19 December 2014

bees and wasps of the gower(ish)

oxybelus argentatus female  IMG_3116Oxybelus argentatus female IMG_3116
During the last 3 summers I have made a start on recording local Hymenoptera from the Bee and Wasp groups, initially on the Gower during the first year, but for the last 2 years mainly on Crymlyn Burrows. I am now in the throes of posting all the pictures on my flickr site so that they can, where possible, be used by others as an identification aid. I would also like help as I am only a relative beginner myself so if there is anyone out there with the expertise to see that I have made a mistake please let me, and everyone else, know. I am epsecially keen to know why. As a caveat I would like to point out that not all these insects can be identified from a photograph. Because of this 99% are supported by a specimen (in my possession), photographed alive after chilling from the side, above and face on where possible. The ultimate aim is to permit me to record as much as possible without recourse to this, photographing in the field by handholding.
crymlyn burrowsAncistrocerus gazella male IMG_4815
Each picture is supported by a filename giving the species, sex and picture number and locality is mentioned below as well. In the case of an enquiry I can track down the specimen from this information. The flickr site is here:
with pictures from these groups in Gower albums (Crabronids, Sphecids, Tiphiids, Vespids, Eumenids, Chrysids and Pompilids) as well as Crymlyn Burrows.
There will be Bees to join these wasps sometime after the new year.
For further, much more authoritative information see the Bees, Wasps and Ants recording Scheme site:
including these superb Flickr pages by Steven Falk:
Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

09 November 2014

Plum Woodlouse in Plantasia

There were good numbers of Porcellionides pruinosus (Plum Woodlouse) wandering over the soil and stonework in the hot house at Plantasia today. Greg Jones informs me he's previously only recorded this synanthropic isopod twice in Glamorgan, on both occasions in manure heaps in allotments at Maudlam and at Llanharan. The only other occasion I recall seeing this species was in 1989 when Ian Morgan showed me large numbers of this quick moving woodlouse in the enormous mature heap located by the old farm house where I lived at Tir Morfa, Penclacwydd. Sadly the cows and hence the manure heap along with its associated fauna have long gone from the now abandoned buildings.
Another synanthrope enjoying the hot house climate was the moss Vesicularia vesicularis, which was growing and fruiting abundantly on the small balcony below the waterfall. There's very little information available on line about this species, but it is mentioned as occurring in greenhouses elsewhere.

21 October 2014

Convolvulus Hawk-moth

Sent in to the university last week from Alan Martin of Fforest, presumably in Glamorgan, a photo of a Convolvulus Hawk resting on his step and unfortunately trodden on by a visitor to his house!  Record dated 11th October, can't paste the picture in because I'm so computer illiterate. I have the original e mail to forward to the county moth recorder if he wants to see it.

14 October 2014

A bryophyte excursion to the top of Glamorgan

view looking east over Llyn Fach with Craig y Llyn to the right
Last week, on the 10th, Sam Bosanquet, George Tordoff and myself surveyed the mosses and liverworts on the section of Craig y Llyn above Llyn Fach, i.e. that part that lies within Neath Port Talbot at SN9003Peaking at 600m in the plantation a little way south of the crags, this also happens to be the highest land in Glamorgan.
Sam & George examining the highest terrestrial bryophytes in Glamorgan,
the plentiful epiphytes on the spruce behind are of course higher!
A total of 135 bryophyte taxa were recorded taking the total for tetrad SN90B to 163, promoting it to the 4th spot in Glamorgan's bryo-diversity league, but with the caveat that many squares have still not yet been looked at! Three 'Nationally Scarce' species were recorded, Tall-clustered Thread-moss Bryum pallescens on the track adjacent to the trig point, Slender Fringe-moss Racomitrium sudeticum on a small stone enclosure, with Orange-bud Thread-moss Pohlia flexuosa on the crags themselves. The main discovery however, was a assemblage of locally rare species in a small cave on the lower cliff sequence, which included Fine-leaved Leskea Orthothecium intricatum, Spotty Featherwort Plagiochila punctata and Recurved Rock-bristle Seligeria recurvata, the latter new for the county.
Slender Fringe-moss
Fine-leaved Leskea
A few non-bryophyte species of interest were noted including a larva of the sawfly Abia candens, found feeding on Devil’s-bit Scabious. George and myself, being comparative novices are indebted to Sam for his patience in sharing his expertise on what was a memorable excursion.
the small cave in which Sam found Recurved Rock-bristle
Fountain Smoothcap Atrichum crispum

Great White Egret

The Great White Egret, according to the current (2009) edition of Collins Bird Guide, is a two star vagrant to the UK. This seems out of date: changes can be rapid with egrets. I have old bird guides which show the Little Egret's range coming nowhere near the UK, yet they are now a common sight on many estuaries, including, of course, the Burry Inlet. It seems the Great White Egret is moving into Britain in a similar way. It breeds on the Somerset Levels and keeps turning up here. My last two visits to WWT Llanelli have provided sightings of a Great White Egret. This morning it was something special: the bird was feeding vigorously and came very close to my position in the Michael Powell hide. Despite rain and low cloud, the views were so good that I was able to get the photos below.

The bird was determined to be photographed, because when I moved on to the British Steel hide it followed me (Penclawdd in the background):

 and then carried on as before:

A magnificent and very co-operative bird.

08 October 2014


Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria), Rheola Forest

It's been a bit of a weird autumn for fungi so far. After a wet August followed by a warm September, things were looking promising, but the long dry period then curtailed a sustained appearance of fruiting bodies. However,  Fly Agarics were particularly good in Neath Valley forests and it was a fantastic month for Boletes, including the highly prized Cep (Boletus edulis). It was also a good month for Slimy Spike (Gomphidius glutinosus) and Larch Spike (Gomphidius maculatus) in Afan Forest Park. See below for a selection of others.

Beech Milkcap (Lactarius blennius), Glyncastle Forest

Conifer Dapperling (Lepiota felina), Rheola Forest

Dusky Puffball (Lycoperdon nigrescens) Pentreclwydau

Grisette (Amanita vaginata), Pelenna Forest

The more typical autumn weather which we are experiencing now may kick-start a new flush of fruiting bodies.  

19 September 2014

hanging on

After many peeks under wood at Crymlyn Burrows beach over the summer with no success I was pleased to see Nebria complanata hanging on at Cwm Ivy beach strandline under one of only 3 pieces of wood on about 1 km of beach! I saw a man and child carrying wood from further north back to, presumably Broughton. Hats off for enterprise but something really needs to be done about this, but how? Would be nice if effort went into cleaning the beach and not burning the biodegradables. I was amazed last year to discover a whole thriving community of wood nesting bees and wasps on the strandline at Crymlyn Burrows but only the really big wood survives the depredations of the barbecue crowd.