Craig Cerrig-Gleisiad and the Ring Ouzel.

02nd April 2014
There is a small valley situated in the heart of the Brecon Beacons mountain range called Craig Cerrig-Gleisiad.



Literally translated it means, ‘ Cliffs of the Salmon coloured rock.’
Although surrounded by the classic wide-open spaces of the Beacons, it is solitary and self-contained. It is enclosed within a shady, atmospheric amphitheatre created by the aforementioned soaring craggy cliffs of Craig Cerrig-Gleisiad.
Walk up into this valley in the early morning and immediately you have a feeling of isolation from the outside world, noise from traffic and life in general is removed. The surrounding cliffs are near vertical and the lower slopes are covered by Wimberry, Heather and some quite rare alpine plants at the southern end of their range. Hawthorn and Whitebeam trees cling precariously to these steep slopes.
This is the haunt of the iconic Peregrine Falcon and the Raven, that denison of lonely windswept places. It is also one of the very best areas to find the Ring Ouzel, a summer migrant returning from its wintering grounds in North Africa, arriving usually in the last week of March. The Torquatus race of Ring Ouzel is found in the north and west of Europe and they breed on these craggy slopes, feeding on insects, worms and berries.
These birds are very shy and unapproachable and that is what attracts me to them, I like difficult challenges. The male Ring Ouzel will just sit out on an isolated Hawthorn Tree or elevated rock and utter his piping call, a ‘Peep Peep Peep’ series of single notes that are echoing and far reaching. The male’s song, a ‘Clack Clack Clack’ seems to epitomise the lonely and remote areas where they will attempt to raise their young. Both male and female use a low clucking sound, a ‘Chuuck Chuuck Chuuck’ as a contact call and this is usually the only way they can be detected. When this is heard you know they are not far away because this call doesn’t carry any distance.
These lovely birds are unfortunately in serious decline and the thought of not being able to hear their lonely calls or to see them perched out with their bright white crescent contrasting against their dark plumage is quite upsetting to me. I hope their numbers can recover and they continue to frequent this country.
In the hope of seeing some returning birds I made my annual March visit up to Craig Cerrig-Gleisiad. I have been up there three times lately and this week I finally heard that piping call. After some time a male bird flew down and I could see it chasing another male, which had probably just come in. One bird then started to feed among the limestone rocks at the base of the cliff and then flew and perched in a Hawthorn tree. I managed to take a few shots before he flew back up onto the cliffs. What a lovely sight and sound of spring in the Brecon Beacons.

Please see Favourites, Ring Ouzels.