17 November 2019

Castell du
Water pipit at Castell du late afternoon. Kingfisher and green sandpiper also

16 November 2019

Unsurprisingly for the time of year, a Firecrest in the Querus ilex near the mast atop Mumbles Hill.

17 October 2019

Whooper swans

7 adult whooper swans by the mound at Wernffrwd at high water this am

18 April 2019

off inland

The bees started early this year, with a break for the cold snap. My first excursion inland away from Gower found Andrena bicolor working blooms of Tussilago farfara on the hillside opposite Resolven on 26th Feb.

Due to the aforementioned cold period, my next excursion was on 6th April to the area around Gellionen Chapel, partly to get a few records in a square (SN705055) where SEWBREC (in their newsletter) say there are no records recently. Bit early for much but I saw Andrena scotica there:
and found Andrena clarkella next to the chapel:
I decided many years ago, when time permitted, to look for good patches of Bilberry hoping to find Andrena lapponica, a bilberry specialist I never found on the Gower. I also saw a tweet from Liam Olds about having found it at Blackmill near Bridgend. A visit to Cwm Clydach RSPB reserve, on 10th, turned up Andrena praecox, a bee I never found on the Gower during my 5 years looking there, surprising as it is a Willow feeder.
Wandering the roads by car looking for Bilberry not grazed to within an inch of its life eventually brought me to a female Andrena lapponica at the roadside near Rhyd-y-fro:
A dim memory from many years ago took me to woods above Glais (marked Graig Ola on the map) on 13th and I found a superb oakwood/moorland covered in mature and ungrazed bilberry. I found one more Andrena lapponica there and Andrena fulva females (hooray a mining bee it is easy to identify for sure!) also visiting Bilberry along with several Bombus spp. A few other mining bees were on the go, prettiest of which was Andrena ovatula, a species it is absolutely not easy to identify because there is another very similar, wilkella and, of course, Halictus rubicundus also looks very similar:

Looks like a place worth revisiting as the year progresses, (does an NRW sign on a fence mean it is a reserve); it will certainly have a good heather moor community at the end of the summer. I'd be very interested in knowing of any other good sites for a lot of mature Bilberry inland in the far west of Glamorgan (say Swansea valley or westwards) and even on the Gower. Remember maps? This area is a nuisance to work as it lies on the corners of 3 OS maps but I paid for them and am determined to use them!

11 November 2018

A few more fungi

Most people will agree that this has been a good autumn for mushrooms and toadstools with some of the common species being particularly abundant. I don't think I've ever seen so much White Saddle (Helvella crispa) along roadsides and woodland paths.

White Saddle (Helvella crispa) at side of forest road, Pelenna Forest, Ton Mawr

Elfin Saddle (Helvella lacunosa), which is usually described as a common species, is much less common in my opinion but has been turning up too, as has Elastic Saddle (Helvella elastica).

Elfin Saddle (Helvella lacunosa) Pant y Saes

There was a large amount of Sulphur Knight (Tricholoma sulphureum) along the edges of Earlswood Golf Course a few weeks ago. One of the really distinctive characteristics of this specie is the strong smell of the fruiting bodies. Most books describe it as 'gas tar' but it reminds me of naphthalene (moth balls).

Sulphur Knight (Tricholoma sulphureum), Earlswood Golf Course

 While walking along the Coastal Path near the Quays, Hilary spotted a group of tan coloured caps under a planted shrubbery (mostly Hazel and Birch). As is often the case in such places there was a significant amount wood mulch, possibly coniferous in origin. I originally thought the fungus was a Funnel (Clitocybe sp.), and fixed in that conviction I later (and wrongly) identified it as Clitocybe vermicularis. The tan colour of the cap, the lack of any noticeable smell and the small spores (5 x 3 microns) led in me that direction fairly unambiguously using the keys in Funga Nordica However, after preparing a spore print, several days later, I examined the spores under high magnification (x1000) - see photo below. It is fairly clear that the spores are warty/spiny (verrucose) and that rules out Clitocybe, which I hadn't noticed in my preliminary examination at lower magnification. It is, in fact, Tawny Funnel, Lepista flaccida (formally called Clitocybe inverse), which is fairly common and widespread in southern Britain

Lepista flaccida, The Quays

Lepista flaccida, The Quays

Verrucose spores of Lepista flaccida  (from spore print of Quays specimen)

29 October 2018

Fairwood flush

Much of Fairwood Common is vegetated by flora that characteristic of acid soils, however, occasional flushes can be found that support species more typically associated with mild base enrichment. Sometimes the differences in vegetation are subtle, when the base state can be better detected by changes in the dominant bryophytes. Rigid Bog-moss Sphagnum teres (above), is a good indicator of such base-enrichment and was found to be frequent throughout a 1500m2 area on a flushed bank. Bottle Sedge Carex rostrata was closely associated with S. teres in these areas along with some nice quality vascular plants that included Marsh Cinquefoil Comarum palustre, Petty Whin Genista anglica (bottom photo), Bogbean Menyanthes trifoliata, Bog Asphodel Narthecium ossifragum, Devil's-bit Scabious Succisa pratensis and Cranberry Vaccinium oxycoccos (below), with the latter two species in good quantity.

Invertebrate interest was limited but did include the weevil Hypera rumicis.

08 October 2018

'Stanley's' Fleabane in Burry Port

With no formally adopted vernacular, I've taken the liberty to create one myself of an interesting hybrid encountered whilst surveying an area of crushed concrete at the former Carmarthen Bay Power Station, immediately east of Burry Port Harbour. Initially it appeared to me to be Conyza, but not a species I could name using standard keys, so I sent photographs to a number of eminent local botanists, including Tim Rich who came to the fore and said it was a generic hybrid between Erigeron acris (Blue Fleabane) and Conyza floribunda (Bilbao's Fleabane). It eventually transpired this taxon was only recently described as X Conyzigeron x stanleyi by Tony Mundell, who named it after the finder Paul Stanley, adding that 'Paul sent me a note saying he felt honoured by the new name and added that his wife Steph thought it appropriate ‘being a scruffy plant of unglamorous locations’'. It seems likely this reasonably distinctive hybrid is not as rare as the handful of records might indicate, especially as C. floribunda is now so widespread and abundant, including many areas where it crosses swords with E.acris. So it is one to look wherever both parents are present. The dark pink heads and larger size of the hybrid are likely to attracted attention, although the intermediate characters are perhaps more subtle. The sterile seeds are a key indicator that should be examined, these looking withered and without substance.

One final note, in the upcoming fourth edition of Stace, the genus Conyza has been re-amalgamated with Erigeron so the hybrid now becomes Erigeron x stanleyi.