31 July 2011

Neath Rivermouth

 "Stick to the birds" I hear you shout! Well following the recent pick up in bird movement, most notably Martyn Hnatiuk's very good session at the Kenfig Rivermarsh today, I decided to give one of my local patches a bash. It was great to bump into Terry Tovey there and we got some nice records for the area. These included 1 Great Crested Grebe, 3 Gannet, 2 Peregrine, 848 Oystercatcher, 5 Whimbrel, 67 Redshank, 2 Greenshank, 1 Mediterranean Gull and 2 Sandwich Tern
One unexpected sighting was an Oystercacher chick swimming across the main channel that forms at this location at high tide. At first I didn't know what it was but a pair of Oystercatchers were seeing off a Lesser Black-backed Gull above gave the game away. The chicks swim must have easily been 100m or more. Luckily it made it to the other side and reunited with parents.

Med Gulls:Bracelet Bay

Called down at Verdi's for an ice cream and a stroll with Teresa late afternoon and took the camera,although they have probably been posted previously somewhere on this blog I'd be interested to know the origins of the ringed gulls.

29 July 2011

A Hoverfly

 I noticed this hoverfly yesterday while out at Pelenna yesterday. Following some rather length keying out last night I came to the conclusion that it is Chrysotoxum elegans. Looking at the local records of this species it has been recorded, somewhat irregularly, near the coast so this would represent more of an inland sighting. I don't have much experience with this species and was wondering whether any experts out there could confirm the identity of this hoverfly?
Following a day out with Ian Tew, Tristan Bantock and Ray Wilson we were able to look this hoverfly from the photos I took. The feeling was that the photos don't allow for a definitive identification but that to label this one Chrysotoxum arcuatum cf. was not unreasonable. In fact Ian Tew photographed this species earlier this year, in May, at Afan Argoed on the link below. Some further info in comments.
Chrysotoxum arcuatum

28 July 2011

Reptilian import

Simon from the Gower Bird Hospital sent me this photo today of what appears to be a skink, brought in from South Cornelly. Apparently it's most likely to be of South African origin (found with imported goods) and looks like photos on the web of the Striped Skink (Trachylepis striata). If anyone can help with this rather tentative identification we'd be interested to hear from you.

27 July 2011

Shrill Carder Bumblebee (incorrect see below)

Shrill Carder Bumblebee (Bombus sylvarum)
I saw my first Shrill Carder today in a nice area near the Port Talbot docks next to the river Avon. Thanks go to Elen Richards who discovered this population last year. I only saw one bee today which was a male but the species is so named after the workers that can be heard to give a "shrill buzz" when flying between flowers whilst foraging.
Shrill Carder Bumblebee (Bombus sylvarum)
Following the comment below I realise that I've made a very basic mistake with the identity of this bee. As mentioned in the comments the bee is B. pascuorum.

24 July 2011

NPT plants

A few interesting plants noted in disturbed or man-made sites in Neath Port Talbot last week included:

 Yellow Bartsia (Parentucellia viscosa) and Common Cudweed (Filago vulgaris) on wasteground at Jersey Marine

Floating Bur-reed (Sparganium angustifolium) near Seven Sisters
Sand Spurrey (Spergularia rubra) on forest track near Seven Sisters

Still looking, hoping....

Another Small Skipper


The following galls are all formed by mites of the genus Aceria
A. ernineus on Walnut
Parc y Werin, Gorseinon 16th July
A. geranii on Bloody Crane's-bill
Crawley Bluff, Nicholaston 23rd July
A. sanguisorbae on Salad Burnet
Crawley Bluff, Nicholaston 23rd July

23 July 2011

Broad leaved helleborine

Broad leaved Helleborines are just coming into flower at Oxwich. This is an orchid which doesn't look much from a distance but close up has beautiful flowers.
David Painter

Abercregan today.

Unfortunately this Mole was found by a dog that had joined me for a walk. The dog picked it up and shook it and the poor thing died in my hand.

19 July 2011

Great White Egret

(c) R.H.A. Taylor
The Great White Egret first seen last week finally gave itself up to the camera on Sunday, Rob Taylor capturing these wonderful images when the bird dropped in for a short spell onto the Freshwater (NRA) scrape at WWT. The bird was relocated in the Upper Loughor at Llangennech on Sunday afternoon by Peter and Simon Murray, where I saw it there again today, just south of the railway station.
(c) R.H.A. Taylor
Nice comparison of Great White and Little Egrets

Meadow Pipit - 1 - Cefn Gwrhyd

Andrew Lucas wrote...

'No great surprise, you say, but this was a bird of great personal significance. It was my last record in my last timed tetrad of the BTO atlas fieldwork. After 4 years, 3000 records in 200 tetrads and 40 timed counts, it's time to call it a day.

I must admit to a love-hate relationship with the atlas. It's great to know that my observations, no matter how trivial, are adding to the sum of knowledge about our birds. And fieldwork has taken me into some beautiful corners of northern West Glamorgan, places I would never normally consider visiting. But all habitats have to be covered, not just the most interesting bits, and, like many people, my time for natural history is strictly limited. Do I really want to spend those precious few hours on a Sunday morning trudging around a housing estate, or in a birdless slog across some over-grazed upland? At times, the atlas has seemed less like recreation, and more like an obligation.

But now we've arrived at the finishing line, and it's time to assess the results. The book will not be out for some time, but already maps are becoming available. It's interesting to compare results with the first atlas, which ran from 1968 to 1972. Then, 95 000 records - all on cards in those days - were used to produce Britain's first bird atlas. At the time, common buzzard was a western species, more or less confined to the West Country, Wales, Cumbria and Scotland. Today, the buzzard's conquest of Britain is almost complete, with birds found right across England. By contrast, the 68-72 atlas remarked of the yellowhammer that it 'show(s) virtually no breaks in distribution in the southern half of England and Wales'. Today, that distribution is starting to look very threadbare, with gaps opening up in areas of intensive agriculture such as Monmouthshire and west Carmarthenshire. The 68-72 atlas also had extensive maps of the distribution of cirl bunting and red-backed shrike. But little egret did not even merit a mention!

No doubt this atlas, whenever it appears, will be full of many more fascinating insights. And fieldwork for a West Glamorgan atlas will continue for another year. But for myself, I think I've done my bit. It's time to go back to birding for fun!!!

18 July 2011

Kites finally breeding on the peninsula!

Gwyn Roberts wrote '... young Kites ringed and tagged on Gower, the first pair in modern times as far as we know. It was an old nest so they probably nested there before with an unknown outcome. They were ringed and tagged on June 14th.'
Although the Red Kite has been increasing its range for some time, the first proven nesting on the Gower Peninsula seemed long overdue, so it's satisfying to know that not only did they nest this year, but also that they have been successful in fledging two young. Hopefully A0 and A1 will be gracing Gower skies for years to come. If you should be lucky enough to see or photograph these or any other tagged birds please report your sighting. A big well done to Gwyn and his team for the many hours they put in locating and monitoring these birds all over Wales and beyond.

Eglwys Nunydd Reservoir,Port Talbot

Does anyone know or can find out what the current situation is with regard to access to the reservoir for birdwatchers,is everyone other than sailing and fishing club members still refused access which if you think about it logically is plain daft !!
There should be some good stuff starting to pass through shortly and it would be a shame to miss out.

17 July 2011

Barn Owls in Gower

Paul Tyrrell wrote: 'While out walking in north Gower, i came across this hunting Barn Owl. Although not uncommon in Wales, its difficult to know how well there are doing on Gower, partly due to there nocturnal life style. Although in late spring and early summer they can be seen well before dark if a family has to be feed.' (all images (c) P. Tyrrell)

16 July 2011

Purple Hairstreak

Peter Douglas-Jones photographed this elusive butterfly at the top end of Ilston Cwm, as it comes out onto Fairwood Common last week. Again the sparse distribution is probably more of a reflection of the difficulty in finding this tree-top species rather than it's true status.

15 July 2011

Good for the Garden!

Garden Bumblebee (Bombus hortorum)
With the immediate forecast showing plenty of rain ahead I thought this summery image might brighten things up a bit. B. hortorum occurs quite regularly in our garden. It favours the deep flowers where they can utilise their extra long tongue. More often than not I see B. hortorum flying between flowers with its tongue dangling out and I find this to be quite an useful early indicator that I'm looking at this species.

10 July 2011

Downy Ducklings

The duck production line is still operational at WWT Lanelli. Even though many ducklings have now fledged, some are still in the early stages and today we saw young Mallard (pictured), Shelduck, Gadwall, Tufted Duck and Pochard. Additionally approximately 250 Black-headed Gulls are estimated to have fledged from the centre this year according to Penclacwydd's unofficial statistician Wendell Thomas.
(c) Sandra J. Stewart

Gert Big Egret at Loughor

Present at Loughor Foreshore Park (SS57119887) today ... approachable, showing well and likely to hang around (well we hope so!)

Red Longhorn Beetle in Cimla

(c) M. Hipkin
Further to DC's sighting just up the road one appeared in the garden mid-afternoon. I'm also pretty sure I saw one last year in the garden also, however that cannot be verified. Certainly the indications are of a "mass emergence" locally.

Red Longhorn Beetle at Afan Argoed

Continuing on the longhorn theme Dave Carrington wrote: 'Hi Barry - on a rare trip away from the coastline, Becky and I visited Afon Argoed Country Park for a walk today. On the 'Orange Trail' (SS8195) we came across two or three of these longhorns. I didn't have my camera so had to make do with taking this picture with my phone. It appears to be Stictoleptura rubra Red Longhorn Beetle. It's not a species that I'm familiar with but the old British Wildlife id article from 2007 suggests this is a species only found in eastern England. Presumably they have spread west?'
They have colonised South Wales, although locally I only know of four other records, these being:
2001 Dinefwr (VC44), S.A. Day (det. I.K. Morgan)
28.viii.2001, Pencoed (VC41), S. Warmingham (det. D. Clements)
13.vii.2004, Swansea (VC41), B. Stewart 
11.viii.2007, Maesteg (VC41), M. Hnatiuk
 So seemingly still a scarce species. Good that you had more than one, suggesting an established population.

Musk Beetle at Ffrwd Fen

Ian Morgan also wrote: 'Another bit of vc44 invert news...Liz Wilberforce had a musk beetle at Ffrwd Fen NR, Pembrey 22/420028 on 2/7/11 [photo taken by her]. It is obviously known from Crymlyn already, but this is a first record for Carms. The old willows alongside the canal are probably utilised by this longhorn and it makes the strong case for retention of these willows and not to have them cleared as some have suggested in the past. Old willows elsewhere in the Lower Gwendraeth Valley could well also support this rare beetle.'
(c) Liz Wilberforce

White-letter Haistreak in Pwll, Llanelli

A few days ago Ian Morgan wrote: 'Following in my tradition of lousy photos, please see attached photo of w-l hairstreak [female] in my garden at Tyrwaun, Pwll last Sunday. It was attracted to a duvet that I had washed and was draped over some chairs etc to dry. At close range it looked bigger than I`d imagined - I`ve had a more distant one flying over elms [watched with bins] at the edge of next door`s garden a few years back and there are other older records from Pwll [inc the adjacent Ffordd y Wagen] and Stradey Woods.There is plenty of elm along the coastal belt.
I am not sure if there was something in the washing powder or biological odours in the duvet that attracted the butterfly. I may have a future as a hairstreak attractant?! [I`ve had purple hairstreaks land on my perspiring arm in the past and also seen them on dog droppings]. It allowed a very close approach which would have allowed a semi-competent photographer to take a decent shot [technology and me do not mix!]. Funnily enough, I was only thinking about w-l hk`s yesterday and Clive`s tip to scan elm tops on warm [early] evenings. Anyway, white letters are `out and about`!'

The map below plots all records of White-letter Hairstreak (with pre-2000 records shown as a smaller red dot), indicating how scarce, or more likely, how poorly recorded this species is.

07 July 2011

Red-eyed Damselfly in Swansea

(c) Jeff Driscoll
 Jeff Driscoll sent VC41 Dagonfly Blog a selection of Damselfly photos recently and among them was this one. After a bit of back tracking and jogging the memory it was established that this photo had been taken in early June 2011 at Pluck Lake. It is a male Red-eyed Damselfly (Erythromma najas) and not surprisingly sitting on a Water Lily. This species does seem to be expanding its distribution westwards through Wales currently and is well worth looking out for. This may be the furthest West this species has been recorded in VC41 so far and is a very good record by Jeff.

If you have seen this species then please let us know.

I visited Pluck Lake today and found at least 1 male present. Not difficult to track down as the only patch of Water Lilies on the lake is very obvious, although not very close to the waters edge. Pluck Lake can be found at SS669957.
Water Lilies at Pluck Lake
Also on show here today during a brief visit were Blue-tailed Damselfly, Broad-bodied Chaser and Black-tailed Skimmer

Some more of Jeff's recent dragonfly images can be found on the link below

VC41 Dragonfly Blog

Nitten Field 'Flower Show'

Sunflowers, Phacelia & Gold-of-Pleasure
The Phacelia is in full flower at the moment and the rich honey-like smell of the Phacelia alone is worth the visit. Gordon and Beryl Howe welcome anyone who wants to visit the field to do so by the bottom gate, via the path coming up from Mewslade Valley (SS42328750). Gordon reckons the Phacelia will probably go over in the next couple of weeks, so worth seeing sooner rather than later.
 Gordon, Phacelia & Corn Marigolds
Last weekend I put a couple of moth traps out to find out what species were using the field and although it was a rather cool cloudless night 103 species were recorded. The commonest species was the Dark Arches (270), followed by 50+ each of Large Yellow Underwing and Diamond-back Moth, the latter being a small migrant species. For a sample of photographs of other species recorded visit http://gmrg-vc41moths.blogspot.com/2011/07/nitten-field-mewslade.html

06 July 2011

Cattle Egret at WWT

Belated news of a Cattle Egret that dropped in briefly to the Llanelli Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust reserve on Saturday. Peter Treharne from Ammanford, was lucky enough to witness this brief appearance and took this great shot of the bird, that was clearly playing well to the camera! There have now been 4 records at the centre over the last 4 years, all one-day birds as far as I'm aware.
(c) Peter Treharne, Ammanford
Other signs of return migration observed at the centre the last couple of days with sightings of Garganey, 3 Dunlin, 360 Curlew, 227 Black-tailed Godwit, 3 Bar-tailed Godwit, 5 Greenshank, 50 Redshank, Turnstone, 15+ Mediterranean Gulls & 600+ Black-headed Gulls (counts courtesy of Wendell Thomas).

Marsh Hawk's-beard above Pontneddfechan

Marsh Hawk's-beard below Sgwd Gwladys (VC42)
Pontneddfechan is at the southern-most limit of the UK disturibution of Marsh Hawk's-beard (Crepis paludosa). Last week Charles Hipkin kindly showed me a good number plants growing on the Breconshire side of the Afon Pyrddin immediately below Sgwd Gwladys along with many other noteworthy plants such as
Five-ranked Bog-moss (Sphagnum quinquefarium)
Golden-head Moss (Breutelia chrysocoma)
Summer-moss (Anoectangium aestivum)
Beech-fern (Phegopteris connectilis)
Brittle Bladder-fern (Cystopteris fragilis)
Welsh Poppy (Meconopsis cambrica) at what possibly the only native site in the county.
Whilst not overtly showy, this green and gloomy world of ferns and mosses has a mystical beauty about it, enhanced even more when everything is dripping wet, as was the case last week!

Despite the rain we did manage to find a few patches of Marsh Hawk's-beard on the Neath Port Talbot side of the Afon Nedd between the confluence at Pwll Du ar Byrddin and Pontneddfechan.
Marsh Hawk's-beard on the Afon Nedd (VC41) 

05 July 2011

Lesser Grey Shrike at St.Justinian's (OOC unfortunately!)

This year I decided I should try and see a few more birds outside my normal birding patches in West Glam. I was given the perfect opportunity to visit the stunning Pembrokeshire Coast when Marion B. turned up this gem at St. Justinian's yesterday. I was surprised to be only one of five other birders present during a 2hr watch between 14:00 and 16:00. Nevertheless, the bird performed exceptionally well for us and we left very happy. Fantastic find Marion, Thanks!

A bit of video footage of this cracking bird via the link below

Lesser Grey Shrike video

04 July 2011

The Hummingbird and the Bee Beetles

Bee Beetle (Trichus fasciatus)
 What a difference a day makes. And finding a nice patch of Brambles(Rubus fruticosus agg.) helps too! At least 3 Bee Beetles around one dense patch out of the wind and with the regular "passage" of singles flying past me during the day that figure maybe conservative with regards to the total present!

Hummingbird Hawk-moth (Macroglossum stellatarum)
 Nice to see a Hummingbird on Independence Day. One made a very welcome, albeit brief, appearance.