25 August 2015

A real long-winged conehead.....

A real long-winged conehead - even if it has short wings! Following on from the last-but-one posting (which actually is of a short-winged conehead, in spite of its long wings), I include a photo of an early instar long-winged conehead, an individual at a brownfield site at Burry Port, Carmarthenshire on 25th July this year ( a new county record).
Note the virtually straight ovipositor, which differentiates females of that species from the short-winged conehead, even when the long-winged conehead is young and has n`t developed the long wings of the adult. The ovipositor in the short-winged conehead is markedly curved.
So, we have the almost absurd and confusing scenario whereby the previous conehead posted on the Gower Wildlife blog is really a short-winged conehead (albeit the macropterous form with long wings) and the individual below, is an early instar long-winged conehead, which has n`t developed its long wings yet! It`s easy to get confused in these circumstances - indeed, I`d assumed that my Burry Port conehead was a short-winged (a species that is frequent on the Carmarthenshire coast) until it was pointed out to me that the ovipositor was straight - so, no need for any embarrassment!
It is certainly worth looking out for long-winged coneheads in the Swansea area (as they`re likely to be around if they`ve already arrived in SE Carmarthenshire) and remember: the straight versus curved ovipositor is the easiest way to tell them (females only) apart.

Above: a young female long-winged conehead.

17 August 2015

360 cafe

A patch of Rock Samphire next to the 360 Cafe on Swansea seafront was covered in hoverflies today; lots of Scaeva pyrastri and 1 S. selenitica, but best was the very striking Dune-fly Villa modesta, a species of short-tongued bee-fly.

14 August 2015

Long-winged Conehead spreading west

(c) Alannah Ruthen
Alannah Ruthen photographed this female Long-winged Conehead Conocephalus discolor at Craig-cefn-parc earlier this week. Although the species has been present in the county since 1999, when Rob & Linda Nottage recorded it at Coryton in Cardiff, this is the first record I'm aware of here in West Glamorgan. Please do look out for this species and please report any sightings, preferably with a photograph. It prefers drier habitats than the similar Short-winged Conehead C. dorsalis, this being well established in coastal marshes.

30 July 2015

Mewslade Fulmars breeding

Last year I wrote about the Fulmars of the cliffs near Mewslade. I did not follow that up with a further post because the story of last year was not a happy one. The Fulmars at what I called site 1 were sitting, incubating for several weeks, only to abandon the site in mid July. Site 1 is on the cliff known as Lewes Castle, which is the eastern boundary of Fall Bay. Lewes Castle is much used by climbers, and I have little doubt that the Fulmars abandoned because of disturbance by climbers.

I have been watching the same site this year and have seen all the nuptial behaviour which I described last year. From late May until recently there has been an adult sitting at the site, incubating the egg. Fulmars lay only one egg per year and incubation is a lengthy process: about 50 days. It is impossible to look down into the nest site so I have not seen the egg, but the behaviour of the birds made it easy to deduce that there was an egg being incubated. This morning I could see a chick in the "nest" (Fulmars do not build a nest as such: it's essentially just bare rock, although I have observed the adults "housekeeping": moving bits of debris and throwing them out.).
An adult at the nest site, incubating in June this year

The chick in the same place, today, July 30

A closer view of the chick

This is progress compared to last year and I do hope that this young bird will make it. It will probably fledge at the end of August or beginning of September (the fledging period is around 46-51 days). It is therefore essential that there is no climbing on Lewes Castle until September. Anyone who does climb there before then will probably kill this bird.

Scaeva selenitica at Nitten

Back on the 16th July, I set a few light-traps in the Nitten Field at Mewslade in the hope of trapping some migrant moths, as the weather looked favourable. It transpired that it wasn't especially good for migrants, although there was an excellent selection of resident moths along with a selection of non-lepidopterans. Perhaps the pick of the crop were a couple of Scaeva selenitica, an uncommon partial migrant hoverfly, which looks superficially like the much commoner S. pyrastri. It's the first time I have seen this fly in Gower, so I assume they were immigrants rather than from a resident population.

28 July 2015

A Walk in the Park....

I had to take someone for a regular appointment at Singleton Hospital today so, rather than spending my time in the waiting room, I took a short walk in the adjacent Singleton Park and the grounds of the university. There has been some clearance within the wooded gardens immediately north of the university, and I chanced upon about half-a-dozen plants of small balsam Impatiens parviflora, a particularly unspectacular member of the balsam family (photo of flower below). I estimate the grid ref to be SS631921 and it was found along a path some 20ft or so approximately westwards of a large clump of Gunnera, and with a large man-made decorative rock outcrop in the background (in case anyone wants to re-find it).

Elsewhere in the park, I noticed water bent Polypogon viridis (a grass that is rapidly spreading in the Llanelli area of SE Carmarthenshire) and grey sedge Carex divulsa, the latter at the base of railings edging a pathway where the university grounds meets the hospital to the west.
It was good to see the more biodiversity-friendly management of the park grounds, with areas of uncut grass (presumably to be cut, hay-meadow style, in due course) and sizeable dead tree stumps which will provide a niche for deadwood invertebrates. Full marks to the park authorities!...and I wish that Carmarthenshire would do the same, rather than removing old trees in public areas, with sometimes very dubious justification.

21 July 2015

Plantlife walk at Southgate

Colin Cheeseman of Plantlife and myself will be visiting the cliffs at Southgate on Thursday 23rd July between 1pm and 4pm. The main aim is to inspect the Cotoneaster control work that has been carried out over the last two years. There is an open invitation for anyone interested in finding out more about this work, or the special plants that grow there. The visit will be very informal and we will be meeting at the NT car park SS553873 at 1pm. All are welcome.