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.

02 July 2015

Look out for Cyperus

A few years back, I noted `garden escape` pale galingale Cyperus eragrostis at Brynmill Park (and somewhere else too), in the western suburbs of Swansea. The same species also occurs as an occasional escapee in the Llanelli area.
Over a decade ago (in September 2004), a meeting of the Llanelli Naturalists was held at a brownfield site, located just to the south of the erstwhile entrance channel to the infilled New Dock, Llanelli, an area renamed stupidly and pretentiously `Delta Lakes` by the local planning authority (where is the delta?!). This brownfield area once held various tinplate and associated works in Llanelli`s early 20th Century heyday, but was cleared in the 1980s.
The area had been used by travellers and dumping of garden waste had occurred, with plenty of the more frequent `garden chuck-outs` but also with various native species or less common horticultural stock being discarded. Various weedy adventives were also present and I remember the genus Conyza causing identification issues, as we were not familiar with the more recent colonists.
We were interested too, to find Cyperus - a few plants of Cyperus eragrostis but also another, smaller one with darker inflorescences. It confused us completely and, to cut the story short, it was sent to Kew, where David Simpson identified it as dense flat sedge Cyperus congestus.
Both Richard Pryce and I took some home to cultivate and my plants still survive, though it behaves entirely differently to eragrostis. The latter, with its pale heads is quite handsome and large - a foot or so - and it is perennial whereas the hardly garden-worthy eragrostis is half the size, is an annual and does not germinate until about June. It is seemingly a plant of warmer climes and it dies completely in winter, after setting seed. Both survived (as a plant or as seeds) the few cold winters we experienced about five years ago.
Cyperus eragrostis spreads itself around, albeit in small amounts around my garden and has reached (no doubt via my muddy boots) the lane in front of my house. In contrast congestus, has firmly remained in its planting area - though it can come to dominate that patch (indeed, it receives periodic `culls`). I include some photos below:

                                                        Above: Cyperus eragrostis.
                                                       Above: Cyperus congestus.

Above: comparison of the inflorescences, with congestus on the left and eragrostis on the right.