31 August 2010

Marooned Hawk-moth

Richard Pryce sent me this image taken in his Pwll (Llanelli) garden pond of an Elephant Hawk-moth (Deilephila elpenor)caterpillar that found itself marooned after eating the leaves of plant it had used as a bridge! Personally I have never seen or heard of Bog-bean (Menyanthes trifoliata) being used as a foodplant by this species, the more usual plants being FuchsiaGalium and Epilobium.

Oxwich orchids

Lots of Broad leaved helleborine in flower in the Oxwich dunes today also 100s of Autumn lady's tresses many more than last year. Can anyone ID the smallish bumble bee on the helleborine ?
David Painter

27 August 2010

Larch and Spruce Forest Toadstools

After another wet August, mushrooms and toadstools have started to appear early in many of our local woodlands and the mature spruce and larch plantations of the Neath and Afan valleys are currently putting on a good show. Sitka Spruce (a native of the pacific North-west forests of North America) and Japanese Larch dominate these forests and both support an interesting assemblage of toadstools that form intimate and essential associations with the roots of these trees (ectomycorrhiza). I’ve posted a few photographs here that were taken in the forests near Ton Mawr.
Larch forests are always worth looking at. For example, many people will be familiar with the slimy yellow Larch Bolete (Suillus greveillei), one of the more common species in Larch forests, but it’s also worth looking for the much less common Larch Knight (Tricholoma psammopus), shown below.

In the photograph, notice the pale tan colour of the cap and the rusty brown stippling on the stipe. More importantly, the stippling ends abruptly at the top of the stipe to leave a distinctive clear area. This is a good identification character. The gills are yellowish-brown with rusty coloured spots, but the spore-print is white.
There are lots of toadstools that form intimate associations with spruce and Sitka Spruce forests are really good places to look for these interesting fungi. One of the most common spruce forest species is the False Saffron Milk-cap (Lactarius deterrimus), which can occur in huge numbers in these plantations. See photograph below.

Less common is Tricholoma pessundatum (photograph below), a species with a distinctive ring of dark coloured dots on its slimy brownish cap, which also grows in large conspicuous groups.

Lastly, the Fruity Brittlegill (Russula quelettii) appears to be frequently associated with Sitka Spruce in our forests. It is very similar to the much rarer spruce forest species, Russula fuscorubroides . Both have dark reddish-purple caps and their stipes are flushed with the colour of red wine. Their spores are creamy coloured and their gills eventually turn creamy-yellow. The photograph below shows Russula quelettii.

These characters will help to distinguish these two from other, more common red-purple capped species. However, telling the two apart is more difficult and the popular guides are of little help. One helpul character is that Russula quelettii has olivaceous tints in its cap, which become more evident in older specimens or after the caps have been soaked in rain – see the photograph of rain-washed specimens below.

The cap of Russula fuscorubroides tends to remain dark purple-red in colour even as it ages and I think the colour is less easily washed out of its cap. Records of all these species are of interest and comments are always welcome.

26 August 2010

What the Ruddy...

Wanted Dead! This poor little duck was gracing the fresh waters of West Glamorgan today.

The Ruddy Duck has been blamed for the demise of the White-headed Duck in its limited distribution in Europe and Northern Africa and is now a marked duck!

24 August 2010

Sandwich Terns at Port Eynon

Every autumn a day-roost of Sandwich Terns develops on the beach at Port Eynon. It always amazes me how tolerant these birds are of human disturbance, often allowing kids with buckets and spades to get within almost 10m of them before reluctantly adjust their postion a little further along the shore.
Today Sand and myself counted 75 birds, although the maximum I have recorded there was 164 on 22nd September 2004. I dare say there are larger counts mentioned in the old GOS reports.
In addition to the terns there were four Grey Seals in the water in the sheltered lee of Sedger's Bank.

Welcome to Crymlyn Burrows

This is the view back along the beach at Crymlyn Burrows, with Baglan in the background. The shingle ridge in the foreground is where all the small waders like to roost on a large incoming tide, just before high tide. You could quite easily go onto the beach think there weren't any present because they blend right in against the stones. At the time of this photo roosting on this ridge were 170 Sanderling, 80 Ringed Plover, 20 Dunlin, 1 Knot and 1 Turnstone.

3 Common Tern above were part of 27 that I counted in the bay at last light.

Some of the Ringed Plover from the roost.

Sanderling feeding on the receding tide.

Other stuff on the beach and in the bay this evening :- 1 Fulmar(w), 4 Med Gulls(w), 40 Kittiwake(w), 1 Bar-tailed Godwit, 31 Knot, 600+ Oystercatcher and 5 Turnstone

21 August 2010

Warblers at Oxwich

Warblers ringed at Oxwich Marsh during a week of good passage were:
Cetti's Warbler 1
Grasshopper Warbler 6 (above)
Reed Warbler 59
Sedge Warbler 54
Blackcap 2
Whitethroat 6
Lesser Whitethroat 1
Chiffchaff 12
Willow Warbler 87

Port Eynon produces again!

Another good session at Port Eynon today. Kept watch from 06:00 to 09:30 with the main passage between 07:00 and 08:15 when 1011 Manx Shearwater past going east (this time). Also a Balearic Shearwater past during this time. However, the best hour was from 06:00 to 07:00 with 2 Great Skua kicking things off. Flying West about 10mins apart but a little later sitting on the sea together. While I was watching them a Storm Petrel past close by. I decided to follow it for a while and this brought me a Black Tern. I followed this Tern losing it often against the sea. After a while it was seen, loosely associating itself with an Arctic Tern and both spent about 10mins feeding around the buoy. The passage was slow considering the numbers involved but generally everything past going west.

Near enough to 07:00 the Manx started to fly east, generally further out than on Thursday but this enabled me to keep a better record of numbers involve. A Skua Sp was attracted by these Manx and when I first saw it it was giving chase to some Manx with some success(going east). It was pretty distant but looked quite bulky. It went to sea for a while but later flew west with some purpose. This time I decided to try and capture it on video with the hope that the id would be secured from this. The video has not provided good enough footage to secure the id and unfortunately remains as Skua sp, between Pomarine and Arctic.

The video below shows a Great Skua on the sea. Just before this it forced a Kittiwake to give up its breakfast. The chase didn't last long and luckily for me finished close to the point.

Totals today :- 1 Balearic Shearwater, 1011+ Manx Shearwater, 2+ Great Skua, 1 Skua Sp, 3 Storm Petrel, 1 Black Tern, 1 Arctic Tern, 3 Common Tern, 16+ Sandwich Tern, 5 Common Scoter, 5 Whimbrel, 23 Cormorant 1 Kestrel and 18 Linnets. Not accurately counted but, 300+ Kittiwake and 200+ Gannet

Brief glimpses of 1+ Common Dolphin and 1+ Harbour Porpoise, here and there. Also 1 Grey Seal in the bay between the head and the point at high water and 2 Red Fox near the Caravan Site.

19 August 2010

Sooty Shearwater past Port Eynon

Seawatching can be hit and miss sometimes, but today was definitely a hit! During a 5 1/2 hour session today I saw 1 Sooty Shearwater, 6+ Balearic Shearwater, 3000+ Manx Shearwater and 2 Great Skua. Also past the point today 13 Common Tern, 3 Sandwich Tern, 21 Common Scoter, 250+ Gannet, 400+ Kittiwake, 11 Fulmar, 1 Whimbrel, 1 Knot, 1 Peregrine and 1 Kestrel.

During 5:40am and 7:10 1835 Manxies past the point. In fact many more Manx passed further out that were not counted. 4 Balearic Shearwater also passed during this time. During the next hour or so the passage fell away with 240 Manx, 2 Balearic and a Great Skua passing going west.

The prize bird, the Sooty Shearwater, came into view at 8:15. Flying almost effortlessly, but much quicker than the Manx. Apart from the flight, which differs noticeably to the Manx Shearwater, and the dark body the long, thin and pointed wing are striking especially as it shows off its elegant shape as it "towers" between shears. Unfortunately such a quick bird doesn't stick around for long and heavy rain came soon after it was lost to view.

After the rain cleared a bottleneck of Manx Shearwater streamed west and during this point some birds were seen to filter back east and form feeding parties offshore. These Parties numbered between 100 and 400 birds made up of mainly of Manx with Gannet and Kittiwake mixed in. Another Great Skua was attracted by all this activity and brought chaos to the group before flying off. There were also 3+ Common Dolphins noticed during this time also.

I have had a few truly awful sessions at Port Eynon in the past, I doubt I will have many better than this one in the future?

Kestrel at Whiteford

In response to Peter's observations, Richard Wilson contacted me to say that he'd seen three birds at Hills Tor on the 8th August, but was surprised at how few he's seen elsewhere recently. Richard captured this excellent image of one of the birds on the 8th:
Check out a higher resolution version of the image at http://www.flickr.com/photos/tybach/4876307993/sizes/l/in/photostream/

The map below shows the distribution of records on the database. Note this is not comprehensive, but gives a good indication of kestrel distribution in our area (black centred dots are for 2010).

17 August 2010

Hornets arrive in the Neath Valley

Jenny Colley caught 7 Hornets in her moth trap this morning including this one that had expired for unknown reasons. She told me that she had already caught a few others over the previous few days, so it seems likely there is a nest not far from her garden in Resolven. As far as I am aware this is the first occurence of the Hornet (Vespa crabro) in West Glamorgan.
It will interesting to hear if others have seen this species locally and if this is the start of colonisation in our area. Jenny has been trapping regularly for a good few years now and this is the first year she has recorded the species.

16 August 2010

Climbing Seal

Andrew Lucas wrote: 'You might enjoy this. Ever wondered how the seals get into the marina???
Taken by my brother (Ken Parks) in law from Canada (he and his wife are the voices in the background!).'

15 August 2010

Kestrel at Port Eynon

Peter Douglas-Jones wrote: 'Scruffy male kestrel in moult this morning. Port Eynon near the youth hostel. Between 08.48:14 and 08.49:46 I took 41 shots: none, I suspect, worth printing bigger than A5 size. At 08.48:14 he had a lizard in his feet. At 08.48:16 a good length of the lizard was hanging out of the bird's beak. Three shots at 08.48:18 showed diminishing lengths of the lizzard's tail - and then it had been eaten. The bird was back on patrol straight away. At 08.49:19 it was diving. At 08.49:23 a frame includes kestrel and the tops of the bracken.
It was then out of sight behind the bracken. My next shot was of the bird rising at 08.49:31, carrying what may have been a great green bush cricket - certainly a cricket or grasshopper, green. If the living is this easy, why aren't there more kestrels?'

Dolphins at Port Eynon

We watched 16+ Common Dolphins off Port Eynon Point again this evening. If you go looking for these animals, a tip is to keep an eye out for Gannets diving and/or the yellow inflatable rig 'Gower Coast Explorer', which was giving visitors very close views when compared with what we could see from the shore.

Lizards at Oxwich

Wall Lizard (Podarcis muralis) has apparently been established in Gower since the 1960's and it seems they're doing reasonably well. I saw this one not too far from one of the sites where the species was first introduced, though I didn't have the right equipment or time to get a decent shot.
This Vivparous Lizard (Zootoca (Lacerta) vivipara) at the same site was much more approachable.

Ringed Med Gull

With so many Mediterranean Gulls around Mumbles it always surprises me that you don't see more around Crymlyn Burrows and the Neath River. You do get the odd few and this time of year seems to produce the best chance of seeing them. Today I found a winter plumage adult which also has a ring on. I couldn't read it at the time but the photo shows left 3P21 and right metal.
I look forward to Barry informing us whereabouts this bird is from.

Also today from the Neath River (between the rivermouth and Brunel Dock) this juv Little Egret was more confiding than the adults that use this area. Other stuff around here included another Little Egret, 87 Redshank, 1 Rock Pipit, and 5 Whitethroat. Good numbers of Small Copper were also flying around here with 15+ noted.

Volucella zonaria

I came across Volucella zonaria today beside the Neath Canal near the square pond. It is a very large and striking hoverfly, close in size to that of a bumblebee. It is a Hornet mimic.
This species became established in the Britain in the 1940s and seems to be spreading out from the South-east. In much the same way as Bombus hypnorum , but not quite as dramatically!

This link from the NBN shows its distribution in the UK, however it is a little better recorded in Glamorgan than this map suggests. With a number of records from Cardiff, Ogmore (vicinity) and Maesteg. http://data.nbn.org.uk/gridMap/gridMap.jsp?allDs=1&srchSpKey=NBNSYS0000007098"

On the saltmarsh near here a flock of 22 juv shelduck flying through and also 3 Egyptian Geese was unusual.

12 August 2010

Peter Douglas-Jones wrote: 'The green woodpecker was on my front lawn [Langland] on 24 July and is a male: red within black moustachial stripe. The grey plumage suggests a first year bird. As they are almost sedentary and there are always green woodpeckers calling hereabouts, it indicates local breeding.
The great spotted woodpecker is a juvenile: see red crown. It was on a patch of lawn outside our back door, west of the house. I started by photographing it through a window; then went outside and stalked it. Again, this bird is suggestive of local breeding; we see the adults about and hear them all the time.'

10 August 2010

Crymlyn Burrows

A couple of nice records from Crymlyn Burrows today. When the big autumn tides arrive in August they force all the Redshank (as well as other waders) together. There are good numbers of Redshank to be found along the river and at this time of year something more unusual often turns up. Today an adult summer plumage Black-tailed Godwit was with the Redshank making the most of the flooded saltmarsh. No sign today of yesterday's couple of Greenshank. Most likely, they have moved on, since yesterday's very vocal birds were not heard at all.
Lots of Terns are being reported around the coast at the minute. There were at least 5 Sandwich Terns feeding in the bay with 3 birds feeding around the flooded saltmarsh. Also this adult Arctic Tern on Aberavon Beach briefly before being disturbed by a couple of dog walkers who were able to get very close to this Tern unlike me!

5 Knot, 165 Sanderling, 6 Whimbrel, 5 Med Gulls, 1 Sedge Warbler and 6 Reed Bunting the best of the rest

09 August 2010

Juvenile Cuckoo

Rob Taylor captured this fabulous image of a juvenile Cuckoo that landed on the ‘Kingfisher post’ outside of the Peter Scott Hide at WWT last Friday.

Sightings at Port Eynon Point

Off Port Eynon Point yesterday evening there was plenty of activity. 13+ Common Dolphins were feeding just off Sedger's Bank, giving great views especially when feeding, often jumping right out of the water with Gannets diving into the same patch. Also interesting to see the Manxies following the Gannets and diving into the same spot straight after a Gannet dive. 60+ Kittiwakes and 44 'Commic' Terns also feeding in same area (all those identifiable being Commons).

On the land was the very odd plume moth Agdistis meridionalis a Red Data Book species associated with Rock Sea-lavender, which perculiarly sits with its wings rolled up above its head. It is a reluctant flier and therefore not that easy to find.

06 August 2010

Painted Ladies

Having not seen a Painted Lady this year, I saw one over the beach at West Cross yesterday and another this afternoon in the gardens of the University; both were is pristine newly emerged condition. Maybe we'll see more in the next few weeks...

Gower on the tele.

Coast: Gower to Anglesey has been recheduled and is now transmitting on Sunday 8th August at 9pm on BBC2 https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00tfn9l

05 August 2010

Fen Raft Spider

Jamie Bevan (CCW Warden of Crymlyn Bog and Pant-y-sias) wrote: 'Fen Raft Spider Dolomedes plantarius is currently showing well on the Tennant Canal, alongside Pant y Sais Fen. Known from only two other sites in the UK, it is one of Britain’s rarest spiders. With a leg span of up to 7 cm, it is also one of our largest. It spends much of its time on a ‘raft’ of vegetation on the water surface, using its front legs to sense the vibrations of its aquatic invertebrate prey. It is even known to catch small fish such as sticklebacks! During the breeding season the female spider constructs a nursery web within the marginal vegetation, in which she deposits an egg sac. Hundreds of tiny spiderlings hatch out from the egg sac, which then develop inside the relative safety of the nursery web, before dispersing into the surrounding vegetation a week or so later. The female spider often guards the web while the spiderlings develop. This is generally the easiest time to spot this striking but elusive species. Look for the nursery webs in large sedge tussocks fringing the canal, and the attendant female is usually very close by.'
Ed. Note that there now is new boardwalk at Pant-y-sais that provides great access to the fen. This can be found by walking along the canal towpath from the Jersey Marine end, or off New Road (B4290) at SS/7128 9409. If you park in the old car park head sw along New Road for a couple of hundred metres.

Essex Skipper update (Cardiff beaten by Glyn-neath)

After seeing the post on Essex Skipper (link below), Becky Sharp (NPT Biodiversity Unit) sent me a species list from a planning application for the Selar site that contained a record of this species. The observation was made on 06 Aug 2009 by consultants working for Cetic Energy Ltd and judging by the list of other invertebrates recorded, there appears to be little doubt that the record is good. This record precedes the only other two Glamorgan records; one at Kenfig NNR on 19 July 2010 (Mike Clark) and one in Cardiff (Gareth Stamp) see http://goweros.blogspot.com/2010/07/cardiff-beats-swansea-to-race-for-essex.html.

In the garden

Just before mowing the lawn I thought I'd pay homage to the humble Daisy; always a shame chopping their little heads off! In ecological terms I'm sure this persistent lawn weed is probably a key component in the life cycle of many invertebrates.

04 August 2010

New saltmarsh

View looking towards the mouth of the Burry Inlet near dusk...
Yesterday evening I strolled out onto the mudflats that lie in the middle of the Burry Inlet, between Penclawdd (Glamorgan) and Penclacwydd (Carmarthenshire). Within the last couple of years a new sand-bar has formed and pioneer saltmarsh plants have started to colonise. I took a series of GPS readings of both the main strands of vegetation and pioneer clumps as it is possible that a lower-terrace type marsh may become permanently established, thereby reducing the area of open mudflat. This could have implications not just for feeding birds and fish, but also the cockle industry.

Below, a pioneer clump of Common Cord-grass (Spartina anglica), a hybrid that was introduced to the Burry Inlet in the 1930s...

Glasswort (Salicornia spp.) by comparison is a native taxon of high conservation status. It is possible that this may be Common Glasswort (Salicornia europaea), though it will be a few more weeks before plants can be determined reliably. The two most frequently recorded species in the Burry are Purple Glasswort (Salicornia ramosissima) and Long-spiked Glasswort (Salicornia dolichostachya) with Common Glasswort known from just one or two specimens, so this could be part of a dramatic change in abundance.

02 August 2010

Tree Pipit

I find some bird calls hard to hear, especially the higher pitched ones. In this particular instance a call heard would have helped identify this juvenile pipit (moulting into 1st winter plumage). Between 2 species Meadow and Tree. Earlier this year I remember reading that Meadow Pipits have a very long hind claw, especially compared to Tree Pipit. I saw a Meadow Pipit perched on a cable not long after reading this and it is striking. However, not that easy to see on a bird walking on the ground. The hind claw of a Tree Pipit is half the length of a Meadow's and the Tree's is "hook" shaped whereas a Meadow's is only slightly curved.

Other features shown on this bird that point towards Tree are the contrast in streaking, which is bold and heavy on the breast but much lighter and streaky on its flanks. Meadows have much more evenly sized streaking throughout the underparts. The bill is pink and quite heavy on Tree, whereas on a Meadow it is yellow and slender looking. Tree Pipits are of course migratory and these birds will have completed the majority of their moult before heading south. Although in some circumstances birds can suspend their moult during migration to conserve energy for the long trip.

01 August 2010


There were very good numbers of insects in the dunes at Oxwich yesterday, most notably Small Blues on the Sea Holly and Kidney Vetch and Brown-banded Carder Bee (Bombus humilis) likewise. There were also plenty of Buff-tailed Bumblebees (B. terrestris) and Six-spot Burnets on the carpets of Thyme and Grey Bush-cricket (Platycleis albopunctata) was noteworthy. On the beach there was no sign of the Eelgrass, last seen in 1974, although the tide may not have been low enough, however there was this interesting sky.
In one small area of the dunes we looked for the Dune Gentian (Gentianella uliginosa) and managed to find one good specimen along with more photogenic spcimens of Autumn Gentian (G. amarella) [below] as well as a few likely hybrids.