30 June 2012

BSBI meeting at Whiteford

The route taken by Saturday's group of hardy souls first took us up onto Cwm Ivy Tor where between the showers we enjoyed excellent views of Whiteford Burrows and logged some interesting plants including White Horehound (Marrubium vulgare) and Ivy Broomrape (Orobanche hederae).
Cwm Ivy Tor on a sunny day!
We then moved into the ‘new’ slack in vain hope of finding Fen Orchid (Liparis loeselii), now unrecorded at Whiteford for a good number of years. As expected we failed to rediscover it, but did record a good number of scarce and localised species in a very healthy and sizeable dune slack.

Grass Eggar (Lasiocampa trifolii) Notable A
found wandering across Slack 7
After a quick sortie along the strandline we moved into the established dunes and made it as far as the last plantation to record the extent of the Common Wintergreen (Pyrola minor) colony first discovered in 2010.
the not-so-diverse Common Wintergreen site
As we headed back through the upper saltmarsh transition on the eastern side of dunes the sharp-eyed Peter Sturgess rediscovered what turned out to be a healthy population of Saltmarsh Flat-sedge (Blysmus rufus), a plant that had not been seen in the county since 1905 when Eleanor Vachell first recorded it as new to Glamorgan and at its southern-most UK location.
Saltmarsh Flat-sedge
The day’s tally of 234 vascular plants plus a further 16 lower plants highlights the importance of the diverse habitats found in this beautiful corner of Gower. Many thanks to those who attended and made the day a memorable one depsite the weather: John Crellin, Alison Heath, Ursula Jones, Ceri Richards, Alastair Stevenson, Robe Stokes, Peter Sturgess, Kaz Wilkinson, Vanessa Williams & yours truly.

To see some of John's excellent images click here.

26 June 2012

Port Eynon Bryophytes

A few cliff-top bryophytes noted earlier in the month...
Streaky Feather-moss (Brachythecium glareosum) centre-left &
Sand-hill Screw-moss (Syntrichia ruralis var. ruraliformis) centre-right
Rough Earwort (Scapania aspera)
Curving Feather-moss (Scorpiurium circinatum)
Frizzled Crisp-moss (Tortella tortuosa)

Royal Fern

The wet woodland behind the Amazon factory off Fabian Way supports stands of vegetation with large plants of Royal Fern (Osmunda regalis). Some excellent blocks of willow and alder carr have already been lost in this area and further losses seem imminent, but hopefully ongoing SINC work will help identify some of the more important sites early on in the planning process so that appropriate measures can be taken.
Skullcap (Scutellaria galericulata) was very abundant in the field layer and a few helleborines were also noted, presumed Broad-leaved Helleborine (Epipactis helleborine).

Kittiwakes on Mumbles Pier

This photograph, taken by Gemma Crutchley a couple of weeks ago, shows the shelving you can only see from the pier itself. Although very few Kittiwakes have attempted to breed on the new shelving this year, they have gradually becoming more interested. Perhaps not the resounding success we were all hoping for, but the future does look bright. More importantly perhaps, the future looks more secure for these attractive seabirds at this site.

Barcode project puts Wales Number 1 in the world

Cropped version of press release...
Wales has become the first country in the world to DNA barcode all its flowering plants.
This scientific breakthrough opens up huge potential for the future of plant conservation and human health.

The work to make Wales No 1 in the world was carried out at the National Botanic Garden in collaboration with Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales and project partners from various universities. 

The Barcode Wales project, led by the National Botanic Garden’s Head of Conservation and Research Dr Natasha de Vere, has created a reference database of DNA barcodes based on the 1143 native flowering plants and conifers of Wales, assembling over 5700 DNA barcodes.

Plants can now be identified from pollen grains, fragments of seed or roots, wood, dung, stomach contents or environmental samples collected from the air, soil or water. 

Dr de Vere explained the importance of the project: “Wales is now in the unique position of being able to identify plant species from materials which in the past would have been incredibly difficult or impossible. Through the Barcode Wales project, we have created a powerful platform for a broad range of research from biodiversity conservation to human health”.

Dr Tim Rich said: “We have taken DNA samples from thousands of specimens in the National Museum’s collections. This technique opens up a whole new set of uses for our collections.”

DNA barcodes are short sequences of DNA which are unique to each species and can be used to identify plant species from tiny fragments of plant material. They have a whole range of applications from conserving rare species to developing new drugs.  

The Welsh flora DNA barcodes are freely available on the Barcode of Life Database (BOLD) for use by researchers throughout the world. The creation of this DNA barcode library is reported in the journal PLoS ONE  http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0037945

The National Botanic Garden receives funding from the Welsh Government for its scientific research and educational work promoting science-based activities.

Housing Regeneration and Heritage Minister, Huw Lewis said:  “I am delighted the Garden has achieved a significant world first. Welsh Government funding is helping the Garden provide the people of Wales with an institution dedicated to biodiversity and sustainability and it has now put Wales on the world stage in plant sciences research.  Congratulations to Natasha and her team.”

Professor John Harries, Chief Scientific Adviser for Wales, congratulated the team responsible for this achievement: “This is a really significant project that will help highlight and promote the expertise in Wales. The Garden is gaining a strong international reputation as a centre for plant sciences research, and is playing a key role in supporting and training the next generation of plant scientists, which is great news for Wales.”

Dr de Vere paid tribute to Garden staff and volunteers, Dr Tim Rich of the National Museum Wales and the project partners Aberystwyth University, Glamorgan University, University of the West of England, the Botanical Society of the British Isles, and High Performance Computing (HPC) Wales.

Barcodes and the fate of pollinators

DNA barcoding may also be able to help in the crisis facing our pollinators. Dr de Vere is working with PhD student Andrew Lucas from the Swansea Ecology Research Team (SERT) at Swansea University to investigate the role that hoverflies play in pollination.

Andrew says: “Hoverflies play a key role in pollination but we know very little about their behaviour. My research will collect hoverflies and find out where they go by DNA barcoding the pollen carried on their bodies. We are interested in how hoverflies move through the landscape and the importance of habitat quality.”

This work builds on a project with Aberystwyth University that examined bee pollination within species rich grasslands.


National Botanic Garden of Wales: Dr Natasha de Vere, Col Ford, Sarah Trinder, Charlie Long, Chris Moore, Danielle Satterthwaite, Helena Davies. http://www.gardenofwales.org.uk/science/barcode-wales/ Contact: Dr Natasha de Vere, natasha.devere@gardenofwales.org.uk 01558 667126

Department of Biodiversity and Systematic Biology, Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales: Dr Tim Rich

Faculty of Advanced Technology, University of Glamorgan: Hannah Garbett, Dr Tatiana Tatarinova http://fat.glam.ac.uk/

Department of Applied Sciences, University of the West of England: Dr Joel Allainguillaume.

Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS), Aberystwyth University: Dr Sandra Ronca, Prof Mike Wilkinson http://www.aber.ac.uk/en/ibers/

Botanical Society of the British Isles: Dr Kevin Walker http://www.bsbi.org.uk/

High Performance Computing (HPC) Wales http://www.hpcwales.co.uk Contact: Georgina Thompson Georgina.Thomson@hpcwales.co.uk

Applications of DNA barcoding: Project partners

Honey and drug discovery: School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Cardiff University: Jenny Hawkins, Prof Les Baillie http://www.cf.ac.uk/phrmy/

Pollination and hoverflies: Swansea Ecology Research Team (SERT), Swansea University: Andrew Lucas, Dr Dan Forman http://www.swan.ac.uk/biosci/research/sert/

24 June 2012

Gull-billed Tern at Penclacwydd WWT

To help me get over the fact that I've missed out on a very nice bird recently it didn't take me long to get to the British Steel Hide when news got out that a Gull-billed Tern was showing there. It had flown off while I was driving down but luckily for me it came back to the scrapes when I was pulling into the carpark. It showed well for about 20mins before flying off up river towards Loughor Bridge.  There's a good chance it might stick around and venture into Glamorgan with a bit of luck. However, since being lost to view around 12:15, to my knowledge, it has yet to reappear, despite searching for it. Thanks to Wendell Thomas for getting news out.

Black-headed Bunting at Godre'r-Graig

The bird below, photographed by Barbara Wood on 17th June, looks very much like the same bird that was  in Carmarthenshire the following day.

22 June 2012

Black-headed Bunting(s)??

A male Black-headed Bunting was found by Glan & Anne Evans and Carol Mckee in their Carmarthenshire garden on the 18th. Interestingly a male was also photographed in a garden in Godre'r Graig in the Tawe Valley on the afternoon of 17th. I've not seen photographs of the Godre'r Graig bird yet, but the Carmarthenshire bird is distinctive in that it has a small black bib, a feature that Black-headed Bunting is not supposed to show! The two obvious questions are, a) do the records relate to the same bird? (which hopefully photo's will prove one way or the other), and b) is the bird a full-blooded BHB? If if wasn't for the bib I doubt there would be any question about this. (images (c) G. Evans)

19 June 2012

Inclined Distichium at Glyncymmer

Both Distichium species, Fine Distichium (D. capillaceum) and Inclined Distichiuim (D. inclinatum) are scarce in South Wales, especially so away from natural, damp rock exposures, so discovering Inclined Distichium on an old wall at Glyncymmer was unexpected. [A specimen has been sent off to Sam Bosanquet as I initially thought this to be Fine Distichium, however, it seems Inclined Distichium can also show erect rather than inclined capsules when young and is more likely on old mortar lines]
bryophyte-rich wall below Glyncymmer tennis courts
These old walls can support a surprisingly rich assemblage of lower plants with numerous noteworthy species  such as Narrow Mushroom-headed Liverwort (Preissia quadrata), Starry Thyme-moss (Mnium stellare) and Pale Thread-moss (Bryum pallens).
Spiral Extinguisher-moss (Encalypta streptocarpa) growing along mortar lines.

Wernfrwdd Sunday

Resuly of a very dodgy season! Pictures copyright of Chris Walley of a battered individual of what I take to be the Narrow-Bordered Bee Hawkmoth but I'd be grateful for someone more expert to double check please. Thanks Chris.

18 June 2012

Neath Canal near Tonna

A Hoverfly (Eristalis intricarius)
 A few more from the Neath Canal yesterday. All of these species are regarded as common in the British Isles and are likely to be found in a wide range of local habitats.
Spiny Mason Wasp (Odynerus spinipes)
Blue Lacewing (Chrysopa perla)

Bee Beetle along the Neath Canal

Bee Beetle (Trichius fasciatus)
A walk from Tonna to Clyne along the Neath Canal yesterday was very rewarding with lots of insects and birds taking advantage of the improved weather! 2 of the more striking sightings included the Bee Beetle above and Digger Wasps below.
A Digger Wasp (Argogorytes mystaceus)

16 June 2012

Barn Owls in Gorseinon

This young Barn Owl had fallen from the nest at the Valeo factory in Gorseinon and after an unsuccessful attempt to return it, was taken to the Gower Bird Hospital. The nest site is only 1.1km from our home, yet in 16 years we've only once recorded Barn Owl in the garden.

15 June 2012

Grass Snake at Neath Canal

Grass Snake (c) J. Driscoll
 Jeff Driscoll sent me these cracking photos of a Grass Snake which he found on the Neath Canal at Briton Ferry recently.
Grass Snake (c) J. Driscoll

14 June 2012

Heather Fly at Upper Neath Valley

female Bibio pomonae
 This rather distinctive fly completely stumped me yesterday but with the kind assistance from Ian Tew I am now able to name it as a Heather Fly (Bibio pomonae). Regularly seen throughout the day (13/6/12) and it seems that where it occurs it can be abundant. Same family as the St Mark's Fly (Bibio marci) and while I was searching for images of the Heather Fly on the net I found it to be quite a popular fly used in fly fishing.

Mountain Bumblebee at Upper Neath Valley

Bombus monticola
 A few burst of sunshine encouraged a couple of nice insects out at Upper Neath Valley today. The Mountain Bumblebee (Bombus monticola) is one of my favourites insects and always good to see, although I do find them a bit flighty! The Hoverfly (Sericomyia lappona) is also quite smart in my opinion and occurs in quite elevated habitats on both sides of the valley.
Sericomyia lappona

13 June 2012

Lime Hawk-moth

At Pwll, on the western outskirts of Llanelli, I usually get a lime hawk-moth about this time of year in my moth trap. There are no lime trees in the vicinity but there are plenty of elms (Ulmus glabra and U. procera/minor) and it is the latter that I suspect in the food of its caterpillars locally.

12 June 2012

Scarce-Blue-tailed Damselfly at Crymlyn Burrows

This male Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly was flying around a small pond at Crymlyn Burrows today. The pond is found on the boundary with Earlswood Golf Course (SS72359327) and interestingly it becomes completely inundated during the large tides.

10 June 2012

Storms Petrels around Mumbles Head

Storm Petrel watched from Bracelet Bay carpark
The summer storm which brought all that wind and rain going into the weekend also brought a number of seabirds into the Bristol Channel area. Great Skua, Arctic Skua and Pomarime Skua were seen in small numbers along the Glamorgan coastline on Friday and Saturday. The Storm Petrel, a bird frequently caught up in storms at this time of year, were found in good numbers along the coastline and I was able to watch some at close range on Friday afternoon from Bracelet Bay carpark. The bird in the photo above came right into the bay and I was able to get some video of it as it passed by.

Storm Petrel Video

08 June 2012

Broomrape at North Dock, Llanelli

We are all aware of the importance of brownfield sites for wildlife. This site at North Dock, Llanelli holds a population of common broomrape Orobanche minor but like many such sites is destined for redevelopment.

Transit of Venus

Although we were up before dawn on the 6th, it was soon apparent we had no hope of seeing the 2012 transit of Venus due to the blanket of rolling cloud. However, conditions were better on 8th June 2004 when we did manage to take a few shots on film.
(c) S.J. Stewart


In case anyone has forgotten, this what a butterfly looks like! The sun is forecast to shine tomorrow so we may get lucky and see a few beauties like this Small Blue photographed at Limeslade by Owain Gabb on 4th June.
(c) O. Gabb

Busy Tree Bees

I was quite surprised to see up to 7 Tree Bumblebees (Bombus hypnorum) busy on the Wall Cotoneaster (C. horizontalis) outside the kitchen window yesterday, despite the persistent rain. They were coming and going all the time so there's clearly a nest nearby. The only other species noted braving the weather were a couple of Early Bumblebees (B. pratorum). Today's weather is much more extreme, with gales as well as driving rain, so it will be interesting to see how hardy these newcomers really are!...

04 June 2012

Painted Lady at Crymlyn Burrows

At least 2 Painted Lady flying around the dunes at Crymlyn Burrows this evening. The Common Scoter seen on 19th May (68 that day) are still showing in the bay albeit a bit distantly. I would safely estimate their number to be at least 70 this evening maybe c80. Waders still hanging on Sanderling(47), Dunlin(24) and Ringed Plover(21 inc a juv)

Marsh Tit at Carmel SAC

immature Marsh Tit
A family party of Marsh Tits was a very pleasant surprise at the Carmel SAC this morning. The immature birds, of which there were 3, were busily preening out their downy feathers while an adult bird nearby was much more elusive, but calling, thankfully!

03 June 2012

Fairwood's Oaks

Chicken-of-the woods (Laetiporus sulphureus)
There are some very nice Pedunculate Oaks (Quercus robur) at Fairwood. Those shown below were measured as mostly 2.0m-2.5m in circumference, but one was an impressive 6.4m. I'd be interested to know if there are any bigger trees in our area. These mature trees mark ancient boundaries with the enclosed land being largely dominated by Rusty Willow (Salix cinerea ssp. oelifolia) and Downy Birch (Betula pubescens) with a field layer supporting stands of Remote Sedge (Carex remota), Creeping Soft-grass (Holcus mollis) and mosses such Sphagnum spp. and Thuidium tamariscinum.
A number of ornamental planted trees were also noted including what looks like Dutch Elm (Ulmus x hollandica), but the leaves were about 5m too high to confirm!
Dutch Elm