16 August 2017

Autumn Lady's tresses South Gower

Autumn Lady’s tresses – Spiranthes Spiralis are now flowering on the South Gower coast. They are growing everywhere where the grass has been grazed by sheep and we saw a great number of them between Fall Bay and Thurba bay on Sunday 13th August.

Also seen were Boletus Luridus which on the gower coast is associated with rockroses. All the  specimens seen had dried up unfortunately.

05 August 2017

Fungi benefit from autumnal weather

As I write this a monsoon-like shower of rain is hammering on our living room window, a frequent occurrence over the last few weeks. You'd be forgiven for thinking that we are somewhere in the middle of October. But at least it's perfect weather for fungi, some of which are now fruiting conspicuously in our forests. During the SEWBReC meeting at the large and biodiverse Maerdy coal tip last Saturday, several recorders noted impressive populations of  Suillus viscidus and Gomphidius maculatus associated with Larch. I hope the Maerdy Larch plantation will escape felling so that these populations can survive.

Suillus viscidus (Resolven)

Gomphidius maculatus (Maerdy)

Closer to home, Suillus viscidus was also fruiting in similar Larch plantations on old coal tips at Resolven and Dyffryn Cellwen. Lots of common species such as Clavulina rugosa, Laccaria laccata, Gymnopus dryophilus (= Collybia dryophila), Mycena rorida, Mycena sanguinolenta, Mycena stylobatesMycena leptocephala,  Suillus grevillei and Suillus luteus were abundant, but less recorded species such as Gymnopus aquosus and Otidea onotica were also there.

Gymnopus dryophilus and Mycena sanguinolenta (Resolven)

Suillus luteus (Dyffryn Cellwen)

Gymnopus aquosus (Ton Mawr) - note bulbous base to stipe

Otidea onotica (Dyffryn Cellwen)

There were some nice patches of Rhodocollybia prolixa under the Larch in Dyffryn Cellwen. This is an uncommon species in Britain, new to me, but I see from the NBN database that it has been recorded previously in South Wales. Illustrations (and photos) of this species are a bit misleading in some of the guides, but there are some nice images on the web. However, the taxonomy of this species is also confusing. Firstly, lots of guides use the outdated name of Collybia, now largely replaced by Gymnopus and Rhodocollybia. Secondly, several guides describe two species, Collybia distorta and Collybia prolixa, which have been very difficult to separate, the main difference between them being the size of the basidiospores. The spores of distorta are very small (3-4 microns) while those of prolixa are larger (4-6 microns). The Dyffryn Cellwen population has very small spores (mean 3.5 microns), so I am recording this as Rhodocollybia prolixa var. distorta (= Collybia distorta).

Rhodocollybia prolixa var. distorta (Dyffryn Cellwen)

28 July 2017

13 July 2017

Interesting Helleborine in NPT

Hilary and I saw this today near Jersey Marine.

Significant features are the pale creamy-green flowers with obtuse perianth segments, the lax inflorescence, the hairy upper stem, and the rather narrow, channelled leaves which are not really whorled. It looks like a form of Epipactis muelleri (= Epipactis leptochila), but not the form normally known as Narrow-lipped Helleborine (E. muelleri Var. leptochila).  It looks more like Var. dunensis to me, although it isn't a perfect fit. It wasn't growing in dunes.  Comments appreciated.
Following consultation with professor John Richards, (BSBI referee for orchids) it has been confirmed this is a form of Green-flowered Helleborine (Epipactis phyllanthes Var. cambrensis).

11 June 2017

Rose-coloured Starling : Gowerton

A few pics of the stunning adult Rose-coloured Starling at Cedar Close, Gowerton from a visit today......

09 June 2017

West Glamorgan plant recording update

The map below shows the tetrad (2 km x 2km squares) totals of species of vascular plants held in the MapMate database in West Glamorgan. The main purpose of the map at this stage is to highlight the gaps in our knowledge, for example there are clearly under-recorded squares to the north of Swansea. Following the publication of 5 km square maps in the Flora of Glamorgan, Quentin Kay initiated more detailed recording, primarily focusing on the Swansea area, for which I have taken up the baton. However, it is Charles and Hilary Hipkin who have been instrumental in undertaking systematic recording and have achieved near-blanket coverage of Neath Port Talbot (at the level of 1 km square), as well as venturing into adjacent areas. In addition to the glut of records produced by these stalwarts, records of noteworthy species have also come in from a range of sources, too many to mention here, but for which we are most grateful.

Much of the data plotted below are recent and will be included in the third BSBI atlas, due to be published in 2020, recording for which will continue until 2019. If anyone reading this can help populate some some of the lighter shaded squares, contributions would be gratefully received and acknowledged.

NB. The map only includes data held in the MapMate database and those squares shown to the east of the NPT boundary (it's faint, but you can just about see it!) have data that have not yet been digitised. Similarly, a lot of historical data have not been digitised and are not plotted, which means the map largely shows a modern pattern of plant diversity.

Finally a plant, a double-flowered form of Cardamine pratensis (Cuckooflower), a small population of which grows in semi-natural grassland in Singleton Park, kindly brought to my attention by Viv Lewis.

08 June 2017

Carder Bee Mimic

This fabulous hover fly, Criorhina berberina, was in the garden a few days ago. There are two forms of this fly, one is dark and the other (shown in the photo) is entirely buff (var. oxyacanthae). The buff form is a really convincing mimic of the Common Carder Bee (Bombus pascuorum).

16 May 2017

Whiteford Pill - Caterpillar of the Scarlet Tiger moth

Two caterpillars of the Scarlet Tiger moth - Callimorpha Dominula found at Whiteford Pill over the Easter break

29 April 2017

Japanese Knotweed Wilting

Virtually all the populations of Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia japonica) in Neath Port Talbot are exhibiting catastrophic wilt symptoms.

I brought this to the attention of a few people a few days ago and several people have told me that they have noticed this elsewhere in South Wales. In a walk along along the Neath Canal between Neath and Briton Ferry, almost every plant I looked at was showing severe wilt symptoms (as shown in the photo below). It almost looks as if there has been a mass herbicide spraying event!

I haven't noticed Japanese Knotweed wilting on such a wide scale before and it is interesting to speculate on what is going on here. The rapid onset and scale of this phenomenon suggests that it is not the result of disease or herbivore attack. Rather, it appears to be  the result of a  physiological shock. But it doesn't appear to be a result of water shortage as such, which might seem to be the most obvious cause given the dry weather we've experienced recently - many plants that are growing in moist soil all along the canal are wilting. One possibility is that the mild conditions of early Spring this year have stimulated an early, rapid growth of tender knotweed stems which have subsequently experienced catastrophic chilling shock injury during the recent, unseasonal cold conditions. It's what happens to your tender half hardy seedlings when you plant them out too early.
I haven't seen this reported elsewhere, nor am I aware of any information on it in the literature, but I suspect it has occurred on a wide scale throughout the UK. Comments welcome.

27 April 2017

Melin Mynach beetles

Earlier in the week, a little bit of beetle hunting in a damp mossy patch on colliery spoil at Melin Mynach (Gorseinon) SS593993, added a few more records to this threatened site.
Loricera pilicornis - Pterostichus nigrita
Pterostichus strenuus - Agonum muelleri
 All are common species, but add to an ever-growing list of taxa recorded at this diverse site.

Ghost Slugs in Gower

Since being formally described and named in 2008 by Ben Rowson at NMGW, Cardiff, records of the the Ghost Slug Selenochlamys ysbryda show the species to be well established in gardens across much of South-east Wales. It is likely to be expanding its range so it's one to look out for. This individual was photographed by Mick Fordy in his Llanmadoc garden, an extension to the distribution shown on the NBN.

Graig Fawr

The annual trip to see the wonderful Bluebell display at Graig Fawr, Margam (SS799864), last weekend produced a few miscellaneous records of interest: The avian highlight was a Wood Warbler in full song and beetle interest was provided by a couple of Black Oil Beetles Meloe proscarabaeus (below left) on the path above the wood plus, under a log in the wood, a cluster of the rather smart looking, but tongue-twisting Abax parallelepipedus - go on have a go!

02 April 2017

out and about with the bees and wasps, at last

Nice to get out a little this weekend, after a winter of indoor work on the bees and wasps. Lots of the usual early spring suspects are about e.g Bombylius discolor, Cicindela campestris and a few hoverflies.

Yesterday I cycled to Mumbles and hung about a Willow tree, camera in hand, took photos and tried to identify. Much to my surprise I did actually manage to identify some of them but it sure isn't easy, even after 5 years of intensive work. Because it's still so early in the year the vast majority of solitary bees seen are males, identified by the fact that they have 13 antennal segments compared to the female's 12. You can see them all in the better picture of Trimmer's Mining Bee below.

Firstly I found The Yellow Legged Mining Bee (Andrena flavipes), an old favourite as you can pretty much identify them in the field by the stripes of hairs on the abdomen and yellow haired back legs of the female. This one is a male and, as you can see below, is widely distributed on the Gower with 2 generations a year (bar chart) and nests in soft cliffs and other bare places, often in large numbers.
Secondly I found a male Cliff Mining Bee (Andrena thoracica), also widespread in much smaller numbers twice a year, and nesting in similar bare places to the bee above. It can easily be identified by the ginger thorax and black, very shiny abdomen in both the male and female. If you can see any white hairs it is not this species.
The third species I could identify is less widespread but also flies twice a year with a different appearance between spring and summer broods, a while ago treated as 2 different species. This is Trimmer's Mining Bee (Andrena trimmerana), identified in these photos by the red brown marks in the first 2 abdominal segments (red arrow) , the spine from the Gena below the eye (blue arrow) both best seen in the fuzzier photo, and the third antennal segment being half the length of the fourth, best seen in the clearer photo. In the summer generation of males the genal spine is absent, just to make life difficult.

Since 2012 I have been trying to record as many species of bee and wasp as I can on the Gower. I have not bothered much with Bumble Bees, nor Social Wasps and not at all with ants. I have recorded more than 200 species and if you want to look at all the maps they are here on my flickr website:


A few maps are missing as the species are very difficult to sort out but hopefully I can add a few more maps very soon. There is much to be learned including, every time I think I've found something new I discover this is not the case, mostly. Keeps the excitement levels up! A few days after starting in 2012 I seem to have caught something new for Wales, Nomada guttulata, but it took me 5 years to get up the confidence to think it is correct. Confirmation of this will have to wait until The Bees Wasps and Ants recording scheme have trawled through my records unless someone knows better now! Numbers of insects shoot up and down alarmingly and distributions change a lot so contributions are always valuable and it takes a long time to get to know a site fully.

25 February 2017

Lone Wolves

For anyone who doesn't get the BAY magazine, here are this month's bugs! Enjoy! 

10 February 2017

Great White Egret

Great White Egrets are no longer quite the rarities that they used to be, but they are still far from common and are very impressive birds. I was lucky enough to be at WWT on Wednesday when a Great White Egret put on a real show. The bird came very close and the light was bright. The photos largely speak for themselves:

Little Egrets were also active and one came close enough to the Great White Egret to allow a clear view of their relative sizes.