28 April 2010

Herb Paris (Paris quadrifolia)

This ancient woodland indicator species is often elusive, camouflaged in a sea of Dog's Mercury. But many of the Gower Ash Woodlands have it and it is in flower now. It's a fabulous plant with a memorable name. But the apparent reference to the French capital is misleading. The name Paris here is derived from the latin, pares, which alludes to the symmetry of the leaves (in 2 pairs). Occasionally, however, you'll find an individual with 5 or more leaves. Where you find it, there's often a group of individuals that arise from an underground rhizome and individual clones probably live a very long time. The fruit is a small berry, but it rarely generates from seed. For that reason its dispersal abilities are poor, which makes it a good indicator species. It is rather rare in Wales and is more or less confined to woodlands on basic soils (i.e. limestone). It likes shade much more than bluebell or wood anemone and, unlike those two common species, it usually shows a negative response to coppicing. Herb Paris is closely related to the wake robins (Trillium species) which occur in North American forests. (Photograph and notes by Charles Hipkin).

27 April 2010

Bee and Wasp Day

A great day for bumblebees in the garden today with 6 true bumblebee species noted and a possible cuckoo bumblebee, photo not conclusive. The top photo courtesy of Charles Hipkin, who will add some comments under his shot.

'Bombus hortorum is a beautiful, long-tongued bumble bee which targets deep flowers, foraging for pollen and nectar. In this photograph it is probing into the deep throat of Yellow Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon), a member of the mint family (Lamiaceae). Notice the pollen baskets on the back legs, loaded with yellow pollen. It will often visit other deep-throated flowers such as white dead-nettle (Lamium album) and foxglove (Digitalis pupurea). The extraordinary tongue can be seen in Mark's photograph below.'

Also a few wasps around today, and I found that getting the all important face on shot is not as easy as it sounds. But, by using the 'take loads of shots policy' I managed a couple confirming Wood Wasp Vespula sylvetris.
Notice the yellow face, lacking the black anchor shape of the Common Wasp Vespula vulgaris and also the yellow basal segment of the antenna.

The 2 shots below show the Common Wasp Vespula vulgaris with its black anchor face and completely black antenna

More Cuckoos

Four Cuckoos on Gower this morning is another new record for me. One at Oxwich, two at Ryers Down and another on Llanmadoc Hill; all calling. Is this evidence of a good year for them? Certainly looks promising.

Following on from Derek's observations, Mark Newton recorded up to four on Ryers Down and one calling from Penmynydd.
Photo by Mark Newton http://www.welshwildlife.com/

26 April 2010

Garden Stuff

The first juvenile Siskins of the year, have returned over the last couple of days. Last year we first had juveniles 9th April, so maybe the hard winter has held them up a bit this year? A much duller bird than the female. Much more heavily streaked, especially the upperparts. The feature that stands out for me every time is the wing bar. Probably no brighter that on its parents, but because of the overall duller grey/brown plumage it stands out more. A Common Carder Bee Bombus pascuorum sightings are becoming more common in the garden. Hopefully, soon to be joined by the much sort after Tree Bumblebee Bombus hypnorum. Well, we live in hope!

25 April 2010

Some summer migrants

Mark Newton photographed this fine male Redstart at Ryer's Down yesterday and the ground-feeding Whitethroat at Port Eynon the day before that. There was a reasonably good arrival of the latter today with at least 20 counted in the Mewslade area.

More butterflies...

Paul Tyrrell wrote: With weather getting warmer on saturday afternoon, went in search of Green Hairstreak (Callophrys rubi) not expecting to find much,as thought still bit early. Went to visit a colony found last year and was very pleasantly surprised to find three individuals basking in the sun.

Port Eynon Seawatching

What a difference a bay makes. With Barry and Neil, next door at the Worm, I was holding the flag for Port Eynon. Not quite as busy, but good stuff around all the same. I had two sightings I will not forget in a hurry. First, this Grey Seal ( I think on size?) with a pretty big fish!!

The second, not caught on camera unfortunately, was a Great Skua flying very close to the head. At its closest it was no more than 30m away! I had luckily looked up from the scope briefly, only to notice a large dark bird almost overhead! It continued its path along the headland, with a Raven coming out to make sure it didn't think about stopping. A slow but steady passage during the better visibility. The highlights 14+ Sandwich Tern and 4 unidentified Sterna Terns headed west. Also 1 Red-throated Diver, 2 Common Scoter and 10 Whimbrel all going east. 4+ Harbour Porpoise rounding off a great day on the Gower.

5 Sandwich Terns taking a break on the buoy, south of the point.

24 April 2010

Worm's Head seabirds

Neil Edwards and myself walked out to the end of Worm's Head in the chilly breeze first thing. At the end there were great views of feeding Manx (c.800), Gannet (c.30), Sandwich Tern (23+) and lots of auks, with 140 Razorbill and 200 Guillemot on and around the outer head itself, though no Puffins yet. Also past west, 1 Red-throated Diver and 40 Common Scoter. Land birds on The Worm included a couple of Peregrines, loads of Linnets, Stonechat, but very little sign of any migrant activity.
Halfway...by Devil's Bridge
Just before the final climb, good fly-bys of auks...
From the end, bird's-eye view of Razorbills - more of this species as I have ever seen here!
But the stars of the show were the feeding groups of Manx, Gannets and Herring Gulls. There's obviously plenty bait fish out there at present.

Yellow Wagtail at Eglwys

Another good days birding at Eglwys today. This cracking male Yellow Wagtail was with 13 White Wagtails, still around from yesterday. The bushes were crawling with migrants with 1 Grasshopper Warbler, 4 Reed Warbler, 9 Cetti's Warbler, 13 Whitethroat, 17 Sedge Warbler and 20+ Blackcap.
3 Swift over the res first thing with 38 Swallow, 3 House Martin and 3 Sand Martin. A drake Goosander on the res briefly and still at least 6 Common Sandpiper.

23 April 2010

Swarming flies at Eglwys Nunydd Res

Swarming in nature is always fascinating, whether it's a plague of Locusts or a winter Starling roost. Today at Eglwys Nunydd, I was amazed at the masses of flies that were forming enchanting shapes around the reservoir. The video below tries to capture the spectacle.

I'm not sure what the flies are but the fishermen say this happens every year and that the scenes today were pretty special. Other insects today included 2 Green-veined White Artogeia napi and at least 2 Bombus vestalis searching for the nests of Bombus terrestris to take over.
The birdlife was pretty good today also. 10 Common Sandpiper, 13 White Wagtail, 3 Reed Warbler, 11 Sedge Warbler, 8 Cetti's Warbler, 1 Lesser Whitethroat and 6 Whitethroat. In fact 1 male Whitethroat was seen carrying nesting material! Also, at the end, a female Mallard with 8 chicks taking a quick swim.

Early Purple Orchid at Horton

My first Orchid of the year taken in the cliffs between Horton and Slade this morning.
David Painter

Garden Slow-worms

We usually see two or three Slow-worms (actually legless lizards) underneath an up-turned wheelbarrow in our Gorseinon garden, but Mark Newton counted nine in his Loughor garden recently and took this image of one of them.
It's quite possible you may also have Slow-worms in your garden, so why not put down some squares of roofing felt, tin sheets or even on old upturned wheelbarrow in a quiet sunny corner, preferably near a compost heap. Let us know how you get on...

22 April 2010

Garganey at Sandy Water Park

This fine drake Garganey was photographed by Mark Newton at Sandy Water Park, Llanelli today. Hope to see this species in our area one day...

21 April 2010

What's that Wasp?

I've taken some shots of queen wasps that have been in the garden the last couple of days. I know nothing of wasps and didn't realise how many types there were until reading around earlier on. It seems ideally you need many different viewing angles for identification purposes. However, I've had a look in an old collins guide and the plates suggest maybe that the top 2 pics show Red Wasp Vespula rufa?
The 2 shots below look like Tree Wasp Vespula sylvestris?

I haven't taken into consideration any pattern variation with other species here so I could be way out. If so, please accept my apologies in advance and feel free to put me on the right track. The guide I have been using was reprinted in 1984, so if you can recommend a modern day field guide, covering this area, I would love to know?

Could it be Wood?

Unfortunately not. A large looking Phylosc was lumbering through a Downy Birch Betula pubescens at the back of our garden today and when watched through the bins, showed a fair amount of bright yellow. Adding to the suspense a little by not singing or calling, I decided to scope it. I don't mind admitting being a little rusty on key features, so having read up a little I found the following. The yellow should appear brighter for Wood Warbler and more restricted to the throat, ear-coverts and breast sides. The underparts on Wood Warbler are a much cleaner white, with a cleaner transition between the yellow(around the throat) and white underparts. For silhouette birds, a nice feature to look for in Wood Warbler are short tail and very long primary projection. This bird displays none of these features and is of course a Willow Warbler.

20 April 2010

False oxslip at Owxich

I was expecting to see these hybrids between Cowslip and Primrose in the famous cowslip field but this one was in the dunes on the other side of the marsh road near the entrance gate.
David Painter

salthouse monday

A trip in the mud with the students

Hydrobia: Shelduck food.

Flatfish: future Osprey food.

Corophium volutator: wader food

Corophium burrows: no wonder so many waders can feed in the Burry.

Scrobicularia plana: big wader food.

whitford dunes sunday

A lovely sunny day out of the wind, wife had the newspaper and a sleep so I got stuck in to some insect photography.

This lovely staphylinid about 2.5cm long waas encountered on the seawall from Frog lane.

Melasoma (=Chrysomela) populi [Red Poplar Leaf Beetle] in very small numbers on the dwarf willow (Salix repens).

Pyrausta cingulata on the dunes

Osmia bicolor [Two Coloured Mason Bee] checking out a few snail shells in which they nest

and Cicindela maritima [Dune Tiger Beetle] on the shore/dune edge.


The fine weekend saw the emergence of good numbers of insects, especially in sheltered meadows and glades, such as Bee-fly (Bombylius major) as Orange-tip (Anthocharis cardamines), both photographed by Paul Tyrrell in Ilston Cwm. 

18 April 2010

Natural Skies

This evening's sunset at Rhossili, although not overly spectacular, was however vapour trail free. On the way home we were surprised to see a jet airliner over Penclawdd heading towards Cardiff at low altitude!

Migrant bonanza at Eglwys Nunydd

A great day at Eglwys Nunydd today. I was accompanied by Ieuan Blackmore in the morning around the Reservoir before making the hike to the Kenfig River and around Margam Moors later. It was a case of migrant catch up, after a couple of slow weeks. A cracking male Redstart was a nice find in the bushes at the back (west) of the res. Also along here were 5 Sedge Warbler, 2 Lesser Whitethroat and 1 Whitethroat. The male Sedge Warbler below sat nicely for a few shots and also treated us to some song-flights. This fine male White Wagtail was making the most of the dropping water levels.
The Kenfig River and Margam Moors were quieter by comparison. 3 Gadwall at the saltmarsh and a Reed Warbler here also. 4 White Wagtails flew through here and this Small Copper Lycaena phlaeas showed well.

Margam Moors produced 1 Peregrine, 5 Wheatear, 2 Whitethroat and 1 Sedge Warbler. Blackcap, Cetti's Warbler, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff were common throughout the day as were small groups of Swallow with a few Sand Martin also noted.

17 April 2010

Araneid on Wild Daffodils at kenfig Ind. Est.

On a patch of about 180 Wild Daffodils behind Kenfig Ind. Est. was the distinctively marked spider Agalenatea redii.

Raptors in clear blue skies

This late Hen Harrier spent a little while hunting over Oxwich Marsh before circling up and over Penrice Castle; also present Simon Allen, Neil Edwards & Bob Rigdon.
Also noted were a brood of Mallard chicks, Common Sandpiper, 6 Snipe, 3 Gadwall, 2 Lesser Redpoll, 2 Stock Doves and at least 5 singing Cetti's Warblers, though no Reed or Sedge yet..

Later while 'gardening' a Red Kite then a Sparrowhawk flew over our garden in Gorseinon.