30 October 2011

Isabelline Shrike at Porth Clais, Pembroke

I started off today with good intentions of maybe finding something nice in our recording area and having made the trip to Rhossili things weren't going too badly with a late Balearic Shearwater flying out of Rhossili Bay. Not long after this however news came through that the Isabelline Shrike found on Friday, but not seen yesterday, was still present this morning. Like the Lesser Grey Shrike that I went to see earlier this year this bird was found by Marion B on this occasion John and Jon were also in on the discovery.
I'm very fond of Shrikes and it's very easy to spend a long time watching them. Not surprisingly I've taken a bit of video of this bird which can be found on the link below

Isabelline Shrike video

Clouded Yellow at Oxwich

Paul Tyrrel wrote 'Oxwich hide was very quiet Friday morning on the birding front, with only the local Moorhen on show but warm weather brought out several dragonflies and one or two Red Admirals seen from the hide. But as I left and made my way along the boardwalk I was lucky enough to see this Clouded Yellow sunning its self in the grass. Considering all the rain we have had recently still in very good condition.'
[A late record of what has been an very poor year for this species.] 

Mediterranean Gulls in Bracelet Bay

This flock, photographed just below Castellamare Cafe Bar, comprises mostly Mediterranean Gulls. In fact there are 58 in this group of 66 birds, which also includes 7 Black-headed Gulls and 1 Herring Gull. There were other Med's around and we saw a minimum of 65 today, which I think is probably the most I have ever recorded at this site?
A few were colour-ringed, but we only managed to read [White 3C78] and [White 39J8], both almost certainly of Belgian origin.

Woodlarks at Paviland

Chris Brewer found and photographed two obliging Woodlarks in stubble at Paviland today (photos (c) Chris Brewer).
In addition to the bold white supercilium behind the eye, note
the diagnostic black & white alula below the greater coverts.
Photo showing well how the white supercilia meet in a 'V' on the nape.
Woodlarks have appeared in south-west Gower in five out of the last 10 years, with October-November being by far the best time to look for them.

29 October 2011

garden and park fungi

My fungi identification is not too hot, so any feedback on these two species would be welcome. I still have the specimens in the fridge!
cf Hygrocybe fornicata (Earthy Waxcap)
several patches in our side garden lawn 
cf Clavulinopsis umbrinella (Beige Spindles)
growing under a poplar in Parc-y-Werin, Gorseinon

Last few warm sunny days...

Gower adders are still slithering out of their hibernation sites on sunny days to warm up. Soon they will settle in for the winter and won’t be seen until late February / early March. Female adder seen yesterday (28/10).

28 October 2011

Birds of Neath and District

Whinchat by Dr Bryn Richards
The GOS 2011/12 Winter programme of events continues this evening with an illustrated talk by myself. Since my recent return to the birding scene over the last few years I've been reacquainting myself with the local area and the bird life found here. There have been some quite apparent changes since my early years of birding which stopped about 20 years ago. If you go further back Dr Bryn Richards, one of the founder members of G.O.S, produced a systematic list of bird records between 1952 to 1972 for the Neath and District area. Dr Richards’ systematic list includes a brief status of each species recorded during that period and it has been very interesting noting how bird life has changed over the last few decades locally as well as some obvious additions and losses from the area.

Using a systematic list to compare the birds recorded between 1952 to 1972 and 2009 to 2011 has shown some expected and unexpected trends and I will aim to highlight these. The talk will be illustrated using both Dr Richards’ and my own photographs, with a bit of video thrown in for good measure.

This talk is open to GOS members and non-members alike so if you’re interested and can make it please come along.

The meeting will be held in the Environment Centre, Pier Street, Swansea at 19.00 for a 19.30 start. Admission as usual £1.00 a head to cover venue costs.

23 October 2011

Some of this week's fungi

Here are a few photos of some of the fungi seen in Neath Port Talbot over the last few days, during an otherwise poor season.
Web Caps (Cortinarius species) are to mycologists what the North American Empidonax flycatchers are to birders - a nightmare! They are the largest group of fungi found in Britain and the popular guidebooks contain only a small proportion of the species. A few are deadly poisonous.
Cinnamon Webcap (C. cinnamomeus) is fairly common in our area under birch and conifers. Those in the photo were growing under Sitka Spruce (Picea sitchensis) in Afan Forest Park. The young gills are yellow-orange in colour when young, then go rich brown in colour. The cap usually has a central point (umbo). There are a few closely related lookalikes.

Cortinarius cinnamomeus

Girdled Webcap (C. trivialis) is much less common and grows with willows. But, it is quite distinctive with a slimy cap, a whitish girdle on the stalk and, below this, lots of coarse scales This one was found under Eared Willow (Salix aurita) near Blaengwynfi.

Cortinarius trivialis

Butter Cap (Collybia butyracea) is one of the most common toadstools in local conifer plantations. It has a very greasy (buttery) cap which is dark brown when moist but dries out to a pale colour when dry (as shown in the photo).

Collybia butyracea

Shaggy Scalycap (Pholiota squarrosa) is an almost unmistakable species, covered in brown scales and growing in clusters on dead wood or at the bottom of living trees. It is usually found on the wood of deciduous trees, but these were growing in a Norway Spruce (Picea abies) plantation near Cwmgrach.

Pholiota squarrosa

17 October 2011

A Bold Centipede

This 10cm long specimen of the centipede Stigmatogaster subterranea was patrolling around the top of a rock outside the kitchen window this morning. Surprisingly three hours later it was doing exactly the same thing on the next rock along and I assume it was there for the whole time. I've no idea what this behaviour was all about (possibly something similar to Martyn's observations of flies with Summits Disease - see http://goweros.blogspot.com/2011/08/summits-disease.html), but its scientific name suggests it should have been underground? More surprising was that the birds on the feeder, barely 1m away, showed no interest in this worm-like creature. [photos as encountered rather than set up]

16 October 2011

Seasonal Snow

Snow Bunting at Newton (c) M. Hipkin
Dean Bolt found this very nice Snow Bunting at Newton on 14/10/11. It was still present yesterday and showing particularly well in nice afternoon light. It's worth keeping an eye out for them along coastal tracks and paths with some good numbers around the country at the moment. Snow Buntings can easily be overlooked due to their reluctance to fly unless absolutely necessary. Check out the link below for a bit of video of the bird.

Snow Bunting video

14 October 2011

seasonal plant

A lunchtime check of the ivy flowers between the University and Mumbles found nothing more interesting than one Ferdinandea cuprea. However there was a sprig of mistletoe growing on a poplar at Blackpill, its low height leads me to suspect the hand of man rather than any natural origin. No berries for a christmas kiss though!

12 October 2011

Parasitic Bolete in Coed Bach Park

Whilst walking the dog in Coed Bach Park, Pontarddulais we picked a rather slug-eaten example of the parasitic fungus Xerocomus parasiticus (Parasitic Bolete) growing from its host, Scleroderma citrinum (Common Earthball). Identification is straightforward as this is the only fungus known to grow from any kind of puffball. The photo below shows sections through the parasitised Common Earthball. Note that early in the development of the earthball fruiting body, the spores are relatively pale, but these blacken with age.
There appear to be very few local records of the Parasitic Bolete, so it is always worth noting if you come across this easily recognised species. Non-mycologists (myself included) should always take a record shot or specimen as fungi are a particularly challenging group due to their plasticity and variation. See also earlier post of Earthballs in situ http://goweros.blogspot.com/2010/10/common-fungi-in-our-woodlands.html

07 October 2011

Beautiful Demoiselle

male Beautiful Demoiselle (c) J. Driscoll
A little bit of a late posting but Jeff Driscoll has just sent me a few photos of Beautiful Demoiselles that he found on the Swansea Canal at Ynysmeudwy lower lock back in August. He also notes that there were particularly good numbers of them at this location, estimating between 20 and 30! Having only seen my first one of these this year I'll be paying this location a visit next year for certain.
female Beautiful Demoiselle (c) Jeff Driscoll
For more like these check out the link the link below

VC41 Dragonfly Blog

05 October 2011

Catbirds in Morriston

Angie Jones may need to make alternative arrangements for feeding the birds in her garden!
(c) A. Jones

Red Deer at Margam

Early morning Stag
Paul Tyrrell wrote: 'Good to see so many fantastic birds on or near our patch so far this autumn, long may it continue. But as you know autumn is also the time of the red deer rut so with the weather set good for the weekend i headed to margam park for first light saturday morning, and i wasn't disappointed. There seemed to be one large stag holding an area with thirty or more hinds in it. there were half a dozen younger and much smaller males around, but any coming to close were quickly chased away, with much bellowing and stamping of the ground. The younger stags seemed quite happy to flex their muscles among them selves with some locking of antlers and much pushing and shoving but none with the strength or size to challenge the dominant stag. I later spoke to a chap who told me there was another large stag at the other end of the park with his own group of females. So i will definitely be going back in the next week or two, weather permitting of course.'
Stag with some of his hinds
Sun rise

04 October 2011

Peregrine v Herring Gull

Dai Roberts wrote: 'I was down Whiteford yesterday out on the sand bank / rocks extending to the lighthouse carefully looking out for waders - educational reasons of course! There were a flock of mainly herring gulls perched on the bank behind me and I looked around when I heard a commotion. The main flock were just taking off rising into the air, very upset indeed. Two amid the crowd, did not take off as they were fighting. A closer look and I realised one of them was a peregrine falcon and it was wrestling with what appeared to be a juvenile herring gull. This went on for a couple of minutes, the gull making a lot of noise. The other gulls took no helpful movements and just flew off out onto the water. I did not see the peregrine make contact, but I suspect it did not strike the gull in the air, or if so very low down indeed. The gull fought well poor thing and did not look as if it had been stunned because it was hit in flight. I always thought gulls were immune to peregrine attack?'

03 October 2011

Migrant moths in Nitten Field

First OS map of Gower (provided by Gordon Howe) with middle leg of
this Convolvulus Hawk-moth is pointing to Mewslade. 
Last night there was a good arrival of migrant moths into the UK and two traps set in the Nitten Field at Mewslade attracted a very good selection of these. The highlight was a single specimen of the Old World Webworm (Hellula undalis), the first record in Glamorgan of this tropical species.
Numbers of all 50 species recorded are given below, with migrants shown in bold - more photos here http://moonmoths.blogspot.com/:
Caloptilia stigmatella (1), Mompha subbistrigella (1), Light Brown Apple Moth (7), Rhomboid Tortrix (2), Acleris hastiana (1), Eudonia angustea (4), Old World Webworm (1), Rusty-dot Pearl (39), Rush Veneer (1), Vestal (19), Red-green Carpet (1), Common Marbled Carpet (5), Green Carpet (4), Brimstone Moth (3), Convolvulus Hawk-moth (1), Archer's Dart (1), Turnip Moth (1), Dark Sword-grass (1), Large Yellow Underwing (6), Lesser Yellow Underwing (2), Autumnal Rustic (16), Pearly Underwing (1), Setaceous Hebrew Character (52), Neglected Rustic (1), Square-spot Rustic (16), Common Wainscot (7), L-album Wainscot (5), Black Rustic (51), Green-brindled Crescent (29), Large Ranunculus (1), Feathered Ranunculus (2), Brick (1), Red-line Quaker (7), Yellow-line Quaker (1), Flounced Chestnut (4), Beaded Chestnut (5), Lunar Underwing (26), Orange Sallow (1), Pink-barred Sallow (4), Sallow (2), Dark/Grey Dagger (1), Angle Shades (10), Rosy Rustic (6), Frosted Orange (2), Large Wainscot (4), Small Mottled Willow (1), Pale Mottled Willow (2), Ni Moth (1), Silver Y (3) & Snout (3).

02 October 2011

Bonxie on Swansea's filthy west pier

A very confiding Great Skua was looking for scraps on the pier this morning providing great photo opportunities with the Meridian Tower behind. We had a very nice cup of hot chocolate in the Grape and Olive at the top of the building afterwards and can definitely recommend it; stunning views and we managed to tick off the skua from there too! Some friendly Turnstones were also present feeding on left over bait. I have to say the mess left on the pier by fishermen was a disgrace, not just the usual discarded line and hooks everywhere, but cans and litter left scattered. I wont go into details about the foul smell engulfing the end of the pier - perhaps that's what attracted the Bonxie in the first place!
Bonxie is the Shetland name for Great Skua and is commonly adopted by birdwatchers. It is believed to be of Scandinavian origin derived from bunke meaning 'dumpy body'.

01 October 2011

a bird free day 30th september

High tide was nice in the Burry but no birds of interest to photograph and a trip to Oxwich hide found a man with a machine working in front of the hide so.......... turn of attention to insects on the Ivy blossom. Lots to see including:

Mellinus arvensis decapitating a fly prior to carrying it back to the burrow, they don't always do this according to photographs, maybe this was a feisty fly!

a better view of the Mellinus.

My first Colletes hederae! A check later at Port Eynon also found them there so they are likely to be widespread now? Anyone else seen them yet? Day wasn't totally bird free. This Goldfinch, feeding on Evening Primrose seed was so confiding it got a face full of flash and my 100mm macro!