Winter Wildlife on Long Mynd

Two of the semi-wild ponies on Long Mynd

Even though winters can be harsh on the Long Mynd there can still be a lot of wildlife to look out for, the only thing is that at this time of year you might have to look a bit harder.

During the winter the bracken dies down completely, and gives the hillsides their rich golden brown colour. Bilberry loses its leaves to become green spikes. But a careful look amongst the bilberry, will reveal a remarkable assortment of pale green lichens, elaborately branched or with red tipped spikes.
Most birds desert the hill during the winter, particularly if conditions are hard, and snow lies on the ground for long periods. The common woodland birds can still be found amongst the trees in the lower valleys.

The only site that is better for birds in winter than any other time of year is High Park, and that is only because of the chance of seeing a large flock of Golden Plover. The size of the flock varies from year to year, but has reached 350. The birds feed on the short wet vegetation anywhere around the area where the road up from High Park crosses onto National Trust land.

Raven and Buzzard may be seen here at this time of year as well, and whatever the time of year there is always a good chance of spotting the ponies.

Most invertebrates are inactive during the winter, either as adults or larvae lying dormant under soil, leaf litter or mud on the bottom of ponds. Some may spend the winter as an egg and others as pupae waiting for the warmer weather to emerge. It is a good time to search amongst the heather for the fibrous cocoons of Emperor moth pupae spun into the branches.

If snow lies on the ground or after rain when the paths are muddy, check for footprints and other tracks and signs of mammals and birds. Lots of fun can be had working out what activity has taken place in the early hours, with foxes and badgers using many of the footpaths more than human visitors have.