31 July 2010

Tachina grossa

I saw Tachina grossa today. It's a beast! The body is about 20mm long and I thought it was a queen bumblebee of some kind when I first saw it! You get some idea of size when you see it dwarfing the flower heads of Creeping Thistle Cirsium arvense
This fly is a parasite of large caterpillars.

30 July 2010

Little Egrets feeding at Loughor Bridge

This afternoon there were Egrets and Black-headed Gulls feeding in the shallow riffles of the falling tide on the north side of the bridge. These birds seemed to be having very good success at catching ~10cm long, silvery fish.

28 July 2010

Cardiff beats Swansea to race for Essex

The now perhaps inappropriately named Essex Skipper has for some years slowly been increasing it's range in the UK, and is another potential new insect colonist for our area. The species was found in Cardiff in the last few days by Gareth Stamp, who can now claim Glamorgan's first record. Given how easy it is to overlook, it's not inconceivable that it might already have reached our patch too and I urge anyone with an interest in butterflies to take a closer look at any Small Skippers they come across. Gareth has kindly sent me some of his images of the Cardiff specimen, which shows clearly the black tip to the antennae.
A word of warning however, Small Skipper also looks like it has a black tip, but when you look closer the underside of the tip is actually orange-brown. To be an Essex Skipper it must have a black underside to the tips of antennae, without any orange. To see this subtle difference click here www.ukbutterflies.co.uk/species.php?species=sylvestris [tip - click on male underside image to view antenna detail]

27 July 2010

Mothing at Pant-y-sais

Hedya salicella (c) Chris Manley

Steve Whitehouse and gang made a trip from the Midlands to look for Scarce Burnished Brass at Pant-y-sais lat Saturday evening. Chris Manley, Mike Powell and myself joined them on a very damp and drizzly night. A Grasshopper Warbler reeled from the soaked reeds as we set the traps along the newly constructed boardwalk and Tennant Canal. Unfortunately, despite setting 9 traps, we failed to find the target species, but did manage to log just short of 100 species. The highlights included Hedya salicella (only 5th county record), 2 Epinotia brunnichana, 1 Donacaula forficella, 1 Dentated Pug, 2 Black Arches, 4 Round-winged Muslin, 25 Southern Wainscot, 2 Suspected, 3 Double Kidney, 1 Double Lobed, 20 Haworth's Minor, 15 Crescent, 1 Webb's Wainscot, 40 Small Rufous, 1 Scarce Silver Lines, 1 Oak Nycteoline and 40+ Marsh Oblique-barred (a tick for all of the midland gang!).

Epinotia brunnichana
dark and light forms of the Crescent

Eelgrass off Crofty

Back on the 22nd July, Sandra and myself took a walk over the mudflats off Crofty to look for Eelgrass (Zostera marina intertidal 'angustifolia' form), which in Glamorgan was known only from Oxwich Bay back in the mid-1970s. Unfortunately the tide was only just starting to drop, but after 30 mins or so, on the mud below the lower edge of the Cord-grass (Spartina anglica) marsh we found several patches of this plant, much favoured by Brent Geese in winter. It is likely the species occurs elsewhere along the south shore of the Burry and we'll be making a few more trips out onto the mudflats to investigate other likely spots.

26 July 2010

Digger Wasp

This is the Red Banded Sand Wasp Ammophila sabulosa. The female digs a hole/nest and stocks it with insects paralysed by her sting. She then lays eggs into this larder and the grubs rely on the stored food until they pupate.and here she is digging away....

24 July 2010

Bombus hypnorum, back in the Garden

Further to my first sighting of Bombus hypnorum in the garden on Thursday and the request for info on the plant that it was feeding from; I was taking a few photo's of the plant when a B. hypnorum came back. The size of the bee suggests a worker to me? Feel free to identify the plant.

23 July 2010

Return of the Tiger

The decline of the Garden tiger has been well documented and in the last three years my garden trap has only produced 2. I was pleased then to see 3 in my trap yesterday.
David Painter

22 July 2010

Bombus hypnorum in the Garden

I am delighted to report that this evening around 6:30pm Bombus hypnorum was seen visiting flowers in the garden. I rushed inside to get the camera but it was gone by the time I got back outside. This is the first time I've seen this species. There is a possibility that this is the first record for Neath Port Talbot, however, with it being recorded a number of times in neighbouring counties to the West and to the East, it may well have been recorded before today. If anyone knows otherwise I would be most grateful if you could let me know.

20 July 2010

Butterflies at Horton


Mating Brown argus


During an hours walk from Horton to Slade yesterday morning (19th July) I saw 25 Graylings (8 together in a quarry), 17 Brown argus including 2 mating pairs, 1 fresh Comma, 2 Red admirals, 12 Meadow browns, 2 Small heath, 7 Large white 8 Green veined whites 1 Small white, 1 faded Large skipper, 7 Common blues and my first Gatekeepers of the year (8). In spite of the rain we're getting this is a much better season than 2009.
David Painter

16 July 2010

Med Gulls at Bracelet Bay

At least 4 colour-ringed birds were among the 24+ Med Gulls present this morning, these being:
White 34K6 [a new bird for me at least]
White 3K80 [a Belgian bird first with us in 2006]
White 3E40 [a Belgian bird first with us in 2005]
Red YHE8 [the Serbian bird reported earlier]
As the tide was in they were on the grass verge and posing nicely for the camera.

2 juveniles (1st calendar year)...

1st summer (2nd calendar year)...

2nd summer (3rd calendar year)...

adult summer (4th calendar year or older)...

An hours seawatch off Tutt Head produced 12 Storm Petrels, 623 Manx Shearwaters, 12 Fulmars, 13 Gannets, 2 Sandwich Terns and 12 Guillemots, all headng west.

15 July 2010

A new species for Wales at Oxwich Marsh

Sam Bosanquet photographed the small but beautiful Cosmopterix lienigiella during his first day surveying the fen vegetation at Oxwich Marsh on the 7th.
This is certainly new species for Glamorgan and most probably Wales. Sam is set to return to the site in August to complete the survey of this excellent site, so watch this space...

14 July 2010

Bee sightings

Yesterday I saw another Tree Bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum) on Bramble flowers in a hedge at Pontarddulais showground - unfortunately I did not have my camera with me as I was walking the dog in the rain.
Today in the garden there were a few bees around in very threatening conditions, including a male B. lapidarius on Viper's Bugloss (photo above) and Cornflower, B. terrestris on Opium Poppy and B. pascuorum also favouring flowers of Viper's Bugloss.  

New Bladderwort site

Rob Ladds wrote 'Delighted to find this flowering in upper Bishopston valley. The large, dammed pond is only about ten years old, and these weren't there two years ago.'
This is a excellent discovery as the species is only known from Oxwich Marsh in our area.

06 July 2010

More fledglings from west Gower

Barrie Swinnerton sent me these images taken this week of two of our less common breeders, Peregrine and Dartford Warbler, both of which seem to have fared well this year.

Neath Valley

The Scullcap Leaf Beetle Phyllobrotica quadrimaculata is an uncommon beetle found usually in damp places where Scullcap Scutellaria galericulata can also be found.

Also today the very striking Pyrausta purpuralis. I was able to identify this via David Painter's post earlier this year; found by this link http://goweros.blogspot.com/2010/04/pyrausta-purpuralis-at-horton.html Thanks David.

05 July 2010

Some other nice stuff from the Day

2 above are Grayling with the one below showing how well they can blend in with their surroundings
Above Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly (male)
Above Blue-tailed Damselfly (male)
The separation of males of each Scarce Blue-tailed from Blue-tailed can be found at the apex of their abdomen. In Blue-tailed the whole of segment 8 is blue, but in Scarce Blue-tailed only part of 8 is blue and segment 9 is completely blue.
Above Golden-ringed Dragonfly (male)

Dotted Sedge at Baglan Burrows

Today Charles Hipkin showed me the patch of Dotted Sedge (Carex punctata) that he and Hilary found a couple of weeks back at Baglan Burrows. The species has a a very restricted distribution in Britain and Ireland and the only other Glamorgan record of I’m aware of was made by A.J.E. Smith at Oxwich saltmarsh on 16th June 1962, so this is a very significant discovery. Other noteworthy species seen included Distant Sedge (Carex distans) [a new species for NPT], Marsh Helleborine (Epipactis palustris) and Ray's Knotgrass (Polygonum oxyspermum subsp. raii), all very localised in NPT.

Baglan Burrows is a fabulous site and is the only sizeable dune remnant between Port Talbot Docks and the Neath River. It probably supports some of the best pioneer dune communities in the county. That it has no conservation status seems incredible given the quality of habitats and species, not to mention its strategic importance in linking dune systems along the South Wales coast.

Bombus jonellus?

I have started to look at bumblebees a bit more closely this year and I've found that it's not as simple as if first appears. I found a couple of bumblebees today that resembled B. hortorum but something seemed a little different to the one's I've seen this year. I hoped that it might be B. jonellus and so I took a couple of photo's in hope that I could shore up the id later. Having consulted the books I can see that there are 2 possibilities. Males of B. lucorum and B. jonellus both show yellow hairs on the face as well as 2 bands of yellow on the thorax and 1 on the abdomen which also has a white tip.

The best separating feature for these species is that B. jonellus has long hairs on the dorsal edge of the hind metatarsus. The photo below seems to show these long hairs I would be very grateful if anyone could confirm whether I have made the correct identification of this bumblebee.

03 July 2010

Mothing at Foxhole and Overton

Veteran Junipers on cliffs at Yellow Top
147 species of Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies) were recorded during a combined afternoon session at Foxhole Slade/Yellow Top (GHJ & BS) and evening session at Overton Mere (GA, GHJ, CMM, RJR, VS & BS).

Unfortunately we failed to see any Chestnut-coloured Carpets at the Foxhole / Yellow Top Junipers, though we did see 2 Chalk Carpet & 4 larvae of very rare plume moth Agdistis meridionalis. Interestingly these were found feeding on both Common Sea-lavender as-well-as the usual foodplant Rock Sea-lavender, something that I have not seen before.

The moth traps at Overton produced the bulk of the species list, highlights including Mecyna asinalis 15, Dolicharthria punctalis 20, Trachycera marmorea 5, Pempeliella dilutella 15, Lackey 60, Mullein Wave 6, Small Blood-vein 3, Silky Wave 9, July Belle 20, Wood Carpet 1, Galium Carpet 1, Lilac Beauty 1, Brussels Lace 2, Annulet 3, Privet Hawk-moth 8, Lime Hawk-moth 2, Muslin Footman 3, Short-cloaked Moth 3, Crescent Dart 45, Brown-line Bright Eye 1, L-album Wainscot 4 & Devonshire Wainscot 1.
Dolicharthria punctalis (Long-legged China-mark) 
Other wildlife seen included 6 female Glow-worms at Overton together with a huge female Toad on the lower coast path.

Thanks to all who turned up for an excellent couple of sessions.

01 July 2010

Scorpion Fly

This Scorpion Fly Panopra communis was in the garden today. Quite common, but not numerous, flying May to August. This one is a female unfortunately and doesn't quite show the features that derives the name. The male has a far more pronounced tip to the abdomen (the red part of the photo above) which it holds over its body scorpion style. One of the main diagnostic features is the downward extension of the head to form a stout beak (shown below).
Scorpion Flies, order Mecoptera, is a small group of flies. There are about 400 known species worldwide, with about 30 found in Europe. Mecoptera is a very ancient group and some of the present day Australian scorpion flies appear to have survived with little change since Permian times and qualify for the title "Living Fossils."