Brecon Beacons by Jonathan Mullard
New Naturalist No 126 published by William Collins
Isbn 978 0 00 736769 6, Hardback £55.00, Softback £35.00, Pages 416
The Brecon Beacons is one of our National Parks with over 3.6 million visitors a year to its area. It is the southern end of the last ice age leaving the old red sandstone of the area rather rounded instead of large peaks. The name comes from the fact the high ground was used as a ‘beacon’ network to pass information around the area. A line of limestone in the south of the area explains why there are 171 lime kilns in the national park! Like all new naturalist books the chapters are set out in habitats starting in the uplands with limited heath and summed up by ‘in general the sheep fescue covered uplands provide testament only to total environmental destruction’.
This is the southern limit to Red Grouse in the UK with both Golden Plover and Ring Ouzel just hanging on. Most Merlin are ‘tree nesters’ and hunt down on the ‘Ffridd’ the middle ground where species like Whinchat, Stonechat, Tree Pipit and Cuckoo are found. Dartford Warbler has even attempted to establish here and with a few trees you find Redstart, Garden Warbler and Raven.
Shingle in the river systems attract Little Ringed Plover with Dipper, Grey Wagtail, Common Sandpiper and Kingfisher using the main water. The park has an intensive chain of underground caves classed as some of the most important in Europe with record stretches of 70 Kilometres long as well as 308 metres deep. One big surprise was the catching of Aquatic Warblers in the park on their autumn migration. This rare warbler is allowing bird ringers to concentrate their efforts around the wetlands to learn more about this species.
Ospreys may become an item in future years with many birds passing through. Conifer woodland birds are featured including Goshawk and Honey Buzzard but no section on broadleaved species even though Lesser spotted Woodpecker is mentioned in the Orchard section. For anyone wanting to learn about the park this is the book for you with some superb photos and the botanical aspect top class.