30 April 2011

Wader watching at Crymlyn Burrows

Crymlyn Burrows beach
It was a surprisingly good wader watching day at Crymlyn Burrows today. The photo above showing the view West towards Swansea Docks from the waterline at low tide. 48 Bar-tailed Godwit stole the show, especially the striking males coloured brick red in their summer plumage.

Bar-tailed Godwits (males centre and left, female right)

Other waders on the beach included 1 Grey Plover, 240 Sanderling, 190 Dunlin and 15 Ringed Plover

Approx 16 Whimbrel were found along the river, on the inlet next to the roundabout and on the beach. 2 Redshank were also present at the inlet as were 3 White Wagtails

Some footage of the Bar-tailed Godwit can be found following the link below

Bar-tailed Godwit video

The butterflies on the way back from the beach were impressive, since the majority of them were grouped in a sheltered spot among the dunes. 5+ Dingy Skipper, 20+ Brown Argus, 2 Small Blue, 60+ Common Blue, 20+ Small Copper and 2 Small Heath. Some record shots of the butterflies today can be found following the link below

Butterflies at Crymlyn Burrows

White Stork from Aberdulais roundabout

White Stork
 Rob Jones was returning from a rather successful week long trip to Norfolk today; little did he know the rarities hadn't quite been left behind! Shortly after finding this bird Rob got the news out quickly which allowed a number of birders to connect with this White Stork before last light. And very nice it was too!
White Stork above A465 from Aberdulais roundabout
I tried a bit of video footage through the DSLR today which can be found following the link below

White Stork at Aberdulais video

29 April 2011

Hoverflies part 2

Here are a few more species that are easily identified and quite common in Glamorgan.
Helophilus pendulus

Scaeva pyrastri

Chrysotoxum festivum

Bumblebee mimic at Crymlyn Bog

Eristalis intricarius
 Following on from Martyn's very nice posting below I came across this nice bumblebee mimic at Crymlyn Bog yesterday. I've attempted to identify it from the photos and Eristalis intricarius seems to fit nicely. Certainly the habitat is good and the stripey legs and wing pattern seem to rule out other confusion species.

Other stuff from Crymlyn Bog yesterday included good mixture of Dragonflies and Damselflies. Variable Damselfly, Azure Damselfly, Large Red Damselfly, Hairy Dragonfly, Four-spotted Chaser and Broad-bodied Chaser all noted. Not bad but, not as good as Paul Roberts find, a male Vagrant Emperor at Llanilid not far from our area. A few of these have been seen recently and a photo another male Vagrant Emperor was posted on the Pembrokeshire Birds Blog following a couple of sightings there. To view this distinctive dragonfly follow the link below

male Vagrant Emperor photo

Please keep an eye out for this dragonfly as there seem to be good numbers of this rare migrant in the British Isles currently.

28 April 2011

Hoverflies now out in force

Xanthogramma citrofasciatum

Chrysotoxum cautum

Chrysotoxum bicinctum

Hoverfies have taken to the wing in force due to the fine weather. There have been 276 species recorded in the UK to date. Some of which are quite distinctive. The genus is under recorded in Glamorgan with only Barry and myself recording on a regular basis. Above are a few of the more colourful species.

Late news of a Hoopoe seen nr Llanmadoc Church

[Also posted on the GRC blog]
I have just received this evening, from a new GBC member who is joining our field trip on Sat, that his father-in-law who was leading a walk on Gower on Tues 19th, saw a Hoopoe near Llanmadoc Church, "through the small forestry towards the dunes. It flew across the dunes and landed on some bushes". He tried to inform someone in the know but it is not clear who he eventually spoke to but he was apparently told the recorder was on holiday. Whether this was a ref to Rob or Jake I don't know. Anyway, someone down there might like to check the area out although it's a while ago now. Sorry no more detail than that. John Wilson

27 April 2011

Crab Apple

It's not always easy to find Crab Apple (Malus sylvestris) in the countryside. Very often, and for most of the year, it occurs as an undistinguished solitary tree in a hedge or a wood. When they are in flower, however, Crab Apple trees are usually outstanding. And this year in particular, they are putting on a great show. The photos here were taken of an old Crab Apple in an ancient hedgerow near Rhos.

Where it occurs, Crab Apple is probably a good indicator of ancient hedgerow or ancient woodland. Records show that it is frequent and widespread in old hedges and woodland in South Wales, but it is never abundant anywhere. However, it is often confused with the domestic Apple (Malus pumila) which is not uncommon outside gardens and orchards. Many records of Crab Apple are misidentifications for the domestic Apple. When in flower, they can be distinguished by the fact that Crab Apple has flower stalks and sepals that are hairless (see below) while those of Apple are usually conspicuously hairy. The leaves of Crab Apple are also hairless, whereas those of Apple are usually hairy on their lower side.

Because it is probably a good indicator of ancient countryside in South Wales, it is important that we obtain an accurate picture of its ditribution.

23 April 2011

Butterfly Bonanza around Margam Moors

Ieuan Blackmore and myself could hardly describe ourselves as disappointed when we left Kenfig this morning, we did miss the Purple Heron today but, we had good views of an Otter and Kingfisher during our wait there. Incidentally the Purple Heron, present for it's second day having been found by Simon Murray yesterday, showed periodically throughout the day after we left at 9:45.

Dingy Skipper
After leaving Kenfig we decided to have a look around Margam Moors and we were treated to some early flying individuals as well as some nice records for the site. The best of these were the c20 Dingy Skippers flying along the track on the East side of Margam Moors.
Brown Argus
Only 1 Brown Argus was found next to the sidings South-east of the Moors near the Kenfig River and flooded wood.
c8 Wall were seen around Margam Tip, Margam Dunes and the West side of Margam Moors. I've often seen good numbers around here and it has to be one of the most reliable sites in the county to see this species.
Common Blue (left) and Small Blue
Small Blues were in good numbers around the Margam Tip and Margam Dunes, numbering 20+ and 1 Common Blue was also found in Margam Dunes.
Four-spotted Chaser
1 of 2 Four-spotted Chaser seen on the wing today. The behavior of this one especially, basking high in the trees, suggesting it had recently emerged.

Other good stuff from today included 3 Green Tiger Beetle, 20+ Orange tip, 4 Small Copper and 1 Silver Y

Glowworms at Whiteford

Found under some wood in the dunes, we assume they are larvae?

20 April 2011

May Bugs and Mushrooms

The May Bug (Melolontha melolontha) and St George’s Mushroom (Calocybe gambosa) are two species named for the dates they appear in the natural year. This year, like Bluebells, they have appeared earlier than usual.
Paul Alton alerted me to the appearance of a ring of St George’s Mushrooms in Swansea University Gardens 2 weeks ago, where the photograph above was taken. There has been a population there for at least 30 years to my knowledge. But back in the 1980s it used to appear, almost to the day, on April 23rd (St George’s Day). Paul reminded me that it is one of a suite of species whose appearance is monitored every year as part of the on-going study of phenological change in the British countryside.
Over the years May Bugs (or Cockchafers) also seem to be appearing earlier. The one in the photo below has been knocking on our window for the last few days.

17 April 2011

NT on Gower blog

The National Trust On Gower now has its own blog, which you can find at

Big Wood Anemone

Chinch Gryniewicz wrote '...found (well, Dai Morris pointed me in the right direction again) a rather unusual case of floral gigantism in a Wood Anemone (Anemone nemorosa) in Bishops Wood nature reserve today. I hate those shots with a tape measure in them to indicate the size of an object - so I didn't. I think the context of the other, normal-sized anemones shows very nicely the dimensions of this giant - it would put some decent sized daffodils to shame.'
That is an incredible specimen - interestingly the leaves appear to be quite big too!

16 April 2011

Nicholaston Burrows

This delicate pale pink variety of Early-purple Orchid (Orchis mascula) was discovered growing with more typical coloured plants in the dunes today. Plenty of other dune plants now starting to flower including Heath Dog-violet, blue and purple forms of Common Milk-wort, Rue-leaved Saxifrage, etc.

Field/Mottled Grasshopper and Grey Bush Cricket nymphs also locally abundant.
Field Grasshopper (Chorthippus brunneus) or
Mottled Grasshopper (Myrmeleotettix maculatus) nymph

15 April 2011

Mosses in Baglan Bay

The furnace slag in Baglan supports a surprisingly rich abundance of lower plants including one of my favourites, the rather beautiful and fuzzy-looking Dense Fringe-moss (Racomitrium ericoides), this being very closely related to the Hoary Fringe-moss (R. canescens) mentioned a few weeks ago.
Dense Fringe-moss
The wonderful vernacular names of other species seen today included Silver-moss, Anomalous Bristle-moss, Sand-hill Screw-moss and Thickpoint Grimmia. For more pictures of some of the these species see  http://moonmoths.blogspot.com/2011/04/baglan-bay-cont.html

harlequin ladybird

first of the year and plenty of 7 spot as well in Swansea University today. Loads of hirundines moving at Crymlyn Burrows this morning and 2 Morels in the dunes.

11 April 2011

Woodchat Shrike at Llangennith Moors (cont.)

Two stunning shots from yesterday by Rob Taylor...
(c) R.H.A Taylor
(c) R.H.A Taylor

Good weekend for Wheatears

(c) R.H.A. Taylor
Over the weekend there were very good numbers of Wheatears seen all over the county, with many of the ploughed fields in West Gower which Neil Edwards and myself looked at, having birds in them, the best being 12 at Tankeylake. A large proportion, possibly even most of these, were of the larger Greenland and Canadian race leucorhoa, which is a truly long distance migrant. The flight across the Atlantic is an incredible feat for a bird of this size to undertake each spring and autumn, especially given the conditions they must frequently encounter in the North Atlantic. Rob Taylor photographed a few of at least 15 birds present at Wernffrwd on Saturday morning.
(c) R.H.A. Taylor

Return of the Blue-winged Teal

Following its apparent departure on 29th March, today the Blue-winged Teal returned to Sandy Water Park. It's interesting to speculate where it's been during this 10 day absence and possibility that it crossed the estuary into Glamorgan?
(c) Brian Thomas
No doubt its reappearance will raise a few doubts about the birds status as a genuine vagrant, but its behaviour has never indicated that it is likely to be of captive origin. Yes, it has been confiding at times, but I've yet to hear of it taking bread. On this point there was a Long-tailed Duck at Pwll a few years back, that after a period started following the resident Tufted Ducks coming to bread, eventually taking it itself; so even this behaviour would not necessarily prove conclusive. There's unlikely to a clear cut outcome on this one, but my foot is currently pretty firmly in the genuine camp.

10 April 2011

Purple Saxifrage

North-facing, Old Red Sandstone cirques in the Brecon Beacons are home to some fantastic plants like Purple Saxifrage (Saxifraga oppositifolia). This circumpolar arctic-montane species is a pre-historic footprint in South Wales, which is its most southern location in Britain. It has probably survived there since early post glacial times when it was a much more widespread member of a periglacial tundra flora like that found in Greenland today (where this species is a familiar component of the flora). Today it finds refuge on these cold Breconshire scarps along with other northern or montane species. Purple Saxifrage is also found in Snowdonia, Northern England, Ireland and Scotland, but its presence in South Wales is quite special. It is quite common on high mountains in the Alps where it often grows with Yellow Whitlow-grass (Draba azoides), which also finds refuge in our region (i.e. on south Gower cliffs - see Barry Stewart’s posting from last month). In the photograph, the little fern to the left is Green Spleenwort (Asplenium viride), which is a circumpolar boreal-montane species.

Woodchat Shrike at Llangennith Moors (cont.)

(c) Brian Thomas
Brian was among this mornings watchers / photographers (left to right) Mark Hipkin, Chris Brewer (& Jerry), Brian Thomas, Rob Taylor, Kevin Hughes, Chloe & Richard May. 

Leech query

On the way back from the seeing the shrike Sandra photographed this large leech in Diles Lake that she estimated as being approximately 12cm in length. Hopefully there's someone out there who has experience of these animals and can name this impressive beastie? A web search takes me along the lines of Medicinal Leech (Hirudo medicinalis) / Horse Leech (Haemopis sanguisuga). On size and colour Medicinal looks a possible candidate, but given its rarity perhaps Horse is the more likely?
dorsal side
ventral side uppermost

Woodchat at Llangennith

Thought I'd sneak in a quick record shot of the male Woodchat Shrike at Llangennith Moors today, before the quality photos arrive! Also I'd like to thank the mystery finder for making the news available on birdguides, well done indeed. It was a very entertaining morning watching this bird feed at close quarters this morning.

The photo above shows the footpath that runs North from Hillend Caravan Park towards Broughton Farm. The Woodchat Shrike was showing well from tops of Brambles and Hawthorn bushes but, also feeding a lot on the floor. It would periodically go missing for periods up to an hour, more often 45 minutes. It remains faithful to the area described following the sighting on Friday; SS 412 914 which is c100m North of the gate next to the pill. You can see just about all the bushes that the Shrike used today from the footpath marker shown in the photo above. A very nice bird and well worth the visit.

Click here for Woodchat Shrike footage

Egyptian Goose at WWT

Friday's Egyptian Goose at WWT Llanelli as seen through Dave Dawney's lens. Not present today.
(c) D. Dawney

08 April 2011

Common Sandpipers at Eglwys

Common Sandpiper
 The steady stream of newly arrived migrants continued today with 5 Common Sandpiper seen around the reservoir by Dave Lewis this morning. I visited late afternoon into early evening and there were still 4 present. The early Reed Warbler was still present in the Reeds south of the res and a couple of Sedge Warblers also heard. The Hirundines were noticeable by their absence this evening after such healthy numbers over the last week or so.
Large White (Pieris brassicae)
 The good run of early(ish) butterfly species also continued today with a newly emerged Large White (above) and also Green-veined White (below). Also today 1 Red Admiral (Venessa atalanta) and 1 Orange-tip (Anthocharis cardamines)
Green-veined White (Pieris napi)

Little Ringed Plovers in action

Mark Newton caught this Swansea couple enjoying the glorious weather yesterday!
(c) M. Newton
If you would like sponsor Mark's Help for Heroes trip around Wales, check out http://www.roundwales.co.uk/

Adders in action

Mark Barber wrote... 
It was amazingly hot yesterday so all the reptiles were very active...
Male adders engage in this ritualised form of combat known as the ‘Dance of the Adders’, in which the males try to force one another to the ground, the biggest male normally wins.
Shame the video quality isn't very good. The first video is quite short..
... they continue.....http://youtu.be/9go64GNpUKI
.... the defeated male slithers off at speed...
There was another male in that second shot, he was keeping out of it. The female was hiding in the edge habitat of the first video. 
If anyone wants to go for a reptile walk contact Mark - mark.barber@arc-trust.org

Kidney-spot Ladybirds

Also at Oxwich yesterday, Kidney-spot Ladybirds (Chilocorus renipustulatus) were observed crawling around the trunks of willows in a seemingly random fashion. When approached to within 50cm they would suddenly clamp down like limpets and remained steadfast for at least 10 minutes.

Note that the 2-spot and 10-spot Ladybirds have forms that can all look superficially like Kidney-spot, but these are smaller species with a more oval outline. The Heather Ladybird is also black and round like the Kidney-spot, but has much reduced red spots, somewhat resembling a semi-colons.

07 April 2011

Morels at Oxwich

I stumbled upon a few Morels (Morchella sp.) at Oxwich this evening. These really are strikingly different and beautiful fungi! I had a brief chat with Mervyn Howells who said M. esculenta  has been recorded at Oxwich previously, but interestingly the literature I have read states that 'the fungus fruits under hardwoods during a short period in the spring, depending on the weather, but it is also associated with old orchards, woods, disturbed grounds and burnt areas'. So it seems odd these were out in open dune grassland no where near any hardwoods?