29 April 2013

Yellow Whitlowgrass 2013 survey

Karen Wilkinson (Natural Resources Wales) wrote:
'Early in April Mervyn Howells, myself and a handful of other volunteers undertook a survey of Draba aizoides (Yellow Whitlowgrass) of the south Gower Coast. Gower is the only known UK location for this species in the UK, although it is also found in the mountain ranges across Europe such as the Alps, the Pyrenees, the Carpathians and the Jura mountains. It grows in cushions in crevices and on ledges along the Carboniferous Limestone from Pwll Du in the east to Tear’s Point in the west. As it is an early flowering species, its yellow flowers are particularly distinctive at this time of year before most other species are in flower.
Mervyn has been monitoring the populations for more than 20 years and has an amazing knowledge of the distribution of plants which often occur in very precarious situations! Although it clearly has a limited distribution in the UK, in Gower it does appear to be stable; this year around 1400 plants were recorded. This is likely to be an underestimate as some locations are extremely difficult to survey safely, where we also noticed good numbers of plants growing in the grassland sward at the top and bottom of cliffs. This may be partly due to changes in grazing pressure or might be related to successful seed production or seed germination in recent years.
Distribution map of all pre-2013 records of Yellow Whitlowgrass
(results from 2013 show a very similar pattern)

During the survey we also noticed a larger population of Sedum album (White Stonecrop) than we were previously aware of, primarily along the thin band of therophytic vegetation on the cliff tops. This plant is frequent in the droughted slopes around Port Eynon and we are keen to keep an eye on its spread west and its effects on the local flora. If anyone has any new or historic records for this species we would be interested in hearing from you.'
Distribution map of all pre-2013 records of White Stonecrop
(pre-2000 records shown by smaller dots)

27 April 2013

Wild-type Daffodils in West Glamorgan

Rob Ladds was photographing the Wood Anenomes in Gelli-hir Wood last week when he came across a small drift of circa 50 Wild-type Daffodils (Narcissus pseudonarcissus subsp. pseudonarcissus) in an obscure and difficult to access part of the site. There are relatively few records of Wild-type Daffodils in West Glamorgan as can be seen below and whilst it is possible most if not all are deliberately introductions, some may be relict populations, although one might expect long-established natural populations to be much larger than this? Regardless of their true status, finding Wild-types in the 'wild' will always provide great pleasure. I wonder if genetic testing may one day reveal the true status of our plants in Gower?

24 April 2013

Spoonbills in the Burry

Spoonbills photographed at WWT Llanelli by Wendell Thomas. Quite bizarrely the immature bird arrived on the 7th April, this being the same day the adult departed!
adult present 20th March to 7th April 2013 (c) W. Thomas
note crest, yellow breast band and yellow-tipped black bill
immature present7th April yo present 2013 (c) W. Thomas
note dark tips to primaries and pinky bill

21 April 2013

Roadside Scurvygrass

The white 'fuzz' visible in the central reservation of motorways and other dual carriageways at this time of year is Danish Scurvygrass (Cochlearia danica). It thrives on the verges of these heavily salted roads as its adaptations for surviving in drought-prone soils within the spray-zone of coastal habitats enable it to tolerate the similarly harsh environment of the motorway central reservation.
In additional to the species' natural coastal preference, the distribution maps shows the close association with Glamorgan's major roads, namely the M4 and the southern part of the A465. No doubt it will continue to thrive so long as our roads are salted, but whether or not it has reached its maximum potential remains to be seen.
[Yesterday 30th April happened to drive a short section of the A470 and added a few more records - it will be interesting to see how far up this road it extends?]

20 April 2013

Arctic Terns : Loughor Bridge

Lucky to catch up with the few that were left late morning,the huge number that were there last Thursday must have been a fantastic sight.

19 April 2013

bees from near Pwll Du on 7th April

 Andrena minutula male seems to be pretty common everywhere. Covered in mites poor thing. 2 broods per year, male of first brood have black facial hairs, second brood have white, que!
 Andrena trimmerana male, note the reddish colour under the front gastral segments. Again 2 broods, males of first brood have alarge spine at base of mandibles visible here but not in the second brood, que again!
 Osmia bicolor male, the female is half black and half red and really obvious and common on the cliffs and dune systems of the gower. Nests in empty snail shells.
and one from the university on 9th Andrena nigroaenea female.

Woodcock and Wales Chat Surveys 2013

The BTO are running a Woodcock Survey this year and repeating the Wales Chat Survey due to the bad weather last year.  If anyone would like to help out with either survey I have attached a link to the BTO website for further information, or you can contact me direct.

The recent Beached Bird Survey (this one is RSPB) was a great success with full coverage of the Gower beaches to be surveyed.  Only 2 birds were found, as well as one wing and some feathers, with no sign of oiling on the birds or beaches.  My thanks to everyone who helped out with this survey.

Alastair Flannagan
BTO Regional Representative
West Glamorgan

18 April 2013

Arctic Terns still at bridge this evening

There were still around 100 Arctic and a couple of Common Terns around Loughor Bridge at dusk. They must have had fairly slim pickings as they were even feeding after dusk. All I could see them picking up were tiny fish/crustaceans no more than 1cm long. I suspect with the wind dropping tomorrow they will be off on their long journey again. It's been the best spring arrival of this species I've ever witnessed in the 24 years I've been watching the Burry and wonderful to see them so close.
Arctic Terns feeding on the north side of Loughor Bridge

Arctic Terns stopping off

Despite the noise from the railway bridge construction works and the wind that was gusting hard, Loughor Bridge provided the perfect viewing platform for watching over 150 Arctic Terns stopping off on their way to their northerly breeding areas. Birds were widely scattered with groups feeding and resting at various points, one feeding flock being directly below the bridge providing an unusual photo opportunity.
Also present were three Whimbrel, an adult Little Gull (a very pink individual), a Grey Seal and an immature Spoonbill, which flew off down the estuary (prob. to WWT) at 10:50.

singleton dunes

Yesterday I came across 4 colonies comprising hundreds of Colletes cunicularius in the foredunes between the bridge opposite the university and the bottom of Sketty Lane. I posted an alert to look inland a few days ago, see 4th April, but never expected to see it here. It feeds on Salix repens in the dune slacks but there are no slacks or Salix here, in fact almost nothing nearby at all, does it feed on the willow in the boating lake or some other tree? It's actually a red data book species but is not rare around here because of our dune systems and the numbers are poor compared to the 18,000 estimated here:


I'll leave you to read the other interesting facts there if you want. The males were swarming over the foredunes between the Marram clumps and pouncing on any females they could find. There is a lot of bare(ish) foredune in Swansea Bay including some new dune at Blackpill and the Guildhall, it will be interesting to see if it is there also.

17 April 2013

Hoopoe Video

Nice bird in a very nice field. Video of it doing Hoopoe-type stuff can be found on the link below
Hoopoe video - Click Here

16 April 2013

The toads have arrived!

The majority of common toads (Bufo bufo) have finally reached their water bodies, much later than normal.
Common toads tend to breed in large water bodies. Their obvious black shoaling tadpoles have bufotoxins in their skin, which allows them to cohabit with fish
Lots of gaps in toad records!
Please do take a look in your local ponds and submit any amphibian and reptile records to the Wales Online Amphibian and Reptile Atlas - http://www.welshdragons.org

some hoverflies from last week

From the university grounds some early spring hoverflies.
 Epistrophe eligans male
 Eupeodes luniger male
 Platycheirus albimanus female
 Platycheirus albimanus male
Syrphus torvus male, if you make bigger by clicking on the image and look closely you can see the hairy eyes which differentiate this earlier flier from the much commoner Syrphus ribesii.

15 April 2013

Mewslade migrant montage

A selection of summer migrants seen in Mewslade over the last two days, from Philip Croft.
Chiffchaff, Wheatear, Redstart & Hoopoe

14 April 2013


Few "record" shots of the Hoopoe,bird very flighty and disappears for long periods but seems to favour the lane and area around the "Nitten Field".

Hoopoe in Middleton

(c) Gordon Howe
The above image was taken by Gordon Howe out of the dining room window. This bird was first seen by Gordon and Beryl's son Jem two days earlier in the lane alongside the Nitten Field (SS423875) and despite brief appearances elsewhere, including Barrie & Maragaret Swinnerton's garden, seems to favour the area in and around Nitten.
(c) Alun John
bird on track alongside Nitten early aftenoon
This is the 13th Hoopoe to be found in Glamorgan since 2000, the distribution of records shown by the larger red dots (2013 centred black) on the map below, smaller dots showing pre-2000 records. The map reveals that these bird have turned up at seemingly random sites all along the coastal lowlands, with April being the peak month.

12 April 2013

Gower-bred Kite doing well

(c) P. Copner
Paul Copner photographed this immature Red Kite on 27/03/13 in a field just west of Landimore, feeding on what Paul thought looked like sheep's afterbirth. Gwyn Roberts informed us this is a Gower bred bird, now in it's second calendar year. [NB. This is one of the birds reported by Mark in January, see here Tagged Red Kites.]

06 April 2013


c12 Waxwings flying and calling today near Penrice.

05 April 2013

Butcher Bird

A Great Grey Shrike showed well yesterday in a clear felled area near Crynant, but not today. Rob Jones and I watched it catch at least 4 Common Lizards and this unfortunate Shrew.
It was interesting to watch the Shrike first take the Shrew to a dead tree, where it killed it and impaled it on the jagged edge of a snapped branch. It didn't leave the Shrew there however, instead taking it down to a lower level 'larder.' A fallen Spruce with a short branch, splayed at the end, making for an ideal place to peg out the Shrew for consumption later on. With the puncture already in place the Shrike was able to position its kill at the lower level very quickly before flying off and, presumably, in doing so lessening the chances of losing it later on to an opportunistic scavenger.
Having just left the Shrew the Shrike flew to a distant dead tree where it very quickly afterwards, dropped to the ground to catch a Common Lizard, which it killed and ate immediately.

04 April 2013

a few more insects

Things are slowly starting up anywhere the sun gets to and the wind doesn't. Under the awning to the national Pool the Anthophora plumipes males are patrolling but hopefully there are no females about yet as the currant bushes are not yet in flower on the allotments nor is whatever else they use, just a few dandelions.

There was also one Lasioglossum morio female on dandelion:

The females occur alone at this time of the year nesting in bare ground and the males emerge later. They are thought to be primitively eusocial i.e. with workers the same as the queens. The head and thorax is more metallic bronzy green than this flash photo shows, the males are altogether more metallic green. Beware there are other species of metallic green Lasioglossum, I have recorded smeanthellum from gower. I have also recorded the small Andrena minutula from this site so the wings need checking carefully although it is not metallic.
In the university I found my first Platycheirus albinanus of the year, a female. This very common hoverfly has pairs of grey spots on the abdomen in the female but again beware as there are other species less common.

Last week I was at Oxwich one day and noticed the Dwarf Willow was not yet in flower in the dune slacks. When it is there will be many Colletes cunicularius feeding on the flowers and nesting on the sandy dune slopes. As you can see they look a bit like small bumble or honey bees:

but if you check the wing you will see a bend where marked with a V which goes towards the tip of the wing, a characteristic of Colletes bees.

This bee is nationally quite scarce, I (and others) have found it on most of the gower dune systems but I have put it up becuase it is supposed to be spreading north and away from the coasts so might be worth keeping an eye out for inland.

If the warm weather promised for next week doesn't bring too much rain we might actually be able to get this spring under way, good luck.

03 April 2013

Colour-ringed Sandwich Tern

Rein Part sent me some images of Sandwich Terns at Whiteford Point taken yesterday, including one that was colour-ringed. Unfortunately the code can't be read clearly, so on the off-chance these birds stick around it would be very useful if someone could record the ring details.
Other spring migrants worth looking out for at present are Wheatears, which seem in good supply; Ring Ouzels, seen at four site on or near the coast in the last week or so; and of course Sand Martins and Chiffchaffs, with a good selection of scattered records of these early returners. Hopefully as the weather warms up we'll see a much bigger influx. For first arrival dates in East and West Glamorgan check out this LINK

01 April 2013

Cwmdulais river mosses

The acidic water flowing down the Afon Dulais above Pontarddulais supports a limited but distinctive suite of species, two of the most abundant being Alpine Water-moss (Fontinalis squamosa) and Claw Brook-moss (Hygrohypnum ochraceum). These dark aquatic species grow on in-stream rocks and boulders forming part of characteristic community.
Alpine Water-moss (Fontinalis squamosa)
Claw Brook-moss (Hygrohypnum ochraceum)
Flushed pastures alongside the river that aren't covered in Rhododendron are more diverse with noteworthy species including locally frequent Whorled Caraway (Carum verticillatum) , Round-leaved Crowfoot (Ranunculus omiophyllus), Ivy-leaved Bellflower (Wahlenbergia hederacea) and the luxuriant foliage of Marsh Forklet-moss (Dichodontium palustre).
Whorled Caraway leaves growing overGrove Earwort (Scapania nemorea)
Marsh Forklet-moss (Dichodontium palustre)