31 January 2011

The Bold and the Brave

I made a return visit to Afan Argoed today holding high hopes of catching up with a Marsh Tit. I didn't catch up with Marsh but Great Tit numbers were noticeably high with Blue Tits and Coal Tits also in good numbers. The activity, unsurprisingly, was concentrated around the feeders next to the centre.

For more images from the day please follow the link below     http://wildlifeinwales.blogspot.com/

30 January 2011

'South-eastern' Lesser Whitethroat in Skewen

Julie & Wayne have been doing a good job keeing their birds well fed throughout the cold weather. The Lesser Whitethroat has been visiting their garden almost daily along with a host of other interesting garden birds; when I was there today Goldcrest, Sparrowhawk and Buzzard all dropped in.
The sandy brown upperparts looked strikingly pale in the bright sunshine today...
The extensively white outer-tail feathers are also characteristc of the south-eastern races, this pattern perhaps favouring ssp. halimodendri according to Shirihai et al's 'Sylvia Warblers'...
 In shade the bird still looked very pale and the fine bill is shown well in this shot...

29 January 2011

Lapland Buntings at Paviland

I spent a couple of hours this morning with Chris Brewer trying to track down the Lapland Buntings, eventually locating a flock of 36. No Skylarks with them so for once we were able to make an accurate count, though it's possible there are other birds elsewhere as there are so many suitable fields in this area. The lack of flighty Skylarks also meant we were finally able to get some record shots of the flock. How many can you see? These really are mouse-like in habit and are very easy to overlook unless they take flight. I can spot eight in this shot.
For more photo's of these cracking birds check out http://moonmoths.blogspot.com/ 

27 January 2011

RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch

This weekend the RSPB are running their annual Big Garden Birdwatch. I've taken part the last few years and found it really enjoyable. The data collected over the years has proved very useful in analysing bird trends in gardens. Once the RSPB have gathered all the records and made sense of them, they send you an email which allows you to look at the analysis from this and previous years; so it's worth hanging on to your records to compare them with the areas top ten most frequently recorded species.

Follow the link below to register to take part for the first time or indeed input your records for already registered participants. It's free and good fun and contributes to building a bigger picture.


26 January 2011

Carduelis Collection

A few more snapshots from the garden today. A bit closer to the subject matter makes a big difference. Light was a little better too.
"Budgie"(below) our long time returning distinctive Siskin popped in again today. This is his 3rd winter in the garden and has also shown a taste for Niger seed. If you recognise Budgie from his photo and he visits your garden I would love to hear about it.

25 January 2011

Lesser Redpoll in the Garden

A male Lesser Redpoll (top left above and left in both photos below) was in the garden today feeding on Nyger seeds with Siskins and Goldfinches(not shown). I'm surprized that we don't get them more often considering the numbers of Siskins and Goldfinches that pass through the garden.
This winter is the second winter out of the last 4 or 5 that I have been making Nyger seed availble for the birds. The first time it was a complete failure and they would ignore it even when no other food was on offer! This time round the round it is very popular and has the added advantage off not turning mouldy as readily as peanuts or sunflower.

24 January 2011

Neonicotinoid Pesticides: the modern-day DDT!

Rosemary Mason and Palle Uhd Jepsen wrote:

On Tuesday 25th January our MP for Gower Martin Caton will talk for 15 min to his Early Day Motion in Parliament about the Impact of Neonicotinoid Pesticides on Bees and Other Invertebrates. As of yesterday only 25 MPs had signed up to it. I think that now we need to inform all MPs. The new work in fact is not directly about bees, but about major environmental contamination with these chemicals, which persist in the ground and water. Dr Henk Tennekes in his book The systemic insecticides; a disaster in the making revealed official Dutch Waterboard figures to show that year by year (2004-2008) imidacloprid levels were building up in surface water in the intensively-farmed areas of the Netherlands. A Master's thesis from Utrecht by Teresa Van Dijk showed that as the imidacloprid levels increased between 2003-2008, so the flying insect density decreased.

Bayer CropScience, the US Environmental Protection Agency, the UK Chemical Regulation Directorate and Defra all say that these chemicals are "safe if properly used". Yet in the 20 years that these chemicals have been used, not one of these organisations has measured their levels in the soil, surface water or ground water. In fact the US EPA in 2010 actually suppressed their ecologists' report which suggested that ground water levels should be done. (See beekeeper Tom Theobald's account of this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_0Mrm9Y6khk).

The neonicotinoids belong to a group of powerful neurotoxins, which Dr Tennekes has recently had confirmed by an expert colleague in Heidelberg on clothianidin and imidacloprid, cause a virtually irreversible block of certain pathways in the nervous system. Because they are hardly broken down in soil, as they continue to be used, they are building up in the ground water and will enter our food chain. Presumably initially it will affect the most vulnerable individual, our unborn foetuses etc, then us (if it hasn't done so already)

Michael McCarthy, in the Independent, has been a lone voice and we attach one of his articles from 20/01/11. Where were all the other newspapers, the BBC, ITV etc? The problem is that they think that the Agrochemical Industry (like the Banks) is too big to fail.

If our Protection Agencies and the Government cannot protect us, or tell us the truth, what can you/we as individuals do about this?

1. Email your MP immediately this weekend. If you don't know who he is, go onto www.parliament.uk . Go to the MPs section, put in your postcode, which will tell you who your MP is. Then go back to the alphabetical list of members, click on your MP's name and you will find his email address. Don't even mention bees, it might confuse him. Tell him that new work has shown that the neonicotinoids are massively polluting the environment and suggest that he/she go on Tuesday to support this EDM. We suspect he has not been informed about this.

2. Send this email round to all your friends and relations and ask them to do the same.Your children and the lives of your childrens' children depend on what you do about it this weekend.

The CRD is meant to be protecting People and the Environment. Instead they are (indirectly or unwittingly) protecting the interests of the Agrochemical Industry.

3. Stop buying the Provado range of products in your gardening shop. Three contain imidacloprid, and one thiacloprid. If you are a golfer, ask if these product are used on you golf course.They are destroying beneficial things that aerate the soil, break down leaves etc, and when there is rain, the chemicals are washed into groundwater.

This motion offers the only chance to stop these lethal toxins further polluting the environment. You have People Power. At the Oxford Farming Conference 2 weeks ago, Dacian Cialos the EU Commissioner for Agriculture, said "It is for the people to decide". In fact he was actually talking about GM crops. At the moment the Agrochemical Industry is ruling the world, but as you can see it doesn't care a toss for the environment or for biodiversity, only for its own profits.

Rosemary & Palle

23 January 2011

Great Crested Grebes from Crymlyn Burrows

I'm continually harping on about the Grebe numbers in Baglan Bay and Swansea Bay; today, while checking out Crymlyn Burrows beach at low tide, I got a good opportunity to take some footage of the spectacle.

I fell short of the 200 bird milestone again today with 196 noted off Crymlyn Burrows. At last light a female Red-breasted Merganser and a female Scaup drifted in with the incoming tide.

22 January 2011

Razor-shells on Rhossili Beach

Large numbers of the razor-shell Pharus legumen were found washed up on Rhossili beach today (though have clearly been there some time), possibly a consequence of the cold recent cold weather. This species inhabits clean sand from low intertidal and sublittoral and is very common in Carmarthen Bay. It is known to be eaten in quantity by Common Scoters, large numbers of which were noted in the very shallow waters between Burry Holms and Cefn Sidan last month, possibly the same time razor-shells were experiencing high mortailty, making them easy prey for scoters?

Strands of razor-shells with Burry Holms behind

Llangennith Burrows under threat

Sea Buckthorn scrub
Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) is non-native on the west coast of Britain and is highly invasive, spreading rapidly once established. It is clearly very well established in parts of Llangennith Burrows and poses a significant threat to the open rabbit-grazed dune vegetation. Unfortunately control measures are expensive and with the limited resources available in the current economic climate it's quite likely the spread will continue.

Native open dune vegetation dominated by bright green mats of Sand-hill Screw-moss (Syntrichia ruralis var. ruraliformis).

Starling roost increasing

Recently, each evening the pre-roost gathering of Starlings in Gorseinon has increased day-on-day, with several thousand present in the taller trees around the gardens tonight, by far the most I have seen in many years. Sequence shows a typical tree loosing its 'leaves' as birds head off to the main roost site in the reedbeds at Llangennech. There must be quite a gathering there at present so well worth checking out.

Another day, another Duck!

I find the identification of duck a little bit tricky, with some species of Duck readily hybridising only adding to the potential pitfalls. Today, I chased a duck around Eglwys hoping to get a better view. My hoped reward for this effort was a Lesser Scaup. Not this time.

My final conclusion is that the bird in question is a Scaup x Tufted Duck female. In the end it allowed me to take a few photos of it, as you'll see the light wasn't great! One thing the photos don't show is that the bird was similar in size to a Tufted Duck.

Also on the Reservoir today were 3 Scaup drakes (1ad + 2x1stw) and 55 Goldeneye. Good news also on the Bittern front as I was told it had been seen in flight on Tuesday by David Benjamin

21 January 2011

Big Pond Thaw Survey 2011

After finding 5 dead Frogs in our small garden pond following the Jaunary thaw, I guess the impact nationally must be pretty large scale and this seems like a very useful survey worth contributing to:
Join the Big Pond Thaw Survey

19 January 2011

Italian Lords-and-ladies

Ian Morgan photographed these `Italian Lords-and-Ladies` (Arum italicum subsp. italicum) at Laugharne, Carmarthenshire today. Ian noted: 'It is abundant on the footpath that carries on in a north-east direction beyond Dylan`s Boathouse, with many young plants as well as more mature ones. Note pale yellow venation in the leaves, giving a marbled effect- in contrast to the plain (or dark-spotted) leaves of our common Lords-and-Ladies.'

This bird-sown garden escape has also appeared at several locations in Gower, though there have been no records since Tony Lewis last reported it at Hendrefoiolan in 2003.

Waxwing in Cimla

1 Waxwing in the garden today briefly this morning about 9:25. It was feeding on the apples that I had put up in our apple tree! No photo unfortunately and although it was looked for, it was not seen to return for the remainder of the day.

Normal procedure now is for the bird to relocated to Terry & Kim's garden and spend a few days there giving amazing views!

Also of note today was a Wren feeding on apple. I have also noticed that apples become far more popular with the birds that visit the garden during frosty conditions. Maybe it becomes a good source of water when their normal drinking sites are frozen over?

back redstart

male back again on ILS building west end of swansea university campus

18 January 2011

Goldcrest in the Garden

Following the thaw this winter I've been seeing Goldcrest pretty regularly in the garden. They occur most winters here and as always they like to feed on suet. Not so much from the block itself but on the scraps of suet that, invariably, the Starlings have wastefully scattered during their feeding frenzies!

Red Kites sightings in Gower

Sian Musgrave wrote: '...took these whilst at Fall Bay this morning. A regular visitor to Rhossili Down near Middleton most mornings, it was circling in the thermals just below the cliffs today. Didn't seem at all bothered by me as it came down really close to have a look before spiralling off towards Mewslade...'
 Red Kite over Fall Bay, with Alveley in the background
Kite records received over the last 10 years (not comprehensive, but a good sample) indicate that although the number of individual kites visiting Gower has probably has not been great, the number of reported sightings has increased streadily. As Sian's observations suggest, birds have been seen regularly in south-western part of Gower, though they can be seen almost anywhere, including over the centre of Swansea.

The season for lower plants

All the wet weather has to be good for something! Well lichens and bryophytes certainly don't seem to mind a drop of the wet stuff and as these diverse groups are very important components of our local flora I've starting taking more of an interest in the wonderful world of bryophytes. Species noted today included:
Cladonia coccifera agg. (a lichen)
 Dicranum scoparium (Broom Fork-moss)
 Hyocomium armoricum (Flagellate Feather-moss)
...for more lower plant images check out http://moonmoths.blogspot.com/

17 January 2011


Visited a few sites today finding myself on Gower delivering a shocked Barn Owl to Gower Bird Hosp.
Oxwich - 19 GCG - couldn't clinch any Red-necks - raining and v distant. Also 3 Ad Gannet, a few Guillemots and 2 Red-throated Diver.
Port Eynon - GN Diver just off the westerly point, ad Gannet, a few Guillemot and 3 Harbour Porpoise quite close in.
Llanridian at dusk - 1 fem Hen Harrier to roost at 16:45, 1 Green Sand, 16 Little Egret to roost in trees to the W end below Weobley Castle.

Winter Duck

After the recent stormy weather I was keen to find out if anything had been blown into Baglan Bay. Got to Aberavon Beach for 8ish and there was hardly anything to see, except a few Great Crested Grebes. It really is a sleepy bay! By about 10:30 there were 300+ Great Crested Grebes along the shore with 4 Red-throated Diver and a drake Common Scoter mixed in. Much further out in the shipping channel leading to the Neath river there were 2 Velvet Scoter. Possibly left over from the 6 here a few days back? Also 3 Teal kept flying through the field of view undecided which part of the bay was best(or worst?).

On to Eglwys where the water was flat calm and offered good duck counting conditions although the light wasn't great. 48 Goldeneye today is a personal best for me here. A lingering female Gadwall and more Great Crested Grebe here than in a while with 13 counted.

This fine drake Scaup alongside 1stw drake Scaup were showing well today.

The water level of the reservoir were much higher today and it will be interesting to know whether the Bittern is seen again following this change.

14 January 2011

Red-necked Grebes in Oxwich Bay

Although there are around 50 records of Red-necked Grebe in West Glamorgan, this is only the fourth occurence in the last 10 years and to see two was a bonus. The birds were loosely associating with a group of 24 Great Crested Grebes, but interestingly there were far fewer Cormornats and no divers in the bay today. Mark (Hipkin) fortunately had his camera with him and managed to take these record shots:
with Great Crested Grebe to right in top photo

Hope not yet lost for Gower Tree Sparrows!

Andrew Lucas wrote "Regular readers of 'Gower Wildlife' might remember the Gower Tree Sparrow Project annual newsletter posted here before Christmas. In summary, the situation is not good, with the only known colony in Gower, at Newton Farm near Scurlage, having apparently dwindled to extinction this year.

Richard Facey has drawn my attention to a fascinating account of tree sparrows in Gwent. There, birds also disappeared from a well-studied breeding site for four years, before inexplicably returning. Nestbox usage was also slow, with one site having several years between the boxes being erected and first use by sparrows. [click here to see report http://www.scribd.com/doc/46861958]

So maybe we shouldn't lose hope just yet."

First Frog spawn?

Siriol Jones wrote '...I thought you might be interested to know that we now have frogspawn in our garden pond [in Sketty]. I've attached a picture, as evidence...'
Always interested to find out how others frogs are doing, especially if you can beat this date!
PS. Checked our garden pond this morning, but no spawn despite a bit of mating going on last night.

13 January 2011

The adaptable Heron

Dave Williams took these images during the recent cold spell, which show how resourceful the Grey Heron can be, this bird adopting a Kingfisher-style approach to fishing in a small ice-free pool:
 This bird decided Starling was a good substitute for fish!

11 January 2011

Bats waking up mid-winter

This Common Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) appeared in our neighbours living room a couple of nights back and chatting to Rob Colley it's apparent that there have been a number of sightings of active bats recently.
There's no obvious explanation why bats should emerge mid-winter, but an interesting coincidence was that they appeared around the same time that Winter Moths (Operophtera brumata) were noted on the wing in good numbers. It's tempting to speculate that bats are able to coincide their winter activities with those of the Winter Moth?

Sanderling roosting on Oxwich Beach

Paul Tyrrel wrote: '...while walking along Oxwich Bay at high tide on Sunday morning, I came across this small number of Sanderling roosting in the sun.'
This attractive little wader is found on most of our sandy beaches in winter, with favoured sites including Margam, Aberavon, Crymlyn, Swansea Bay as-well-as Oxwich. However, the expansive sands of Cefn Sidan in Carmarthenshire hold the largest numbers, for example 1700 were counted on 27 Nov 2010 by Wendell Thomas.

09 January 2011

Velvet Scoter off Aberavon Beach

6 Velvet Scoter were feeding offshore at Aberavon Beach today. I was viewing them from the NW end of the esplanade which can be most easily accessed from a rough carpark off Scarlet Avenue.

As Scoters go Velvet are quite exciting! The striking wing flashes that most easily distinguish these Scoter from the other Scoter species can be made out (just about) in the video below.

08 January 2011

Sea Spleenwort on Oxwich Point

Despite never having taken the route before, I managed to convince Neil (Edwards) that a walk back from the point along the rocks above the splash zone would be easier than going up and down through the woods. This wasn't quite the case but we did have great views of the bay, the large rock fall that occurred the week before Christmas 2009 and we discovered a very healthy population of Sea Spleenwort (Asplenium marinum). This frost-sensitive fern grows only in close proximity to the sea, typically in or near to the splash zone. Although found all along the Gower coast this is by far the biggest population that I have come across with over 50 plants noted.
Sea Spleenwort typically growing from shady crevice

Neil putting into perspective the Oxwich rock fall

Bittern still at Eglwys

The Bittern is still present at Eglwys and showing very well indeed.

I saw it today at the same location as on New Years Eve, in the bay in front of the old hide beyond the yacht club. It isn't confined to this area however; George Morgan saw it flying out of the reedbed next to the old boating shed two days ago.

The light was not helping matters very much today, but with Bittern performing so well it was impossible not to take more video footage of this fascinating bird. Follow the link below for a bit more Bittern action!