27 June 2013

White Oystercatcher

25th June 2013 (c) R. Part
Rein Part wrote: 'I was looking at birds appearing to feed at turn of tide at Whiteford Point when suddenly the white looking bird which I now know is a white Oystercatcher appeared amongst gulls and some other Oystercatchers.'
I have seen a few partial albino Oystercathers in the Burry over the years but never one with as much white as this striking individual.

26 June 2013

Urban Meadow

Cat's-ear and Hybrid Marsh-orchid
Our urban Gorseinon garden has a variety of mini habitats, but our side lawn is the nearest to being semi-natural. With the exception of planting a giant Pampas grass in the middle of it (which now we wish we hadn’t), we’ve done nothing to it other than mow it and remove the clippings. Last year we noticed a few orchid shoots and around 6 flowered. This year I marked all the shoots I could find in May and cut around them and left the 6m2 orchid patch to flower. A total 32 orchids were found and today I recorded the composition of the sward, the resulting species list below ordered from most abundant to scarce:
Cat's-ear (Hypochaeris radicata)
Red Fescue (Festuca rubra)
Springy Turf-moss (Rhytidiadelphus squarrosus)
Field Wood-rush (Luzula campestris)
Hybrid Marsh-orchid (Dactylorhiza x grandis)
Ribwort Plantain (Plantago lanceolata)
Sweet Vernal-grass (Anthoxanthum odoratum)
Yorkshire-fog (Holcus lanatus)
Common Mouse-ear (Cerastium fontanum)
Common Smoothcap (Atrichum undulatum)
Creeping Buttercup (Ranunculus repens)
Crested Dog's-tail (Cynosurus cristatus)
Daisy (Bellis perennis)
Fox-and-cubs (Pilosella aurantiaca)
Selfheal (Prunella vulgaris)
Dandelion (Taraxacum agg.)
Ivy (Hedera helix agg.)

The patch was buzzing with insects this afternoon and interestingly the Cat’s-ear is what proved to be the most attractive flower, the orchids being largely ignored. If you have a patch with Cat’s-ear as a troublesome lawn weed, consider leaving some to flower - the invertebrates will thank you.
The full extent of the orchid-patch

24 June 2013

Kittiwakes on Mumbles Pier update

(c) A Crutchley
On Tuesday 11th June Andrew Crutchley of EDP completed the first of the 2013 season’s Kittiwake counts at Mumbles Pier. He reported that ‘The mitigation ledges are being used quite extensively this year, with nesting birds on all of them – albeit with a clear preference for the lifeboat station (which is not unexpected). I counted something like 94 Apparently Occupied Nests (AON), with numerous other ‘proto-nests’ and loafing birds around the colony. 

It will be interesting to see whether this comparatively high level of activity continues through the breeding season – last year many/most of the nesting birds left the Pier during the summer and I don’t think that productivity at the colony was very impressive. However, I did note on Tuesday that those nests which are active and apparently occupied seem to be much more solidly built and substantial than they were last year, so it may be that the birds just need time for the ledges to weather-in and for their construction methods to bear fruit in these conditions.
(c) A Crutchley
Fingers crossed the birds are successful this year as there is a lot of room for expansion and it would be great to the see the colony grow in conjunction with the redevelopment of the pier. I've said it before, but well done to all those involved in making this work. Andrew said he would be interested in receiving any thoughts, comments, observations from locals on the success or otherwise of the work carried out at andrewc@edp-uk.co.uk.

23 June 2013

Rust on Colt's-foot

Pucciniaa poarum on Tussilago 21-6-2013
(c) N. Stringer
In response to a query regarding a visit to Craig-y-Llyn by Ian Morgan and Nigel Stringer, Nigel wrote: The rust on Colt's-foot (Tussilago farfara) is conspicuous at this time of year. Colt's-foot is characteristic of weedy, bare ground, but we found it at Craig y Llyn in the fantastic alpine wet flushes. Only one leaf was infected with one rust pustule at the latter,  but the Colt's-foot growing on the verge of the track from the main road to the lake was heavily infected. This difference in the degree of infection between the two habitats is because the 'alternate' host of the rust (Puccinia poarum) is a grass belonging to the genus Poa. The most common Poa is Poa trivialis (Rough Meadow-grass) which becomes infected in summer & autumn.
Hence the (indirect evidence due to degree of infection of Colt's-foot)  probability that there is more P. trivialis growing along the trackside than up in the alpine flush. The single infection of one leaf in the latter habitat is very probably due to a chance spore being blown from a plant growing along the trackside and being deposited on a Colt's-foot leaf.

Rust spores (depending on the species) can travel thousands of miles (e.g.  infection of the North American cereal crops by spores originating off plants growing in Mexico).

Dustbin lid flora

Amongst the beautiful setting in the hamlet of Ilston, was this wonderful bin lid by the church entrance. It was attractively decorated with two mosses, Thickpoint Grimmia (Schistidium crassipilum) and Capillary Thread-moss (Bryum capillare). They are common species of base-rich rocks, both artificial and natural such as concrete and limestone, but this is a new substrate for me; rubber strengthened with twine. The darker tufts are the Thickpoint Grimmia.
Alfie, Sand and Angie where the stream disappears.
The footpath down from the church follows the the 'Killy-Willy' (Ilston stream) until it disappears into a hole in the bank, but we never went far enough down to see where it reappeared. One of the older trees encountered 100m or so further down stream was this handsome Pedunculate Oak (Quercus robur) with a reasonable girth of 3.61m.

21 June 2013

Speckled Longhorn Beetle

This Speckled Longhorn (Pachytodes cerambyciformis) was feeding on Ground Elder (Aegopodium podagraria), which is flowering in abundance next to the Neath Canal, near Glyn-neath, today. Only the second time I've seen this species and, interestingly, the first sighting was made almost exactly 2 years ago, on 20th June 2011. On that day I found the Speckled Longhorn, with other species of Longhorn, feeding on Hemlock Water-dropwort (Oenanthe crocata) next to the Neath Canal, near Tonna. It would appear to be a good time to look for this attractive beetle, and checking umbellifers along the Neath Canal seems to be as good a place as any to find it.
The memorable Longhorn day at Tonna, from 2 years ago, was also illustrated in a post on this blog and can be found HERE 

18 June 2013

Ruff at WWT

This striking male Ruff has been frequenting Penclacwydd WWT since the 3rd June, when it was first noted by Rob Hunt. However, it has been rather camera shy until yesterday when Adrian Morrison managed to get these shots.

Tufted Apple-moss on Bishwell Common

The curved shoot tips are a useful indicator for spotting this species.
This scarce species (Philonotis caespitosa) was found on muddy ground in disturbed, rather species-poor Sharp-flowered Rush-pasture (M23a) last week, also a good population of Meadow Thistle (Cirsium dissectum) in adjacent rank Molinia pasture (M24). It's the fist time I've looked at this area and I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of plants in some of the fields.

17 June 2013

Penclawdd copperworks slag boulders

These local saltmarsh landmarks, might at first sight seem an unpromising habitat for the botanist, but they support a surprising diversity of plants, with 44 species of vascular plant and 21 bryophytes having been recorded there. It seems a few species have disappeared since the late Tony Lewis recorded species including Small Cudweed (Filago minima), Rock Sea-spurrey (Spergularia rupicola) and Knotted Hedge-parsley (Torilis nodoia) in 2001; however this was at a time before the land around the sewage works was restored and it's likely these species were not confined to the boulders. I could not refind any of these species during a visit last week, but did note Bird's-foot (Ornithopus perpusillus) was still present. Additionally, Yellow Crisp-moss (Tortella flavovirens) was frequent and in 2012 Sam Bosanquet recorded the liverwort Capitate Notchwort (Lophozia excisa) among other more frequent calcifuge species, with Woodsy Thyme-moss (Plagiomnium cuspidatum) on the nearby slag ridge.
Bird's-foot is just about hanging on with only a couple of plants noted.
Moss rich turf on top of the slag blocks, with Juniper Haircap, Bristly
Haircap (P. piliferum) and  Heath  Star Moss (Campylopus introflexus)
Around the base of the blocks there was some Sea Wormwood (Artemisia maritima) along with larger quantities of Greater Sea-spurrey (Spergularia media), some plants being affected by a white rust, kindly identified by Nigel Stringer as Albugo lepigoni (=caryophyllacearum). The boulders have a lot of lichen cover which may be worth investigating.
Pustules of Albugo lepigoni on Greater Sea-spurrey at Penclacwydd
WWT the previous day, also noted at Penclawdd today.
There is also occasional ornithological interest with Green Woodpecker, Wheatear, Black Redstart and Water Pipit among the list species noted there. On spring tides the boulders frequently become islands surrounded by seawater and have attracted birds such as Common Sandpiper, Little Egret and Black-headed Gull. I suspect Rock Pipits may breed there as a pair were alarming when I was present and a Pied Wagtail was singing constantly.

Although, the mining and steel industry has destroyed much habitat in the region, it has also left us with some surprisingly diverse and valuable habitats, some with their own unique charm as well as biological richness. It is important we recognise the value of our brownfield heritage and retain at least some of the more interesting examples of South Wales' industrial legacy.

14 June 2013

Nant-y-Crimp SSSI

Some good plants were recorded at this excellent site today, including abundant Sphagnum species, Royal Fern, Marsh Lousewort, Bog-bean, Bog Asphodel, Heath Spotted-orchid, Round-leaved Sundew and Meadow Thistle.
Tormentil, Round-leaved Sundew and shoots of Bog Asphodel
sprouting though a cushion of  Lustrous Bog-moss
Bog-bean, Meadow Thistle and Southern Marsh-orchid
Meadow Thistle

13 June 2013

More on Fumitory species

Just checked and the species in our garden is Common Ramping Fumitory (Fumaria muralis), which has only recently started flowering. The following maps show the distributions of our two commonest species, which I suspect are very under-recorded:
  Large squares: post-1999 tetrads
  Small squares: pre-2000 tetrads
  Large open circles: earlier records at 5km resolution only

12 June 2013

Common Fumitory (Fumaria officinalis)

Fumitories are fabulous little plants. They are members of the poppy family (Papaveraceae), but unlike true poppies they have  bilaterally-symmetrical flowers with distinctive upper and lower petals. There are 10 species in Britain (+ 2 rare casual species), but you are only likely to come across 5 in our area. Of these, Common Ramping-fumitory (Fumaria muralis) is probably the most common (not to be confused with Common Fumitory – see below). Others here include White Ramping-fumitory (Fumaria capreolata), Tall Ramping-fumitory (Fumaria bastardii), Purple Ramping-fumitory (Fumaria purpurea) and Common Fumitory (Fumaria officinalis). From the records, Common Fumitory appears to be uncommon in West Galmorgan, but it may be under recorded. There’s a nice population on the Kenfig Industrial Estate, at the edge of Neath Port Talbot. It's not difficult to identify and one of its most distinctive and distinguishing features is the spoon shaped lower petal (should be clear in photo below). 

None of the other fumitory species in our area have such distinctive spoons – it’s the pom of the fumitory world!

09 June 2013

Wonderful Welsh Moor

Having spent the last 2 years hoping that I would stumble upon a population of Marsh Fritillaries or Green Hairstreaks in Neath Port Talbot and failing miserably, this year I thought I'd see what I've been missing. To Welsh Moor then..
On arrival Rob and Jenny Colley were at the parking area and I was very please to hear from them that the numbers of Marsh Fritillaries on show were extremely good. As we enjoyed a quick chat at least 4 Marsh Frits flew past us but didn't stop for me to get a look at them properly. As Rob and Jenny left I headed in the area they suggest I should look, along the southern edge of the moor that was sheltered from the wind. What followed was one of my most memorable 'insect days!' I walked out along the southern edge and then back to the car along a route about 50 to 100m in from the edge. Marsh Fritillaries were 100+ strong. There were also 17 Green Hairstreak; they were mainly defending territories in small groupings along the wooded edge but also at least 3 set back from the edge.
I thought my luck was in when a Narrow-bordered Bee Hawkmoth looked quite settled in a small area until it was chased off by a Marsh Fritillary. Another sighting about 40mins later might have been another individual or the same one from earlier?
A quick stop at Pengwern Common on the way back didn't produce the Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries (I think I stopped at the wrong spot?) but a quick look around the area did produce 1 Mother Shipton and another 5 Marsh Fritillaries.

Footman Feeding Habits

About a dozen Scarce Footman (Eilema complana) caterpillars were observed feeding on vegetation at Whiteshell Point between Caswell and Langland in the early hours of Saturday morning. Footman caterpillars are supposed to feed on lichens and algae but these were on Gorse, Kidney Vetch and an unidentified grass. It's long been known that they'll accept dead leaves in captivity, but these had all selected dead parts of living plants including the dead Gorse spine above, a dead grass blade and dead Gorse and Kidney Vetch flowers (below).

08 June 2013

Scorched Wing

The weather is certainly bringing the moths out; this Scorched Wing (Plagodis dolabraria) being one of the more curiously marked species attracted to, but not in, the garden trap here in Gorseinon. A trap set at Penclacwydd WWT was far more productive, attracting 79 species, compared to just 31 in the garden trap. See the Carmarthenshire moths and butterflies blog HERE for photos and highlights from Penclacwydd).

07 June 2013

Poplar Hawk Moths

This mating pair was in our garden in Murton yesterday.

06 June 2013

Large Red Damselfly

Several, including this female on Barlands Common today.

05 June 2013

Rhagium bifasciatum

Lots of this species at Sarn Helen, today. The Two-banded Longhorn Beetle (Rhagium bifasciatum) is a widely distributed across Europe and is not uncommon in Britain. This was the first time I've noticed this species, and to see them flying past me, landing close by or landing on me was quite an experience.Throughout the day there seemed to be a movement of Longhorn Beetles (mass emergence?) and about 10 settled close enough to confirm the identity, all of which were Rhagium bifasciatum. The vast majority didn't stop close by but it is likely they were also Rhagium bifasciatum, and I'd be fairly confident in claiming more than 50 over the course of the day. Mainly, if not exclusively, heading down into the valley. Also today, 2 Bee Beetles (Trichius sp)

03 June 2013

Weasely recognised

 Laura Roberts, Rob Jones and I were treated to unforgettable views of a Weasel above Melincourt over the weekend. It was a real treat watching the hyperactive mustelid dart here, there and everywhere - just 20m or so in front of us.
I managed to take some video footage of the Weasel. As you will no doubt appreciate I've had to freeze frame or slow down the sequences to show some detail. Although it does appear that in some cases the footage has been set to fast forward, that isn't the case; they really are that fast!
Weasel video click here

01 June 2013

Bryophyte update

As I've received a sync file from Charles and Hilary with a substantial number of records, the map below brings the bryophyte coverage right up to date. I should have added in my previous post that the vast majority records are from the last four years. I've added a red border to those squares where a nominal target of 70 species has been reached.  Hopefully we'll manage to integrate the historical records made by Roy Perry and others in due course.
click on map to see detail
Among those species noted on Stafford Common in Gorseinon last week was Fringed Bog-moss (Sphagnum fimbriatum) which was fruiting prolifically as was Dented Silk-moss (Plagiothecium denticulatum var. denticulatum), though this was much less conspicuous.
Fringed Bog-moss
Fringed Bog-moss capsule (sporophyte)
Dentated Silk-moss was typically found growing on the sides of Molinia tussocks along with Elegant Silk-moss (Pseudotaxiphyllum elegans) and the liverwort Common Pouchwort (Calypogeia fissa).
elongate capsules of Dentated Silk-moss
Mueller's Pouchwort (Calypogeia muelleriana) and Notched Pouchwort (C. arguta) were also found amongst tussocky Molinia mire on the nearby Mynydd Garn-goch last week.
Mueller's Pouchwort