South Wales Regional Mountain and Moorland Birds Workshop

When I did my Walking Group Leader award a few years ago my assessor presumably wasn’t a keen ornithologist because, as I recall, we spent a great deal of time talking about plant life. My knowledge of birds like plant life is limited and now that I’m going for my Mountain Leader award, I thought I’d better remedy that lack of knowledge. So, making the most of one of the benefits to being a member of the Mountain Training Associaiton I took a look at the workshop menu. Sure enough among other inspiring opportunities was a regional event being run from the Brecon Visitor Centre and organised by the regional co-ordinator Will Kilner of Adventures With Will and run by fellow member Paul Williams a keen ornithologist. Paul Williams Bird 1

On arrival at the Visitor centre I met Anna a freelance AT instructor and Olly who like me was about to do Mountain Leader Training. It was clear that we all had a differing knowledge of birdlife. We started off on foot for the local high ground and straight away I realised that what I had always considered as LBJs (Little Brown Jobs) were in fact a multitude of species and Paul was giving us simple key identification pointers such as habitat, season, flight patterns etc. I only had a passing interest in ornithology but this was all really interesting stuff right from the start.

As we moved from lowland and cultivated farmland onto higher hill and moorland, the bird types gradually changed as expected. Now, by coincidence, I had been walking in exactly this area just a few days before hand and I reckoned I had seen loads of skylarks. Under Paul’s guidance I now realised that many of them were in fact Meadow Pippets which appear similar to the untrained eye but are clearly different when the differences are pointed out.

This was the absolute clear benefit of the day for me- I’ve spent time looking at bird identification books and found it a pretty dull and questionable activity. This workshop on the other hand had so much to offer in terms of expert guidance, natural environment, a walk in the hills and good company- not bad when you consider it was free! It’s a great way to gain some first class knowledge and inspiration in a short space of time. I take my hat off to the people who go to the effort of organising such events and giving others access to their wealth of knowledge, experience and enthusiasm. Paul Williams Bird 3 I would recommend these workshops to anybody embarking on a walking award or just wanting to improve their knowledge in a specific area- just keep an eye on the Workshops page on the website. I’ve booked myself on the next one already.

As a post script, I went for a walk in the Elan Vally a couple of days later planning to do about 12 miles. I spent so much time using my new identification skills that I only managed 4 miles, but still thoroughly enjoyed it! So if you get change I woudl recommend Paul's next moorland and Mountain birds workshop running on Thursday 25th June

Richard Westlake
Member, Hill and Moorland Leader and aspirant Mountain Leader.