30 March 2011

Full set of Hirundines

House Martin at Eglwys
 Well, a clean sweep of the common ones anyway! All three regular summering hirundines were present at Eglwys today; c100 Sand Martin, 6+ Swallow and 1 House Martin. Manual focusing on hirundines is no easy task and as you can see I've still got a long, long way to go! The thinking being that practising on the day a Red-rumped Swallow turned up would be leaving it a bit late. Here's hoping in any case!
Swallow at Eglwys

Sand Martin at Eglwys

Urban Misletoe

Jo Mullet (C.C.Swansea's Biodiversity Education Officer) photographed this Mistletoe (Viscum album) in central Swansea yesterday. The only other extant plant on record was found at Blackpill by Charles Hipkin in 1974, so clearly this is a long lived species and there surely must be others out there. Please do get in touch if you know of any Mistletoe plants in our area. Due to the vulnerability of the species at Christmas time, no site details will be published here.
Mistletoe on Sorbus sp. (c) J. Mullet

29 March 2011

Stalked Puffball

Stalked Puffball (Tulostoma brumale) is one of a number of macro-fungi that occur on dunes. It’s quite small, about 2-3 cm high, with a small (pearl-sized) puffball head which is very pale in colour at this time of year. It produces a very neat, collared hole (ostiole) at the top through which the spores are released in typical puffball fashion. It occurs infrequently all along our coast in semi-fixed dune grassland, often growing in groups in bare sand. It’s most prominent in winter and early spring.

28 March 2011

Sandy Water Park

The Blue-winged Teal showed really well over the weekend by all accounts and Dave Dawney took this really beautiful image of this very rare visitor to our area. The light the shot was taken in captures perfectly the plumage tones of the bird.
(c) David Dawney
Dave also photographed this colour-ringed Lesser Black-backed Gull (LAA) at the site. Our enquiry received a quick reply from Peter Stewart who informed us that it was ringed at Stoke Orchard Landfill Site, Gloucestershire on the 2nd January 2011 and that this was the first re-sighting of the bird.
(c) David Dawney
Check out more Blue-winged Teal shots plus lots more on Dave's website at www.wildlifewales.co.uk

Wet heath at Fairwood Common

Wet heath is an important part of the habitat mosaic at Fairwood Common and last week I came across a few patches of Compact Bog-moss (Sphagnum compactum) in one of the mechanically managed areas. This species is listed as 'very rare' [in Glamorgan] by Perry in the Flora of Glamorgan, 1994, who identifies only two sites, although I know it has been discovered elsewhere since publication.
Compact Bog-moss & shoots of Bog-moss Flapwort
Growing in and on the Sphagnum cushion I noticed a leafy liverwort (the reddish shoots shown above) and with assistance from Sam Bosanquet, I was able to identify it as Bog-moss Flapwort (Odontoschisma sphagni), another species listed by Perry as 'rare' in Glamorgan. It is likely however, that this diminutive species is under-recorded and further searching will reveal its presence at similar sites elsewhere in the county.

A much more conspicuous component of wet heaths is the Hare's-tail Cottongrass (Eriophorum vaginatum), which was just starting to flower (the white 'cottony' seeds develop later).
Hare's-tail Cottongrass

27 March 2011

Great Tor

Great Tor in murky conditions
Characteristic ledge community of diminutive plants on exposed Gower cliffs.
A = Biting Stonecrop (Sedum acre)
B = Sea Stork's-bill (Erodium maritimum)
C = Parsley-piert (Aphanes arvensis) yellowy rosettes
D = Smooth Sow-thistle (Sonchus oleraceus) purple leaves
E = Rue-leaved Saxifrage (Saxifraga tridactylites) tiny leaves below E
woolly young leaves of Smooth Sow-thistle

Little plants on Great Tor

Sea Stork's-bill rosette in full flower! Note also the
tiny rosette of tri-lobed leaves of Rue-leaved Saxifrage on the right  
Sea Stork's-bill (Erodium maritimum) is locally frequent on thin soils on exposed cliffs of South Gower. It's flowers are probably the least inspiring of any I have seen, with plants either having no petals or with petals hidden by the sepals. The plants most attractive attribute is that it does form quite nice rosettes 3-4cm across, often with an orangey fringe of older leaves.
petal-less flower in full bloom
in fruit, displaying the characteristic 'stork's-bill'
Another characteristic plant of this habitats is Rue-leaved Saxifrage (Saxifraga tridactylites) which is decorated with sticky glandular hairs.

Blackpill Wildlife Centre

Dark-bellied Brent Geese

It was my pleasure to represent GOS today at Blackpill Wildlife Centre. This centre, which is run by the RSPB, is open every other Sunday from mid October through the end of March. It is open on these days between 10:00 to 13:00. There is a lot of information to look at regarding the Blackpill SSSI and local society events. John Roach and Russell Evans were representing the RSPB today and there was lots of friendly chat and advice on offer also. Colin and Daphne Jones manage this local project and are to be congratulated on running such a well presented centre.

On Sunday 10th April 2011 the centre will be celebrating RSPB Cymru Centenary as well as its own 10th Birthday Celebration Day. All will be made very welcome so please visit if you can find the the time on this day, opening times will be between 10:00 and 13:00. After this it will not be available again until 16th October 2011 and every other Sunday thereafter through the winter.

Dark-bellied Brent Geese

As often the case when lots of eyes come together something nice is found; today 22 Dark-bellied Brent Geese spent the whole time feeding along the shore. A cracking summer plumage Mediterranean Gull was on show also and 3 Wigeon on the sea briefly made for some nice site records.

25 March 2011

singleton park

Bombylius major in evidence and a pair of Small Tortoishells interrupting their courtship for a communal feed, haven't we all!

24 March 2011

GOS Talk

A reminder that tomorrow 25th March Richard Smith will be giving a presentation to the Gower Ornithological Society entitled 'A View Through a Digital Lens'. Starts 7.30pm at the Environment Centre, Swansea, all welcome.

23 March 2011

Lapland Bunting at Sker

Lapland Bunting
This Lapland Bunting was found by David Carrington today at Sker. Still showing well when I got there, 15:30 till 17:00, and on view from the public footpath that runs alongside the Royal Porthcawl Golf Club near a small pond (Pink Bay pond) SS80147927.

For more photos and details of this bird follow the links below

Glamorgan Rarities Blog

Kenfig NNR Blog

20 March 2011

Garganey at Penclacwydd

2 of 3 Garganey that were still showing very well from the British Steel hide late afternoon.

More Blue-winged Teal shots

Some much better photos from Sandy Water Park, despite the murky conditions, taken by Gary Harper today:
Blue-winged Teal (c) G.Harper
Blue-winged Teal (c) G.Harper
Little Gull (c) G.Harper

Blue-winged Teal at Sandy Water Park, Llanelli

Gary Harper found this beautiful little American duck late-morning, which had a band of admirers by lunch time. This is the second record for Carmarthenshire, the first being at Penclacwydd in March 2000.  It's been a while since we've had a good gathering of the local birding fraternity, so it was good to see lots of faces I've not seen for a while. Hopefully there will be a few more occasions to gather as spring unfolds...
The 1st summer Little Gull was also still present on the lake (with another present at Machynys at the same time seen by Ian Hainsworth) and a dozen or so Sand Martins were buzzing around. On the Burry on this morning's tide the Long-tailed Duck was present again off Wernffrwd (thanks to Rob Taylor for spotting it), there were 6+ Slav Grebes in various plumages, 269 D-b Brents, 2 P-b Brents, but only 3 Scaup and fewer RBMergs and GCGrebes than yesterday. A White Wagtail at Salthouse Point was my first for the year.

Wildfowl on the move

I was really looking forward to seeing my first Brent Goose in NPT. I found this bird on the track that runs along the West side of the reservoir. At first it appeared to be quite healthy but, after refusing to fly off and instead taking refuge in a heavily vegetated ditch it was clear all was not well. Unfortunately, by this time the moment for capture was lost. A quick call to RSPCA and it seems they do not respond if the animal in distress can no longer be seen, due to many wasted hours searching. It is likely this bird collided with one of the many cables in this area and there may be signs of this showing on the bird's neck. I'm hoping to look for this bird again today and hopefully I'll be able to report more promising news thereafter.
Goldeneys at Eglwys 13/3/11

Last weekend there were 57 Goldeneye all grouped together in the South-east corner while the yachting activities  took place on the reservoir. The duck seem to be well used to this and it provides a good opportunity to see all the duck present concentrated in a small area and also at close range. Compared with last weekend, yesterday the duck numbers were lower with Goldeneye down to around 40 birds, only 2 drake Scaup and all but 1 Pochard have left.

Common Scoter from Aberavon Beach
Baglan Bay was pretty quiet yesterday but, these Common Scoter, 4 of 5 and all drakes, were around briefly and feeding offshore

18 March 2011

Female Adders now emerging

Mark Barber wrote 'It's been a month since the first male adders were spotted at Oxwich and on cue the females have started emerging. The males tend to come out a month before the females to get ready for mating, soon the adders will shed their skins, disperse and breed. Females tend to be bigger than males. Females have a brown zig-zag and males have a black zig-zag. Whether it's frog spawn in your garden or a common lizard on your local heath, any amphibian or reptile sightings gratefully received at records@swwarg.co.uk Cheers, Mark'
female Adder
male Adder

Little Gull at Sandy Water Park

Yesterday morning Rob Hunt discovered an immature (second calendar year) Little Gull at Sandy Water Park, then later in the afternoon when the drizzle came in he also saw a Swallow and a half dozen or so Sand Martins. David Dawney managed get this superb action shot of the Little Gull fly-catching.
(c) David Dawney

17 March 2011


A lunchtime stroll over the blackpill golf course found 5& Small Tortioshell, Bombus terrestris, lapidarius and pratorum and loads of male Anthophora plumipes males racing about the colony at the SW corner of the national pool, wales in Swansea. Lots of moths, a few even in the trap, last night I might work out what they were tonight. I guess the spring has sprung a bit. happy days!

16 March 2011

Spring beetles

On the footpath between Horton and Slade this morning I saw 4 Female and 1 male Oil beetles Meloe proscarabaeus. Also (I think) a Bloody nosed beetle Timarcha sp.

Oil beetle female

Oil beetle male

Bloody nosed beetle
David Painter

Alien plants

Yesterday I came across a single plant of Eastern Sowbread (Cyclamen Coum) growing in a semi-natural situation on the bracken slopes above Penclawdd rugby fields. I'm not sure it's likely natural dispersal resulted in it appearing in the middle of  dense Bramble thicket and I suspect that it was either planted or a garden thrown out. Other more established non-native species noted on the hillside included Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia japonica) and Himalayan Honeysuckle (Leycesteria formosa).
The BSBI website reports that there are 1500 native species in Britain and around about 1700 aliens! I found the following paragraphs quite interesting reading... 'The danger with viewing alien species as a particular threat is that it distracts from the important issues facing nature conservation in Britain and diverts resources that might be better used elsewhere. When an individual species becomes overwhelmingly abundant in a particular habitat, it is usually because that habitat is being mismanaged or polluted – for example, by eutrophication. It does not matter whether the problem plant is native or exotic: the best solution is to restore a healthy vegetation community, not to attempt to eradicate one species whilst leaving the underlying problems unaddressed. Thus there seems little point in spraying a road-verge to eliminate Japanese Knotweed, just to leave the brambles, coarse grasses and even the frequently-invasive Cow Parsley to take its place.
The subjects of ecosystem stability, invasiveness of individual species, and habitat management are all promising ones for research, and might appeal to students or researchers at postgraduate level. Surprisingly, perhaps, although the UK government has a policy of eradicating New Zealand Pigmyweed, there is no published evidence whatsoever that it harms native species. Another common alien aquatic invader, the attractive Himalayan Balsam, is a frequent subject of vilification, with even less evidence of any threat to anything. The only way to formulate good policy is to base it on firm evidence, and that has clearly failed in these instances. There is now available good research information which suggests that the threat from Japanese Knotweed is minor, and it is even viewed by some as beneficial (Gilbert, 2001), yet hysteria on this species regularly surfaces in all sections of the media.'

15 March 2011

Chiffchaffs arriving

Chiffchaff is invariably the first of the spring migrants to arrive in numbers and birds have started appearing in modest numbers at various sites aroud the area over the last few days. Paul Tyrrel photographed this silent bird in beautiful light at Oxwich Burrows on Sunday.
The only other summer migrants noted so far in our area to date have been Sand Martin on the 11th (Alastair Flannigan), Wheatear on the 13th above Common Cliff (Adam Tilt) and I was told by Mark Newton that an Osprey was seen heading up the Loughor estuary today.

14 March 2011

Bengal Matches (Cladonia floerkeana)

This fabulous lichen is conspicuous at this time of year with its bright red, spore-producing fruiting bodies (apothecia) which are produced on the tops of 10-15mm high grey stalks dressed in flaky squamules. It looks like bunches of live matches sticking in the ground, so the common name is really descriptive and memorable. In some books it’s called Devil’s Matches. The group shown in the photograph was in a clear felled area of Sitka Spruce forest at the top of the Neath Valley.
Old conifer stumps often become covered in mosses and lichens, particularly Cladonia species such as C. chlorophaea, and C. macilenta which were also here. Cladonia chlorophaea produces cups that are covered in granules that look like icing sugar. Some of them were proliferating brown apothecia from the rims of the cups, as shown below.

13 March 2011

Avocet in the Burry

Since the start of the new millennium this is only the fifth occurrence of Avocet in the Burry Inlet, all records being singletons. This bird was found at the Llanelli Wildlfowl & Wetlands Trust centre yesterday by Rob Taylor and was still present today along with a couple of Greenshanks and 200+ Black-tailed Godwits.
(c) R.H.A. Taylor

Signs of Spring at Eglwys

Peacock (Inachis io)
A very nice day to walk around the reservoir at Eglwys Nunydd. The wind had a bit of an edge to it but in some of the sheltered areas out of the wind it was very warm. I saw this Peacock on the West side of the res.
Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae)
I saw my first Small Tortoiseshell on the 4th March this year but at least three were on the wing around Eglwys today. There were also lots of bumblebees flying, mostly Buff-tailed bumblebees but, also at least 1 Early Bumblebee. I also saw a pretty good candidate for Orange Underwing (Archiearis pathenias) but only seen briefly so I can't be certain.
In the wood on the North side of the reservoir 3 Chiffchaff were moving swiftly through the bushes and George Morgan had another near the fishing ticket office also today.

12 March 2011

Great grey shrike.

Found by Nigel Patten today on Mynydd Penhydd above Afon Argoed country park. Note that this area is out of bounds to the public on weekdays due to the intense felling of all the diseased Japanese larches.

Pennard Burrows

Racomitrium canescens (Hoary Fringe-moss)
A recent CCW report of the bryophytes of Pennard Valley SSSI, carried out by Sam Bosanquet, inspired me to look for one of the 115 species recorded last year; this being the Nationally Scarce Hoary Fringe-moss (Racomitrium canescens), a conspicuous component of the dune-heath community at Pennard.
Unfortunately the recent dry weather meant that the leaves were crisped, rather than in their more attractive spreading state when wet, but the size and extent of the population made patches easy to spot. Drifts of this moss were also recorded over 1km to the east of the SSSI in amongst a rich mosaic of other dune-heath species, with lichens also well represented.
Racomitrium canescens (Hoary Fringe-moss) detail
On the cliffs there were patches of turf with abundant Early-purple Orchid (Orchis mascula) shoots, with over 200 estimated in just one 3m x3m patch. I guess Rabbits and molluscs will take their toll, but there could be a very good showing of orchids on the cliffs this spring.
Early-purple Orchid shoots
Nationally Scarce mosses were also noted on the cliffs including Round-fruited Grimmia (Grimmia orbicularis) and Side-fruited Crisp-moss (Pleurochaete squarrosa), though again highly crisped. After tonight's rain, these mosses will take on a completely different look tomorrow.
Side-fruited Crisp-moss (Pleurochaete squarrosa)
More at from this site at http://moonmoths.blogspot.com/2011/03/pennard-dune-heath-mosses.html
Pictures and content by Barry Stewart

08 March 2011

Great Grey Shrike at Bwlch-y-Lladron

Colin Richards found this Great Grey Shrike a couple of days ago in the same area as one had been found a few years back. It was showing very briefly at first but, after I bit of searching I found an area which it seemed to like a lot.
The favoured area today where it caught lots of beetles, a couple of bees and a shrew. This photo was taken from a forestry track at SN944030

I did manage some distant video footage which you can find following the link below. What a bird!