The Heather and Hillforts Project contributes towards a number of projects improving habitat for specific species.
The Black Grouse recovery project is spearheaded by the RSPB. Moel Famau is a Black Grouse success story; numbers have steadily increased since recording has taken place. 16 males birds were counted in Spring 2008 which is a fabulous total compared to a single male in the mid 1990s.
All the moorland management which takes place will be of benefit to the Black Grouse who enjoy a heather moorland with a diverse age structure, close to woodland. Narrow strips cut into deep heather provide fresh growth for birds to eat as well as deep vegetation for shelter at close hand.
At Moel Famau, the Forestry Commission, in partnership with Denbighshire County Council, manage the forest edge to provide a gentle, dappled edge where moorland and forest blend together, rather than the traditional harsh forest edge commonly found with coniferous plantations. This provides good shelter for birds as well as allowing heather to regenerate between trees, meaning food and nesting are always close by. Some areas of coniferous woodland have been clear felled, allowing heather to regenerate, as well as being replanted with native trees such as Rowan, Silver Birch and Scots Pine. This area, planted by local school children, is know as 'House for a Grouse'.
Every April and May, Heather and Hillforts officers, along with our partner agencies and volunteers, undertake annual Black Grouse counts. This involves hunting for and counting displaying (lekking) males at the break of dawn.
Interested in seeing what it is all about? Look out for visits to the Llandegla Bird Hide in May each year.
Wet Flush Creation - Moel Famau
Black Grouse and other moorland inhabitants require areas of wet ground to feed. Moel Famau is a dry heath where there is very little wet ground. In order to provide wet ground, a number of boggy areas have been created and planted up with cotton grass- a favourite food for Black Grouse.
Wet flushes are created by digging areas of moorland, lining with bentonite clay liner, and then putting the peaty soil back. Over time this will fill with water and create a boggy, wet habitat ideal for cotton grass.
The Heather and Hillforts Project has been involved in work to try and allow for the recovery of damaged heather moorland. This work will benefit a great many species as well as improve the habitat and aesthetic appearance of areas.
Many area of the Llantysilio mountains have been badly damaged by the illegal use of Off-Road Motorbikes and 4x4s. Over the course of the Heather and Hillforts Project, we will be working to encourage the regeneration of these areas back to heather moorland. We are also working to reduce the width of paths, where visitor pressure is causing the paths to widen and become scars on the landscape.
In order to encourage heather to regrow on areas of damage, we first cut areas of heather in the autumn when it is heavy with seed. This cut heather is put into bales, making it easier to transport to areas of damage. The surface of damaged areas is disturbed to create rougher ground onto which vegetation can grow. In some cases a specific grass seed will be spread first to encourage moorland grass species to grow first. The heather bales are then spread over the area. The seed naturally drops to the ground and the brash protects the seed from the elements. If left undisturbed, the heather will slowly regenerate and return the area back to moorland. In areas where restoration work is under constant threat from erosion, forestry brash is attached over the top to provide extra protection.