Hydref Gwyllt – Event report

Pwll McAlpine

With the busy osprey season behind us, you could be forgiven for thinking that our work is done for the winter. But the astute among you will have noticed that by naming the project Bywyd Gwyllt Glaslyn Wildlife we were hoping to look beyond ospreys and bring you the best of the area’s wildlife! So as we prepare for re-opening the visitor centre in 2017, we’re also busy learning about and sharing our experiences of other wildlife here in the Glaslyn valley.

So… wildlife it is then! And our recent day of events – “Hydref Gwyllt” (which means Wild Autumn) on October the 8th showed us that there’s still plenty for us to see at this time of year. On the day we were joined by some of the area’s best known experts who helped open our eyes to a world which many of us might otherwise have missed. The morning walk took us to Porthmadog’s Cob Crwn where we were joined by esteemed birders Geoff Gibbs, Elfyn Lewis and Rhys Jones. Then, after a lunch break at the BGGW visitor centre, we went on a fungal foray to the stunning woodlands of Hafod Garegog with Cynan Jones from ‘The Mushroom Garden.’

The Bird Walk – By Gruff Owen

You couldn’t have asked for better weather for our visit to Cob Crwn on Saturday morning. A perfect dry day with some cloud and hardly any wind meant that we could take our time and really enjoy the birdlife that was on show. And take our time we did – it took us nearly an hour to leave the fringes of the public car-park in Porthmadog and set off around Cob Crwn itself. Not because we were dawdling, but because this particular car park sits right beside one of the best bird watching sites in the area – Llyn Bach – and we’d arrived during low tide; the perfect time to observe some of the waders and sea birds which had recently descended on the area.

Our guides certainly had their work cut out, with a group of nearly 30 visitors hurling questions from all angles: What’s that? Why’s it called that? Its legs don’t look very green to me! What’s that in Welsh? It was a testament to both their level of knowledge and their patience that so few questions went unanswered!

There were certainly enough birds on show to keep the questions coming. With the tide out, the muddy bed of Llyn Bach provided a perfect feeding area for the objects of our attention. We saw plenty of Greenshanks and Redshanks and were lucky enough to see the Spotted Redshank – only around 500 records of which are made in the UK each year! Along with the shanks we also saw Black-tailed Godwits – most probably stopping over on migration from their breeding sites in Iceland to their wintering areas on the Dee estuary or The Wash. Bar-tailed Godwits were also at large and provided us with a great opportunity to compare the two species. For those with an interest, the following videos from the BTO are great ID guides to these waders…


After spending a little too much time on the banks of Llyn Bach, we pressed on along the Cob Crwn pathway. This route provided us with fantastic views of both Llyn Bach itself and the Glaslyn marshes – where Marsh Harriers have recently been recorded. Unfortunately for us, the fabled Marsh Harrier didn’t make an appearance, but we made do with a fleeting fly-by from one of the resident Kingfishers – which is no poor substitute. In fact, on seeing this the group made such a commotion that I thought someone had slipped and broken a leg!

Once we’d ascertained that all limbs were in-tact we pressed on along the Cob to Pwll McAlpine (McAlpine’s Pool – ask a local, I had to!) with its stunning views of the Glaslyn Estuary with Y Moelwynion as a backdrop. And the bird count kept growing. In total we saw Shelduck, Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Little Grebe, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Curlew, Godwits, Spotted Redshank, Redshank, Greenshank, Snipe, Kingfisher, Stonechat and Reed Bunting. Which isn’t too shabby for a morning’s birding!

Overall we had a fun day of birdwatching with a great crowd of people. Cob Crwn provided us with close-ups of some beautiful migrant birds with one or two rarities thrown in for good measure. The trip also gave us a great opportunity to meet and share experiences with some like-minded people, so it was a real pleasure to end the morning by sharing lunch at the BGGW visitor centre at Pont Croesor. And the fabled Marsh Harrier who failed to make an appearance on the Glaslyn marsh? There was a pair waiting for us at Pont Croesor the whole time, hunting the along the fields right in front of our noses! What a memory to end the trip with!

The Fungi Foray – by Gwenan Williams

The "Bad" basket!

Autumn is the perfect time to rustle through fallen leaves and find mushrooms and toadstools!

On Saturday, 8 October, UK National Fungi Day, over 30 fungi enthusiasts, including two young families, gathered for BGGW’s fungi forage. at Hafod Garegog woodland.

It was a fine dry afternoon and also quite warm. Not much rain had fallen in the last couple of days, nevertheless, under the expert guidance of genial Cynan Jones (from The Mushroom Garden) and the eagle eye of some enthusiastic foragers we were hopeful of finding a reasonable number of fungi in this beautiful ancient woodland. The woodland itself has a canopy mainly of sessile oak with birch as sub-dominant, rowan and a few beech trees, producing a rich leaf mould beneath the trees, which should support numerous fungi. Hopefully!

We were not disappointed! By the end of the walk, we had gathered 20 fungi (this did not include six different coloured Russulas). A great forage!

Two of the group volunteered to carry Cynan’s baskets. Gwyneth was responsible for carrying all the edible fungi foraged; Penny Bun or Cep or Porcini (Boletus edulus), Chanterelle or Girole (Cantharelius cibarius), Hedgehog fungus or Pied de mouton (Hydnum repandum) and finally the Hen of the Woods (Grifola frondosa).

Maira was in charge of the second basket which included all the non-edible fungi, such as, the Jelly Baby (Leotia lubrica) and Birch boletus (Leccinum scabrum). Also, the macrofungi Sulphur tuft (Hypholoma fasciculare) made an appearance as did the Amethyst deceiver (Laccaria amethystea) and a number of other interesting fungi. This basket also contained three poisonous fungi, the Blusher (Amanita rubescens), Brown roll rim (Paxillus involutus) and the scary named Death Cap (Amanita phalloides).

Cynan was at pains to emphasise how dangerous some fungi were – and how cautious we needed to be as there are many fungi that can deceive the forager! He showed us a mushroom that looked deliciously edible, but had enough poison in a small slice to kill thirty people. It pays to listen to the experts! In fact, the aptly named Death Cap is the deadliest of all fungi, a lethal dose being as little as 20g!

The walk lasted a little under two hours, but the day was not over yet! Cynan invited us to visit his Mushroom Garden where he gave us an interesting and entertaining talk about his own mushroom enterprise. He showed us how he grew shiitake and oyster mushrooms – including a bright pink variety of the latter – in large storage containers on site. We also had an opportunity to taste a range of seasonings that Cynan and his wife June have developed. As it grew colder and the afternoon drew to a close, Cynan cooked up a fungi fest – our own freshly gathered porcini and chanterelle mushrooms delicately fried in butter. Magnificent! A perfect end to the day.