010 – management operations mean that percent is now somewhat lower.

Other pines to look out for (including some relatively unusual ones) are:
Maritime pine – Pinus pinaster
Macedonian pine – Pinus peuce
Lodgepole pine – Pinus contorta
Weymouth pine – Pinus strobus
Monterey pine – Pinus radiata
Bishop pine – Pinus muricata
Virginia pine – Pinus virginiana
Japanese red pine – Pinus densiflora
Jeffrey pine – Pinus jeffreyi
Scots pine – Pinus sylvestris
Stone pine – Pinus pinea

And, it isn’t just pines. Other conifers include:
Sitka spruce – Picea sitchensis
Norway spruce – Picea abies

Caucasian fir – Abies nordmanniana
Grand fir – Abies grandis
Noble fir – Abies procera

Monterey cypress – Cupressus macrocarpa

Western hemlock – Tsuga heterophylla

Western red cedar – Thuja plicata
Japanese red cedar – Cryptomeria japonica

Japanese larch – Larix kaempferi

Yew – Taxus baccata

And, there are also lots of broadleaves, more in some areas than others. They include:
Cherry – Prunus avium
Birch – Betula spp
Holly – Ilex aquifolium
Hawthorn – Crataegus monogyna
Sycamore – Acer pseudoplatanus
Rowan – Sorbus aucuparia
Ash – Fraxinus excelsior
Walnut – Juglans regia
Oak – Quercus petraea
Holm oak – Quercus ilex
Hazel – Corylus avellana
Apple – Malus
Crab apple – Malus sylvestris
Poplar (balsam) – Populus X
Elder – Sambucus nigra
Tamarisk – Tamarix
Willow – Salix
Alder – Alnus glutinosa
Elm – Ulmus
Spindle tree – Euonymus europaeus
Horse chestnut – Aesculus hippocastum
Sweet chestnut – Castanea sativa
Himalayan cotoneaster – Cotoneaster simonsii (one of the targets for eradication by the Forestry Commission as they consider it too invasive)

And that is by no means an exhaustive list. Happy tree spotting!

Newborough Forest tree spotting checklist (this is a pdf listing of most of the trees in the forest, that you can download and print. 283KB)