31 January 2013

Common frogs

It's that time of year again when the frogs start spawning.
The above clump was spotted today (31/01/13) north of Bridgend.
This species is surprisingly under recorded
Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (ARC) have been working with the four Welsh record centres to create an online interactive atlas visualising all herpetofauna records, this will hopefully encourage you to fill in the gaps! Take a look.....
Submit any frog, toad, newt, lizard and snake sightings please, what ever the age.

30 January 2013

Lesser Thorn-tipped Longhorn Beetle

Spotted at rest on the living room wall, I suspect this ~3mm long Lesser Thorn-tipped Longhorn Beetle (Pogonocherus hispidus) was brought indoors with recently collected pine cones, or less likely with sunflower hearts brought in to dry after the gales blew the lid off the seed bin! Whilst not much to look at with the naked eye, magnified this species is curiously adorned with lumps, bumps and scale tufts.

29 January 2013

Mosses in fruit at Overton

Pretty Cord-moss Entosthodon pulchellus
A strong population of Pretty Cord-moss (Entosthodon pulchellus) [a species listed in Section 42 of the 2006 NERC Act] was found at the base of the Limestone bluff at Overton Mere on the weekend along with other noteworthy species such as Side-fruited Crisp-moss (Pleurochaete squarrosa) and Canary Thread-moss (Bryum canariesnse).
Bicoloured Bryum (Bryum dichotomum)
Bristly Pottia (Tortula viridifolia)
Side-fruited Crisp-moss (Pleurochaete squarrosa)
a southern species that does not fruit in the UK

Whiteford Field Trip

Saturday 2nd February 2013

Meet at Cwm Ivy car park from 08:30 to leave the car park at 09:00

A long day is planned details of which are found on the link below.

Let's hope Digestive the Glaucous Gull hasn't finished off the sun-dried porpoise by then!

Whiteford field trip details - click here

28 January 2013

Glaucous Gull at Whiteford

Dai Roberts wrote...'The Glaucous Gull is still at Whiteford by The lighthouse. It showed well on Sunday [20th] feeding on a long dead porpoise' [This bird has been present from at least the 2nd to the 23rd January and may well still be around].
all photos (c) D. Roberts

25 January 2013

Tagged Red Kites

 There were at least 3 Red Kites in the area around the Tree Sparrow project, Newton Farm, Gower, yesterday. Two of them were tagged and luckily I managed a few shots clear enough to report the info back to Gwyn Roberts. As it turns out Gwyn tagged both these birds and he also informed me about some of the colour codes being used.
 The Red Kites shown have a tag on both left and right wing. These tags are coded with a letter and number. The code is the same on both tags (left and right) but the colour coding is important. Therefore an ideal photo will show both tags clear enough to be able to tell the the colour of each tag and be able to read the code on at least one - as demonstrated by the top photo of A3. The same can be achieved by a couple of shots, as with the bottom two of the same bird, where all the relevant info can be recorded.
As you will see the colour of the tags on the left wing of both birds is the same. It's Black, which means that they were both tagged in Wales. The right wing is coded with colours to represent the year of hatching. In this case WHITE indicates 2011 and RED indicates 2012. The records show that the pictured birds were tagged in West Glamorgan and RED T4 is a Gower bird tagged last year.

Feeding back the info to the relevant recorder is vitally important and it does help the people who work to conserve the species understand more about the birds. Plus it gives value to the work put into tagging the birds in the first place.

I was surprised that my photos had come out well enough to record this data and I will certainly be taking more photos of Red Kites in the future. Indeed BLACK A3 is a bird that I didn't think was wearing a tag in the first place, so it's worth taking a few shows and checking later if the opportunity presents itself.

Please report your records of Red Kite with tags in a sensible manner. A tagged bird photographed inside the breeding season should NOT be made public on websites or blogs (certainly not the location), but try instead to make contact with a trusted member of the local birding community you might know, who will be able to pass on the info to the relevant authority. It is also worth noting that it's an offence to take photographs of Schedule 1 birds during the breeding season, in their breeding territory, without a proper licence. Clearly, the welfare of Red Kites during the breeding season must not be put at risk in order to get a nice clear photo of a wing tag!

There's plenty of info about tag codes and Red Kite conservation online, found easily by google search etc.

[Please note that a very good photo of just one tag would show all the details for a Red Kite. A smaller bar found underneath the letter and number code is the same colour as the tag on the opposite wing]

Rhossili retreat (24/1/13)

With most of the fields in Gower still covered in a couple of inches of Snow, the mainly snow free fields found around Rhossili were buzzing with birds actively feeding. Lots and lots of thrushes, Lapwing and Golden Plover. Decent numbers also of Sky Lark, Linnet and Chaffinches.
It would be no exaggeration to say that there were Lapwing, Fieldfare and Redwing in every field and although it is quite difficult to keep track of bird movements, so as to eliminate double counting, it is worth putting an estimate on numbers in these scenes to keep a notable record.
One of the more unusual observations from the day was 12 Snipe feeding in the middle of field. They had found a shallow, rutted part, which they often returned to while the congregated masses of Thrushes and Plovers were uneasy about some danger; this often took form of a Common Buzzard overhead looking for an unsuspecting victim!
Probably the bird of the day was this male Brambling which was in with a Chaffinch flock, which also included a female Brambling and a few Reed Bunting. In particular this flock was enjoying the area of vegetable crops and NT set-aside area.

Some estimated counts Golden Plover(120), Lapwing(350), Snipe(12), Dunnock(40), Robin(70), Stonechat(4), Wren(30), Starling(100), Blackbird(70), Song Thrush (100), Fieldfare(300), Redwing(500), Sky Lark(120), Meadow Pipit(50), Linnet(140), Chaffinch(80), Brambling(2) and Reed Bunting(3)

23 January 2013

Black-tailed Godwits at Dalton's Point

This 258 strong flock was feeding on the few small patches of mud not covered by snow, right next to the lay-by at Dalton's Point today. They never stopped feeding even when walking alongside them; clearly needed to feed, but I guess being Icelandic in origin they're used to seeing plenty snow.
Dalton's Point looking north-west down Penclawdd Pill
Llanrhidian in monochrome ...
,,, in fact this is a full colour image!

22 January 2013

Danish Scurvygrass on TV

Anyone who saw Wild Things on Channel 4 last night, with Trevor Dines of the BSBI, may be interested to see the current distribution of Danish Scurvygrass (Cochlearia danica) in Glamorgan. Undoubtedly the strongest populations are now along the M4 corridor; next spring take note of the profusion of these white flowers along the central reservation. This is quite remarkable considering the native range of this species is strictly coastal.
NB. The lack of dots along the eastern section of M4 is more to do with the lack of recording effort, as is the gap between Penllergaer and the Upper Loughor. The gaps in the NPT section are real as there are no soils in these sections.

19 January 2013

Snow scenes on cloudy days

A few pictures from the last couple of days...
snow blowing across Cefn Bryn, 18th Jan
the sun almost appeared at Wernffrwd, 18th Jan
one of several
roadside Little Egrets
Trecastle antiques shop 19th

Pont Clydach on the north side of Y Mynydd Du 19th
is there such a thing as a long-haired Shetland?

18 January 2013

Hibernating Harlequin

This very lightly marked Harlequin Ladybird (Harmonia axyridis) appeared in the house last night. I suspect it woke up from its hibernation in some pine cones that I brought into the house, which after drying out opened their scales liberating the beetle.
Although now recorded at sites throughout Glamorgan, in Gorseinon I've still only seen two individuals of this alien species that continues to spread across Wales.
Records of Harlequin Ladybird on MapMate 
a more frequently encountered form (c) Gareth Thomas

14 January 2013

Gelli Aur

Although a little outside the area of this blog, it's worth sharing a few images from the beautiful Gelli Aur arboretum, situated on the hillside south of the Afon Tywi 3km south-west of Llandeilo. Many thanks to Keith Williams for showing Sandra & myself some of the estate's wonderful trees yesterday; the Western Red-cedar (Thuja plicata) is possibly one of the most exquisite trees we have seen since our interest started. Unfortnately Gelli Aur is due to close to the public at the end of March and note there are already access restrictions at this site.
I do apologies for our mugshots being in many of the recent tree photos, but it's the best way of illustrating how large some of these plants are. Below is a spectacularly large Monterey Pine (Pinus radiata) with a girth of 5.5m, that puts the Whiteford Monterey Pines, with an average girth of 3.8m, into context.
Chinese Witch-hazel (Hamamelis mollis) was in flower there too. I guess the bright flowers and fragrance would suggest this is insect pollinated shrub - it would be interesting to see what species visit it in this country; I suspect moths would be likely at night.

January Lady

I have another butterfly report for the 9th Jan 2013.
This is a Painted Lady, in good condition, flying around the garden at Alveley Rhossili at midday for an hour. I got a few snaps. Also Photoed a thermometer out of the sun - 18 degrees!
Not sure what this is doing in Britain in Jan - should be dead or migrating I thought.
Gareth Thomas

11 January 2013

Grey Gower

While rushing down to the Whiteford Lighthouse, this afternoon, before the 'light' disappeared, I noticed this cracking male Merlin just siting on a post and seemingly, not too bothered by me. I found it impossible to pass by without trying to get a shot of it, and it duly obliged. I think it is safe to say that both of us were disenchanted by the continuous rain! In the end, he cheered himself up by chasing a Meadow Pipit into the murk, and I was left with hopes of a big, partially pale Gull!
To my relief the juvenile Glaucous Gull was still in the area. It was loafing around on the incoming tide, with a couple of Great Northern Divers to it's right, a pair of Red-breated Mergansers behind, a flock of mainly male Eider overhead and some very confiding Dark-bellied Brent Geese waddling along the shore. Good ol' Whiteford!
Earlier c2200 Common Scoter at Rhosssili, with 1204 at countable range. In among them a Long-tailed Duck. Also in the area, a few Red-throated Divers and the duty watchman, manning the lookout station, told me about 2 Skuas that I didn't see. In between, Rhossili and Whiteford, a visit was made to the Tree Sparrow feeding stations, where, unfortunately there were none to be seen.

10 January 2013

Red Admiral

As the sun came out yesterday (9th January), so did a perfect Red Admiral butterfly on Murton Green.

09 January 2013

Early Butterfly

A Small Tortoiseshell was in flight at Crymlyn Burrows today. It didn't stop for it's record to be illustrated sadly.

04 January 2013

The Glyncorrwg Yews

Girth measurements of trees can generate interesting comparative data, but this becomes even more compelling when the occurrence of ancient and veteran trees is linked with local history. Read on….

There are 3 large Yew (Taxus baccata) trees in the cemetery of the (now) Baptist Church of St John the Baptist in Glyncorrwg (right of centre in photo above).  Two of these trees have been classified as veterans by the Ancient Yew Group. As a guideline, a Yew tree with a girth (measured at a height of 1.5 metres = 5 feet) between 4.9 metres and 7.0 metres is classified as a veteran. Anything bigger than that is regarded as an ancient tree. The largest of the 3 Glyncorrwg trees had its girth (circumference) at a height of 1.5 metres measured as 6.63 metres in 1998. A measurements made today, i.e. 15 years later, was 6.73 metres, which is very close to the 1998 figure.

 However, as noted by the Ancient Yew Group, this tree has split into two trunks and this makes comparative measurements problematic. 

The individual trunks are about 4.0 metres in girth and the bole below the split is more than 6.0 metres in girth. Clearly, this is a big tree, which can be categorised as veteran. This means that it is probably older than 500 years and less than 1,200 years old. Comparing exact measurements within categories is fairly meaningless because the errors and confidence limits associated with the relationship between girth measurements and tree age are very large. But, placing trees in categories is important. The Ancient Yew Group gives expert guidance for this.
The other 2 Glyncorrwg trees are smaller, (measurements today - 3.68 metres and 3.85 metres), but one of them has a significant portion of its trunk missing. All 3 trees are surrounded at their bases by their own stone retaining wall, which appear to have been added (or restored) in recent times. Consequently, the lower portions of the boles of the trees seem to be buried in soil.
The earliest record that I can find of the Glyncorrwg Yews is from a document written by Nicholas Carlisle in 1811, who wrote ‘In the Church-yard of Glyncorwg (sic) , are five remarkable Yew Trees, the largest of which (in 1810) measures 10 yards 4 inches in circumference.’  There are a number of interesting things here. Firstly, we have the date, which is more than 200 years ago. Secondly the girth of the largest tree (given as 30 feet) is just over 9 metres. Such a tree would be categorized as ancient, i.e. over 800 years old and probably over 1,000 years old, or more. Thirdly, there were 5 trees! In other words, 2 have gone and it looks as if one of them was already an ancient specimen 200 years ago. Interestingly this tree was recorded as ‘still there’ in 1933 by Hyde and Harrison (Welsh Timber Trees, 1977), so there may be someone in Glyncorrwg who can remember it.
So how does this match up with local history? The church in Glyncorrwg cemetery (St John the Baptist) appears to have a long pre-reformation history.  Although most of the church as it stands now is about 100 years old, it also has a medieval history.  The current building, rebuilt in 1907, has the original east window, holy water stoup and font derived from the earlier church, estimated to be about 600 years old. In fact some evidence links the original church with the Cistercian Abbey at Margam.  All this is consistent with the occurrence of veteran trees that are still there. But what about that ancient tree? Perhaps it was planted by the monks in the 12th century, but, perhaps it was even older than that. Could it have been planted by Celtic Christians? The church’s web site (www.parishofglyncorrwg.co.uk/) suggests that the structure and location of the cemetery indicate a Celtic origin. Fascinating stuff!

GOS field trip Tomorrow

Just a quick reminder that I will be taking a guided walk around the Baglan Bay area tomorrow morning. Some details below and on the link. GOS members and non-members alike are all welcome.

Date - Saturday 5th Jan 2013
Location - Aberavon Beach to Baglan Bay to Neath River
Meet at car park off Scarlet Ave. (SS734906)
Start at 09:00 (turn up from 08:30)
Return trip approximately 7km taking roughly 3hrs

Field trip Map and details - click here

[Apologies to all, it seems that the link wasn't working earlier. Thank you to Barry for alerting me to this. It should now be working]

03 January 2013

New years day.

 Llangennith moor
 Long finned pilot whale on the beach at Llangennith (Paul Tabor)
Outgoing tide at Salthouse point.
Birds seen from here included a Great northern diver, 2 fem Scaup
and a fem/imm Common scoter.