28 February 2011

Otter at Oxwich

Paul Tyrrel has spent a lot of time in the new hide at Oxwich Marsh and was rewarded with some fabulous views and photographs of Otter. He also saw 3 Hen Harriers there yesterday (2 males and a female). Three of Paul's photos taken on the 26th...

White Gull in the Burry

Mark Newton photographed this very strikingly white Black-headed Gull on Sunday just downstream from Loughor Bridge. It seems to be very leucistic bird rather than albino and if seen briefly could cause quite a bit of excitement! Definitely one to look out for...  

Thanks to Mark for these great record shots of what I understand was quite a distant bird. See Mark's website for more of his work http://www.welshwildlife.com/index.php

27 February 2011

Scwd Gwladys

After so much rain in the last week the rivers and streams of the Neath Valley headwaters are swollen to full capacity. It's a great time to view the waterfalls. Scwd Gwladys, on the Afon Pyrddin, is an easy walk from the Angel pub in Pont Nedd Fechan. Dippers are in full song at the moment.

Yellow Whitlowgrass now flowering

The Yellow Whitlowgrass (Draba aizoides) was in flower on Pennard Castle yesterday. For those who don't already know, the South Gower cliffs are the only place this mediterranean-montane species is found in Britain and the castle is by far the easiest place to see it. A couple of hoverfly bee-mimics Eristalis pertinax were noted feeding on/pollinating the plants.
The commonest associate of the Yellow Whitlowgrass was the mediterranean-altlantic moss Neat Crisp-moss (Tortella nitida), a cushion-forming species noted all over the castle, shown here growing on mortar. Note the small plat of Yellow Whitlowgrass top right, not quite in flower.  For close ups of this rather fragile-leaved moss see http://moonmoths.blogspot.com/2011/02/mosses-on-pennard-castle.html

26 February 2011

Early Wasp

By this time last year I had seen seen my first bumblebee and butterflies of the year. I haven't been so lucky with either this year but, a queen Common Wasp Vespula vugaris was in my car this morning. I'm not sure if it has wintered in there, since my sunroof is almost always slightly open, or got in there by some other means? Probably the greenhouse effect from today's sun has woken it up a little early.

While doing a survey at Aberavon Beach today, to look for washed up birds and signs of oil spill, the number of Sanderling present was impressive. Between the Neath river and Afan river I counted 529! 375 on Aberavon beach and another 154 in the small bay between the piers. Also today, 2 Mediterranean Gulls coming into full summer plumage.

24 February 2011

Slavonian Grebe on Eglwys

A Slavonian Grebe was showing very nicely on Eglwys Nunydd res today. It seems to favour the NW corner, fishing with Goldeneye there originally but, splitting away from them when they drifted away from that corner.

Video footage of this cracking bird can be found by following the link below


Gower Ornithological Society talk

Please note that there has been a change of speaker for tomorrow night’s Gower Ornithological Society talk at the Environment Centre and Harold Grenfell will be presenting a talk entitled Estuary Birds. All are welcome including non-members, admission £1 to contribute towards room hire.

Richard Smith will now be speaking to us on 25th March.

22 February 2011

Dabbling Duck

 I took a quick spin down to Eglwys this afternoon to see if the Lesser Scaup was still present. There was no sign of her today but, there were a variety of dabbling duck that aren't often seen all together on the reservoir. The photo above shows 4 Gadwall(right) and 8 Wigeon. Also a pair of Teal, not shown, were nearby.
One of the female Wigeon was a much paler than the other two and which made me watch it a bit closer. Having not seen American Wigeon for a long time and never before in this country I was not well prepared for the key distinguishing features. One feature I was aware of was the white auxillaries which the bird can show during a wing flap.
The camera was on when it did flap its wings and although I was able to take the below shot I wasn't able to see it for myself. A little while later I had a look at it again on the way out. The light was much poorer this time but, I did manage a quick glimpse of the auxillaries which looked much paler than the other female Wigeon that were also flapping a bit!
The photo that I took doesn't show too well how clean the auxillaries were but, it does show, quite nicely, the dark greater coverts which would be pale on an American Wigeon. Other pointers would include greyer plumage, darker feathering around the eye and dark base to the bill, all of which this bird does not show!

20 February 2011

Tree Sparrow(s?) still in Gower

Barrie Swinnerton photographed this Tree Sparrow in s.w. Gower today, proving the species is still with us and providing a little optimism that there might be a small breeding population remaining in the area. Worth checking those sparrow flocks next time anyone's down west.

Mosses and Liverworts in the Valleys

Recent postings on the Gower Widlife Blog illustrate the amazing biodiversity of Bryophytes (mosses, liverworts and hornworts) in our region. Barry Stewart has shown us a number of species from Gower. Elsewhere, and in our valleys in particular, there is a rich assemblage of sub-oceanic and montane species. Glossy, pale green patches of Shining Hookeria (Hookeria lucens) are a good indicator of ancient sessile oakwoods that clothe our valleys. It belongs to a community of bryophytes that are typical of the mild, wet temperate climate of the west of Britain.

Less common is the strikingly beautiful Golden-head Moss (Breutelia chrysocoma), a montane species which occurs in the waterfall districts in the north of our area.

I know of only two sites for the Narrow Mushroom-headed Liverwort (Preissia quadrata) in the county of Neath Port Talbot. This is a northern-boreal species, but it occurs on calcareous mortar in the Afan Valley, as seen in the photograph. Elsewhere, you may come across it on calcium-rich rocks in the waterfall district, or in dune slacks at Whiteford Burrows (and Kenfig).

19 February 2011

Rose-moss at Cwm Ivy

A walk around the new slack at Whiteford with Veronica Shenston this morning produced some useful records of mosses and liverworts, but the best species was saved until last as we were walking back past Cwm Ivy Tor. I was telling Veronica that we should look out for Rose-moss (Rhodobryum roseum), as Sam Bosanquet said that this was the last place it was recorded in Glamorgan. On cue Veronica immediatey spotted some large rosettes - Bingo!
Rhodobryum roseum (Rose-moss)
 Also of potential interest was this leafy liverwort which looks like another scarce species, though needs confirmation...  ...no specimen retained for confirmtion, but Sam Bosanquet informs me this is probably just Lesser Featherwort. Still an attractive species nonetheless :o)
 Plagiochila porelloides (Lesser Featherwort)
 Plagiochila porelloides (Lesser Featherwort) detail
 Photographs from the Whiteford new slack at http://moonmoths.blogspot.com/

Merlin at Baglan Bay

This female Merlin was very confiding today when I was out looking  for Black Redstarts over the old BP Baglan site. Before I found her I was thinking things were a little bit on the quiet side, especially for such a nice day! As pretty as she looks, she has a killer instinct and I was also lucky enough to she her launch an attack, a successful one I might add. Didn't see any Black Redstarts!

Video footage of this cracking bird can be found by following the link below


18 February 2011

Reptiles waking up.

Mark Barber from Conservation Ecology Research Team Swansea (CERTS) sent me these very nice shots of Adder and Common Lizard taken at Oxwich on the 17th. This is the first report I've heard of for any reptiles this year, though not totally unexpected given the yesterday's glorious weather. Last year the first sighting I heard of was on the 3rd March.
(c) M.D. Barber
(c) M.D. Barber
We would be very interested to know of any other early reptile sightings

Otter at Kenfig

(c) M.J. Clark
Mike Clark wrote: 'I hope I am wrong about it being a pregnant female, if young turn up on site I think the use of dead bait for Pike should be stopped until further notice...  ... It ate two Perch approx. 7oz each while I took photos.'

(c) M.J. Clark
Clearly a keen footie fan - Bluebirds or Swans I wonder?

17 February 2011

Lower plants at Rhossili

 Encalypta vulgaris (Common Extinguisher-moss)
I was lucky enough to accompany Sam Bosanquet on one of his CCW monitoring visits to the limestone outcrops on Rhossili headland yesterday and was amazed by the diversity of bryophytes, many of which are scarce representatives of the Mediterranean element of our bryophyte flora. Very many thanks to Sam for his time and patience. For more shots of this fantastic assemblage check out http://moonmoths.blogspot.com/

Frullania tamarisci (Tamarisk Scalewort)

How many snipe?

Nice cryptic shot of Snipe taken from the new hide at Oxwich, sent to me by Martin Pulling who asks 'How many can you see?'

16 February 2011

Lesser Scaup (back?) on Eglwys

A female Lesser Scaup on Eglwys today. Possibly last years bird returning? She was showing well among Scaup, Tufted Duck and Pochard on the South part of the res.

For more photos please visit the link below


14 February 2011

Glamorgan Rarities blog goes live

For a comprehensive account of Glamorgan's rarer birds check out http://grcforum.blogspot.com/

13 February 2011

Oxwich Hide now open

The boardwalk to the new hide at Oxwich was completed last week and Nick Edwards (CCW warden) informed me that it is now open to visitors. This really is a excellent facility and will provide birdwatchers the opportunity to better appreciate this fantastic reserve. Because of ongoing site management, waterbirds now have options on four areas of open water and yesterday ducks were spread between North, Middle and South Ponds, totals including 74 Gadwall and a fine male Pintail.

Paul Tyrrel was in the hide yesterday and captured this super action shot of a female Hen Harrier hunting the marsh.

This map will hopefully be of help to those who don't know Oxwich Marsh. The serpentine lake is divided into sections as shown (the yellow areas are managed areas of open water), with the new hide located overlooking the South Pond. Park in the main beach car park; it's free if you get there early or on winter week days. Best plan is to follow the track into the dunes and to cross the road by the new kissing gate.

12 February 2011

Pink-footed Geese around Kenfig NNR

I was very pleased to receive a message from Martyn Hnatiuk earlier today informing me that 14 Pink-footed Geese were in the fields around Kenfig Pool. I was still in Gower at the time but thought it was worth chancing they'd still be present. They were but, only just! on arrival to the carpark at Kenfig I took the dreaded second call that they had flown off. However, Paul Parsons, who had arrived just before me, saw them in flight toward the fields behind Kenfig village.
They were still flying when I noticed them and they came over the carpark before settling in the field at the west end of Heol Ton which is on the opposite side of the main road past the Centre.

Follow this link below for footage of the Geese. Be advised, there is not much action!


Lapland Buntings still at Paviland

Not exactly the Rapid Response Unit but, today I went down to Paviland stubble fields hopeful that the Lapland Buntings would still be around. They made me work for them and I could easily have overlooked them but, it was well worth the effort in the end.
Initially about ten birds flew a short distance and called which made me aware of their presence. I moved to within 40 yards of them set up the camera and hoped that they would eventually come to me. Luckily a male(both above) and female(below) worked their way towards me feeding the whole time.
A Blackbird alarm calling from a nearby hedge was followed by the group to take fight together, I was able to make a quick count and found 22 birds.

Follow the link below for footage of the the male Lapland Bunting. Not exactly a frame filler but it does show the bird in a "typical view."


08 February 2011

Hen Harrier update

Peter Douglas-Jones captured this beautiful image of a female Hen Harrier at Oxwich Marsh recently, providing a good excuse to produce an update of the BTO Winter Atlas sightings collated on MapMate. As usual the red squares show winter tetrads over the last four years, large red dots all post-1999 records, small red dots pre-2000 and black-centred dots show sightings this year. West Gower has been particularly good for this species the last couple of winters and there have probably been 7-8 around the last few months, including a some stunning male birds.

07 February 2011

Frog spawning

There was lots of activity in the garden pond last night and we had out first spawn this morning. I'd e interested to hear other first spawn dates, especially from those of you who reported them last year...

06 February 2011

Iolo talk for Gower Bird Hospital

Iolo Williams is a Patron of Gower Bird Hospital and we are delighted that he has agreed to do an illustrated talk to raise funds for the Hospital. The talk is called “The Wonderful Wildlife of Wales” and will be on Monday 7th February 2011 at 7.30pm at The Grove Lecture Theatre, Singleton Campus, Swansea University. Admission is £5 and all funds raised will go towards the running costs of Gower Bird Hospital.
Many thanks from Karen, Simon and all at Gower Bird Hospital.
Iolo A4 Colour

05 February 2011

Mediterranean Gulls in Bracelet Bay

Two colour ringed birds seen today...
3K80 ringed as a 3CY at Antwerpen BELGIUM on 19th May 2005: Seen most winters on many occasions by Steve Moon and others at Porthcawl and also Mumbles, each summer returning to breed in Belgium.
3E40 ringed as a pullus at Antwerpen BELGIUM on 3rd June 2006: Again seen most winters on many occasions by various observers at Mumbles, each summer returning to breed in Belgium. In between seen at Upton Warren, Gloucester landfill and Finistere FRANCE,

03 February 2011

Swansea Bay: some bird population trends

The following plots are made using figures for Swansea Bay published in the Gower Ornithological Society's annual report Gower Birds (Grenfell et al., 1994 to 2006). They were produced in 2009 as part of an impact assessment for a proposed development that potentially could affect Blackpill SSSI. The plots show population trends for a few of the species examined over a 13 year period:

Great Crested Grebe 
Plots show that numbers increased steadily over the period. A clear mid-winter peak with birds largely absent from April until October. It would be interesting to see how Baglan compares?

Again numbers increased steadily over the period. Birds arrive post breeding much sooner than the grebes with failed/non-breeders returning as early as June. Winter average around 3000 birds.

Common Gull
Clearly a species that has declined, possibly partly explaining the general lack of Ring-billed Gulls these days?  Winter maxima around 2000 birds.

Great Black-backed Gull
This is quite and interesting one as non-breeding birds either gather or pass through during the summer months, when the majority of other birds are absent. The July maxima averages over 100 birds.