30 November 2011

Some late autumn fungi

This year’s long autumn, free of any significant cold weather, has benefited a number of fungi. Our local sand dunes have been quite productive and several people have commented to me about the abundance of fruiting bodies on Whiteford Dunes. Clitocybe barbularum (Omphalina barbularum in some books) is a common species on all our local dune systems. This small, brown toadstool is one of a number of sand dune-specific species and is usually found growing in a bed of Sand-hill Screw-moss (Syntrichia ruralis subsp. ruraliformis) along with other species like the rather poisonous Ivory Funnel (Clitocybe rivulosa). Both of these species are Basidiomycetes that produce spores on gills that are formed on the underside of the cap. The photos below were taken on Baglan Dunes.

Clitocybe barbularum

Clitocybe rivulosa (Ivory Funnel)

Conifer plantations in the Neath Valley have been relatively poor this year but these fruiting bodies of Elastic Saddle (Helvella elastica) in the photo below were found at the edge of a Western Hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) stand above Resolven.

Helvella elastica (Elastic Saddle)

Although the fruiting body of Elastic Saddle looks superficially like that of a typical gill-bearing toadstool, it is in fact an Ascomycete, not a Basidiomycete. It produces spores all over the surface of the saddle-like cap and does not have gills or pores (see fruiting body on right).

27 November 2011

Cormorants on Whiteford Lighthouse

There were 63 Cormorants roosting on the lighthouse this evening. Although the Cormorants at Whiteford are counted monthly, it seems that the actual evening roost on the lighthouse itself is not counted very often. The daytime November average from the point from 1996-2010 (taken from Gower Birds) is 77, but some of these may also be using the nearby roost at  Blue Pool which frequently hosts >60 birds. The highest daytime count at Whiteford during this period was 199 recorded in November 2003.

Beautiful light from the point back towards Burry Holms at dusk, around which time the Eider flock (64) and Brent Geese (234) plus Black Brant flew with the tide into the estuary. Also of note there were two Firecrests in the dunes on the way out.

24 November 2011

Starling roost at WWT Llanelli

Numbers of Starlings have been building up at WWT Llanelli over the last couple of weeks. There was no mega flock as such, just a constant arrival of flocks like these. Once in the reeds they didn't come out again. It will be an interesting challenge for anyone attempting a count!

23 November 2011

The changing face of Baglan Burrows

Bing Maps (left), Google Maps (right)
I was comparing Bing and Google aerials this morning and was very surprised to see how much the impact of motorcycles on Baglan Burrows has increased in recent years. Other obvious changes also include the development of a large blowout in the foredunes, but all is not bad as the dunes do appear to be accreting at the western point. If anyone can work out how old each image is this would be interesting to know, my very rough guess would be 1999 & 2009?

20 November 2011

WWT Llanelli sunset

saltmarsh scrapes at WWT Llanelli
The Starling roost is probably as large as it's ever been at Penclacwydd at the moment, with a conservative estimate of ~100,000 birds roosting in the reeds in the Millennium Wetlands. There was also an added bonus of seeing two Great White Egrets going into roost after being chased around the saltmarsh scrape by a Grey Heron just before this attractive sunset.

Garden moths in Gorseinon

The garden trap produced a late Dark Sword-grass and more seasonal Feathered Thorn and Chestnuts.
Feathered Thorn with its feathered antenna folded under the wing
Dark Sword-grass
The periodicity plot in the map the below shows Dark Sword-grass has been recorded in all months except Januray, with peak numbers of this relatively common migrant occurring during the autumn period.
Distribution and flight period of Dark Sword-grass

19 November 2011

Black Brant on Whiteford Beach

Black Brant with Dark-bellied Brents
I took an early morning stroll with Mark Hipkin out to Whiteford first thing to look for the Black Brant Branta bernicla nigricans, found last week by Phil Hill, Mike Hogan, Rob Gaze & Martin Bell. This is a North American subspecies that has only been recorded in Wales on two previous occasions. This bird has joined forces with the wintering flock of Dark-bellied Brents B.b. bernicla, which are of Russian origin with ca.1000 spending each winter in the Burry Inlet.

In good light the American subspecies is very distinctive and stands out well in the crowd, as can be seen above. Note the general lack of grey tones, strong white flash on the flank and bolder neck collar which meets in the middle at the front (broken in D-b Brent). Also in the flock was a Pale-bellied Brent B.b. hrota which has a much whiter belly and flanks. A few more shots can be seen at

The best shots of the goose however are probably in the video taken by Mark 'Spielberg' below, which you can view here...  
 Black Brant Video

Spielberg in action!

18 November 2011

Common Darter last dates

Mike Piercey told me that there were 5 or more Common Darters sunning themselves in his yard yesterday. Just checked and the average last date for this species over the last 10 years is the 14th November, with the latest date on the database being 26th November 2006 when Tony Messinger saw a singleton at Kenfig. So definitely worth keeping an eye open during any sunny spells in sheltered spots over the next week or so as the mild weather looks set to continue a little bit longer at least and we may see a new record being set...
Common Darter in Glamorgan

14 November 2011

Clouded Funnel

These Clouded Funnel (Clitocybe nebularis) fruiting bodies were found in the forests on Mynydd Resolven this weekend. This medium to large sized toadstool often grows in large groups and clusters under deciduous broad-leaved trees and conifers, so it usually attracts attention. Clouded Funnel contains a number of interesting toxic purine derivatives such as nebularine, a compound which has been well-studied and is known to poison mammalian cells. The pharmacological effects of these toxins have attracted a lot of attention both as antibiotics and anti-tumour agents. Other species of Clitocybe contain significant amounts of a toxin called muscarine, notably Ivory Funnel (Clitocybe dealbata), which is a smaller, white species that occurs locally in grassland and on sand dunes. Muscarine poisoning is very unpleasant and potentially very serious for children and adults. A single cap of Ivory Funnel contains enough toxin to elicit toxicity symptoms in most people.

13 November 2011

Lots of Yellowhammers

Yellowhammer at Common Cliff
 It was a real treat to have so many Yellowhammers whilst walking a loop from Overton around Paviland Farm and back again today. The biggest group were sheltering out of the wind in the bushes at Foxhole Slade. There were 21 here and elsewhere along the walk three, twos and a few singles.
Chiffchaff at Paviland Farm
Nothing too out of the ordinary throughout the walk but nice stuff popping up here and there. The Chiffchaff shown above was in the bushes near Paviland farm and struggled for some time with a beetle that I thought was more suited to a shrike's diet than a Chiffchaff's! Other notable stuff included 11 Golden Plover, 2 Lapwing, 1Snipe, 200+ Skylark, 1 Goldcrest, 1 Dartford Warbler, 3 Chough, 50+ Chaffinch and 9 Reed Bunting

11 November 2011

Status update for Vagrant Emperor in Glamorgan

Mike Powell has provided details of the status of Vagrant Emperor in VC41 following the unprecedented numbers of records from around the British Isles and Ireland earlier this year. Please visit the VC41 Dragonfly Blog via the link on the post below to access details of records from our recording area.

10 November 2011

Vagrant Emperor at Baglan bay

Vagrant Emperor (c) M Hipkin
I found this Vagrant Emperor flying in the dunes at Baglan Bay today. I wasn't certain about the identityof this dragonfly at the time but following contact by email with Ardrian Parr, Migrant Dragonfly Officer for the British Dragonfly Society, Adrian has confirmed it.

For more information please visit the VC41 Dragonfly Blog on the link below

VC41 Dragonfly Blog

09 November 2011

Red Sword-grass in Gorseinon

Last night I ran the moth trap in the garden for the first time since the 11th October. Only seven species, but this handsome Red Sword-grass made the effort worthwhile. This is a localised species of marshes and boggy ground is a new species for the garden list.
The other species trapped were Streak (1), Feathered Thorn (1), Chestnut (4), Dark Chestnut (1), Brick (1) and Angle Shades (1).

08 November 2011

nightjar singleton park

This morning a new PhD student Martin says he watched a bird like a "long pigeon" singing in a tree just inside singleton park at the entrance from Brynmill Park on the left near the stream, about 9am. It had a continuous churring song. I've just been and checked with him and no sign now but sounds like a Nightjar! I checked common nighthawk calls, no chance it's that, but with this autumn what will happen next?

07 November 2011

Odd bird at Mumbles

Thought I'd post this here, from the GBC sightings.
"An unusual starling has been visiting our bird feeders. It has pale buff underparts with darker brown back and wings. No spots. Its legs are flesh coloured and its beak is yellow at the base. Both its legs and beak seem slightly thicker than those of normal starlings. Could it be a Rose-Coloured Starling?"
I'll see if I can get the lady's details [Margaret Green] so someone can maybe check it out.
...Thanks John. For details of where to view this bird see Glamorgan Birds website, Barry
record shot taken by Margaret & Tom Green 

WhiteFord; the graceful and the disgraceful!!

Sometimes it's easy not to take any notice of things you hear, like distant flying aircraft but I was watching the birds in the Great Pill from Berges Island and they were starting to look distressed. I looked up and saw some light aircraft go over at what I thought was pretty standard height, maybe a little low? Another aircraft was lower still at about 50m! While I was pretty annoyed with this it did put all the Eiders to flight and an opportunity presented itself!!
What happened next I still cannot believe! I could hear mass panic to my right and looked away from the flying Eiders to see this aircraft fly no more than 10m off the ground! It will be wrong of me to speculate about why the pilot chose to do this but it certainly wasn't beneficial to the birds present. I'm not fully up to speed on the boundaries or classifications of designation afforded to this area apart from the Burry Inlet is a RAMSAR and I think Whiteford is a SSSI?
At one point I thought it must be a crashing aircraft but the fact that it was controlled indicates a complete disregard to the safety. I will be pursuing this matter with both the police and CCW in the hope that maximum penalties possible can be imposed on this pilot and even the flying club. I wasn't the only one to witness this crazy act and Nick from Gower Photography will also be pursuing this matter. I'm not sure how successful it's going to be but if anyone else witnesses scenes like this it is well worth reporting them as this helps the police build a picture.

06 November 2011

Wonderful Whiteford

Whiteford produced a very enjoyable birding middle session today having started and finishing with the Isabelline Wheatear. 3 birds stood out, a Firecrest, a Long-tailed Duck and a Red-necked Grebe. Quite apart from the Isabelline Wheatear, each of the birds mentioned would have made my day on their own. So to have all three together in the same day was quite special. The 2 poor quality photos shown are pretty reflective of the distances and subsequent views that provide an extra challenge when birding at Whiteford.

I've attached a couple of links to video footage of the birds below. The standard is not great because not all birds pose on top of rocks or bushes and say birdie to the camera!

Red-necked Grebe video

Long-tailed Duck video

Wheatear Watchers

The Isabelline Wheatear was quite a crowd puller by Gower standards. Being constantly on show, often performing at close range in the brilliant sunshine, it ensured there was a constant turnover of birders with the most I saw at any one time being about 35. How long before we get another bird of this quality?
The pre-dawn brigade. Mark informed me he was on his own at 0650hrs when the bird first showed on the mound.  
Some mid-morningers enjoying fabulous views in perfect conditions. The bird was generally more active on the surrounding saltmarsh at this stage using the pony poo for perching!

Isabelline Wheatear,Wernffrwd,Gower

Few pics of the wheatear,great find by Rob,terrific bird,huge thanks as well to Mark and Barry for getting the news out so quickly,lifer for me as well,woohoo !!
More pics at http://grcforum.blogspot.com/2011/11/isabelline-wheatearwernffrwdgower.html

05 November 2011

Isabelline Wheatear

Before I forget, congratulations go to Rob Taylor on a fantastic find! I've put a link below to a bit of video of the bird

Isabelline Wheatear video

Isabelline Wheatear cont...

Isabelline Wheatear found and photographed by Rob Taylor. A absolutely fantastic find made all the more special by the beautiful evening light. More photos at http://grcforum.blogspot.com/2011/11/isabelline-wheatear-cont.html
(c) R.H.A. Taylor
(c) R.H.A. Taylor

Isabelline Wheatear at Wernffrwd

Rob Taylor found this Isabelline Wheatear late on this afternoon and I managed to get there and to take a few record shots. Rather befittingly, Rob has some very nice shots of the bird which show the diagnostic features better than my efforts do. Treat this as a bit of an appetiser of some better shots to come! I've taken a bit of video and hopefully I'll get that edited some tome tonight.

04 November 2011

Wryneck at Earlswood Golf Course

A late Wryneck at Earlswood golf course today. Having been treated to my first NPT Wryneck earlier this year I wasn't expecting to see my next one so soon afterwards! But as Charles Hipkin stated it's "impossible to see too many Wrynecks!" Charles joined with me returning to look for the bird this afternoon and we found in the same area after a brief wait. It seems pretty loyal to the damp track between the golf course and the Neath River. This area is best accessed by parking at the turn off to the Ferry Boat Inn (SS72949392) and following the track around the back of the golf course, through the wood and 80m beyond the wood to the open area with a wet track (SS73119367). The bird was showing all along the track on both sides.

02 November 2011

Visible Migration at Rhossili

Starlings over Inner Worm
Nothing too unusual today with regards to species during my visit to West Gower.However, there was an apparent visible migration with Starlings contributing to a large portion of the birds passing through. 1980 Starlings were counted heading west with most birds choosing to fly over The Worm. Other large numbers were provide by Linnet(511), although this number also includes a large group of regular birds, and Chaffinch (233)
Linnets over Rhossili fields
Some other highlights from the day were as follows:-
Rhossili - 3 Yellowhammer
Mewsalde - 10 Redwing, 2 Goldcrest, 1 Chiffchaff, 1f Blackcap and 2 Yellowhammer
Overton - 3 Teal, 4 Stock Dove and 3 Redwing
Paviland - 1 Teal, 1 Lapwing, 1 Snipe, 1 Woodcock, c150 Skylark and c3000 Starling feeding in the fields
Oxwich Bay - Only one bird found on the sea, a single and possible Red-necked Grebe. It was a bit distant and conditions made viewing very difficult. Anyway it's worth a mention to anyone who might be in the area to check it out in calmer conditions.