26 April 2014

Rare Gulls at Penclacwydd

video-grab of Franklin's Gull
The Mediterranean Gulls on the lagoon at Penclacwydd have been in good condition recently and the following videos show a young pair getting amorous (the young birds have black in the wing tips) and a lone adult that appears interested in a Black-headed Gull. There's also a short video of the Franklin's Gull which last weekend provided the second record for Carmarthenshire and the third for West Glamorgan.

15 April 2014

Common Ramping-fumitory and Bargeman's Cabbage

Fumaria muralis ssp. boraei

Just for comparison with the White Ramping-fumitory (Fumaria capreolata) in the post below, this is Common Ramping-fumitory (Fumaria muralis). Distinctive features include the rose-pink colour of the flowers which have black tips on the the upper and lower petals. The flowers are also slightly smaller than those of White Ramping-fumitory and there are less flowers in the inflorescence (usually about 15). You are more likely to confuse this species with Tall Ramping-fumitory (Fumaria bastardii) or Purple Ramping-fumitory (Fumaria purpurea), both of which occur in Gower. The upper petal of Tall Ramping-fumitory doesn't usually have a dark tip, while the calyx segments (sepals) of Purple Ramping-fumitory are very large, more than half the length of the flower. If you enlarge the photo, you should be able to see the calyx segments easily - i.e. the small appendages with jagged edges on the sides of the flowers. The size and shape of the calyx segments and the nature of the toothed edges are important features that characterise fumitories.
Common Ramping-fumitory is a very common species of waste ground all over Britain. The specimen in the photograph was growing near Margam in a diverse, weedy community that included some fine specimens of Bargeman's Cabbage (Brassica rapa ssp. sylvestris).

Brassica rapa ssp sylvestris

Bargeman's Cabbage is very similar to Oil-seed Rape (Brassica napus ssp.oleifera) and I always assumed that the large, showy, yellow-flowered crucifers growing along the hard shoulder of the M4 between Briton Ferry and Margam were Oil-seed Rape. It's difficult to make an accurate identification at 50 (or 70) mph! Having seen these plants, just off the motorway, I'm beginning to think that the plants along the M4 are mostly (if not all) Bargeman's Cabbage. Please comment if you have any opinions on this matter.
Bargeman's Cabbage differs from Oil-seed Rape mostly in the features of its flowers and inflorescence. The flowers of Bargeman's Cabbage are smaller and a much richer yellow than those of Oil-seed Rape. The flower clusters in the terminal inflorescence of Bargeman's Cabbage overtop the buds, so the buds are not visible (enlarge photo to check this out). With Oil-seed Rape the flower buds are usually much more visible and often stand clearly above the open flowers.

13 April 2014

White Ramping-fumitory

Fumaria capreolata

It sounds like a nasty condition requiring antibiotics, but White Ramping-fumitory (Fumaria capreolata) is a handsome, large, white-flowered fumitory with a very coastal distribution in Wales. It's not common east of Gower in South Wales, but there seems to be a bit of a hot spot for it in the coastal strip between Margam and Kenfig. The specimen in the photo was found in the vicinity of Kenfig Industrial Estate, growing with Common Fumitory (Fumaria officinalis), a species with smaller, purple flowers. The most common fumitory in our area is Common Ramping-fumitory (Fumaria muralis) which has rose-pink flowers.

06 April 2014

An odd moss on a pavement in Caerau

Back on 5th March an odd specimen of Intermediate Screw-moss (Syntrichia montana) collected from tarmac in Brynheulog, Caerau, proved puzzling as it did not key out well to any species or well-documented forms of Syntrichia. The specimen was passed onto Sam Bosanquet who suggested that it might be S.m. var calva, a taxon recorded only once in Britain in 2011 at a site in Gloucestershire. Sam was sufficiently convinced to forward it onto Tom Blockeel for a second opinion who confirmed the identification and status as new for Wales. Quite surprising what can turn up in the most unpromising looking locations if you care to look close enough.
Syntrichia montana var. calva

Above Brynheulog, the crags at Foel Fawr provided more natural niches for mosses and liverworts including the distinctive Nut-moss (Diphyscium foliosum) shown below, along with Brunton's Dog-tooth (Cynodontium bruntonii) and Woolly Fringe-moss (Racomitrium lanuginosum) .
Diphyscium foliosum

05 April 2014

Barometer Earthstar

Astraeus hygrometricus
 ( fleshy fruit body under humid conditions)

Barometer Earthstar (Astraeus hygrometricus) is so called because the fruiting body is so hygroscopic. It dries out quickly under dry conditions to a hard, leathery consistency and then undergoes an equally rapid transformation back to its fleshy state when it is humid.

Astraeus hygrometricus
(dry, curled-up fruit body)

As the fruiting body dries out, it loses its colour and curls its ray-like limbs around the central, spherical spore producing body. But even after a little rain, the limbs flex outwards to lift and support the spore producing body above the surface of the soil. Spores are released through the pore at the top very efficiently when rain drops hit the surface. The transformation from the curled-up dry state to the upright fleshy state takes about 30 minutes.
This is an uncommon fungus in Britain with a distinct, southern distribution (mostly in England). It is rarely recorded in Wales. Roger Phillips describes it as a vulnerable Red Data List species. The specimens here were found in a little wood near Melin Cryddan, Neath. Unlike our common earthstars, the fruiting bodies persist in good condition through the winter and into spring.

Wernffrwd & Swansea Vale

video grab
Following a build up in the flock to 647 last week, there was no sign of any Golden Plover at Wernffrwd this morning but a Slavonian Grebe nearing completion of its moult into summer plumage was bonus, along with our first Swallows of the year there. A quick evening visit to Swansea Vale just before dusk produced an adult Little Gull that was unbelievably approachable. As it was the only bird on the ground there I thought it might have been sick, but as I approached to within 5m of it and was thinking how best to grab it, it uttered a few alarms chirps then flew off and joined a swarm of Sand Martins, so may have possibly just been very tired? A Dipper was singing close by on the river.