26 February 2010

Great Crested Grebe in Baglan Bay

The video attached shows c100 Great Crested Grebe in a single raft off Aberavon Beach 20th February 2010. That Day 347 were counted in the Bay between Barry and myself. My apologies for taking so long to post this but my relationship with blogger is strained at the best of times. Better late than never!

Great haircut!

Despite the milder conditions, just a single moth in the trap last night, this only our second garden record of Pale Brindled Beauty here in Gorseinon (though we tend not to set the trap too often in February). The females of this reasonably common wodland species are wingless.

25 February 2010

Crymlyn Burrows

2 imm/fem Velvet Scoter, 1 Red-throated Diver and only 5 Great Crested Grebe on the sea off the beach. Lots more Grebes off Aberavon beach in the distance. Ringed Plovers setting up territories on the waste ground that used to hold the Oil Tanks. This land is well into the planning stage for future development. It will be interesting if any sign of breeding will hold things up?

Frog watch...

Despite the gloomy conditions I couldn't resist taking a few more shots of these fabulous creatures. The attached map shows all records of Common Frog that are on the MapMate database (not that many!), with 2010 records highlighted red. If you have breeding frogs in your garden or see them elsewhere, I'll add them to the map if you let me know (date, postcode or a grid ref will do, though an estimate of spawn clumps will be useful to know).

At last it's time to spawn...

The first sign of milder weather and they're at it! When I went to feed the garden birds this morning there was a mass of frogs diving for cover and I found 5 freshly deposited clumps of spawn in the pond. I'd be interested to know when others have seen or see their first spawn of the year?

22 February 2010

Lesser Scaup at Eglwys over the weekend

Some very good images of the Eglwys Nunydd Lesser Scaup taken by Dave Astins on Sunday:

21 February 2010

Black Redstart at Neath Canal

I've been hoping to capture one of the Black Redstarts in NPT on camera for a while now. Today in the same fields as before the female/immature posed long enough for me to capture this delightful bird. The fields hold a few horses and are best viewed from the bridge over the Neath Canal, near to the Square Pond.
1 Water Pipit, 1 Adw Med Gull and 2 Little Egret was the best of the rest around the river

Great Crested Grebes off Neath Rivermouth

After seeing the Lesser Scaup at Eglwys yesterday, Neil Edwards and myself bumped into Mark Hipkin at Baglan. There was no sign of the Velvetes Scoters but the number of Great Crested Grebes was very impressive with at least 347 birds present in two or three rafts. There were also 14 Red-throated Diver and the Black Redstart by the worm farm. Not sure if there were any grebes in the western part of Swansea Bay, but the numbers off the Neath River alone indicate that the bay is now likely to qualify as being of National significance; the qualifying threshold in The Waterbirds of the UK 2007/08 (Holt, et al. 2009) being given as 159. The map below shows the current BTO winter atlas distribution based on records on the MapMate system. [Well done Mark for filling in much of the NPT coastline]

Bristle Bent on Cefn Bryn

The National Vegetation Classifcation (NVC) community U3 Agrostis curtisii grassland is typically dominated by the dense tussocks of Bristle bent (Agrostis curtisii), as shown below in the photograph taken on Cefn Bryn yesterday. This is an acid grassland species that thrives where there is frequent burning and heavy grazing and Gower represents the northern limit of its European range. The walk to Arthur's Stone (SS491904) is a good spot to see this very distinctive, but easily overlooked community.

20 February 2010

Harriers at Crymlyn Bog

An immiture male Marsh Harrier was present today at Crymlyn Bog. Also present was a ringtail Hen Harrier.

Earlier today, about 11:00, a female Hen Harrier was present in the dunes of Baglan Bay. Flying around for a short period and seen to land in the dunes. As a result of this sighting I decided to check whether it might later roost at nearby Crymlyn Bog. The Bog has historically held Harrier roosts, although I am unaware of any recent records.

I was joined at Crymlyn Bog by Charles Hipkin. We parked at the visitor centre which gives a reasonable view over the Bog. We were delighted to see the imm male Marsh Harrier coursing around the Bog and head off towards Jersey Marine. At 16:30, 10mins later, it returned and was seen to go to ground among the reeds. 20mins later a ringtail Hen Harrier was seen briefly at distance. Although this bird was not seen to go to roost, I would assume it did roost here. The 2 Hen Harriers, I saw today, did appear to be different birds so there may be 2 or more in the area.

This site is desperately under watched, but hopefully these birds will stick around for a while.

19 February 2010

Collared Dove nestlings

Rhian Evans from Cwmbran reported that a pair of Collared Doves were feeding a brood of chicks that were close to fledging at Morriston Hospital today.

Early Bumble-bees

In response to Nigel's comments on an earlier thread (http://goweros.blogspot.com/2010/02/velvet-scoter-off-crymlyn-burrows-beach.html), I saw my first Buff-tailed Bumble-bee (Bombus terrestris) queen of the year on 16th Feb at Parc-y-Werin, Gorseinon. I'll certainly be keeping an eye open in the race to spot the first Bombus hypnorum for the west of the county! Excellent photos of this distinctive species can be seen at http://www.flickr.com/photos/tristanba/3511293282/ though I guess it's not one of the earlier species to emerge?

Thanks for the link to NHM website - this looks very useful.

Courting Corvids

Superb display by the local Ravens at Hafod Farm today. Seventeen birds counted with thirteen in the air together at one point with tumble display, constant calling and stick carrying noted. Also a female Merlin seen in an unsuccessful pursuit of Sky Larks, a pair of Crossbill showed very well and small numbers of Siskin, Coal Tit, Fieldfare, Buzzard and a pair of Nuthatch present.

15 February 2010

Valentines Day Raptor Fest

A cracking couple of hours spent watching the marsh at Llanrhidian yesterday afternoon. Highlights were prolonged views of two male and two female Hen Harriers with all four birds in the sky together at one point, a very showy Short-eared Owl and a Barn Owl briefly at last light. Two Merlin were chasing each other towards Whiteford NNR, a Green Sandpiper and four Dark-bellied Brents flew through and seven Common Buzzard and four Common Kestrel were also counted. Good numbers of Little Egret and Grey Heron also present.

More shells from Oxwich beach...

Below is a selection of shells & miscellaneus items found on the beach yesterday:

A Common Limpet (Patella vulgata)
B Slipper Limpet (Crepidula fornicata)
C Common Whelk (Buccinum undatum)
D Common Otter-shell (Lutraria lutraria)
E Edible Mussel (Mytilus edulis)
F Common Cockle (Cerastoderma edulis)
G Prickly Cockle (Acanthocardia echinata)
H Norway Cockle (Laevicardium crassum)
I Banded Wedge-shell (Donax vittatus)
J Thin Tellin (Angulus tenuis)
K Rayed Trough-shell (Mactra stultorum)
L Striped Venus (Chamelea gallina)
M Sword Razor (Ensis ensis)
N Pod Razor (Ensis siliqua)
O Egg-shell Razor (Pharum legumen)
P Variegated Scallop (Chlamys varia)
Q Edible Oyster (Ostrea edulis)
R Faroe Sunset-shell (Gari fervensis)
S White Piddock (Barnea candida)
T Dogfish purse (Scyliorhius sp.)

14 February 2010

Lesser Scap at Eglyws Nunydd

I went down for the Lesser Scaup today and found myself in unfamiliar territory, where I was happy to see the "Teds and Freds" coming out onto the water. The yachtsman pushed the birds close to the enterance where I was able to take a few shots. One of they key identification pointers is that the white in the wing is confined to the secondaries. This was the best shot I was able to take of this feature. Barry will be able to tell us whether the photo shows it clearly enough.
I stopped at Aberavon beach on the way down. Highlight- 4 Red-throated Diver, 3 Common Scoter and 154 Great Crested Grebe on the sea. Bar-tailed Godwit on the shore and fem/imm Black Redstart inside BP fence in usual place.

Shell Heart

For any romantics out there...

And for the more scientific, these shells were collected in Oxwich Bay. The species being:
Common Cockle (Cerastodrema edulis)
Prickly Cockle (Acanthocardia echinata)
Pod Razor (Ensis siliqua)
Egg-shell Razor (Pharus legumen)
Common Whelk (Buccinum undatum)

Happy Valentine's Day

13 February 2010

Lesser Scaup at Eglwys Nunydd Reservoir

A first winter female Lesser Scaup was a great find by Eddie Hunter and Dominic Davidson at Eglwys today. Eddie saw this bird a few days earlier and today managed to sure up the id. On occasions it was hanging out with male and female Greater Scaup providing great comparison. Below is one of Eddie's photos showing the Lesser Scaup together with Greater Scaup and Tufted Duck females - what a brilliant shot!!!

Busy Garden

A personal milestone for the garden today with 30 species recorded in the day. Not sure whether there are any official, or indeed unofficial, rules regarding garden listing? Today's total includes birds flying over the garden (flying over birds wouldn't be accepted in the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch). The following list, using BTO species codes, shows the order the species were recorded and respective final totals with flying over totals in brackets:-

CT 1, RE 1(+34), B. 14, GR 6, BT 3, CH 13, MG 2, HG (6), HS 5, ST 2, SG 6, C. (8), WR 1, BC 2, R. 3, WP (5), JD 5(+75), BH (5), CD 5, D. 1, GC 1, LT 4, RN (2), SK 2, GO 4, GT 2, FF (2), NH 1, RO (3), GL (1)

I have only recently started using the species code but find it very useful. It is particularly useful when recording for the BTO surveys and also great for entering records on MapMate. For anyone who isn't familiar with the codes they can be found here http://www.bto.org/bbs/take_part/species-codes.htm

12 February 2010

Ivy Broomrape at Oxwich

The persistent dead flower spikes of the parasitic Ivy Broomrape (Orobanche hederae) enable it to be identified throughout the year. This species is restricted to the coast where it can be frequent on Ivy growing on limestone cliffs and dunes in Gower, but is scarce elsewhere in Glamorgan. The image below shows the dune woodland between the Oxwich Bay Hotel and the main beach car park where the species is frequent.

11 February 2010

Velvet Scoter off Crymlyn Burrows Beach

2 Velvet Scoter off the beach today. Seen from the west end quite far out SS6991. The Great Crested Grebe numbered 40, with more in the distance nearer the Port Talbot Docks end of Aberavon Beach. 1 Red-throated Diver also present.

Also today a queen Bombus terrestris flying around searching for a nest site. A large Bumblebee with a buff tail which looked yellow on the Bumblebee I saw today. This feature helps separate the species from Bombus lucorum which has a white tail and can also be seen flying around in February.

10 February 2010

Otter sightings

Three Otters were photographed last week on a small pond near Llanrhidian (two of them shown below).
On the Carmarthenshire side of the estuary a dead dog Otter was found by Mark Newton on the A484.

Returning Blackcap

Owain Gabb wrote: 'Just a quick note to say that I caught a female blackcap a couple of weeks ago in my mother’s garden in Mumbles that I had previously caught there (in the same net ride) in winter 2007/08. The record is of interest in that if, as contemporary wisdom suggests, this blackcap breeds in Germany or the Low Countries, then it is returning to exactly the same area to winter.'

07 February 2010

The real McCoy

After last month's pretender (http://goweros.blogspot.com/2010/01/almost-goodie.html), it was good to see the genuine article at WWT today, this being the bird found yesterday by Joek Roex. This is now the third record at the Llanelli centre, the others both being spring birds in 2003 and 2008. Hopefully this bird will stray across the border, so worth checking Penclawdd Pill next time you're passing!

06 February 2010

Pennard Castle

We made a trip to see the Yellow Whitlow-grass (Draba aizoides), a member of the cabbage family, on Pennard Castle today to see if it was starting to come into flower, but clearly still much too early! The south Gower cliffs are home to a relict population of this arctic-alpine and are its only UK locality. The castle is one of the easiest places to see this very rare plant, which should be in flower in a few weeks.

Early Butterflies

A Glorious day today with lots of sunshine and quite warm in sheltered spots. I was completing my second round of TTV's for a tetrad of mine. This tetrad is situated between Cimla and Cwmavon. Lots of birds were singing and Spring was in the air, but I was surprised to see a Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta flying past and settling on some Ivy Hedera helix to warm up. A little later a Brimstone Gonepteryx rhamni was seen in flight not far from the Red Admiral.

Pair of Crossbill, 80 Redwing and 15 Fieldfare were the best of the birds. Also rather unusually 6 adult Ross's Goose circling around Hawdref-fawr. This behavior and the fact that this species is often kept in captivity suggests to me they must be a feral flock. If I'd seen them yesterday on the Neath river I'd be a lot more excited! Probably saved my blushes!!

05 February 2010

Nice day in Neath

The Neath Estuary from time to time throws up some great days birding. Today was one of those days. I usually access the river from the Neath Canal via the Square Pond. I had a brief encounter with a fem/imm Black Redstart in the field with horses opposite the Metal Box playing fields. In the same field was a rather obliging Water Rail.
The estuary was full of life with Dabchick, Little Egret, Teal, Mallard, Goosander and Lapwing all in good numbers as well as plenty of Gulls.
As it turned out I wasn't the only one keeping watch over the estuary!

Sparrowhawk & Goldfinch movements

I have today received details of a juvenile male Sparrowhawk ringed at the Nitten Field (Mewslade) on 14th September 2009 that was controlled on three occassions during October on Lundy Island by the Lundy Field Society. Also a Goldfinch ringed at Nitten on 13th October 2008 was taken by a cat on 17th November 2009 at Great Wakering, Essex.

Winter flowers in Nicholaston Woods

Highlights during a dog-walk through the woods this morning were a couple of Glamorgan's rarer flowering plants, namely Butcher's-broom (Ruscus aculeatus) and Stinking Hellebore (Helleborus foetidus). The image below is the view looking west from near Crawley Bluff with Oxwich saltmarsh to the left:

Although Butcher's-broom grows elsewhere in Wales, the south Gower population is considered to be the only native population. The flowers are only a few mm across, but the fruit are very conspicuous. The plant belongs to the Liliaceae and has no true leaves, the flowers being produced on leaf-like structures called cladodes. The species is dioecious with the female flowers and ripe fruit being pictured below:

Crawley Bluff (in Nicholaston Woods) is now the only remaining site in West Glamorgan where Stinking Hellebore grows, although its status as a native is questionable!

04 February 2010

Brambling and masses of Siskin

A male Brambling was seen in the garden today. Only the 3rd record of the winter with others, both males, seen on 21st Nov 2009 (stayed to the 23rd) and 16th Jan 2010. In previous years Brambling numbers have picked up in February and later recorded off and on into April. In 2009 the last record was a female 14 Apr 2009 and the year before again a female 13 Apr 2008. Our garden backs onto the Gnoll Grounds and over the last few years we have been able to attract good numbers of finches who seem to like the sunflower seeds that are on offer very much! Today's Brambling was too quick for my camera skills so hopefully I will get more opportunities over the coming months.

Also today the Siskin numbers in the garden and surrounding trees easily numbered over 100 birds and probably nearer 140! These are remarkable numbers for our garden and smash the previous record of 63 on 16th Jan 2010. "Budgie" was amongst the masses of Siskin today. He has obviously been spreading the word.