31 December 2009

Garden Treat

This female Blackcap, now 1 of 3 including 1 male, has been feeding in our garden for the last few days. She is particularly fond of suet block and also apples. She has become very territorial in the last couple of days chasing off all birds of a similar size and smaller. Blackcaps visit our garden most winters and I have noticed that in recent days a few other garden records around Glamorgan. It is thought most of these wintering Blackcaps have come from Europe , particularly alpine regions. It always seems strange to me to see them behaving so boldly in the garden during the winter when they are the opposite during the summer months.

On that note I would like to thank Barry Stewart for all the help he has provided since my return into the birding world earlier this year and wish all readers a Happy New Year.


Partial lunar eclipse

Clear skies to end the year, allowing excellent viewing of a partial lunar eclpise. A very nice way to end 2009...

Beach strandings at Oxwich

Colour-ringed Sanderling G4RYRY
Up to 18 Sanderling and a single Ringed Plover were on Oxwich beach this morning, feeding mostly on moribund Egg-shell Razors (Pharus legumen) and possibly also stranded Starfish (Asterias rubens). One bird was colour-ringed, this having been seen at the same place earlier in the month [5th] by Peter Douglas-Jones. Life history details to follow...

Moribund Starfish & Egg-shell Razors

Gadwall at Oxwich

Gadwall numbers have increased in recent winters at the few freshwater sites where favourable habitat exists. At Oxwich 32 were noted today, though the highest count was at Fairwood Lake where 51 were counted on 19-Dec-08 by Harold Grenfell & Peter Douglas-Jones. The highest count at Oxwich to date was 40 on 18-Jan-09.

29 December 2009

Hen Harriers in west Gower

Map showing 2009 winter records (in red).In addition to sightings at the regular winter roost in the extensive stands of Saltmarsh Rush at Llanrhidian, there have recently been a good number of records elsewhere on the western half of the Gower peninsula. Observations of hunting birds have been made at Rhossili Down, The Viel field system, Scurlage and locations on Cefn Bryn. It is likely that there are at least four birds involved with two adut males and two ringtails. Roosting may not be restricted to Llanrhidian Marsh as historically the north-east facing dip slope of Cefn Bryn SS4990 has also been used.

26 December 2009

Boxing Day

The tail-end of a heavy shower produced this stunning rainbow over Cilifor Top late in the afternoon.

24 December 2009

Good skies for Santa

The eve before Christmas on the Burry Inlet. The birding fraternity have already received their Christmas present, but there's always a chance of the odd stocking filler before the year's end. Happy Christmas!

Ectoedemia septembrella leaf mine

The leaf mine of the Nepticulid moth Ectoedemia septembrella occurs on Hypericum species including Rose-of-Sharon (H. calycinum) and other ornamental species. It was first recorded in Glamorgan in Cardiff as recently as 2004 and is now well-established there. It was first found in Swansea in 2006 by Martin White in Swansea Marina and a thin scatter of subsequent records indicate that it is now probably widespread in urban situations around the city. The above photo was taken in Gorseinon today. Please report if you see this recent colonist...

23 December 2009

Pipits and Thrushes at Wernffrwd

Meadow Pipit
The spring line along the upper edge of the saltmarsh was one of the few areas where freshwater was available this morning and subsequently attracted a good number of smaller birds, in addition to the usual Snipes and Egrets, etc. An increase in Song Thrushes and Meadow Pipits was obvious, and a Water Pipit was only feet from the car, but flew before I could get my camera! Two Kingfishers were also seen feeding along the narrow pills.

22 December 2009

Dim Hebog y Gogledd o gwbl

View from Moor Corner Farm towards Rhossili Down, Hardings Down and Llanmadoc Hill.
No sign of the Gyr at Scurlage since the 19th...

19 December 2009

Gyr sightings

For any would-be Gyr-spotters, this map shows all reported sightings to date (updated 19th Dec). Note Andrew's original sighting is the most north-western of the arrows shown and the red circle shows where the bird was seen perched yesterday. For square-bashers, so far the bird's been seen in SS48P and SS48T [and today SS48Y], but it does seem likely that it may also have another feeding area somewhere to the north-west, possibly Llangennith Moors, as it has been seen flying off strongly in this direction a few times. For today's sighting times see comments...

Reed Bunting in Gorseinon garden

A female Reed Bunting below the feeders was a new species for the garden today, no doubt displaced from its regular haunts by the hard freeze.

18 December 2009

Gyr Falcon at Scurlage

image taken by R.M.Snowdrop, CBC this afternoon from Merrysun Lane
The Gyr was seen three times within the space of an hour at Scurlage (SS4687) this morning, in an area with good numbers of Lapwings and Golden Plovers. It is an absolutely stunning white phase bird and was well worth the effort despite the rather appropriate arctic conditions. Also seen in the same area were Sparrowhawk, Hen Harrier, Peregrine, Merlin & Buzzard. For further observations during the day see comments...

17 December 2009

GYR FALCON at Llanddewi

Just spoken to Andrew Lucas, who saw a white phase Gyr Falcon today at SS4588. The bird was seen in flight heading nnw, so chances seem unlikely it will reappear in the same spot as these birds are notorious wanderers. Fingers and everything else crossed that it will stick around in west Gower a bit longer to enable a few more observers to share Andrew's fantastic fortune.

05 December 2009

Crossbills above Cwmavaon

I have taken on some BTO atlas work this winter and, luckily enough, the tetrads allocated to me are only a short distance from my home. Having not visited these areas for many years (I am ashamed so say) it has been a pleasant suprise to find that, in the main, the local landscape still maintains some very nice habitats. The Crossbills were feeding in a mixed conifer wood to the west of the Bwlch Road, which runs between Cimla and Cwmavon. As is normally the case you could hear the birds chattering to each other in the tree tops well before they could be seen. I was able to get pretty close to the group which consisted of about 35 birds. They were feeding on pine cones and you could hear the pine cones drop periodically from the treetop, crashing into the branches on their way down. On a few occasions the Crossbills were seen to rip the cones from the Scott's Pine (Pinus sylvestris) and fly to neighbouring Japanese Larch (Larix kaempferi) to remove the seeds. This was great for me because the Larch have now dropped their needles allowing me to watch the Crossbills with a very clear view. After about 5 minutes the birds flew off together calling loudly.

Black Redstart at Rhossili

The Black Redstart that has been hanging around the NT shop at Rhossili since at least the 20th November was still present today and was pleasantly confiding in the breezy conditions. One km to the east, in the Nitten field, a female Hen Harrier was seen to make a kill.

02 December 2009

Leach's Storm-petrel at Afan Argoed!

During the minor seabird 'wreck' in the second half of November there were small numbers of Leach's Storm-petrels sighted at various sites up the Bristol Channel, though only one observation of a bird in our area has come to light, this sadly being of a dead bird from Afan Argoed. Simon Allen form the Gower Bird Hospital made these interesting observations and wrote:

'Have had a couple of petrels in:
23/11/09 Afan Forest Park, dead on arrival, missing left Leg from proximal tarsus.
25/11/09 Ammanford, moribund, missing right leg from distal tarsus.
You are probably aware of this but apparently the petrel family is well known for their frequent missing toes and limbs (J Ornithol (2007) 148:333–346). There are many hypotheses, ranging from predatory fish (Harrison 1955; Pitman 1961; Threlfall 1974; Love 1984) as well molluscs, gulls and marine mammals.

Simon makes further reference to research on this phenomenon in an abstract that can be found at http://www.jstor.org/stable/27669760. To see details of the work carried out by the Gower Bird Hospital check out http://www.gowerbirdhospital.org.uk/
For photos of live Leach's check out the bird sightings page of the Portland Bird Observatory website http://www.portlandbirdobs.org.uk/

30 November 2009

Great Northern Divers during November

November was a good month for Great Northern Divers with a minimum of 11 being noted around Gower. There was a maximum five in Oxwich Bay between the 20th & 24th, one off Mumbles Head on 25th (Paul Larkin), another off Dalton's Point in the Burry Inlet on the 26th [with 3 more seen on the north shore on the 28th (Bernie Beck)] and one in Prince of Wales Dock on 27th (Andrew Lucas) which was still present the next day (see photo above).

25 November 2009

Kittiwakes galore!

There are large numbers of Kittiwakes along the coast at present with 463 Kittiwakes counted flying west past Mumbles Lighthouse in a 1 hour seawatch this morning. There were also another 93+ Kittiwakes resting on the water in Swansea Bay. The Surf Scoter was still in Bracelet Bay with its 9 Common companions.

24 November 2009

Orange Peel Fungus at Oxwich Marsh

With all of the grey skies at present the spectacularly coloured and aptly named Orange Peel fungus (Aleuria aurantia) added colour to the wet sand and muddy fen at Oxwich today.

Black Rabbit at Port Eynon

Among the 40 or more Rabbits in the campsite field today was this striking black specimen. I have seen the odd one at this site before, but elsewhere this form does appear to be scarce.

Port Eynon seawatch 0930-1100hrs

No sign of the hoped for Leach's Storm-petrel, but plenty movement with all bird listed below heading west (spot the Bonxie!):
2 Red-throated Divers
4 Fulmars
1 Gannet
2 Common Scoters (+7 on sea)
1 Ringed Plover
5 Purple Sandpipers
1 Bonxie
3 Common Gulls
176 Kittiwakes
298 Guillemots
3 Razorbills
17 auk sp.
On the rocks at Sedgers Bank were 8+ Shags and a Little Egret, also there was a Grey Seal in the bay.

In Oxwich Bay there were 5 adult G.N.Divers (still eating crabs) and a feeding group of 142 Kittiwakes.

21 November 2009

Black Redstart at Rhossili

Chris Brewer reported that the Black Redstart seen on and around the National Trust shop buildings at Rhossili yesterday (per Sian Musgrave) was still present again today.

Surf Scoter in Bracelet Bay

For a scoter, the Surfy showed quite well this morning before the rain set in. The attached video clip shows the distinctive jump-dive with half open wings (it's the bird on the right, first in real time, then half speed. Note that Common Scoter keeps its wings closed). The birds were at about 400m in poor light hence the quality! Hopefully it will stick around and someone will get a better capture...

20 November 2009

Harlequin Ladybird in Swansea University

Ian Tew sent me this image of a Harlequin Ladybird that was found in Swansea University by Mrs Maureen Roberts on 17-11-09. For more information on on the spread of this species in the UK see http://www.harlequin-survey.org/#

Grey Phalarope at Crymlyn Burrows

Grey Phalarope at Crymlyn Burrows today feeding in the river near the rivermouth and in shallow water of the receding tide on the beach. The beach itself was crawling with Herring Gulls, numbering 550+. The recent winds having driven these birds into the bay. Also today 1 female Merlin hunting in the Dunes.

Surf Scoter at Mumbles

The female/immature Surf Scoter found by Peter Murray yesterday was prsent again this afternoon. Little Gull also present.

Grey Phalarope at Oxwich Marsh

This very vocal and quite mobile bird was feeding on the pools of new fen area. In the bay there was a minimum of 4 Great Northern Divers, one of which was manipulating a crab in its bill for some time.

19 November 2009

Black-tailed Godwits at Dalton's Point

Black-tailed Godwit [Lime/Red Lime/Red flag], was today seen feeding off Dalton's Point in a flock of 140 birds. It was ringed as a chick on 02-Jul-09 at Reykholar, ICELAND and has been present in Burry since 01-Sep-09, though this is the first time I have seen it on the south side of the estuary. Ringing recoveries indicate that most Black-tailed Godwits we see here breed in Icelandic.

18 November 2009

More Med Gulls in Bracelet Bay...

Despite the stormy conditions good numbers of Med Gulls can still be seen feeding in the race off the lighthouse when the tide is falling.

Front-to-back: 2nd winter, adult winter and 1st winter.

White 3K80 was ringed as a pullus on 02-Jun-06 at Zwijndrecht (Ineos complex), Antwerpen, BELGIUM and has been seen in our area in each subsequent year. A minimum of 42 Mediterranean Gulls have been frequenting Bracelet Bay recently including a few birds whose rings I have not managed to read.

Request for help at Blackpill

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
As you may know Gower Ornithological Society works with the Glamorgan Bird Group to run the Visitor Centre at Blackpill. This is opened every second Sunday between 10.00 and 1.00, times which are aimed to coincide with high tide, as far as this is possible. The Glamorgan group is well represented each Sunday by some very welcoming members, led by Colin and Daphne Jones who have made it their business to decorate the centre imaginatively and to provide excellent facilities, (usually including a cup of coffee) for bird-watching at this SSSI. GOS has again been invited to be represented at the Centre and to assist with introducing any visitors to bird-watching at Blackpill, and I should be delighted if some of you would offer to turn out to the Centre on any of the dates below. It is a very pleasant way of spending a Sunday morning, chatting to like minded folk, and the bird-watching is always interesting. Last time out 79 Great Crested Grebes were counted from the centre, not to mention a good variety of waders. If you are willing and able to help represent the Society, do please let me know and I will be happy to arrange any introductions needed.
Jeremy Douglas-Jones

DATES FOR 2009 / 2010 SEASON
Nov 22nd
Dec 6th
Dec 20th
January 10th
January 24th
February 21st
March 7th
March 21st

Jeremy Douglas-Jones
01792 551331 07770986791

09 November 2009

Floating Crystalwort at Oxwich Marsh

Beneficial effects from the fen restoration and pond clearance work carried out at Oxwich Marsh by CCW in the last couple of years have included the expansion of the macrophyte community. Although the waters are rather nutrient-rich, species that have clearly prospered in deeper water include Bladderwort (Utricularia australis), which has flowered extensively over the North Pond and in several of the ditches. In winter Floating Crystalwort (Riccia fluitans) is particularly prominent in many of the open water areas, including the cleared fen area shown below, where it occasionally forms dense mats.

Mass of Floating Crystalwort with Common Duckweed (Lemna minor) and one small (reddish) plant of the highly invasive Water Fern (Azolla filiculoides).

Bladderwort (photographed earlier in the season).

Oxwich Marsh ringing (with Bob Rigdon)

39 Reed Bunting from a total of 93 birds trapped this morning at the feeding station. One of today's Chaffinch was ringed at Mewslade in October 2007. A quick stomp over the 'restored' fen area revealled 44 Snipe and 6 Jack Snipe. Also 22 Gadwall, 6 Teal, 1 Coot, 8 Moorhen and 2 Little Grebe on North Pond.

08 November 2009

Common Gull dropping sea shells on the sea shore

Today at Crymlyn Burrows I watched in fascination as a Common Gulls used a surprising method to feed. I was at the western most part of the beach near to the docks. The beach here is firm underfoot with a strong shingle element mixed in with the sand. It was about 3 hours after high tide with good numbers of birds feeding at the waters edge. Oystercatcher numbered about 200 with a few Curlew also. The remainder was made up of gulls. 60+ Black-headed Gulls, 30+ Common Gulls, 30+ Herring Gulls and also some Greater Black-backed Gulls. I noticed that a few Common Gull were flying up into the air and coming back down and then up again. On closer inspection I could see that they were taking up shells and dropping them onto the beach to break them open. If the shell did not break open then they would swoop down and pick up the shell and drop it again. It was difficult to see exactly what the shell was but they appeared to be the size of a large acorn and pale in colour. It looked like some kind Sea Snail? The Common Gulls were the only gulls to behave in this manner and although immature birds where also present, only adults were seen to perform this trick. Presumably Common Gulls do this in other locations locally also, if so and you know what the shell is I would love to know?

Great Crested Grebes off Blackpill

Peter Douglas-Jones wrote:
79 Great Crested Grebes in Swansea Bay this morning. There was a 37.1 ft tide at 9.46 and I was at the GOS/ RSPB shelter.

05 November 2009

Magpie nest building?

Peter Douglas-Jones wrote:
Magpie carrying a stick this morning, Bethany West Cross. It was 13 degrees; and by early afternoon 11 degrees: the coldest day of the year, I think. I am at Bethany Lane several times a week so I will know if this really is nest building. I have known ravens to nest in November but not magpies.

Little Gull & Water Pipit at Penclawdd

Water Pipit showed very well on the slipway at Penclawdd car park (SS544958) this morning. This is not an easy species to get good views of as they tend to fly off high when approached, but today the car provided an effective hide allowing very good views for Neil Edwards and myself. When looking for this species, note that it is rarely seen at anytime other than high tide as they tend to remain concealed in the tidal creeks at other times. The winter distribution below (lime = Pre 2000, Green >= 2000, centred black = 2009) shows the species prefers the upper estuary, but note Rock Pipit also uses these same habitats when non-breeding.
Water Pipit

Rock Pipit

The first-winter Little Gull was highly mobile, moving between the northern and southern shores of the estuary and was last seen flying east towards Loughor Bridge.

25 October 2009

Firecrest at Crymlyn Burrows

The Firecrest has got to be one of my favourite birds. It's tiny, with a striking appearance and a bold white eye stripe that looks too big for its head and a most amazing coloured back made up of greens and yellows, all blended to make a rich olive. My desciption doesn't really do it justice. It is always very busy, moving around while feeding on tiny insects in bushes and trees. The bird I saw today was feeding in a Butterfly Bush (Buddleja davidii) which are now well past flowering but clearly still holding lots of small insects. On two occasions it also flew out of the bush to catch insects, flycatcher style. A true jewel of the autumn passage of migrant birds and one to brighten up a rather grey day.

21 October 2009

Med Gull [White 35J7] back in Bracelet Bay

Details received of White 35J7, seen back in Bracelet Bay on 19th Ocotber, show it to be another well-travelled individual, having spent last winter in s-w Portugal. Most of the birds we see generally move between the Benelux countries and southern coasts of the British Isles and northern France.

19 October 2009

Lichens on Twigs - Charles Hipkin

At this time of year when leaves are falling off our deciduous trees, the abundance of mosses, liverworts and lichens that live as epiphytes on tree bark is much more apparent. Among the lichens, some of the most obvious are the larger, foliose species of Parmelia. But close inspection will reveal a beautiful mosaic of smaller lichens, especially on the smooth bark of twigs in well-lit environments. Arthonia radiata and Lecidella elaeochroma (shown in the photograph below, taken on a walk along the Old Railway Trail in Afan Argoed) are common on smooth-barked trees. At a glance they look similar, but under a hand lens you should see that A. radiata has irregular (sometimes star-like) shaped apothecia while those of L. elaeochroma are roughly circular [click on the image to see detail of these two species].

Lecanora species belonging to the Lecanora subfusca aggregate are also very common, especially L. chlarotera. Unfortunately, species in this group are often difficult to tell apart without microscopic examination. In the photograph below (which was taken near the parking area on Crymlyn Burrows), you can see L. chlarotera with the pale red brown apothecia (upper right) and L. argentata with the darker brown apothecia (upper middle) – the lichen on the upper left is Lecidella elaeochroma again. The apothecia of L. chlarotera have a coating of mica-like granules on their surface but those of L. argentata do not show this feature. L. argentata is very under recorded. Note that the apothecia of Lecanora species have a distinct white margin.

Physcia species are small, foliose lichens with narrow lobes. Two species encountered commonly on woody twigs are P. adscendens and P. aipolia. Both are very distinctive and the photograph below shows both species side by side for comparison. Physcia aipolia is the one on the left with the abundant, dark apothecia. In contrast, the thallus of P. adscendens produces prominent hair-like cilia and the ends of the lobes have a mass of powdery soredia. However, P. adscendens rarely produces apothecia. The lichen on the far right of the photograph is Lecidella elaeochroma again. All these lichens were found growing on young oak twigs near the car parking area on Crymlyn Burrows.

Large yellow patches of Xanthoria parietina are often found on the twigs and trunks of trees near our coast. Along the Coed Morganwg Way, near Bryn, exposed Larch twigs are covered with the smaller Xanthoria polycarpa. Note the abundance of apothecia which almost cover the thallus.

Also see: http://goweros.blogspot.com/2009/10/afon-argoed-lichens.html

18 October 2009

Serbian Mediterranean Gull

I have just received details of the colour-ringed Mediterranean Gull 'Red YHE8' that was present in Bracelet Bay on the 13th October. Apparently this is the first Serbian bird to be seen in Wales. Also present that day were 'White 34H2' and 'White 38J0', both Belgian birds; White 34H2 (ringed as a chick in 2002) is quite well travelled having been seen in France and Germany as well as visiting a number of sites in South Wales. White 38J0 appears to simply commute between Belgium and Swansea.

16 October 2009

Earth Balls at Cilifor

The stone-like fruiting bodies of Common Earth Ball (Scleroderma citrinum) were found to be fairly frequent around the bases of the birches on the east side of Cilifor Top (SS505925), though few other fungi were noted, possibly due to the recent dry conditions. Scleroderma citrinum is the only mushroom that plays host to Boletus parasiticus, an extremely odd little bolete that actually parasitizes this puffball. See http://www.mushroomexpert.com/scleroderma_citrinum.html

15 October 2009

Shaggy Soldier in Gorseinon

I first noted this bird seed alien growing in the gutter of Pencaecrwn Road, Gorseinon in 2003. It has reappeared in the same spot every year since and seems well-and-truely naturalised in this niche! There are other surprises amongst Gorseinon's 'pavement flora', perhaps the most usual noted to date being Marsh Arrowgrass (Troglochin palustre) found growing in association with Jointed Rush (Juncus articulatus) in a gutter kept permamnently wet by a leak.

Red-legged Partridge in Newton

Peter Douglas-Jones wrote: 'This Red-legged Partridge, reportedly the survivor of two, walks from garden to garden in the Marytwill Lane/ Brynfield Road area of Newton. It has taken peanuts from my hand. It is a fussy eater (in contrast with my Wood Pigeons), preferring its peanuts halved and skinned. It knows how much it wants and then stops (again, a contrast with the pigeons, which do not know when to stop). I first saw and photographed it on 6 August and last saw it on Sunday 4 October. It flies weakly; enough to get onto a high garden wall out of reach of foxes, but perhaps not safe from cats. I took scores of shots of it dust-bathing. Voice; a low companionable grumble, such as I might have with a favourite neighbour. Barely audible further away than ten or 12 feet.'

Oxwich Marsh feeding station

A fairly busy morning with 90 birds processed, including 2 more new Cetti's Warbler, a Jay (photo above) and 28 Reed Bunting, 6 of which were retraps. This brings the total for new-ringed Reed Bunting in the marsh up to 115 for 2009. This is a much higher total than in previous years and may be a result of the management that has taken place in the last couple of years? Also of interest, a Chaffinch was controlled, having been ringed in the Nitten Field (Mewslade) only 7 days ago!

14 October 2009

Western Conifer Seed Bug in Baglan

Another Western Conifer Seed Bug (Leptoglossus occidentalis) has come to light (possible literally). It was found and identified by Claire Miller and Becky Sharp of the Countryside and Biodiversity Units of Neath Port Talbot CBC. It appeared on their office window, on the 1st Floor of the Quays Building, Baglan on 30th Sept 2009. The record predates the specimen found in Swansea on 7th October and replaces it as being the first reported Welsh record. For more information see http://goweros.blogspot.com/2009/10/western-conifer-seed-bug-in-swansea.html

13 October 2009

Reedbed management at Oxwich Marsh

There has been a considerable amount of management carried out by CCW at Oxwich Marsh over the last few years, aimed at fen restoration. When complete the work will restore a significant area of open-marsh habitats that should be beneficial for a wide range of species. Access and viewing are also to be improved at the site, which should prove popular with birdwatchers, and it is hoped that some of the site's former glory can be recaptured.

12 October 2009

Alien import!

This 16mm long pyralid moth accidentally imported from India in Cassia fistula pods has been provisionally determined by Martin Honey at the Natural History Museum as Trachylepidia fructicassiella. Unsurprisingly, it appears not to have been reported from the UK previously. At the end of July a few small wasps appeared (presumably parasitoids of the pyralid), followed by the first moth on 3rd August. Yesterday's freshly emerged adult was at least the 9th to appear from the two pods, known locally as 'Viagra Sticks'!

Late Black Tern

A very late juvenile Black Tern at Tutt head today and a winter plumage Guillemot. Adult Mediterranean Gull made up a great trio in the same binocular view.

10 October 2009

Oxwich Marsh feeding station

A total of 37 Reed Bunting were trapped this morning at the feeding station with 6 being retraps; the oldest of these having being ringed in the marsh on 12th April 2007. Two Cetti's Warbler (photo above) were also ringed, these being only the 10th and 11th of the year so far. It appears that this species may have suffered higher mortality than usual last winter, and recovery at Oxwich Marsh at least seems slow.