28 October 2012

Long-billed Dowitcher at Penclacwydd

(c) R.H.A. Taylor
This Long-billed Dowitcher was found by Lyndon Evans, Rob Taylor and Brian Thomas at Penclawydd (WWT Llanelli) today. The last time this North American vagrant was recorded at the centre was around the same period in 2002. Also today, Rob discovered a Whooper Swan on Broad Pool, which did not hang around for very long.
(c) R.H.A. Taylor

27 October 2012

Late Small White

Small White
In the sheltered locations around Mumbles Hill, today, there were numerous butterflies still on the wing. The vast majority were Red Admiral with easily more than 20 individuals, but probably many more. Also flying today were Small White and Speckled Wood.
Ring Ouzel
There was also a male Ring Ouzel present on Mumbles Hill associating with other migrant thrushes to be found in the area. This bird was found by Rob Jones, and also today, Owain Gabb found a further 3 Ring Ouzel in the vicinity of Mewslade Valley. In recent days Glamorgan, as well as other locations across the UK, is experiencing frequent Ring Ouzel sightings. Now would be a good time to look for this bird around the coast and other sites where berries are on offer, as this bird passes through heading south to wintering grounds in northern Africa.

Dune Erosion Oxwich to Tor

An illustration of the scale of dune erosion caused last weekend by the combination of high winds and high tides.

25 October 2012

GOS indoor meeting

Just a reminder that Ian Tew will be giving a talk on Almeria - Wildlife of SE Spain this Friday evening at the Environment Centre Swansea (starting 7.30pm prompt). Ian's talks are always entertaining and informative with top-notch photographs. All welcome - look forward to seeing you there.

24 October 2012

Some Gower Fungi

I would appreciate identification of any of these fungi.  All photographed during the last week.

In Caswell Valley Woods

Garden Lane, Oxwich

In a Murton garden

Pennard Cliffs

Penrice Estate

Penrice Estate

In a Murton garden (Hygrocybe sp.?)

Caswell Valley Woods under Beech (Mycena sp.?)

British Mycological Society Common Fungi Project

The British Mycological Society are asking people to report sightings of six common species: fly agaric, jelly ear, yellow stagshorn, birch polypore, blushing bracket, and stump puffball.
The aim is to gather data on the distribution, times of fruiting and ecological associations of common, easily identifiable fungi. For further information about the project go to www.britmycolsoc.org.uk/mycology/have-you-seen-this-fungus/. Full colour photographs and a key to all six species of fungi can also be found on the website.
Data submitted should include: name, date, site name, grid reference, vice-county, tree species under, on or near to which the fungus is growing, including on which kind of wood it is growing. Where a fungus is growing near different tree species, list them all, with the nearest first. The name of the recorder is important so that suitable acknowledgements can be made. No specimens need be sent. The details may be sent in any form, as records on paper, or as an Excel or Access file, by post or by e-mail. Records from previous years will be welcome as long as the ecological details are available. Please send records to:
Bruce Ing,
Tigh na faoileige,
IV26 2TJ
Further details on the website 

window midges on Harefoot Mushroom

Two decaying fruit bodies of Coprinopsis lagopus (Harefoot Mushroom) were found in a muddy gateway at Llanrhidian yesterday. There were a dozen or so small flies buzzing around and landing on the caps, which were in an advanced state of decay. Ray Wilson kindly identified the flies as Sylvicola sp., which belong to the Anisopodidae (window midges), the larvae of which are known to feed on fungi, so presumably these were egg-laying females.

22 October 2012

Barry Weston

Barry (right) with Paul Evans crossing the Severn at
Llandinam during the Across Wales Walk in 2009

Andrew Lucas wrote:
Barry Weston, one of the stalwarts of birding in Gower, died on Friday, 12 October.
I had known Barry for nearly a decade, since I bumped into him one day at Blackpill. We discovered that we lived just around the corner from each other, and since then we have spent many weekends birding together around Glamorgan.
Barry had exceptional ability as an observer, particularly with bird calls. We often had a friendly competition to see who could name a bird quickest, a race that Barry almost always won. Mewslade was our regular venue every weekend between late September and early November, where we dreamed of finding Glamorgan’s first American warbler, or perhaps some exotic Siberian thrush. His local patch was Mynydd Gellionnen, where he turned up some nice birds over the years, including short-eared owl, whinchat and wryneck.
Barry was a prolific contributor to local bird surveys. He was a prime mover in the Gower Tree Sparrow Project, and one of my most vivid memories is of Barry, telescope in one hand, a 25Kg bag of bird seed thrown over the other shoulder, striding out towards the feeding site at Newton Farm. He contributed hundreds of records towards the BTO Atlas, checked the nestboxes at Cwm Clydach, and undertook butterfly surveys. Typically, when the call went out for volunteers for the BTO thrush survey this winter, Barry was the first to volunteer.
Barry also enjoyed long-distance walking. For his fiftieth birthday, he organised a walk from his home in Clydach to the top of Bannau Sir Gar and back. In 2009, with Paul Evans and myself, he completed the 50 mile Across Wales Walk in just over 16 hours. At the end, exhausted beyond belief, I swore never to do anything like that again. But, for Barry, there was always the challenge: could he complete the distance in a faster time? The following year, he returned and did just that.
Barry touched the lives of many naturalists in Glamorgan. He was a great companion in the field, and always ready to share his expertise. His passing leaves a huge hole in Glamorgan ornithology.
The last time I saw Barry was the Sunday before he died. We were at Mewslade – of course – and Barry was as sharp-eyed as ever. He picked up two distant dots with his naked eye, which proved to be a cracking male and female hen harrier.
Barry leaves his wife Angela, and his two daughters, Cerys and Anna. Barry’s funeral will take place at 2pm on Tuesday 30 October at Morriston Crematorium. The family have invited anyone who knew him to attend. They have asked for no flowers, but donations can be made to Gower Ornithological Society (cheques payable to ‘GOS’).
The Wryneck above was a very nice find on Barry Weston's patch. I didn't know Barry very well, but despite that he took much of his own time to help me see my first Wryneck in NPT. On the second morning of the Wryneck's stay Barry kept watch until I arrived, after I'd missed it the day before when Barry had waited for me that evening too. I know that those who knew him liked him very much. The news of his passing is most sad.

20 October 2012

Light at the end of the tunnel

Well in Cymmer anyway...... how beautiful some of the old mining valleys have become!

18 October 2012

Rose-moss at Brandy Cove

Sam Bosanquet found a new and very healthy population of this localised species a week or so ago and today I took the afternoon off to go and see it for myself. As mosses go this one is very conspicuous with its rosette of large leaves providing a sort of rose-like resemblance. It is listed as rare in the Flora of Glamorgan and is confined to Gower where it has been recorded at 6 sites around the coast.

Rose-moss was also photographed at Cwm Ivy in 2011 click here

Another Petition!

I normally don't forward on petitions, but this one is so important I feel it can't be ignored...

Our bees are in danger. Three species of bees are already extinct and others are in rapid decline. Strong evidence points to particular pesticides being to blame for killing them. [1] This week we have a chance to persuade the government to protect our bees and ban these harmful pesticides.

A government consultation on pesticide use ends next Monday. [2] Normally the only people they would hear from would be the strong pesticide industry. But by handing in a large petition, we can make sure that the bees have someone to stand up for them.

Can you sign a petition now to demand the government phase out the pesticides that are killing our bees?

France and several other European countries have already started banning these pesticides, but the UK government is yet to be convinced. [3] Together, by responding in our thousands, we can send a strong message to the government and counter the lobbying from the pesticide industry.

Last week thousands of 38 Degrees members responded to a poll on what we should be concentrating on together. Over 70% of responses highlighted that protecting bees was an important issue. [4] This week is our chance to do something about it.

Sign the petition now and help save our bees:

38 Degrees Team

[1] Friends Of the Earth - Bee Cause: http://www.foe.co.uk/what_we_do/bee_cause_about_35042.html
[2] The government DEFRA consultation: http://www.defra.gov.uk/consult/2012/07/30/uknap-pesticides/
[3] The Independent: European and American reports say nerve agents may be a danger, but the UK goes on using them: http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/nature/no-ban-on-pesticides-that-threaten-bees-8114020.html
[4] Link to blog post with poll results: http://www.38degrees.org.uk/october-2012-poll

17 October 2012

Welsh Ornithological Society Conference

The theme of the day is 'Marvels of Migration', with a particular emphasis on how technology is revealing more about migratory birds and the habitats they use. It promises to be a fascinating day, bringing together top speakers from around the UK. More details here.

16 October 2012

Butterfly Conservation AGM & Members day

Small Argent & Sable
This Saturday is the South Wales Branch AGM & Members day. The venue is now the Ogmore Constituency Labour Party Social Club (CF31 4ES) (not Kenfig as originally advertised). The speakers include David Slade talking about the imminent publication of The Moths of Glamorgan, Phil Stirling talking about his micro-moths book, Chris Manley on his mobile apps, Mike Slater on Small Blues and George Tordoff on his BC work. The event is free and open to non-members, so please feel free to come along, if only to meet some of the regular posters on the Glamorgan Moth Recording Group blog.

10 October 2012


Starting (at last) to learn about fungi.  I would be grateful of any help in identifying these. The first was taken in the University Botanical Garden, the second in Clyne Park.

09 October 2012

Small Balsam along the Afon Llwchwr

A small population of this alien plant was noted in tall-herb vegetation near a stream passing an old farm house above Pontarddulais today. The leaves of Small Balsam (Impatiens parviflora) are similar to those of its larger relative, but the delicate, pale yellow flower, with a short triangular spur (hidden in photo) and narrow capsules make identification straight forward.
It was first noted growing wild in the UK in 1823 in Surrey and appeared in Glamorgan c1907, when H.J. Riddelsdell found it on the banks of the Afon Llwchwr between Pontarddulais and Garn-swllt. Unlike Indian (or Himalayan) Balsam (I. gladulifera), its distribution seems stable and much more restricted in South Wales.
Mines of the agromyzid fly Phytoliriomyza melampyga were found on both species of balsam at this site.

08 October 2012

Colletes hederae doing well on Gower.

During a very nice weekend I had a chance for a thorough check of Nicholaston to Overton Mere for Colletes hederae and this is what I found.

 Red arrow shows vein 2m-Cu bulging outwards.
 First colony, see above, found was at the soft cliffs at Horton, at the top of the cliffs about 12 males patrolling. A second colony 100m west, same habitat, had 30 or so males patrolling.
Further west in the dunes between Horton and Port Eynon I found 3 more smaller colonies in vertical sand cliffs. There were also some individuals at Ivy in Port Eynon village.

On sunday I found 2 more colonies, one very large with at least 50 holes, many males patrolling and females entering holes with pollen loads on 45 degree sand slopes in Nicholaston dunes with very sparse vegetation and lots of bare sand. All colonies faced between south and south-west. They were feeding on Ivy at the edge of the woods, sometimes even well into the shade. The species looks well settled in to Gower. Obviously the places to look have Ivy and a sandy substrate, waterlogging free, into which to burrow.

more fun with Ivy

Last couple of weeks in Swansea Bay whilst searching for Colletes hederae @ Ivy, no luck!

 Cheilosia pagana note the third antennal segment being big and orange
 Didea fasciata
 Leopoldius signatus a conopid fly which lays an egg on living bees wherein the larva develops.
Leopoldius signatus

07 October 2012

Japanese knotweed seeds

This time of year is a good time to look out for seed on Japanese knotweed, particularly around urban areas. Japanese knotweed in Britain comprises female plants and it is often stated that here it does not reproduce by seed - which is true. However, it does produce fertile hybrid seed, which can be grown on by the interested naturalist.
The plant hybridises with `Russian-vine` Fallopia baldschuanica (or `the mile-a-minute plant`) - a very rampant sprawler which is sometimes grown in gardens. One would think that the hybrid between Japanese knotweed and Russian-vine would produce a monster plant, exhibiting `hybrid-vigour` and with the propensity to take over Swansea and the world, but it does n`t!
The hybrid is a floppy-stemmed weakling which is rather sensitive to frost -the plants that I grew in 2006 fell victim to mild frosting, so there is no danger of creating a `Frankenstein plant`! The hybrid is named Fallopia x conollyana to honour the late Ann Conolly who did much work on Fallopia/Reynoutria. I seem to recall that the hybrid has been recorded `wild` once or twice in Britain, on industrial wasteground in an English city -  if I remember correctly.
The attached photograph was taken today at Furnace, Llanelli.
For those into hybrids, Fallopia x bohemica ( the hybrid between Japanese and giant knotweed, F. sachalinensis) grows on wasteground near the railway line at Cockett, Swansea SS633949, with plenty of the hybrid horsetail Equisetum x littorale on the northern slopes of the nearby Cockett Church, SS632948.

Belted Galloway Cattle on Cefn Bryn

For some time now these striking animals have been grazing the wet heath around broad pool occasionally straying up on the bryn. They seem particularly well-suited to this environment and appear to be doing an excellent job of grazing what seems to be a fairly unpalatable sward.

06 October 2012

Yellow browed warblers in Gower today.

              One at Mewslade valley.
              One at Foxhole slade. Both found by Colin Gittins.

04 October 2012

BTO Winter Thrushes Survey

The BTO Winter Thrushes Survey is now underway for the two winters 2012/13 and 2013/14.  It would be great if as many people as possible could get involved.  The beauty of this survey is that you can choose whichever 1km square you wish.  So, if you just wish to use the route of your regular birdwatching walk then you will be able to register the 1km square(s) that apply and submit your sightings.

This is an on-line survey so you will need to register on-line with the BTO (if you have not already done so) in order to submit your records.  Further information on the survey is available from the BTO website.

There are some core 1km squares for which I do require volunteers.  This involves one visit to a specific 1km square, between 27th December 2012 and 10th January 2013 to record the Thrushes seen.  This will be repeated in 2013/14.  The core squares have been listed in order of priority so I'm keen to allocate the following squares first:

SS7592; SS7885; SS5389; SS5490; SS5992; SS7392; SS4591; SN6904; SS8087; SS8391.

Please let me know if you would like to take on one of these core squares.

Alastair Flannagan
BTO West Glamorgan Regional Rep