31 March 2012

Wales Chat Survey 2012

The BTO Wales Chat Survey 2012 will run from April to June this year. If anyone would like to help with this survey please log on to the BTO Chat Survey website and view the 1km squares available to be surveyed. http://www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/chat/about

Whinchat and Stonechat photos kindly provided by Mark Hipkin and Barry Stewart.
This is an on-line survey so you can select a 1km square, obtain the instructions and submit your records all via the BTO website.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any queries. Thank you.
Alastair Flannagan
BTO RR for West Glamorgan
Tel: 01792 537439

26 March 2012

Treecreeper at Gnoll CP

I was fortunate enough to find a confiding Treecreeper in reasonable light today at the Gnoll. Fantastic little birds.

Reynoldston mosses

Several scarce vascular plants have been noted growing in the base-rich flushes running off Cefn Bryn by Reynoldston PO, such as White-beaked Sedge (Rhynchospora alba) and Oblong-leaved Sundew (Drosera intermedia), both last noted in1973. Probably due to the time of year, there was no sign of either on the weekend, but mosses were very much in evidence, including these two noteworthy species, neither of which have previously been recorded in Gower:
Thick-nerved Apple-moss (Philonotis calcarea)
Intermediate Hook-moss (Scorpidium cossonii)
The only other mosses and liverworts noted were:
Bog Groove-moss (Aulacomnium palustre)
Cow-horn Bog-moss (Sphagnum denticulatum)
Delicate Germanderwort (Riccardia multifida)
Greasewort (Aneura pinguis)
Lustrous Bog-moss (Sphagnum subnitens)
Marsh Bryum (Bryum pseudotriquetrum)
Neat Feather-moss (Pseudoscleropodium purum)
Papillose Bog-moss (Sphagnum papillosum)
Pointed Spear-moss (Calliergonella cuspidata)
Springy Turf-moss (Rhytidiadelphus squarrosus)
Yellow Starry Feather-moss (Campylium stellatum)

Wireweed near Mewslade

Gareth Thomas wrote: 'SS 42385 86742 takes you right to the large pool at half-tide where I found  Japanese Wireweed (Sargassum muticum) on Wednesday last. Main features are the feathery fronds with match-head sized flotation capsules throughout. It originated from Japan - probably from imported oyster spats to oyster farms. It is very prevalent on the Irish coast, and also in Scotland. Not aware of it in Gower...
Japanese Wireweed (c) G. Thomas
The NBN Gateway shows that Japanese Wireweed was first recorded in our area in 2003 when the CCW Phase 1 intertidal team noted it in Port Talbot Harbour. It was subsequently found at Pwlldu in 2004 again by CCW and then Bracelet Bay in 2008 by Judith Oakley. It seems to widespread, though localised around the Welsh Coast, though not sure about the record from Ynysybwl!

Fall Bay saturday 24th.

Large colonies of Andrena flavipes at the bottom of the cliffs.
This poor individual has been stylopised twice poor thing, glove puppets sticking out between the segments of the abdomen. Stylops are parasites of the order Strepsiptera related to the beetles, only the head of the female sticks out. The males can fly using large hindwings and the females live internally like this sucking the life out of members of the hemiptera and hymenoptera. More here:
As if life wasn't bad enough here's Nomada fucata, a cleptoparasite or cuckoo bee of Andrena flavipes, laying eggs in the nest chamber of the Andrena and whose larvae eat the food.

All the Meloe, Oil Beetles, I saw were proscarabaceus judging by the back of the pronotum which is not channelled. Another group which lives at the expense of the bees:

On a happier note a few male Anthophora pilipes were seen but the females don't seem to be out. They like to nest more in the steeper banks of finer sediment rather than the stonier banks of raised beach.

Sunday at Pwll Du was this cute jumping spider, Heliophanus cupreus as far as I can tell although I'm not a spider officianado.

23 March 2012

Gower Ornithological Society talk

Members & Non-members
Fri 23rd March – Around Tealham Moor Talk
MEET 7.15pm, Environment Centre, Pier Street, Swansea
The last meeting of the winter schedule is this evening and ROBIN WILLIAMS will be giving an illustrated talk on TEALHAM MOOR. Many of you will know that Tealham is part of the Somerset Levels which has become an area hugely rich in wild life, not least in birds.
Robin is lucky enough, or wise enough, to live overlooking the Moor and is very familiar with it. Tealham has become famous for its evening flocks of starlings, but it has much, much more to offer than that, and Robin has been taking excellent photographs of the wildlife of the Moor not least of his particular interest of bees and insects. The Levels have also been in the news because Cranes have been in re-introduced there and it is a magnet for Osprey, Marsh and Hen Harrier and Cattle Egret, to name just a few of the wide variety to be found on Robin’s doorstep.
I urge you to come along this evening and enjoy this very interesting evening: you will not be disappointed.
Jeremy Douglas-Jones


07770 986791
01792 551331

Garden Stuff

Bombus hypnorum
The Tree Bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum) continues to provide a regular presence in the garden, among the 5 species noted so far only the Buff-tailed and White-tailed are seen more frequently. Early Bumblebee and Red-tailed Bumblebee only noted once (each) so far while Tree Bumblebee has been noted on six days with 2 together on one occasion.
My first Comma of the year took some rays in the garden today and a female Brimstone flew through but didn't stop - they never do.
Vespula vulgaris
Also this Queen Common Wasp (Vespula vulgaris) spent a bit of time nectaring in the garden. A common species as the name suggest but other species are more than likely to be found in our area. A good view of the head is crucial to allow positive identification. In this instance the striking anchor pattern on the face and short malar spacing (distance between the bottom of the eye and top of jaw) confirm the species.
Vespula vulgaris
Other areas worth concentrating on are the colour of the base of the antenna and views showing the upper side patterning on the thorax and abdomen.

22 March 2012

Beached Bird Survey 2012

Many thanks to all those who helped with the recent Beached Bird Survey. I'm pleased to say that we had 100% coverage this year. The beaches surveyed stretched from Aberavon Beach round the south Gower coast to Whiteford Point.

This is an important annual UK wide survey that has been running since 1991. The results are used in conjunction with those from other European countries and aim to contribute to international monitoring efforts to document trends in chronic marine oil pollution and to promote adequate methods of controlling illegal oil discharge to help reduce seabird mortality.

The number of birds found this year was again relatively low: 1 Black Headed Gull; 1 Great Black Backed Gull; 1 Common Gull; 1 Gannet and 2 Gull wings. There was no sign of oiling on the birds. There was a very small amount of light oil/coal dust on a couple of patches of beach, otherwise the beaches were clean and free of oil.

The National Beached Bird Survey is currently under review and we wait to see if it will take place again in 2013.

Robins on the move

If your winter Robin has disappeared and you wonder where it might be, this recovery might provide a clue. Ringed in it's year of hatching at Grimstadvatnet on the west coast of Norway on 29th August 2009, this unfortunate individual was killed by a cat in Llanelli this week. It's probable that the bird returned to Scandinavia during the summers of 2010 and 2011, so must have notched up a few miles.
Many thanks to Melinda Williams and Wendell Thomas for passing the ring on to me.

19 March 2012

port eynon/horton sunday 18th

Nice enough day, cool enough to slow things down! Ligia oceanica above (all ids provisional).

Podalonia hirsuta 3 seen

Andrena flavipes in thousands, probably told by the yellow hairy tibia and yellow bands on abdomen (leaning fast I hope).

Same as above

Poor old Bombus lapidarius with a mite load already.

16 March 2012

Another tadpole photo?

Underwater photo of common frog tapdoles in a ditch near Bridgend at the weekend. These individuals have absorbed all their yolk, are now free swimming and feeding on detritus and a range of microorganisms. They were about 1.5cm long.

14 March 2012

Tadpoles at Middleton

I'm not sure if this is the official collective noun for tadpoles, but Barrie Swinnerton aptly labelled this photo taken in his Middleton garden pond today as a crush of tadpoles.

Pwlldu Head

Scattered plants of Yellow Whitlowgrass (Draba aizoides) were flowering at Pwlldu Head at the weekend and this rather beautiful velvet mite (Trombolidiformes) was out hunting at the same site.

13 March 2012

Spotted Redshank at Kidwelly Quay

Spotted Redshank with Greenshanks

No sign of the Long-billed Dowitcher on either side of the Railway Bridge at Kidwelly Quay late afternoon today, although it was reported present this morning. However, the visit was made worthwhile when a Spotted Redshank appeared with a small group of Greenshank. Other notable counts included Goldeneye(1f), Little Grebe(3), Black-tailed Godwit(1), Greenshank(8), Redshank(c150) and Snipe(5)

I've attached a bit of video. The view of the Spotted Redshank is not great in it but I like the way it shows the Greenshank communicating from different parts of the saltmarsh. The distant birds must be at least 300m away

The moth season has started

dew-covered wings of a Common Quaker 
The moth season never really goes away, as even in the middle of winter there are species on the wing. But mild March days can produce good numbers of the early spring species and this mornings catch was the best so far for us with totals of 18 Common Quakers, 17 Small Quakers, 5 Clouded Drabs, 4 Hebrew Characters and singles of Epiphyas postvittana, Early Grey and Grey Shoulder-knot, the latter being only the 3rd record for the garden. Hymenopteran interest was provided by a queen Early Bumblebee (Bombus pratorum). Many moths don't make it into the trap and end up resting on the grass around it covered in dew...

... I should add there is a very rare species called the Dew Moth, but sadly this isn't it!

11 March 2012

Tiny Tangerines

This is a slime mould called Trichia decipiens. It's a fairly common species which grows on rotten logs in wet woodland. The fabulous tangerine coloured fruiting bodies are the spore producing sporophytes, which occur on little stalks. They are very small (about 1mm in diameter and 3mm high), but they normally occur in clusters like this, which makes them more visible. You usually find them when you're looking for something else! Slime moulds are often studied by mycologists (people who study fungi) but, in fact, they are probably more closely related to the microscopic animals called protozoa (e.g. Amoeba and its allies). There are hundreds of them in Britain, many are exquisite and the majority of them grow on decaying wood and plant material in woodlands.
The specimen shown here was found on a rotting log in the Clydach Valley near Bryncoch.

09 March 2012

Common frog spawn

How is your local common frog spawn (Rana temporaria) developing? This clump is coming along nicely!

08 March 2012

Derwydd Daffodil

It has been described as the ugliest daffodil in the world, but the Derwydd Daffodil (Narcissus obvallaris ‘Thomas’ Virescent Daffodil’) is special to South Wales after being rediscovered here only twenty years ago or so. This flore pleno variety is characterised by its green-tinged, double flowers, which often appear twisted and messy.
Derwydd is the Welsh name for ‘oaks’, but the variety is actually named after a garden in Llandybie in Carmarthenshire where it was first found. Although well known in the Upper Loughor at Llandeilo Talybont Church (known locally as The Old Church on the Marsh), its history in Glamorgan appears vague and I would be interested to hear if anyone has references that might shed some light on this subject. It’s possible the daffodils have been there a long time as Ivor Griffiths wrote (Ref.) ‘The earliest written record of Llandeilo Talybont was during a dispute about boundaries between the Bishopric of Glamorgan and that of St. David's. Urban, Bishop of Glamorgan (1107 - 1134) claimed several parishes far across the Loughor river as being part of his diocese, stating that they had been given to Dyfrig and Teilo by Meuric ap Tewdrig.

05 March 2012


Seven male adders seen on Gower today (and a lonely bluebell in flower) and five male adders seen near Neath. No sign of any females yet. Males spend an inactive month basking outside their hibernation site, the warmth speeding up the development of sperm, before the females appear.

If you are interested in coming out on a reptile walk contact South & West Wales Amphibian & Reptile Group - enquiries@swwarg.co.uk

04 March 2012

Colour-ringed Brent

Alun John photographed this colour-ringed Pale-bellied Brent at Mumbles today, the details of which I'll post here when we get a response from the scheme organiser. Brent Geese of any race aren't particularly frequent in Swansea Bay, especially so at the Mumbles end, so well done Alun.
(c) A. John
Thanks to Graham McElwaine of The Irish Brent Goose Research Group for getting back so quickly. He informs us that the bird has lost the ring from it's left leg, so is unable to provide the original ringing details [I presume this will have been somewhere in Ireland?]. However, he was able to say that this bird was seen with an unringed mate and 2 juveniles on 24th September 2011 in Iceland and was then noted several times at Havre de Regnéville, on the French coast just east of Jersey during November and December 2011. He also said that this is the first of their birds to be seen in Swansea Bay. 

03 March 2012

Garden Duty

male Sparrowhawk
The garden bird activity has picked up in recent weeks with a noticeable increase in Siskin numbers visiting the feeders. The male Sparrowhawk shown above has been a regular visitor throughout the winter and is usually seen each day. Interestingly I've only noticed it to be successful on one occasion, catching a male Chaffinch that time.

Scavenging Raven

As the sun was setting, lovely close up views of a raven (Corvus corax) scavenging a dead lamb. Thursday (1st), Ogmore-on-Sea, VOG.

02 March 2012

Worm's Head

There were five Grey Seals hauled out on the north side of the inner head yesterday, one of which was particularly chilled out! See also Sandra's video here.
Grey Seal (Sandra Stewart)

Bathroom Surprise!

This Small Tortoiseshell appeared on the inside of the bathroom window this morning and I couldn't resist the opportunity to take a few close ups.

01 March 2012

Beached Bird Survey

Today, I finally got round to doing my beached bird survey along the Aberavon Sands from the Neath River down to the Avon River. It is pleasing to report that I found no beached birds or any signs of oil. The only thing littering the shoreline today were the Sanderlings. They can be found along this stretch in every month of the year but the best time to see them is during the winter. When I did this survey last year I had a very healthy count of 529 Sanderling along this stretch; not quite so many today with only 297 counted. They are often found in good numbers here and I have been guilty of overlooking them regularly, so it was nice to have an opportunity to watch them at close quarters today. Their busy nature is often used as a clue to their identity when observing them from distance but this same frantic behaviour also seems to make them well suited to dealing with a busy beach.