30 January 2012

Pesticides blamed for bee decline

There was a very interesting article in this Sunday's Independant, this excerpt gives a flavour '...Researchers found that bees deliberately exposed to minute amounts of the pesticide were, on average, three times as likely to become infected when exposed to a parasite called nosema as those that had not. The findings, which have taken more than three years to be published, add weight to concern that a new group of insecticides called neonicotinoids are behind a worldwide decline in honey bees, along with habitat and food loss, by making them more susceptible to disease....' 
Clearly it's not just bees that are being affected!
Click here to read the full article.

29 January 2012

Deer at Whiteford

[length 55mm] (c) R. Colley

Rob Colley wrote: 'This Whiteford-resident fossil was picked out of a recently-exposed peat slab on the beach at Whiteford point. Cardiff Museum Palaeontology Dept. have identified it as “the lower jaw back (or second) molar of a deer (possibly Red deer), deposited between 3000-11000 yrs ago. These (peat) beds built up in the low lying marshy ground behind coastal dunes… when … sea level was up to 25m lower than today.”
Maybe not all change down there can be attributed to sheep and quad bikes?'

28 January 2012

Iolo talk

Iolo Williams is a Patron of Gower Bird Hospital and we are delighted that he has agreed to do another illustrated talk to raise funds for the Hospital. The talk is called “Wales – From Mountaintop to Sea” and will be on Wednesday 1st February 2012 at 7.30pm at The Grove Lecture Theatre, Singleton Campus Swansea University. Admission is by advance ticket only, tickets are £10 each and all funds raised will go towards the running costs of Gower Bird Hospital.

This is a very popular event and there are still some tickets available for purchase at the bird hospital reception on Sandy Lane. Tel: 01792 371630.

27 January 2012

Neath Canal Bridge

A total of 17 mosses and 17 vascular plants were noted growing directly on the stonework of the canal bridge downstream of the lock at Crugau yesterday. There was nothing particularly rare or unusual about this assemblage, but I always find it remarkable what can be found once you start looking... 
The neat domes of Grey-cushioned Grimmia (Grimmia pulvinata) were noted growing with more sprawling mats of Thickpoint Grimmia (Schistidium crassipilum) on the top of the bridge parapets. Capsules of Clustered Feather-moss (Rhynchostegium confertum) growing on the wall sides were immersed in water droplets creating an interesting effect and Verdigris Tufa-moss (Gymnostomum aeruginosum) was noted growing along the mortar lines.
Enjoying these patches of winter green was a Two-toothed Door Snail (Clausilia bidentata).

Early Bombus hypnorum

(c) C. Hipkin
 I noticed a Bumblebee on the patio this morning, it was pretty messed up after a heavy downpour. Clearly a recent emerged Bumblebee that may have been caught out by last night's cooler temps? When I went to pick it up I noticed a small amount of movement in its legs. I'm not sure where I got this info from, maybe read it somewhere or Nigel Ajax-Lewis told me, but you can give Bumblebees a much needed energy boost by letting them feed from honey?
The Bumblebee was put on a bit of kitchen towel with a small amount of honey, covered with a plastic tray and placed on the windowsill which gets the morning sun. About 90mins later it was ready to go. The top photo, taken by Charles Hipkin, shows it not long after release in tip-top condition.
On a more serious note it wasn't that long ago that Bombus hypnorum was first recorded in Glamorgan, less than two years ago I think, but the early emergence and long flying season is allowing this Bumblebee to spread like wildfire across British Isles and is sure to be one of our most common Bumblebees in years to come. I like them, not least because they're distinctive among other Bumblebee species!!

RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch

It's that time again. The BIG GARDEN BIRDWATCH is here again. A very valuable exercise to help keep track on the the status of our commoner birds. If you'd like to take part and haven't before you can find out more on the link below. Good luck!

Big Garden Birdwatch homepage

25 January 2012

Gower Ornithological Society indoor meeting

Jeremy Douglas-Jones wrote: 
This Friday, 27th January it is time for the Society's annual Margaret Price Memorial Quiz. It will be held, as usual, at the Environment Centre, Pier Street, Swansea starting at 7.30pm. This year the quiz will be presented by last year's winner: Chris Brewer, so at least the tough competition will not be up against you! This is a great, fun evening and a great way to test your birding knowledge.
Admission is the usual £1.00 each so do come and join in.

07770 986791
01792 551331

Frog spawn: First dates table

Last nights mild and wet conditions seems to have sparked some more amphibian activity, resulting in 5 clumps of spawn being laid in our Gorseinon garden last night.

4th Jan Carn Glas Road, Swansea, Siriol Jones
7th Jan: Clydach, Swansea, Andrew Lucas (poss a few days old)
25th Jan: Gorseinon, Barry& Sandra Stewart
25th Jan: North side of Cefn Bryn, Mark Barber
26th Jan: Swansea Community Farm, Fforest Fach, Mark Barber

21 January 2012

Penrice Wood

A selection of ferns, mosses & liverworts found growing on a Limestone outcrop in the wood at Penrice today:
Rambling Tail-moss (Anomodon viticulosus)
locally abundant on Limestone rocks and walls around Gower 
MacKay's Pouncewort (Marchesinia mackaii)
scarce in Glamorgan, but a good population at Penrice
Wall Scalewort (Porella platyphylla)
frequent on Limestone rocks and walls around Gower 
Southern Polypody (Polypodium cambricum)
growing from Rambling Tail-moss
scarce in Glamorgan, on walls and more rarely trees

20 January 2012

Local scenes

There's been a fair bit of action around our shores recently and I've been trying to capture a bit of it on film, in a bid to catch up in one go I've grouped three videos together in this post. Two are from Oxwich and one from Aberavon. I've tried to capture the variety of action at Oxwich in the first link and the next two concentrate on the Iceland Gulls at Oxwich and the bottom link shows an Iceland Gull at Jackstones Pier, Aberavon. As Barry has mentioned below the action at Oxwich seems to have dried up and to my knowledge the featured Iceland Gulls have moved on. All the same it was great while it lasted and there will be a few more Iceland Gulls found before the winter is out I'm sure!

General scene at Oxwich Bay 29th December 2011

Iceland Gulls at Oxwich Bay

Iceland Gull at Aberavon

Volunteers for Bird Surveys

An interesting community project going on at Glantawe Riverside Park, Ynysmeudwy which is being coordinated by Roger Dutton. If you're interested I'm sure Roger will be delighted to see you. Details are found on the the photo which should enlarge when you click it.

19 January 2012

Whooper Swans on Broad Pool

Philip Croft wrote: 'On Tuesday morning [17th], about 9am, I was driving past Broad Pool. I saw swans on it (which is unusual, anyway), assumed they were Mute, then glanced sideways and saw the bill pattern on one; it was a Whooper. I reversed back and had a good look; there were six Whooper Swans and four Mute Swans on the pool. For 18 years I drove past Broad Pool twice a day and never saw Whooper Swans on it, so this is pretty unusual.'
It appears the small group of Mute Swans that has been present for the last week or so may have attracted the Whoopers to land on the pool.

18 January 2012

Iceland Gulls in Oxwich Bay

The feeding bonanza in Oxwich Bay appears to peter out at the end of last week. Among the feeding masses, the highligh was probably the appearance of four Iceland Gulls, each being in a different age class, these being:
1st winter plumage : 28th Dec - 8th Jan
2nd winter plumage : 28th Dec - 7th Jan
3rd winter plumage: 7th-8th Jan
Adult winter plumage : 7th Jan
Although birds have now dispersed, it's quite possible these and other Iceland Gulls will turn up at other sites such as Blackpill, Whiteford or in the Burry Inlet. Another 1st winter bird has also been seen at Aberavon, so 2012 could turn out to be a bumper year for this normally scarce Arctic gull.
2nd winter Iceland Gull 30th Dec.
for non-birders, it's the 'white-winged' gull in front. 

Baglan Energy Park mosses

Cladonia sp.
Yesterday I took a walk over the site where Charles and Hilary Hipkin found Wall Bedstraw (Galium parisiense) last year see here. It was still evident mid-winter, with patches of new growth even sporting a few flowers. However, Cladonia lichens and a variety of mosses were the most prominent feature of this seemingly barren area of slag, Megapolitan Feather-moss and Kneiff's Hook-moss being species of note.
Megapolitan Feather-moss (Rhynchostegium megapolitanum)
Kneiff's Hook-moss (Drepanocladus aduncus)
The commonest species in this area was Lesser Bird's-claw Beard-moss, that formed extensive patches some of which were producing capsules on long yellow stalks.
Lesser Bird's-claw Beard-moss (Barbula convoluta var. convoluta)

Bob's funeral

To be held at 11:30am, Friday 27th January at Pantygwydr Church, Uplands, Swansea, then 1:30pm at Llanelli Crematorium. Refreshments at Pantygwydr Church after the service.

16 January 2012

Bob Rigdon

Bob, Dean and myself in the Nitten Field last autumn
(c) Gordon Howe 
I regret passing on the very sad news that my good friend Bob Rigdon passed away last night. Bob was diagnosed with lung cancer last year, yet despite his worsening health, always managed a smile and a laugh whenever I saw him. He was a true gentleman, modest and polite, but always cheery and a little bit cheeky whenever we were out ringing, no matter how early the hour! Bob loved exploring Gower and had great appreciation and affection for its wildlife and scenery. A devoted family man, our thoughts are with his wife Trish and their family at this very sad time.

Otter in Neath

I was delighted to find an Otter using the Neath River not far from where I often go to check out what's present around the Neath Saltmarsh. The photo is a still from a video which is much better and can be found following the link below. The Neath Abbey salt marsh  is a very valuable natural resource right in the heart of Neath. In the last 16 months it has produced some nice records such as Pink-footed Goose, Spoonbills, Ospreys and this Otter.

Otter video

Tree Sparrow update

Andrew Lucas wrote: 'Barry Weston and I visited the Newton Farm tree sparrow site at first light on Sunday morning. After about 20 minutes a single tree sparrow turned up and fed ravenously, until a pass by a sparrowhawk caused the birds to dive into nearby cover. Matt Hunter also visited later in the day, and saw the tree sparrow, and two passes by separate sparrowhawks. Let's hope our tree sparrow has its wits about it!

Afterwards, we split up, with Barry covering the farmland to the east, whilst I walked west to the feeding site at Kimley Moor. There was a flock of 20+ chaffinches at Kimley Moor, and a larger flock of about 50, along with a few house sparrows, just outside Scurlage. However, the general 'birdlessness' of much of the farmland was a concern. Sheep grazing or autumn-sown cereals seem to be the dominant land use, with few arable fields with weedy edges that farmland species might favour.

East of Scurlage looks like a better bet, with several large ploughed fields that might be worth a try. We hope to take a look at these over the coming weeks.

13 January 2012

Fish in Oxwich Bay

A fisherman showed us this fish that he found washed up on Oxwich Beach at low tide this afternoon, which he identified as a Pilchard (Sardina pilchardus). I'm no fish expert, but it does look very much like the slender-bodied illustration of a Pilchard in my Collins Pocket Guide to Fish of Britain and Europe, said to grow to 28cm. Whilst the Gannets, Shags and Cormorants and Grey Seals would easily take fish of this size, clearly birds such as the Kittiwake, Razorbill and even the larger gulls clearly were feeding on smaller fish than this. - another species or do Pilchards appear in a range of size classes?


After not seeing much of the sun since before Christmas, it's been nice to have the opportunity to be out and about around sunset the last two days. Images, as they came out of the camera, give a good impression of the light each evening:
...after feeding the swans at Sandy Water Park last night.
Arthur's Stone this evening.
The only moss I could find in the gloom on the stone itself were a few small cushions of Common Pincushion (Dicranoweisia cirrata), although the lichen flora, which I know nothing about, looked more promising.

Crimson Speckled in Horton

(c) C. Careless
Caroline Careless of Malvern, Worcs sent me four prints of a specimen of the Crimson Speckled that she photographed whilst on holiday in Horton on 14th October last year, providing proof of the first modern record of this rare migrant moth in Glamorgan. Caroline wrote '...I was walking back up to the camp-site...when I stopped to rest on the bench on the right hand side of the road. The moth showed up clearly against the dark wood of the bench seat and fluttered up onto the nearby wall before labouring its way across the road onto a high stone garden wall...where the photographs were taken...'
(c) C. Careless

10 January 2012


I've not heard of many Firecrests this winter, though thankfully Goldcrests seem to be in good supply after being very scarce the previous two winters.
Firecrest (c) Wayne Davies
This jewel of a bird has been present at Kidwelly sewage works for a few weeks and seems fairly reliable along with the long-staying Long-billed Dowitcher, which is usually north of the quay. In fact the best placed to look for the Dowitcher is on the bend just above the railway bridge, looking from the riverside path at Glan-yr-afon Park ~SN400068. Many thanks to Wayne for this cracking photo.

06 January 2012

Fleabane Tortoise Beetle at Leason Wood

 Fleabane Tortoise Beetle (Cassida murraea)
Beetle found in lightly flushed limestone grassland along with range of interesting mosses including erect shoots of Lindberg's Plait-moss (Calliergonella lindbergii).

Oxwich Bird Hide and shooting

I have been informed that CCW are aware of the complaints regarding shooting in the area around the hide and have been in contact with the relevant parties. An agreement is in place that any further shooting activity will be notified via a sign at the hide and on the main road gate. Unless otherwise notified the hide is open to the public.

Frog Spawn

Siriol Jones reported the first Frog spawn at Carn Glas Road, Swansea on 4th January. If anyone can beat that we'd love to hear from you.

This message may be of interest to spawn-spotters like Siriol and myself:

Dear all
A Happy New Year from all at Pond Conservation
Have you seen frog or toad spawn in your garden pond? Then join in with our Big Spawn Count, so that we can find out more about the breeding success of our frogs and toads in garden ponds nationally.
The Big Pond Dip and Thaw surveys have given us a lot of new information about garden ponds. Now we are working with our colleagues at Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (ARC) and Amphibian and Reptile Groups of UK (ARGUK) to find out more about the numbers of frogs breeding in garden ponds.
We are also keen to find out more about our common toad. Although, toads are less associated with garden ponds – there is some indication that the use of gardens is becoming more frequent due to loss of traditional breeding habitat. This is something we would like to find out more about.
You can take part in our Big Spawn Count by going to your pond and counting the number of spawn clumps present. For more information about this, and to enter your results online go to our Big Spawn Count pages.
with best regards
Angela Julian
Supporters' Scheme Manager 

03 January 2012

Kittiwakes and other seabirds

I spent most of the morning waiting for the rain to pass and hoping that the weather forecasters had got it right! They had and I was able to spend the afternoon sheltering from the wind watching the seabird action in Oxwich Bay. I was a bit like a kid in a sweet shop and didn't know where to look next!
I urge anyone who hasn't yet been to see the action to go do down and fill your boots. A telescope would certainly help obtaining better views of some of the action but even without one, if you go along the path to Oxwich Point and look out from near the Church the Kittiwakes (shown above) are energising the area right in front of you. Cormorants in good numbers, Shags, Razorbills, Guillemots and Gannets can been watched from here, as well as some Grey Seals. The Gull numbers are in their thousands and an immature Iceland Gull is often on view from here among them. The photos and descriptions don't do this spectacle justice and you need to see it with your own eyes. With strong westerly winds in the forecast until the weekend I would say it is unlikely that numbers will drop dramatically before then but it might not last for weeks? If you get a chance go down soon, go you won't be disappointed! I'm going again tomorrow.....

02 January 2012


Dai Roberts wrote: 'For many years I have considered Oxwich as more of a butterfly or wildflower zone. Bird life has been less of an attraction, but in the last two weeks it has gone wild! "The Gulls" have swarmed in, plus shag, cormorant, razorbill, divers etc, even seals and the occasional porpoise. Still my Sanderling have not been scared off! The kittiwakes were enjoying the sunshine today.' All photos (c) D. Roberts.
Kittiwake first winter
Kittiwake adult winter 

Burry Weather

At Wernffrwd this evening a Short-eared Owl came out to hunt as two Great White Egrets, 32 Little Egrets and two Hen Harriers went to roost. Nice light between the showers.
Oystercathers off Dalton's Point
Rainbow over Crofty from Wernffrwd

Tree Sparrow Project:Newton Farm

Few "record" shots of a single Tree Sparrow using the feeders with House Sparrows, Chaffinches, Blue Tits and Robins taken during a visit this pm by myself and Peter Morgan. Worryingly a Sparrowhawk was eyeing up the small birds and landed in the high tree behind the barn, it didn't make a kill and flew off across the fields. The feeders were 90% full.

01 January 2012

Oxwich Bay

Nicholaston Pill post flush!
I couldn't resist another trip down to Oxwich this morning and managed to add Glaucous Gull to the list of birds seen there in the last few weeks, a fine 1st winter bird at Nicholaston Pill. This was in a flock of 6,000 gulls (Herring and Common mostly) and 72 Cormorants at Nicholaston Pill which were flushed by the first early morning dog-walkers, most birds flying inland or out to sea. I bumped into Rob Taylor who had made some counts early on which included 62 Gannets, 207 Razorbills, 732 Kittiwakes (he saw over 900 a few days back) and 139 Shags. Also present were 2 Great Northern Divers (1 very close to the car park), a few Red-throated Divers & 7+ Grey Seals.
Nicholaston Pill mid-flush!