29 February 2012

Last minute square bashing

male Goshawk
Some last minute recording today in a couple of 2km squares was rewarded with a fly over male Goshawk. Apart from that a few Crossbills and Lesser Redpolls added a bit of variation to the day. A Robin made an amazing imitation of a Willow Warbler song at one point which stopped me in my tracks.
White-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lucorum)
It was hard to accept that today was technically still winter! Many insects were making the most of the summer like  conditions and a few Mining bees were attracted to the Colt's-foot that was in flower but most of the bumblebees I encountered today went whizzing past. The above Bombus lucorum did stop briefly to inspect a shaded area but my movement soon disturbed her and she was off. Not long after this I did find my first Red Admiral of the year sunning itself on a forestry track. There'll be talk of Wheatear before long.......
Red Admiral

Tree Bee in Gorseinon

Sitting down to food at 4.15, Sandra spotted a bee on the Tête à Tête Daffodils on the outside window sill. I nipped out and squeezing itself into the small trumpets was a big queen Tree Bee (Bombus hypnorum). Needless to say by the time I grabbed the camera she'd moved on. That makes two sightings already in what I suspect will be a bumper year for this recent colonist.

27 February 2012

Oh it's warming up again!

Been out and about a bit. Bombus pratorum in the garden (didn't go far!) yesterday.

Crossbills at Planhigfa Brynllefrith, Upper Lliw on saturday

Greenshank at Penclawdd a couple of weekends ago.

26 February 2012

Bees and the environment depend upon you!

We have one more opportunity to get the neonicotinoid pesticides banned

Please get your MPs to sign Martin Caton's New EDM posted 31/01.12
At the moment only 23 MPs have signed.

PESTICIDE USE AND HONEY BEES http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2010-12/2664

If you want to find out who your MP is: http://findyourmp.parliament.uk/

To read more about this click here

Please forward this to your friends and relatives. Bees and the environment depend upon you, so don't let them down.
Best wishes
Rosemary Mason
Buff-tailed Bumblebee feeing deep in a daffodil trumpet at Broughton today
(Sandra Stewart)

22 February 2012

Gold in Gwent!

Common Yellowthroat in Gwent
Not quite gold but very bright yellow! If you can make the trip and the bird stays for a while, it'll be well worth it. Hopefully it will come west in the springtime; Oxwich is due a Mega! I'll post directions in comments.

Common Yellowthroat video

Gower Ornithological Society indoor meeting

This Friday, 24th February the Gower Ornithological Society will meet at the Environment Centre in Pier Street for an illustrated talk by Paul Llewellyn, titled Man and the Environment.
Paul will be known to many of you as a very knowledgeable, entertaining speaker on huge range of natural history subjects and his expertise is highly regarded. He has been involved with birds all his life, being a founder member of the Gower Bird Hospital has extensive experience with birds of prey having looked after many injured birds at his home in Gower. Among his many other achievements, Paul was instrumental in bringing the environmental issues to the attention of the authorities who were minded to permit the motorcycle race on Swansea Bay: that has now been delayed indefinitely for consultation.
The evening promises to be informative and enjoyable, so I urge you to support the society and Paul and come to the meeting.
Admission is just £1.00 and you are welcome to bring friends, family and guests. Doors open 19.00 for a 19.30 start.
Jeremy Douglas-Jones (Secretary)

21 February 2012

The Mosses of Mumbles

Maritime turf at Mumbles Head, habitat for Bristly Pottia
On Sunday, after checking out the Kittiwake ledges we walked from The Knab out to Mumbles Lighthouse sampling some coastal bryophytes along the way. Below are some of the more interesting species noted:
Bristly Pottia (Tortula viridifolia)
on bare soil in maritime turf by the Lighthouse
Dark-green Flapwort (Jungermannia atrovirens)
on wet Limestone cliff at the Knab
Starry Thyme-moss (Mnium stellare)
on wet Limestone cliff at the Knab
I suspect not everyone gets that excited by bryophytes, but ecologically these are a very important group of plants, occupying a diverse range of niches. The following galleries illustrate a good selection of species found locally over the past 12 months or so:
Mosses     Liverworts  

Kittiwake ledges at Mumbles

The Kittiwake nesting shelves have now been erected on The Mumbles Lifeboat House. Their purpose is to provide alternative nest sites, as the birds are to be excluded from their former nest ledges on the pier whilst extensive renovation work is carried out there this summer. Fingers will be crossed that the birds take to these artificial ledges.
Personally I don't expect that the entire population will move location in the first year, but hopefully some birds will to provide the foundation upon which the colony can regrow. There should be sufficient capacity for around 200 pairs, but whatever the outcome the developers and others involved should be applauded for their commitment in accommodating this very special population.

Breeding Bird Survey Training Day

The BTO/JNCC/RSPB Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) is the main scheme for monitoring the population changes of the UK’s common breeding birds.
This is an excellent way to make your birding count as the results obtained from the BBS are widely used in bird research and conservation.
It is relatively easy to take part in the BBS - just visit a local 1km square twice during the breeding season to record all the birds you see and hear.

Wayne Morris (the BTO Regional Rep for East Glamorgan) and I will be running a BBS Training Day on Sunday 18th March at the Kenfig Nature Reserve.
It will start at 09:30 and run to about 15:00. Entrance is free but participants will have to bring their own lunch. Tea & Coffee will be provided (contribution welcome).
The training will involve an introduction to the different aspects of the BBS and some fieldwork around part of the Kenfig NNR.

If you would like to learn more about the BBS, and maybe take on a BBS square (especially now that the BTO Atlas work is over), then you may wish to consider booking a place on this training day.

Please feel free to contact me if you would like further information. I can be contacted on 01792 537439 or by e-mail: alastair.flannagan@ntlworld.com

Alastair Flannagan
BTO Regional Rep for West Glamorgan

20 February 2012

Smew still at Upper Lougher

redhead Smew
This fantastic duck was found by Alastair Flannagan the Sunday before last (12th) at Upper Loughor. By all accounts it seems pretty loyal to a stretch of water about 1 mile upriver from the Loughor Bridge in the channel (SS565995) next to the broken-up stone structure along the bank . This area is best viewed from the lookout area found along the path north from Upper Loughor car park (SS571988).

Smew video

The Smew was quite happy for me to be close but a Goosander was not so trusting and it flushed the Smew before I could get out of the wind. This turned out to be a lucky break because the incoming tide would have forced me the long way back to the car had I left it 10 mins more (which I would have done, at least that!)

Anyway on to Salthouse Point for a bit of seawatching therapy. The waders and wildfowl were a little disappointing but a few raptors made up for that. Started with a Peregrine performing acrobatics while giving chase to a Dunlin. Next a male Hen Harrier flew along the marsh towards Llanrhidian and the female Merlin (shown below) kept me company for more than 5 mins.

female Merlin waiting for incoming tide to flush the next meal
I was wondering what she was doing for a while but my best guess is she was waiting for the incoming tide to flush a Meadow Pipit or some other prey. She flew into position not far from me and waited in this spot for more than 5 mins. I was scoping the estuary on top of a mound, guns were going off nearby (last day of shooting season) and she didn't falter. It was as if she had a really good plan and nothing was going to get in the way!

19 February 2012

Neath Abbey

Neath Abbey, the remains of a 12th century monastery, is one of the most important Ancient Monuments in Wales. Even as a ruin it is an imposing structure and it’s not difficult to envisage its original grandeur on the tidal banks of the Afan Clydach, overlooking the extensive marshland of the Neath Estuary against a hilly backdrop thick with woodland. Happy days! It ceased to be a monastery in the 16th century, although much of it survived for some time after that. By the second half of the 18th century, however, the Abbey was a ruin and had even been used as a copper smelting site, and later as part of a local ironworks, all in an increasingly polluted atmosphere. By the 19th century, this ancient idyll had become a ‘tip’, and remained so until heroic volunteers cleaned up the site in the 1920s and 1930s. However, air pollution continued to be noxious well into the last century and this would have had a huge effect on local wildlife, exterminating the high diversity of epiphytic lichens and bryophytes which must have been known by the Cistercian monks. But today the young sycamores and ash trees in the vicinity of the Abbey are once again plastered with lichens, mosses and liverworts, testimony to a cleaner atmosphere.

Notable lichens on the trees here include two species that are quite sensitive to air pollution, Flavoparmelia caperata and (particularly) Parmelia perlata. Both have increased greatly in abundance in our region over the last 50 years. But the trees at Neath Abbey also have a conspicuous cover of Parmeliopsis ambigua, a lichen which was once rare in southern Britain. It really likes acidic bark and some have claimed that it has increased its range as a result of acid rain – perhaps a bonus of air pollution! Other lichens abundant on the trees here include Physcia tenella and Lecidella elaeochroma.

In the photograph above, the big leafy lichen (in the centre) is Flavoparmelia caperata, the small bright yellow green leafy lichen (mostly to the right) is Parmeliopsis ambigua and the small grey leafy lichen (mostly bottom left) is Physcia tenella. The lichen with the black dots on a grey background (top centre and bottom left) is Lecidella elaeochroma.

18 February 2012


My first adder (Vipera berus)of the year, seen today on Gower.

A male in an unusual spot.

17 February 2012

Great Crested Grebe v Pike

Mike Clark wrote:
'The Pike went down three times, but it would not go round the second bend!!, the last photo shows as far as it will go, I think the pike lived. Not a photo for Anglers to see' ... I'm sure they will appreciate it just as must as you or me ;) (photos (c) M. Clark

Beached Bird Survey 2012

The annual Beached Bird Survey takes place over the weekend of 25th and 26th February. I still have a few stretches of beach around Gower for which I need someone to undertake the survey.

This national survey basically involves walking an allocated stretch of beach, 1-2 hours after high tide, to check for any dead seabirds and to report any oiling, either on the birds or the beach itself.

The survey can be conducted on the above weekend or a week either side of these dates.

If you would like to take part in this survey the following stretches of beach on the Gower are still available:

1. Swansea Bay - Blackpill to the West Pier by Swansea docks (can now be done on the 3rd & 4th March due to the postponement of the bike race)
2. Shirecombe to Great Tor (Threecliff Bay and Pobbles Beach)
3. Oxwich Point to Port Eynon Point (The Sands and Port Eynon Beach)
4. Kitchen Corner to Burry Holms (Rhossili Beach) - now allocated 21.02.12
5. Cwm Ivy Tor to the Whiteford Hide (Whiteford Sands and Berges Island) - now allocated 21.02.12

If you would like to volunteer or require further information please feel free to contact me on 01792-537439 or by e-mail: alastair.flannagan@ntlworld.com.

Alastair Flannagan

13 February 2012

Parc Slip

Two interesting photographs from Mike Clark:
(c) M. Clark
The long-staying Iceland Gull that has been hanging around the old converted chapel at Parc Slip over the last two weeks, and below, the perfectly preserved skull of a Treecreeper that he found recently.
(c) M. Clark

Crossbill season

Paul Tyrrell wrote: '...the pick of the bunch was this male Crossbill seen at Whiteford. This single male was seen in the second large block of conifers on the way too the point, no other Crossbills were seen.'
(c) P. Tyrrell
While Crossbills are scarce in the lowlands, our upland conifer plantations seem to be supporting a booming Crossbill population, which of course are now breeding.

09 February 2012

Black Redstart at BP Baglan

male Black Redstart
A quick sortie around Baglan Bay this morning was rewarded with this very fine Black Redstart. I've seen about 7 female types over the last few years so I've been hoping, waiting expectantly, for a male bird for a while. It was worth the wait although the video grab doesn't do the bird justice the video below should be better? Otherwise around the bay Great Crested Grebes up to 96, with 33 off Aberavon and 63 off Crymlyn. 2 Red-throated Divers also showing distantly but 2 Harbour Porpoise were not far from shore just after the high tide around 08:00. A very brief stop at the Neath Abbey roundabout on the way back was rewarded with a decent number of Greylag Geese totalling 14.

Black Redstart video

05 February 2012

Rodenticides and local wildlife

(c) S. Allen

Simon Allen of the Gower Bird Hospital wrote: ‘In July 2011 we were called out to a Red Kite near Gowerton, reported as being caught up in a tree by its wing tags. When we arrived the bird had fallen from the tree and was moribund.  It was a young male, one of two kites hatched on Gower peninsula that year. Examination of the bird revealed no signs of trauma around the patagia of the wings, so entanglement was unlikely. It appeared in good physical condition weighing in at 849g, so was sent off for toxicology tests under the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme (WIIS). The results stated the cause of death as a ruptured liver due to trauma. Background testing for rodenticides (anticoagulants) demonstrated that the bird had three second generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGARs) in its liver, these being:
Difenacoum (0.16mg/kg): The first second generation anticoagulant to be introduced in 1974.
Bromadiolone (0.016mg/kg): A second generation anticoagulant. One important attribute appears to be that it does not markedly reduce the palatability of baits in contrast to other anticoagulants.
Brodifacoum (0.002mg/kg):  One of the most potent second generation anticoagulants introduced commercially in 1979. A lethal dose can be ingested after one feed. This product is licensed for indoor use only.
Rodents have developed resistance to the first generation of anticoagulant rodenticides (FGARs) such as warfarin, so new chemicals have been developed.  Both FGARs and SGARs work in the same way, by preventing blood from clotting and thereby inducing haemorrhaging, but their toxicity is very different. FGARs are described as short-acting, they stay in the body for a relatively short time and often require multiple doses to exert their toxic effects. SGARs only require a single dose to cause clinical signs of haemorrhage and they stay in the body much longer than FGARs, increasing the chance of secondary poisoning. Most cases of toxicosis of non-target species involve SGARs
Although cause of death of the kite was recorded as trauma, the report suggested that the residual rodenticides would have exacerbated the injury where otherwise the bird may have recovered (although the bird may have been already weakened by the poison which resulted in the fall and consequent trauma).
Rodenticides may also have a non-lethal effect on a population, affecting their ability to hunt and breed successfully. A study on the effects of rodenticides on a great bustard population in Spain demonstrated a link to increased pathogen and parasite burdens in birds exposed to rodenticides.
It’s not just the top predators such as raptors and mustelids that are being affected. Gower Bird Hospital supplied 20 hedgehogs that had died to a survey for anticoagulants as part of a PhD study by Claire V. Dowding at Bristol University. 85% of the 20 hedgehogs had rodenticide residues in their livers, 15% had the same profile as the red kite i.e. three residual SGARs in their livers. The hedgehogs came from a wide geographical area across South West Wales.
Just like the link between insecticides and parasitosis in bees, the effects of rodenticides on avian and mammal health and fecundity are real and happening now outside your back door.’

04 February 2012

Grey day at Bluepool

Bluepool Corner
The walk along the coast past Bluepool Corner was relatively sheltered from the bitter south-easterly wind this morning and even though the threat of snow eventually materialised as rain the ground was still frozen solid! Birds were relatively thin on the ground, but two Short-eared Owls flushed from an area of Bracken made up for this, with other noteworthy sightings including 13 Fulmars on the cliffs (with 9 of these on the cliffs shown above), a Great Northern Diver on the sea and a flock of Dark-bellied Brents feeding on the beach below Twlc Point.
Neil looking almost monastic in the remains of
The Church of St Cenydd on Burry Holms
Very little was seen on-and-from Burry Holms the pick being a few Common Scoter, a Red-throated Diver and a lone Harbour Porpoise. When leaving I collected a few moss samples from the remains of The Church of St Cenydd and we couldn't help wondering what life must have been like for the monk that lived there and what sights he must have seen! A little botanical interest was provided here by the small rosettes of Sea Stork's-bill (Erodium maritimum) growing on the wall tops. The morning was rounded off with two confiding Choughs feeding in the car park at Broughton following a swift walk back to beat the rain, bumping into Chris Brewer on the way.