What better place is there to be, than a Welsh sessile oakwood in late April – on a sunny day of course? The young oak leaves are just beginning to emerge but the sun still gets down to the woodland floor. The celandines and wood sorrel are in full flower and the bluebells are just coming out. Speckled wood and orange-tip butterflies flit about over the fallen oak leaves. You can hear a full hand of summer migrants in song – pied flycatchers, redstarts and the first few wood warblers. Actually, the redstarts prefer the old ash trees further up the valley, near the falls. I look inside one nest-box and see an almost complete flycatcher nest. All it needs is a lining and 7-8 blue eggs.
Various questions come into my head – will the first egg date be even earlier this year? Will the looper caterpillars be ready at just the right time to be fed to young flycatchers (and young tits)? After several years of low predation rates, will a rogue weasel get into the boxes and cause havoc again? Maybe you can detect my priorities here – caterpillars are for birds to eat, but a weasel that eats birds is ‘rogue’!
Just in case you are wondering – my sessile oakwood is Coedydd Aber NNR, near Bangor; Kate and I live about two miles away. Others are even more fortunate – Natur Cymru blogmeister Huw Jenkins lives in a sessile oakwood (Coedydd Maentwrog, also an NNR, near Porthmadog).
So, get yourself to your nearest sessile oakwood as soon as you can. Galapagos? Antarctica? Ngorongoro? Seen them all on the TV, don’t need to go there. Heaven on earth is right here, in Wales.