Home Articles Mark's Argus Column 7th May 2011 - Burning Grass is a Pain in the...Neck!
7th May 2011 - Burning Grass is a Pain in the...Neck! PDF Print E-mail

SkylarkYou can't open a paper at the moment without reading about massive grass and forest fires raging around the country. Here in South Wales the situation is particularly bad (especially in upland valley areas) and it appears that the majority of fires are deliberately being set, usually by youths.

Through my work I have spoken to quite a few youngsters that have lit grass fires and believe that many don't appreciate the impact of what they do. Most see the upland countryside as worthless rough land, whereas in reality it contains a range of valuable habitats and it's destruction by fire should, in my opinion, be classed as Environmental Arson.

The South Wales upland areas contain a wealth of important flora such as heather, winberry, gorse and bracken - and these support a wealth of wildlife including insects, reptiles, mammals and of course birds.

Some birds, such as red grouse, wheatear, skylark, whinchat, stonechat, wheatear, dartford warbler, meadow pipit and cuckoo are found almost exclusively in these upland areas and most of them are 'amber' or 'red' listed species whose populations are in serious decline.

The impact of fire on these birds is devastating – for a number of reasons; It can cause the destruction of their nests, eggs and young, and can also destroy potential nest sites along with the plants and insects which the birds relies on for food.

People often think that because birds can fly, they are unaffected by fire and can simply relocate to another location, however this isn't correct. During spring and summer birds are very territorial and displaced birds cannot just move on to another bird's patch – they won't tolerate it. Put simply, if a bird loses it's territory to fire then it has virtually no chance of breeding and raising young that year.

Migrant Update

The vast majority of species that visit Gwent for the summer have been seen recently. I haven't seen any mention of spotted flycatcher or nightjar yet, but I'm sure they will be here within the next few days. Keep abreast of what has been seen - and where, at the sightings page at www.gwentbirds.org.uk

Birdwatching Events

Without a doubt this is the best time of year to go birdwatching – So I urge you all to have a look at these forthcoming guided walks and make the effort to join in – you won't be disappointed!

On Saturday 14th May, my mate Rob Parsons has arranged a lovely morning's walk around Ruperra Castle near Draethen. This walk starts at 7.00am from the off road car park near the Hollybush Pub ST 228 870 and takes in a scenic part of Gwent that few people are familiar with.

On Saturday 28th May, Steve Carter is leading a walk around another overlooked corner of Gwent...the Blaenserchan Valley. If any of you think that Pontypool has little to interest birdwatchers and walkers – think again - The area is fantastic! But don't take my word for it, come along and find out for yourself.  The meeting point for this moderate 4 hour walk is the Tesco car park, Pontypool SO 281 007 at 8.00am.

 There is no need to book places on these walks, just turn up - New faces (especially Argus readers) are always welcome at GOS events.

Walkers should remember to bring suitable clothing (boots essential), food and drink – and binoculars if you have them.   

For more information visit www.gwentbirds.org.uk or give me a call on the number below. Likewise, if you want me to send you a copy of GOS's programme of walks and talks, just let me know.

Keep in Touch

Thank you to all readers that have taken the time to get in touch.

I always enjoy hearing from you and can be contacted at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or on 01633 866470.