30 March 2010

Common Sandpipers at Pont-y-Cob Road

Two Common Sandpipers at Gowerton on this morning's high tide were presumably fresh arrivals, as none have been seen in the estuary since the mid-winter freeze. Since 1st January the only winter records reported in our area have been a bird on the River Tawe in Swansea on 5th Januray (Andrew Lucas) and another at Port Talbot Docks on 9th February (Martin Hnatiuk).

29 March 2010

Lesser Redpolls in Britton Ferry

Cedwyn Davies sent me some excellent images of Lesser Redpolls taken from his kitchen window today. He has had one coming for several weeks, but yesterday he said there were three on his feeder. This is quite a choosey garden bird, so thanks for sharing your images.

Engrailed at Pennard

I really like this image and had to share it. It's a geometrid moth named The Engrailed (Ectropis bistortata) at rest on the outside of a rainy kitchen window in Holtsfield, Murton. The image was taken by Chinch Gryniewicz who commented 'i just love the 'ambience', but the colours are wrong due to mixing of fluorescent light and flash, in reality there is no 'blue' on the moth at all' Great image Chinch.

Ring-Necked Duck at Kenfig

After the disappointment over weekend, missing the Gyrfalcon it was nice to catch up with a smart looking duck. This handsome drake Ring-necked Duck was found earlier today by Neil Donaghy.
Showing well with some Tufted Duck, Pochard and Goldeneye in the centre of the pool. Also my first Swallows of the year past through.

27 March 2010

Purple Sandpipers at The Sands

A group of 20 Purple Sandpipers was feeding on the rocks adjacent to The Sands (SS488853). I've never seen or heard of records from this section before, though it is very underwatched and has potential to be a favoured spot given the suitability of the habitat. Also seen, a Sandwich Tern feeding just offshore and an Oil Beetle (Meloe proscarabaeus) on the cliffs, along with masses of Tree Mallow (Lavatera arborea).

Return of the Gyr

Chris Brewer's prayers were answered today when he found this absolute gem of a bird at Rhossili; he missed the last one by 20 minutes! He first saw it on Rhossili headland flying up towards Rhossili Down where it landed distantly on a crag above the Rectory. He could not believe his luck when he walked up there and found the bird on the ground. His photo says the rest... 
This is almost certainly a different bird to last years as it was more the size of a male. Fantastic find Chris!

26 March 2010

Update on: Frogs, Toads and Otters

Toads were singing last night at Llanrhidian, though good numbers had been eaten by the local Otters, which had cleverly discarded the skins. Interestingly the spraint contained a lot of crab fragments, so these animals must be feeding extensively in the saltmarsh creeks.
About time for another Frog spawn update, though only a few more new records received, so if you know of any sites where spawn has been observed please let me know and I'll add to the database.

The first sanctioned release of an alien species and it's in Swansea!

A trial release of a Japanese Psyllid Aphalara itadori (a hemipteroid sap-sucking insect) has been sanctioned to take place in Swansea in July. The following two newspaper articles are all I I know about at present:



Personally I have reservations about how effective a control agent it will actually be. As far as I am aware it will not be used to transmit a specific pathogen, so surely it's just going to live on the plant, rather than eradicate it! From the little I know about this project, it currently makes no sense to me, but I'll be happy to be put on the right track.

25 March 2010

Blooming Willow everywhere!

Spent the morning looking for migrants at Crymlyn Burrows, Crymlyn Bog and the Tennant Canal. Found my first Willow Warbler of the year at Crymlyn Bog and also found out how tricky it is to digiscope one while it's feeding. Therefore to compensate for this I turned my attention to a Bullfinch, who was far less interested in moving around!Most, if not all, of the Chiffchaffs and Willow Warbler were feeding in, or near to, flowering Grey Willow Salix cinerea Feeding on the insects attracted to the flowering buds. A good number of Bumblebees were using the Willows, but the ones I saw well enough to i.d. were all Buff-tailed Bumblebees Bombus terrestris.

Charles Hipkin notes: "As well as bumble bee queens, blue tits and probably other bird species feed on willow catkins at this time of year, but I've not seen bullfinches doing it before. All these birds are effective pollinators when they do this. Willows are dioecious, i.e. a tree is either a male or a female. The tree in this photograph is a male and this bird will become dusted with pollen on its face while foraging in the male catkins. This pollen may eventually find its way on to the female catkins if the bird visits a female tree. Bird pollination is very common in the tropics, but not in Britain, so observations like this are really important."

23 March 2010

Pale Pinion at Gorseinon

Although described as 'Local' nationally, the Pale Pinion is reasonably widespread in the county, though it is unusual to see more than one it the trap. The adults emerge in the autumn, hibernate overwinter then reappear in the spring to breed.

First Harlequin Ladybird of 2010

David painter found this attractive specimen on the wall of his house near Reynoldston yesterday.
For more information on this advancing alien check out http://www.harlequin-survey.org/

Black-throated Diver off Aberavon Beach

The bay off Aberavon Beach is a much quieter place these days, with most of the Great Crested Grebes now moved on to their breeding grounds. Today, however, there was a Black-throated Diver on the sea. Seen from the dunes at the NW end of Scarlet Avenue. Unfortunately, I lost it while moving to a more sheltered spot to take a picture. The bird was seen at 10:30, around high tide, and the same bird was relocated very far out about 45mins later. Hopefully this bird will stick around for while for me to capture on camera?

18 Great Crested Grebe, 1 Red-throated Diver and 4 Golden Plover(flew east) also seen from here. No sign of the Scoter sp seen at the weekend.

Also in the bay were at least 2 Harbour Porpoise.

21 March 2010

Mumbles Pier

Mark Newton, Geri Rees, Rob Taylor and Brian Thomas counted 128 Kittiwakes back on the 'ledges' at Mumbles Pier today. Some of Marks images below:

Water Pipits at Neath Saltmarsh

The idea of a Pallid Swift this morning was very tempting, but in the end I decided to see whether the Water Pipits at the Neath saltmarsh would put on a show. I have had a couple of brief encounters with the species since the remarkable day earlier this winter when Barry found a party of 4 (possibly up to 12) birds, described here http://goweros.blogspot.com/2010/01/water-pipit-city.html. On advice taken that day, this morning was a good opportunity to search for them at high tide, where they are forced out of hiding when the inlets become flooded. There were at least 4 birds again today, mixed in with the more showy meadow pipits. Although, roles are reversed somewhat below with the Meadow Pipit behind the Water Pipit.
On to Baglan Bay in the search of my first migrant of the year. This female Wheatear was with at least 3 males inside the BP grounds. Also a Brimstone Gonepteryx rhamni was in flight here.
A quick scan of the sea produced 3 Red-throated Diver and 22 Great Crested Grebe and a very distant Scoter sp (probable Velvet).

20 March 2010

Pallid Swift at Cefn Sidan

Dominic Davidson just can't stop finding rare birds. Today a Pallid Swift stopped him looking for the American Herring Gull! Fortunately the bird amazingly hung around for a couple of hours enabling a few local birders to see it flying around the beach front. These images were taken by Gary Harper.
Probably the same bird appeared at Pwll lagoons shortly before dusk, so may reappear tomorrow...

19 March 2010

Blast from the not too distant past

This striking 'double dark' phase Fulmar was photographed by Harold Grenfell from Swansea West Pier back on 25th Januray 2009. I believe the bird was so close he could only capture it using a 50mm lens!
In the background is the 350ft Meridian Tower nearing completion and terraced houses of Townhill

18 March 2010

More skulking...

It must be the time of year - seems all our Water Rails have lost their inhibitions! This other bold individual was photographed by Mark Newton feeding in a roadside flush in full sun at Wernffrwd recently.

Reedbed Skulkers!

Continung with the just out of county theme, these two images of Water Rail and Bittern were captured recently by Peter Douglas-Jones at Parc Slip and Kenfig respectively...
...click on an image for a larger version.

Colour-ringed Choughs at Rhossili

Bob Haycock provided details of these colour-ringed Choughs photographed by Frank Rott from the Rhossili Coastguard station on 7th March. We receive surprisingly few sightings of colour-ringed Choughs in Gower, so if you do see any please take a photo or note down the ring combination. As can be seen the information provides a fascinating insight into the lives of these birds.
Bob wrote:
[Left:Green/Red, Right:Red/BTO] - was ringed as a nestling at the Pennard nest-site in May 2004. I have records of it on Gower in 2005 and 2006 and also at Ogmore in April 2006 but until this re-sighting I was unaware of subsequent more recent sightings.
[Left:Blue/Red, Right:Red/BTO] - was ringed as a nestling in South Pembrokeshire on the Castlemartin peninsula, also in May 2004. There were a number of re-sightings in 2005 and in winter 2005/06 in south Pembs. Then it was seen at Overton Cliff Glamorgan on 11th August 2007 and it was seen at Broughton Bay Gower on 23rd October 2007. There may be other re-sightings on Gower of both these birds but I have no records.

17 March 2010

Eglwys Nunydd res

Popped down to Eglwys today in the hope of a Sand Martin? No joy there, but immf Lesser Scaup is still present. Drake Scaup and 2 females also still present. An imm Peregrine flew across the res with a kill.

16 March 2010

Snowdrops at Oxwich

Snowdrops seem to be at their peak at the moment and I couldn't resist stopping to take a photo of a near vertical bank of them in Oxwich village today.

Signs of Spring...

Small Tortoiseshells and Daffodils (Narcissus pseudonarcissus susp. pseudonarcissus large flowered variety with 100mm flowers) in Ilston yesterday.
Images by Mark Newton http://www.welshwildlife.com/

Swansea Lesser Black-backed Gull in Morocco

This Lesser Black-backed Gull is one of many rehabilitated birds that have been successfully integrated back into the wild by the Gower Bird Hospital http://www.gowerbirdhospital.org.uk/. It was photographed by Rob Martin on 23rd February 2010 at Essaouira in Morocco.

American Herring Gull at Cefn Sidan

My efforts yesterday weren't worth posting, but Ed Hunter has sent me the best images to date of the American Herring Gull taken today. The tail, rump, vent, wing markings in flight are all spot on for this race. The underwing now seems to be the only missing piece of the jigsaw, although this may have been seen by some observers.
Don't let this last image fool you into thinking it's a small bird, in fact it's quite the opposite, it's a brute!

14 March 2010

putative American Herring Gull at Cefn Sidan

Heavily cropped photo (no other adjustments) taken by Gary Harper of what looks to me like an excellent candidate for L.a.smithsonianus at Cefn Sidan (SN3701) today. The bird was found yesterday by Dominic Davidson, Carmarthenshire's premier league Larid finder! Not seen the bird myself yet, but judging by Gary's photo it looks like it would be well worth the trip. Additional features not apparent in the photo also suggestive of a very good find...
Bird is a 30 minute walk up the beach from Pembrey C.P. (not sure of cost but prob about £2.50 per car to get in - park in northern mst car park). If you want to avoid the parking fee but are happy adding an extra km or so to your beach walk, turn left and follow the fence a few hundred meteres before the park entrance and park at SS408995.

Black-necked Grebe at Kenfig

A little out of area, but I'm sure the boss will allow it? A Black-necked Grebe still on Kenfig pool, found earlier this week by Neil Donaghy. Also at Kenfig and surrounds my first singing Chiffchaff of the year and a couple of Cetti's. On the Beach 300+ Golden Plover and 1 Red Kite over, from the sea towards the pool.

13 March 2010

Crymlyn Bog

I met Jamie Bevan at Crymlyn Bog earlier this week. Jamie has been creating open areas of water in the reed bed near to the centre and today I had a walk around the tracks, which have also been improved, to take a closer look. It looks much better and I'm looking forward to seeing what insects will be on view come the summer.

It was pretty quiet on the bird front today. 1 Red Kite, 6 Redwing and a pair of Sparrowhawk in an aerial display over the bog. Also this Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming on a telegraph pole.

Nearby, at Crymlyn Burrows, this Owl pellet was in the dunes.

12 March 2010

Port Talbot strand line

Some notable features of the strand line in Port Talbot Harbour include a healthy population of Sea Stock (Matthiola sinuata) and the Lesser Stag Beetle (Dorcus parallelipipedus) with its impressive jaws and six-syllable specific name. Try saying that after a few shandies!

The Lesser Stag Beetle is pretty much at the western edge of it UK distribution in West Glamorgan where it appears to be confined to dune systems. This was one of two found under a large log just above the strand line.

Sea Stock has a very restricted distrbution in the UK. It belongs to the Mediterranean-Atlantic element of our flora and away from West Glamorgan occurs only occurs on a small section of the North Devon coast. The very distinctive furry lobed leaves are persitent in winter making it easy to recognise at any time.

Frog spawn update...

Thanks to Rob Colley, Lyn Fishlock & Mark Newton for further records of spawning. Rob Colley reported from Resolven that frogs in his garden pond became very vocal a week or two back, but actvities were curtailed by colder weather and they still have not yet started spawning.

11 March 2010

Welcome to Gower...A.O.N.B.!

Every March the Gower Commons are subjected to this illegal activity, some years the damage is worse than others, but with the dry conditions we're experiencing I'm sure there will be more to come. Personally I'm not totally against controlled burning, but burning on this scale is particularly damaging to heathland fauna. The Gower Commons should be alive with scarce invertebrates and birds, instead these large tracts of land are often impoverished as extensive burning has killed off whole populations, with little opportuity for recovery. So much for these sites being protected, surely it is about time that something was done to encourage the commoners to act a bit more responsibly. The fauna will come back if given a chance.

Bog Mytle rarely gets a chance to grow much taller than a foot high in Gower. Needless to say any associated invertebrates stand little or no chance of surviving burning year on year.

10 March 2010

Returning Blackcap?

Further to Owain Gabb's observation of a returning Blackcap, in this earlier post http://goweros.blogspot.com/2010/02/returning-blackcap.html , a distinctive female Blackcap is once again present in our garden. As you can see she has feathers missing around the eye, in fact around both eyes. We had an identical bird about 4 winters ago which returned the next winter. It would make this bird quite old, if it is the same bird? I haven't noticed this condition on many birds and is the only one I remember on a Blackcap. Given Owain's observation the possibility remains that it is a returning bird. The food selection in the garden is much improved these days compared to previous years, but this bird's ability to control the feeders is also very similar.

09 March 2010

Frog spawn update...

Post Brought forward from 03-03-10
A few more reports received of spawn, but also some negative reports so I guess there are still sites where Frogs are waiting for milder weather. I have also received a report of 6 Adders seen by Ruth and Malcolm Ridge in the bottom end Nicholaston Woods, all in a group together. Buff-tailed Bumble-bee seen by Veronica Shenston at Cwm Ivy yesterday, but no Frogs in her pond yet. Note that only the red dots show records for 2010.
Spawn noted on (* denotes known first spawning date):
16-Jan-10* Manselfield Road, Murton Derek K. Thomas
02-Feb-10* Swansea Road, Waunarlwydd Kit Bowditch
19-Feb-10 Glyncorrwg Ponds Dave Carrington
19-Feb-10 Whitestone Ave, Bishopston David C. Llewellyn
20-Feb-10 *Clydach Andrew Lucas
25-Feb-10* Pencaecrwn Road, Gorseinon B. & S.J. Stewart
25-Feb-10* The Spinney, Sketty Judith Peachy
26-Feb-10 east edge of Rhossili Down Francis Morgan
27-Mar-10 Welsh Moor NE ponds Mark Newton
28-Feb-10 The Orchard, Perriwood Ruth & Malcom Ridge
01-Mar-10 Newton Primary School Sandra J. Stewart
01-Mar-10 near Kingshall Francis Morgan
03-Mar-10 Tircoed Village pond Mark Newton
03-Mar-10 Tircoed Village garden Mark Newton
05-Mar-10 road west of Bryn Farm Nancy Minopoli
06-Mar-10 Burry Mark Newton
06-Mar-10 Penllergaer Woods per Mark Newton
07-Mar-10 Mynydd Penhydd Mike Launder
07-Mar-10 Mill Wood Sian Musgrave

Hutchinsia flowering at Oxwich

The diminutive Hutchinsia (Hornungia petraea) was just coming into flower at Oxwich today. This scarce winter annual can be found with patience on several of South Wales' dune systems. It's best to look for the rosette of purple leaves rather than the tiny white flowers!
My car key shows how tiny these plants are!

08 March 2010

Blast from the past

Harold Grenfell very kindly provided me with a copy of one of his images of the Northern Mockingbird that was present on the inner Worm's Head between 24th July and 11th August 1978. The reasons this record was placed in category D were because the bird turned up near to a port and because it was deemed too early for a true migrant. The fact that Swansea is hardly used by trans-Atlantic traffic seems to have been missed and furthermore I suspect more trans-atlantic ships pass Cornwall and possibly even Essex, these being the counties of the only two category A British records. Also the dates for the two category A records are hardly typical for trans-atlantic vagrants, so the decision seems a bit harsh in my opinion. Acceptance category aside, it's the only Glamorgan record of an American passerine to date!

The Bumbles of Mumbles

Despite the very chilly breeze this afternoon and exposed situation, the spring flowering heather Erica carnea at the at the entrance to Bracelet Bay attracted at least 4 queen Buff-tailed Bumble Bees (Bombus terrestris). Note the one below is carrying a few ticks around the neck.

On the bird front there were at least 18 Mediterranean Gulls around the car park area.

Another early Butterfly

It wasn't before late summer, that I saw a Small Tortoiseshell Aglais urticae last year, so this one in the garden today was a bit of a treat.Other insects have been visiting our early flowering plants during the recent warm days. This Buff-tailed Bumblebee Bombus terrestris queen one of two present on 2nd March

07 March 2010

Wild Goose Chase at Whiteford Point, Gower

After the plastic nonsense yesterday, Whiteford provided some real wild geese! Not a bad day today at Whiteford with the winter visitors still showing well. A Jack Snipe was seen on the way to the hide with 10+ Snipe. The Hide, possibly the coldest anywhere in the world, is well placed to view the Burry Inlet's specialities. At least 2 (possibly 3) Slavonian Grebe, 213 Brent Goose, 9 Red-breasted Merganser and 56 Eider. Also present 5 Shoveler, 3 Common Scoter and 12 Great Crested Grebe as well as a good variety of waders. No raptors at all was unexpected.

Brent Geese feeding in front of the hide.

Raft of Eider diving together

Slavonian Grebe from Hide

06 March 2010

Yellow Whitlowgrass on Pennard Castle

The Yellow Whitlowgrass (Draba aizoides) on Pennard castle was reported as starting to flower by Nigel Ajax-Lewis last week. Today I counted 80 plants in flower with another 40 non-flowering plants, though I probably missed a good few smaller plants higher up.

Here's what these plants looked like back on 6th February http://goweros.blogspot.com/2010/02/pennard-castle.html