Twin Peaks

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Thursday 1 June 2023 16:53

What do you do, when you are walking 50 miles a week for work and buy yourself a long weekend off at the end of May? Climb two mountains back to back looking for rare spiders and walk nearly 35 miles in three days of course! But before we get to Snowdon (photo) and Cadair Idris though, I'll start with my first ever visit to the Great Orme...

Apologies, I seemed to have some water on my lens for a few photos here. It's amazing how dry everything is after such a wet spring. And the grassland here on the south side of the Orme is distinctly arid and Mediterranean-like. A huge thanks to Richard Gallon for being my guide and putting up with me for three days! The sward here is dominated by Hoary Rock-rose. I have only seen this once before in the Burren. We had three target spiders here and we got two of them. There were large patches of Nottingham Catchfly and Bloody Crane's-bill here too.

We found several Drassyllus praeficus (spider no. 519) under rocks in this area but it was incredibly dry here. It also did not take long to find the weevil known only from this area that feeds on rock-rose, Helianthemapion aciculare. Liocranum rupicola (520) took some more finding though, and it was pretty much under the last rock I could handle lifting. In fact, it was just the thought of having to come out at night after being up since 4.00 am  to find this spider that was keeping me going and then, there it was! It was only a small immature but under the same rock was also an Atypus affinis web, and another Drassyllus praeficus! What a rock.

And these freshly emerged Silver-studded Blues were quite something. And endemic subspecies too! We had also seen the endemic subspecies of Grayling earlier.

But the Thin White Duke had spotted a big spider in the mountains, so the next day we headed off to Cadair Idris.

Day 2. Richard and his colleague Thom Dallimore were working under contract surveying the inverts on the mountain, I was tagging along to see Pardosa trailli. A big old alpine wolfy.

I was worried by knee would play up, the last time I climbed a mountain in 2016, it really did on the way down but it held. The best thing I learned from Richard was that the good stuff happens over 750 m. And it did just that!

I spotted my first Pardosa trailli (521) myself, a smart looking male. But this dust covered male was the only decent shot I got of one. This means there is only one Pardosa I am yet to see in the UK.

Here is the female, quite a striking and well-marked spider with very long, tapering legs. I only had my phone for this one though.

We didn't get a huge number of other invertebrates, but I was pleased to see my first Carabus arvensis in 10 years! We did see some odd things up high though, most likely blown there. I found a female Tanyptera atrata, Rhagium bifasciatum and Thanatophilus rugosus all over 700 m!

Oh and Ctenicera cuprea were everywhere, something I have not seen for about 20 years as I do so little up north!

Alpine plants were limited on Cadair but this Stiff Sedge stuck out. Look at those glumes! That was about 12.4 miles to ascend to 880 m and we didn't get back until nearly 10.00 pm. What a day.

Day 3. Just me and Richard today. And about a 1000 other people. Who climbs Snowdon on a Bank Holiday Weekend?! We were heading to that dome on the horizon, about 1000 m, just shy of the top (which we proudly didn't go to). It's 13 years since I last went up here, and coincidentally my first ever blog was from here. How things have changed in that time. Lots more idiots with portable speakers and drones for a start. 

Such an amazing landscape. 

And plants that I have not seen for some 15 years were very welcome. Such as Mossy Saxifrage.

We fought our way past the hordes to the frost-shattered rocky landscape of the near summit and began flippin'. I got three alpine spiders, all being lifers. The first and probably my favourite of them all was this Oreonetides vaginatus. In this area we also found Agyneta gulosa and Piniphantes pincola. A massive thanks to Richard for getting me to 524 species of spider. Wheatears, Choughs and a male Ring Ouzel provided the soundtrack.

And now, we headed to see Snowdon Lilly, a species I have wanted to see for years. But before that. Some mountain plant madness. Dwarf Willow near the top.

Starry Saxifrage.

Mossy Campion.

Roseroot. Phwoar!!!

Green Spleenwort. A lifer for me.

No idea what this stuff is.

Meadow Saxifrage. Think this is my favourite of the three saxifrages featured here. 

And a real surprise, as I don't remember clocking it at the time. There are a lot of similar white plants on mountains. This looks good for Spring Sandwort. Another one I have seen but not for decades.

Two for one here with Common Butterwort and Alpine Meadow-rue. I have not seen many of these plants since I went up Glenn Feshie in 2004! Half a life time ago.

Beech Fern.

Two very odd looking bryophytes.

And a lichen very like a Cladonia but I think it must be something else.

It's been a while. I think this must be Dioecious Sedge.

Closer now. Only the second time I have seen Northern Rock-cress.

Then, there it was! The enigmatic Snowdon Lilly! What a beaty!

What an amazing trip, and a massive thanks to Breeze B&B in Llandudno for being such great hosts and a HUGE thanks to Richard for being such a great guide. We walked 15.6 miles that day, the most I have walked in years. And the day after another mountain, I was surprised how quickly I recovered (apart from some awful lurgy I picked up). Anyways, that leaves me one last spider on the way home...

Day 4. A quick nip in to a site to spot Rugathodes bellicosa. My 525th UK spider. I think that means, for the time being at least, I have seen more spiders than anyone else in the UK. But I would love to be proven wrong!

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