April – what’s out and about

Frog spawn. Three weeks after being laid the frogspawn is starting to develop into tadpoles. The black dot inside the frogspawn jelly is now elongating into a tadpole shape. The weather in Snowdonia froze again last week during the blizzard conditions the cold weather caused some frogspawn to go milky white and die.



Swallows Hirundo rustica have returned to Wales. I saw my first on 8th April at Rhosneigr on Anglesey. They have returned from wintering in South Africa. They migrate by day at low altitudes and find food on the way and can cover 200 miles a day. They are extremely agile in flight and spend most of their time on the wing.





The Ring ouzel Turdus torquatus is a member of the thrush family and is similar in appearance, although smaller than, the Blackbird. The spring migration have brought them up from their wintering grounds in the Mediterranean and north Africa. The male is distinctive with its black plumage and striking white breast band. It is a shy bird breeding on hilly moorland on rocky outcrops in upland Britain. The tongue-clicking song is also very distinctive.


Juniper Juniperus communis is an uncommon plant found on heathlands in Snowdonia. It is a coniferous plant belonging to the cypress family to the coniferous. This alpine form is more common in the Scottish Highlands. By carefully rubbing the prickly needles the sweet aromatic oils can be released.



Most saxifrages are plants of mountain environments. The flowers of Purple saxifrage Saxifraga oppositifolia forms a blaze of colour on mountain ledges from February onwards, even appearing beneath snow patches. It is reputed that it has the most northerly distribution than any other flowering plant having been recorded on the north coast of Greenland. It secrets excess lime from glands on its leaves and has white tips to its leaves.





Clubmosses are a curious group of plants. They are amongst the oldest known plants having fossil records dating back over 400 million years. They have a well developed water transport system allowing them to grow to over 40metres duting the Carboniferous period. Today only small forms grow and 5 species are known in Snowdonia. Of these Fir clubmoss Huperzia selago is a common species growing on acid grassland, moor and heath and also on rock ledges. Its spores will ripen from June til August and it is often found growing with Crowberry and on mountain tops with Stiff sedge and Dwarf willow.

Alpine clubmoss Diphasium alpinum seems to grow well where there is abundand snow in winter. Thus it is more common on north facing slopes. It is also shade intolerant and so is more common in open areas and rocky outcrops where the surrounding vegetation is low. Recent changes in mountain agriculture where reduced grazing is encouraged does put this species under a greater threat as vegetation is allowed to grow taller.

I saw the Forked spleenwort Asplenium serpentrionale at an old lead mine waste site in the Gwydyr forest west of Llanrwst. It is a rare fern favouring this habitat but also hard lime free rock. It has been recorded growing high in the mountains and a record from the 17th Century Welsh botanist – Edward Lhuyd reports it growing on top of Carnedd llewelyn.

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