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17 September 2014
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Crychan Woods

Working forest

Crychan Woods is a beautiful, dark forest covering 4,000 hectares of land between the Brecon Beacons and the Cambrian Mountains in Wales.

It's a top wildlife spot for watching rare birds and amphibians.


A wealth of recreational opportunities. Photo - Brian Hanwell

This working forest is run by the Forestry Commission and is still worked for timber, creating a mosaic of habitats from young conifer plantations to ancient deciduous woodland.

As a result the forest is in constant flux and the mix of woodland is excellent for wildlife including birds and amphibians.

Rare birds

woods c/o Brian HanwellThe forest is home to some birds which are normally very difficult to spot including the Nightjar, the Goshawk and the Black Cap.

There are only about 450 pairs of Goshawks to be found in Britain so Crychan is fortunate to have a sizeable population of them.

These birds spend a lot of time in woodland, making them very hard to spot, but Crychan has one of the highest densities of these birds in Britain.

You're most likely to see the birds out hunting in the woods - they are ferocious hunters and eat a huge variety of birds from songbirds to owls.

The Goshawk looks a little like a Sparrowhawk but they are much bigger and have a distinctive orange eye - the males are also a third smaller than the females.

There are several Goshawk nests at Crychan, but remember not to disturb them as they are a specially protected 'schedule one bird'.

Throughout Crychan woods there are large areas of clear fell where areas of forest have been harvested.

It's here that you're most likely to find Nightjar - this well camouflaged bird is best seen at dusk.

Another rarity is the Black Cap, one of the most beautiful woodland song birds in spring.

These migrants arrive from Africa, the females sporting a brown cap.

Newts and frogs

NewtAnother creature that has made a migration to the wood is the Common Newt which lives in the woodland ponds.

These amphibians have made a considerable journey from the surrounding woodland where they spend most of the year out of water.

Newts come to the pool in spring to breed and, unlike toads and frogs which lay masses of eggs at once, they lay seven to 12 eggs a day, eventually laying up to 400 over a few weeks.

The eggs hatch two-three weeks later as tadpoles - ten weeks after that they metamorphose into air-breathing juvenile newts, ready to crawl back into the forest.

Newts are usually very difficult to spot but when the water is crystal clear and free of weeds, you can see them in their environment with out disturbing them.

Photo credits

Crychan photographs courtesy of Brian Hanwell and the Forestry Commission.



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