30 November 2010

An arctic blast from the past

29th November is obviously a date for special birds in the Glamorgan calendar. Back in 2002 Bob Howells found this stunning Ivory Gull on the beach between West Cross and Blackpill. Given the weather we're experiencing at present another one wouldn't look out of place. It will be very interesting to see what other birds this cold spell will bring our way...

This fabulous photograph was taken by Tristan Bantock after the bird had moved around the bay towards Mumbles.

29 November 2010

Glossy Ibis at Dunraven

Outside our area, but some shots of todays Glossy Ibis at Dunraven http://moonmoths.blogspot.com/

Waxwings between Birch Grove and Glais

This morning Barry Weston found a flock of 26 Waxwings along the lane leading north-east from the junction of Heol Las and the B4291 (SS708996). The birds were seen to fly off west and may have been moving through. If anyone is interested to looking for the birds Barry is happy to provide more information barry-weston2@sky.com.

The black dots on the map below show the distribution of Waxwing records so far this winter. The large red dots are for the period 2000 to 2009 and the small red dots are for records prior to 2000. The red boxes show records for the BTO winter atlas.
Hopefully we can add a few more dots this winter, so please do report if you see this species. Check any berry bushes in your area, Rowan seems to be the preferred berry.

28 November 2010


Yesterday we drove up the very icy road going up and over Mynydd-y-Gwair. At 371m I think this is probably the highest land within the City and County of Swansea. Knowing the road down the other side was much steeper, on reaching the top we decided going back the same way was probably sensible. The wind was bitterly cold, but the scenery was very beautiful., however, the only bird we saw up there was a lone Pied Wagtail on the road!
The photo below shows a view of part of the M-y-G wind farm application site. This application has been to public enquiry, but I have not heard yet if the application for this site has been approved or not?

27 November 2010

Rosefinch in Gorseinon

Less than a week after discovering Woodlark and the LapLand Bunting 'mega-flock', Chris Brewer does it again, but this time from the comfort of his living room.
This is only the 3rd Glamorgan record, the previous ones being at Rhossili Headland on 1st Nov 2004 and the Nitten Field from 22nd Oct to 2nd Nov 2007.

25 November 2010

Blast from the past...

On 25th Nov 2003, seven years to the day, Peter Murray discovered this Surf Scoter at Eglwys Nunydd Reservoir. This was a landmark bird for me as it was the last of 223 species I saw in Glamorgan during what was a joint record-breaking year. The record was shared with Dean Bolt who saw exactly the same number of species, though not all the same. In 2010 Martyn Hnatiuk is now very close to beating this record and it looks like it is going to go to the wire. With the northerly airflow, I know Martyn will be hoping for a few early Christmas presents sent down by Santa!

22 November 2010

Bittern at Kenfig Pool- last month sorry !

Hi all,

Ive only just discovered this blog so this photo is a little outdated, but hopefully youll still appreciate it. This lucky shot was taken on Sat 30th October at Kenfig Pool. I wasnt expecting much, and i had a rotten cold, but after only 20 minutes in the Arthur Morgan hide i snapped this beautiful bittern slowly walking from one reedbed to another. I was so chuffed with it, and have milked it for all its worth with birding / photography friends!!

Best wishes, Stuart

Peregrine kill

Lyn Fishlock wrote: 'Out for an hour's birding this morning along the saltmarsh down river from Neath - just the usual suspects en route. But then on my way back just walking along the canal under the flyover when right over my head flew a peregrine - nothing unusual in that you could say - but it was carrying a jackdaw in it's talons !!!! It flew out to an electricity pylon on the marsh and after a little rest for a couple of minutes proceeded to tear said jackdaw to bits - feathers flying everywhere. That rounded off the morning nicely.'

Barry wrote: From what I've seen of the Jackdaw flock at that site, the Peregrines are unlikely to run short of food! I have also seen Peregrines take the occasional Jackdaw. I did video one at Blackpill once - which I will try and dig out.

21 November 2010

Lapland Buntings at Paviland

Chris Brewer discovered four Lapland Buntings and a Woodlark in the stubble at Paviland this morning. This afternoon Neil Edwards and myself made a visit and were amazed to note no fewer than 26 Lapland Buntings in with the Skylarks, this being an exceptional number of birds within Glamorgan.
View south across Paviland stubble towards Bristol Channel
In addition to a lot of spilt grain, there was an abundance of Field Madder (Sherardia arvensis), which the birds may also have been feeding on given the amount of seed this was producing.
Field Madder flowers and seed capsules
Other arable weeds noted still flowering included Black Nightshade (Solanum nigrum), Field Pansy (Viola arvensis), Corn Marigold (Chrysanthemum segetum), Cut-leaved Dead-nettle (Lamium hybridum), Henbit Dead-nettle (L. amplexicale) and Field Woundwort (Stachys arvensis).

Common Scoter on Eglwys Nunydd Res

A Common Scoter was showing well on Eglwys today. I had originally thought this bird was an adult female, but looking at the footage points towards it being an immature. The views of it preening its belly shows a pale area which would be dark on an adult bird.
This Common Scoter is a new species for the BTO winter atlas for this tetrad (SS78X) and takes it to an impressive 86. Our friendly rivals over at Kenfig (SS78V) more impressive still with 93.

20 November 2010

Red-breasted Merganser off Aberavon Beach

As hoped Baglan Bay is bursting into life once again leading into the winter period. The Great Crested Grebe numbers are over 200 now; with 161 off Aberavon Beach in medium sized rafts and 67 off Crymlyn Burrows. Invariably when large groups of common birds concentrate in an area you can get other less common birds mixing with them. Today a 'redhead' Red-breasted Merganser was among the Great Crested Grebes.
Another dodgy 'record shot' shows the bird (leftmost bird) with 5 Great Crested Grebes.
Also off the beach was the above Red-throaded Diver.

Earlier today, at Crymlyn Burrows, 1 Little Grebe was feeding in the river about 100 yards from the dunes and 1 male Wigeon also here. 2 Jack Snipe flew over with a Snipe and another Snipe and 4 Little Egret around the salmarsh. c70 Siskin were feeding on the Alder mast which attracted the attention of a female Sparrowhawk.

Tick Tock :o)

18 November 2010

Goldeneyes at Eglwys

A Good count of 29 Goldeneye at Eglwys today. Highlander had 29 earlier this year on the 14th Feb. But Barry Stewart holds the database record for Goldeneye at this site with 66 on 26th December 2000. Testing out some Christmas equipment maybe?

16 November 2010

Another Brambling

Another Brambling in the garden this morning, a female this time. It always surprises me how well they adapt to using feeders. They seem far more comfortable with them than our resident chaffinches. This one however, prefering to feed on the partially eaten sunflower hearts discarded by the Goldfinches using the feeder above.

15 November 2010

Have you seen the 'landhopper'?

The landhopper Arcitalitrus dorrieni (a terrestrial amphipod that looks similar to the common sandhopper you see around the strandline on the beach) was originally described from the gardens of Tresco on the Isles of Scilly in the mid-1920s, where it was regarded as an immigrant from Australia. It's  likely that the landhopper probably uses potted plants as its main mode of dispersal.

It was first shown to me in 1995 by Paul Llewellyn in Caswell Valley, where it was superabundant under the Holm Oaks adjacent to the car park. We found it to be less abundant, but widespread throughout much of the woodland there and so was clearly well-established. In recent times I have heard of more records e.g.

Ian Morgan first saw the species under Cherry Laurel leaf litter at Furnace, Llanelli in 1999, and subsequently in Denham Avenue, Llanelli 2002-2010, Llwynhendy 2009 and at his current address Pwll in 2010. All vc44, Carms.

Graham Motley wrote that it occurred at ‘Bracken Road, Neath (behind the cricket and rugby grounds) from 1994 to 1997. I remember numbers being much lower though in the summer of 1997 - presumably they suffered due to the prolonged very cold spell in January of that year.’

The map below shows the records I have collated to date (updated with additional records 01-Dec-10. Thanks to contributors):
If you have seen this species, especially from any new sites, please share your sighting here and/or contact:

Dr Michael R. Wilson
Head of Entomology Section
Department of Biodiversity & Systematic Biology
National Museum of Wales
Cardiff, CF10 3NP, UK

Observations from the Peter Scott hide

Clayton Lawrence sent me these fine images taken on the 10th November in the Millennium Wetland area of WWT Llanelli. Given the number of observers at this site, it surprising Otters aren't seen more often, but their illusive nature does make it all the more special when they do put in an appearance.
Goldcrests seem to have recovered well after last winters disappearing act, with good numbers seen at several sites in recent weeks

13 November 2010

Llanrhidian pipit line up

 Mark - here you go! Meadow > Water > Rock > (Buff-bellied!)

Water Pipit at Llanrhidian

After a fruitless search this morning I more-or-less bumped into my first Water Pipit of the winter half an hour before dusk, while waiting for some horses to cross over the road at Llanrhidian .
As described below, note the warm brown tones to the upperparts, the indistinct markings on the back, clean white underparts with neat brown streaking and the broad supercilium flaring behind the eye (note this is a variable character). The yellow and black bill pattern is also pronounced in this classic-looking individual, but not all are this obvious. Buff-bellied Pipit would be nice now!

12 November 2010

Scandinavian Rock Pipits in our estuaries?

At the same place where I photographed the Meadow Pipits over a week ago was this Rock Pipit on the 9th. When compared with the Meadow Pipit, Rock Pipit is slightly larger and darker with more diffuse steaking. This is especially so on the flanks where the streaks merge into a dusky smudge on the rear flanks. I suspect most birds that appear in our estuaries in winter are of the Scandinavian race littoralis as there is definitely a greyer and paler appearance in comparison with the more olivey local birds occupying the rocky coast. These birds can sometimes have surprisingly strong supercilia and pale underparts and in bright light can resemble Water Pipits, but this species is always a warmer brown tone with whiter underparts and more clear-cut streaking, without the dusky rear-flank.
The suspiscion that some birds are littoralis is often confirmed in spring when birds moult into their breeding colours and small migratory flocks form before departure. However, in winter plumage, differences are probably not distinctive enough to confidently claim these greyer birds are categorically of Scandinavian origin. Perhaps some ringing may be on the cards?

10 November 2010

Yellow-browed Warbler

Clayton Lawrence found and photographed Carmarthenshire's fourth and Penclacwydd's third Yellow-browed Warbler on the 8th November. The image shows nicely the clean whitish underparts, small bill, long-thin creamy supercilium and double wingbar.

Whooper Swans on Upper Lliw Reservoir

Dewi Ensyl wrote: Just thought I could share the sighting of a small herd of Whooper Swans on the Upper Lliw Valley Reservoir on sunday.This was the first sighting of Whooper Swan on the reservoir in over twenty years of visiting.

08 November 2010

Red-legged Partridge in Pwll, Llanelli

Ian Morgan wrote: '...a tame bird that frequently drops in for a cup of tea to my Pwll garden!'

Cordyceps militaris/Scarlet Caterpillarclub

Yesterdays foray for the Glamorgan Fungi Group was held at Gethin Wood, not far from Merthyr Tydfil. (O.S. SO 055 035).
Whilst we found lots of fungi there was one in particular that was very exciting. The amazing Cordyceps militaris or Scarlet Caterpillarclub.

The fungus attacks all sorts of insects but this particular cordyceps lives on the dead and buried pupae of caterpillars and moths. It transforms the internal body of the host into mycelium whilst developing and when ready, breaks through the casing. Its fruitbody can reach 5cms long, is slightly bulbous at the tip and covered in tiny scarlet dots.

Wrinkled Crust

 A couple of years back I decided to leave standing a 12cm diameter Sorbus that died in the garden, mainly as I thought it would be of benefit for invertebrates. Today I noticed that there were eruptions all over the trunk and branches of Phlebia radiata (Wrinkled Crust Fungus), a wood-decomposing mushroom with a strangely wrinkled spore-bearing surface.

07 November 2010

Out and about on the Burry

I came across a small group of Meadow Pipits at Crofty this morning that allowed very close approach.

Yesterday under the railway bridge at Island House a Dipper was both singing and feeding (not at the same time!). Although I see the odd bird here most springs, it always strikes me as being an odd place for Dipper as it is intertidal; only a few hours before, the rock it was singing on was 3m under water!

Brambling Invasion!

This cracking male Brambling was seen feeding in the garden today. There have been good numbers of Brambling reported throughout the country this autumn so if you have any feeders in your garden keep an eye out for them.

Mystery skull on beach

A well decomposed carcass on the beach near Burry Holmes had this well cleaned skull attached. Looks like it may have been a Grey Seal by its size but I.m not 100% sure. Any Ideas ??? [photos by Paul Parsons]

Shieldbug predator

This "Bronze Shieldbug" (Troilus luridus) was present on the same posts in Mewslade valley as the Harlequin Ladybirds. It is a predator of small insects and may have been feeding or trying to feed on the Harlequin larvae present. Our native ladybirds might yet be saved. [photo by Paul Parsons]

Harlequin ladybirds.

40 or so of these were emerging on fence posts in Mewslade valley on 6th November.

04 November 2010

Speckled Bush-crickets by Rosemary Mason

Given the weather we're experiencing currently, you may be tempted to hark back to the summer of 2009, in which case I can thoroughly recommend obtaining of a copy of this very readable book on Speckled Bush-crickets. Rosemary's observations focus of the life history of these fascinating insects, which she discovered in the small nature reserve set up by herself and her husband Palle, on land adjacent to their home in Gower. For a preview of the book check out http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/1152946

Derek Bird Brain goes live

Knowing Derek, I'm sure his new blog will provide plenty of stimulating and entertaining reading. Check it out at http://derekbirdbrain.blogspot.com/

Jelly Babies in the hills

Philip Jones identified this unusual fungus for me as a Leotia lubrica (Jelly Babies). He pointed out that under the microscope the spores are in an 'ascus' and not hanging from a 'basidium' as in typical toadstools. i.e. this belongs to the 'cup-fungi', an ascomycete.  In this case the 'cup' has become inverted on top of the stipe giving it this distinctive appearance. My own observations confirm that the texture is very much like a jelly baby.
Photographed under a Sitka Spruce plantation on the Sarn Helen ridge.

Olive Earthtongue found in Gower

Dan Guest & Sam Bosanquet saw several fruitbodies of the UKBAP fungus Olive Earthtongue (Microglossum olivaceum) in neutral grassland on Gower Commons north of Kittle on 3/11/2010, which appears to be a new site for this scarce fungus.An image of this fungus can be seen at http://www.habitas.org.uk/priority/photo.asp?item=818