31 October 2010

Young Fox at WWT

David Williams took this beautiful portrait of a Fox cub that paused momentarily in front of the British Steel hide at Penclacwydd a couple of weekends ago.

Western Conifer Seed Bug

Another record of the Western Conifer Seed Bug (Leptoglossus occidentalis) was received from Bob Rigdon, who photographed it at his home in Uplands last week. This is a distinctive bug that appears to be readily attracted to light at windows!

28 October 2010

New vice-county record

 Last month within Port Talbot Docks I came across a large population of a plant I could not identify and I took specimens and photographs. Richard Pryce provisionally identified it as Tall Mouse-ear-hawkweed Pilosella praealta and this was confirmed yesterday by Mick Crawley, VC Recorder for Berkshire, who knows the species well. This is a new species for Glamorgan which appears to be very well-established in the docks as I found more yesterday over a mile from the original location.

European Storm Petrel off Aberavon Beach

A bit of seawatching this morning from Aberavon Beach brought some reward. 1 European Storm Petrel was seen darting through the surf off Aberavon Beach. I park at the car park off Scarlet Ave and usually have a quick scan from the end of the Esplanade. It was near enough the first bird I saw giving fleeting glimpses as it flew in the troughs between the waves.

You are more likely to see Leach's Storm Petrel at this time of year but this bird was much more compact and smaller looking. Also showed the white band of the underwing well. Unfortunately being close to sea level at this location, combined with the nature of the bird to stay close to the water's surface, it was soon lost heading into Swansea Bay.

Also of note are the Great Crested Grebe numbers. I have already recorded 89 from this area recently. The numbers have been increasing steadily and look set to continue doing so. I have to say that the vast numbers of Great Crested Grebes with occasional Divers on the sea here provided one of my highlights of last winter and I'm looking forward to a similar showing this winter. The early signs are looking good!

26 October 2010

Snow Bunting at Whiteford

Dai Roberts found this beautiful Snow Bunting at Whiteford on Sunday, hot on the heels of the one spotted at Baglan the previous day by Gwyn Randall.

25 October 2010

Epirrita sp

Ok so the title is a bit of a cop out but I've been burned on here before! I found this moth impossible to just walk past earlier today but part of me wishes that I had. Having now looked through 3 books I feel confident enough to say that the separation of Autumnal Moth, Pale November Moth and November Moth is tricky.

I considered going through my identification process but with many very experienced moth-ers using this blog I'll save my blushes. My photo is labelled Pale November Moth. I'm looking forward to finding out if I need to rename the file!!

24 October 2010

Three Lycaenids on the wing

Amazingly Brown Argus, Common Blue and Small Copper were all still on the wing today in a 10mx 10m patch of vegetation at Margam Moors. The Brown Argus (a fresh-looking individual different to that photographed on the 17th) beating the previous latest record by four days, The Common Blue three days later than the previous latest record, but the Small Copper 10 days short of the latest record for that species!

Deer at Margam

Mark Newton's images from the the rut that has taken place at Margam Park in recent weeks illustrate well the males of the two species present.
Red Deer (Cervus elaphus)

Fallow Deer (Dama dama)
for more of Mark's images check out http://www.welshwildlife.com/index.php

Winter Swans at Eglwys

I took a very welcome call from Highlander today. Informing me that 5 Whooper Swans had been found at Eglwys by George Morgan(who else?). Not an easy bird to see in Glamorgan anymore!

I notice that the MapMate database doesn't have any Whooper Swan records for Eglwys at all! None for NPT either. Eglwys really is experiencing an enchanting year!

Whooper Swans at Eglwys Nunydd

As Mark has pointed out a very good record for Neath Port Talbot. I'm sure if we go back through Gower Birds we'll eventually find some records for this area...
From Iceland? to Eglwys!
 Pair with 2 juvs and another adult with ferruginous-stained head

23 October 2010

Stonechats bouncing back

 It's been pleasing to see reasonably good numbers of Stonechats around lately. Although undoubtedly some are migrants, there are plenty of locally bred birds, so hopefully the winter will be kinder than last year and the population will be allowed to recover. This bird was one of three at the Afan rivermouth on the 20th October.

Also in NPT this late Brown Argus was feeding on Hawkweed Oxtongue (Picris hieracioides) at Port Talbot on 17th October. Only two days earlier than the latest county record.

Blog Corrections

If like Dave Bull, any of you though the 'Biometric' Marsh Warbler was probably just an odd Reed Warbler, give yourself a pat on the back, you were right. Those with much greater experience than us on this species have categorically identified it as Reed. Let's hope the next interesting bird we catch at Nitten is a bit simpler to identify!

Many thanks to Derek Moore who gave a fabulous presentation last night, but I must apologise for demoting his OBE to an MBE in my previous post. This was one of the very rare occasions when Sand was wrong and I was right! ;o)

22 October 2010

Gower Ornithological Society indoor meeting

Just a reminder that at the Swansea Environment Centre this Friday evening there will be an illustrated talk ‘Birds of South-west Canada’ by Derek Moore MBE. Derek is a very entertaining speaker and takes fabulous images so look forward to seeing you there. Non-members welcome.

21 October 2010

Longhorns of the valleys

Following on from Barry's post on Longhorns, we in the valleys have recorded a number of these beetles in our moth traps. From Paul Parsons excellent photos you can see that there is a great diversity within this family.

1) Rhagium bifasciatum [2 banded Longhorn] 2) Leptura maculata [Black and yellow Longhorn]
3) Leiopus nebulosus [Black clouded Longhorn]

4) Arhopalus rusticus [Dusky Longhorn]

5) Anopladera rubra [Red Longhorn]

There are very few identification articles available on British Longhorns, the best can be found in the bi-monthly magazine "British Wildlife" - covering all 60 species that have occured in Britain and is in 2 parts. 1) Vol 18 number 6 (Aug 2007) 2) Vol 19 number 1 (Oct 2007) and can be purchased on line for £3 each. Well worth the investment to any interested in learning more about these superb beetles.

20 October 2010

Blast from the past...

I was sorting out some papers today and came across this image of the wonderful Rosalia Longicorn (Rosalia alpina). The photograph was taken by the finders, Pat & Colin Willins, in their garden in Llangennith on 18th Aug 2005 and was identified by Tristan Bantock from Swansea University. This striking longhorn beetle is rarely recorded in the UK, usually in association with imported timber. It is listed on the 2010 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

19 October 2010

More of the Cattle Egret at Penclacwydd

As my digiscope image of yesterday's Cattle Egret makes it look like an albino Orville, Clive Davies kindly let me use this great comparison shot of Cattle and Little Egrets together. Check out more of Gowerboy's images on his Flickr site http://www.flickr.com/photos/mosesdavies/with/5093323713/

18 October 2010

Cattle Egret at Penclacwydd

Alan Jones from Swansea asked Wendell Thomas and Malcolm Holding why one of the egrets had a yellow bill ... seconds later news was out about Carmarthenshire's 5th Cattle Egret. The Pembs bird is still present this morning so this is a new bird in South Wales.
Narration provided one of Carmarthenshire's stalwarts ;o)

Curlew Sandpipers at Kidwelly Quay

Gary Harper sent me this image of two (of six) Curlew Sandpipers seen at Kidwelly Quay on saturday.

17 October 2010

Minotaur Beetle at Rhossili

Yesterday morning up on Rhossili Down Mark and myself came across a male specimen of the spectacular Minotaur Beetle (Typhaeus typhoeus), the first time I have seen this species in Gower.

16 October 2010

Funnily enough, yes!

Mark Hipkin and myself were treated to some very nice views of an Otter feeding along the waters edge in Oxwich Bay at dawn today:

Spotted by Mark in the bay ~10 minutes before sunrise...
 ...as it was working it way along the shore, we walked down to the water's edge, stood still and waited for it to come to us...
 ...getting closer and foraging well on the way, eating a small prey item about every 30 seconds...
 ...now only ~10m away, but still oblivious to our presence...sun just starting to rise...
... it heard the camera shutter and dived, coming up ~50m away, sun now above horizon...
...needless to say, the highlight of the day!

Otter video

This time last week I had never seen Otter spraint before, let alone the animal itself. On Monday this week Rob Colley showed me Otter tracks and fresh spraint. I was pretty made up about this, so as you can imagine the sighting today left me speechless. Today's experience with an Otter feeding at such close range will live with me forever!! What an amazing Animal.

15 October 2010

Have you seen an otter on Gower?

Otters are an increasingly common sight on the coastlines of Wales (photo credit: Charis White)

It may surprise you but otters are equally at home in the sea as they are on land. Otters around the Gower are certainly no exception to this and in fact one of the earliest records of otters on Gower originates from a large male otter accidentally drowned in a fishing net set off Oxwich point in 1843! With increasing pressure on coastal habitats for human recreational activities it is important to establish how coastal areas are currently being used by this, and many other, British animals. I am extremely interested in any records of otters that anyone might have of otters anywhere on Gower but especially in the coastal areas. If you have seen any otters please can you contact Dr Dan Forman on 01792 295445 / d.w.forman@swansea.ac.uk. Many thanks.

Polecat and Mink road kills needed for ecological research

Road killed animals are sadly a too frequent sight on the edges of roads at this time of year. Important information can, however, be gathered from these animals to assist with their conservation.
Researchers from the Conservation Ecology Research Team (CERTs) at Swansea University are interested in obtaining the bodies of road killed polecat, ferret-polecats and American mink from the South Wales region. Our understanding of the ecology of these wonderful animals is surprising poor and data gathered from examining road killed animals can provide a wealth of information of the distribution, diets, and other important aspects of these animals’ natural history. CERTs are also interested in visual sightings of these animals, including historical records from anywhere in Wales. If you have any records that you would like to report, or are able to assist with the provision of road killed animals, please can you contact Dr Dan Forman (d.w.forman@swansea.ac.uk / tel: 01792 295445).

Important details to record (where possible) are:

1. The date
2. A 6 figure grid reference
3. The name of the nearest village or town

Please do not put yourself in danger when collecting road killed animals and please also be aware that it is illegal to stop on motorways to pick up dead animals (you are also likely to get some very strange looks from passers by!).

Please contact Dan using the above contact points if you have any queries or questions about this research. Many thanks for your time and assistance with this research.

Last chance to see this year – the grass snake

(photo credit: Mark Barber)

The grass snake, Britain’s largest snake, is a secretive amphibian eating species that is widespread throughout the UK but they in decline. As autumn blows in adult grass snakes will be heading back to their hibernation sights and eggs laid this year have hatched during the last month. Mark Barber from the Conservation Ecology Research Team (CERTs) at Swansea University has been undertaking a research masters on the ecology and distribution of this species for the last year. He is in need of more records in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot counties. As can be seen from the map below (green squares post 1999 records, red squares pre 2000 records), Gower has quite a few records but there are still many gaps that need filling.

The known distribution of grass snakes on Gower – can you help fill in the blanks?

South & West Wales Amphibian & Reptile Group are always happy to receive any records for our native herpetofauna, old or new. So please email any grass snake or other herpetofauna sightings to records@swwarg.co.uk.

More information can be found at this link:

Whinchat at Crymlyn Burrows

A quite late juvenile Whinchat at Crymlyn Burrows today. Although, this species has been recorded in November a couple of times since 2000 and even in December further back. I used to see them quite regularly at this site during Autumn passage many years ago, but this is the first for me from this site over the last two years. However, it was recorded at this site earlier this Autumn.

Curlew Sandpipers continue to avoid me though and with Dunlin numbers up to 88 today I thought I had a good chance. If only these numbers had been present earlier in the season. Also present on the shore today - 5 Teal, 2 Grey Plover, 1 Knot with good numbers of Sanderling and Ringed Plover. A Peregrine fly-through caused panic on the beach. It never really looked committed to chasing anything, more like it wanted to worry the birds a bit. The Teal just sat tight on the sea waiting for the danger to pass.

2 Water Rail were calling from the reedbed and wet wooded area at the western end of the site.

Great Crested Grebes off Aberavon Beach now number 23. Hopefully we'll get similar numbers to last winter here again.

14 October 2010

Marsh Warbler at Nitten Field

An Acrocephalus warbler trapped by Bob Rigdon, Dean Bolt and myself in the Chicory at Nitten Field this morning turned out to be a 'Biometric' Marsh Warbler. A small bird overall with wing length at lower end of spectrum for Marsh Warbler, hence our initial caution. However, bill measurements were well below the minimum recorded for Reed Warbler, and were even at the lower end for Marsh. Walinder method and other features also place it pretty neatly in the Marsh camp. If we believe the biometry, and we have no reason not to in this case, then juv Marsh Warbler is not an easy bird to identify in the field. Difficult to judge from the photos, but plumage tones did appear a little cooler than juvenile Reed, pale primary tips, leg and toe colours seemed to fit the descriptions, but these are such subjective characters, even in the hand. I'm now reasonably confident we have got the id correct, but will be contacting others with more experience for opinion before submitting the record. For anyone interested in looking for the bird, good luck, as it won't be easy!

Osprey at Neath Rivermouth

A juvenile Osprey was showing very well this morning along the Neath River between the rivermouth and Brunel Dock. I first saw it flying along the river and, as I have seen before at this location, this causes most, if not all, the birds present to take to flight and alarm call; waders, gull, crows, the whole lot! It then rather conveniently sat on the metal tower next to the river(on the Crymlyn Burrows side) opposite the old oil pipelines that run into the old refinery site at Baglan Bay. It was sat up here while I was able to take this footage.

I saw it around 8am it was still around at 11:30 when Dave Lewis saw it head back towards Briton Ferry, choosing not to fly over(or under) the bridges. An Osprey was seen a few days ago, on the 10th October, when Gary Lewis saw one from Brunel Dock flying towards Baglan Bay. It is most likely the same bird. If so this is good news because it may stick around for a few more days?

The pale fringes to the feathering on its back indicate a juvenile bird. In flight an adult bird would show a dark band on the underside of the inner wing, along the top of the secondaries, these are the greater coverts. In juvenile birds this is less pronounced, being barred. It is just about possible to pick the lack of a dark band when this bird flaps its wings.

13 October 2010

Rough Star-thistle

A small population of Rough Star-thistle (Centaurea aspersa) has been established at Port Talbot Docks since at least 1987 when it was seen by Gwyn Randall. Although a dockside alien, it is very rare in the UK, so good to see that it has persisted for at least 23 years.
Superficially the plant looks like Common Knapweed, but note the bushy habit, lobed leaves, paler flowers and sharp spines beneath the petals.

western conifer seed bug again

Another specimen from the university, keep an eye out they like to come to lights e.g. in offices.
Info from before is here:

12 October 2010

Grey Phalarope at SWP

Normally associated with westerly gales, as opposed to the north-easterly air flow we've experienced this week, this confiding bird was feeding well at the eastern end of Llanelli's Sandy Water Park this afternoon. It was found earlier by John Morgan from Pembrokeshire - nice one John.

11 October 2010

Monarch at Margam

Mike and Diana Clark had good views of a Monarch (Danaus plexippus) at Margam Park yesterday while watching the Red Deer rut. This North American transatlantic vagrant was last recorded in Glamorgan on 27th August 2006 at Kenfig Pool by David Carrington. Good luck if you're out an about!

10 October 2010

Clouded Yellow at Margam Moors

There have been very few reports of Clouded Yellow in Glamorgan this year, in fact the only other one I have on record was seen at Merthyr Mawr Warren by Dean Bolt on 28th April. Today was a very fresh-looking specimen, presumably freshly arrived with the recent flush of Red Admirals. Also of interest was that it was in company with a Brown Argus, this being late flier, in fact only nine days short of the latest county record, this being an individual seen at Lavernock Point on 19th Oct 2006, by John Zehetmayr. Given the scarcity of Clouded Yellows this year I would be very grateful to hear of any other sightings so that they can be logged for the recording scheme.

Lapland Bunting at Whiteford

Chris Brewer sent me some images of a Lapland Bunting he found in the new dune slack below Cwm Ivy Tor today (SS433943). Despite being a bumper year for the species this is still a very scarce bird in West Glamorgan so well done to Chris for managing to get some record shots.

Strandline Glow-worm at Whiteford

Chris’s Lapland Bunting reminded me that on 2nd October Sand and myself were searching unsuccessfully for this species in exactly the same spot where Chris found his today. Although we failed to see any interesting birds that day we did find this handsome Glow-worm larva under a log on the strandline. Note its extruded head and jaws, effective for killing and eating its snail prey.