01 November 2017

some local birds

A few days out and about getting used to the bird camera again, not much signs of migration unlike some other areas of the country, mostly the same old in the usual places:
A Rock Pipit at Mumbles
A female/imm Black Redstart, same place
A Med Gull at Bracelet Bay
and even the odd Black-Headed Gull among them!
A Little Egret on The Burry, a very common sight these days
Then my reward for some days of persistence, this GN Diver off Knab Rock eating a flatfish picked off the newly flooded sand at high tide.
Much choking and changes to positioning of the fish in the mouth, pity birds didn't evolve arms, but they found a better use for that appendage.
Also found several crabs to eat and seemed to shake and bite off the legs before swallowing.
In the nicer weather a few insects were still around, Sympetrun striolatum and some Ivy Bee, Colletes hederae and a few butterflies.

28 October 2017

Fungi on Baglan Energy Park

Baglan Energy Park is one of the best brownfield sites in Wales, particularly in terms of  the notable vascular plants, bryophytes and invertebrates that have been recorded there. It is, in fact, a biodiversity hot-spot and one of the most species-rich areas in Glamorgan.  At the moment we know much less about the  macro-fungi there, but  recent, preliminary surveys indicate that there is a good diversity of species, many of which (not surprisingly) are typical coastal (sand dune) species such as Clitocybe barbularum, C. rivulosa, Melanoleuca cinereifolia, and Inocybe agardhii. A few more are shown in photos below:

Lepiota alba

Hygrocybe persistens

Hygrocybe conica

Hygrocybe virginea var. virginea

Hygrocybe virginea var. ochraceopallida

Galerina vittiformis

Omphalina pyxidata

14 October 2017

Fungi on Llansamlet Enterprise Park

Llansamlet Enterprise Park has lots of wooded groves and drive-by observation indicates that some of them have lots of fungi fruiting in them. One that I stopped  (very briefly) to look at near the Go Outdoors outlet had some nice groups of Matt Knight (Tricholoma imbricatum) and Bloody Brittlegill (Russula sanguinaria) associated with pine, and large amount of Clustered Toughshank (Gymnopus confluens).
I suspect that there is a large, unrecorded diversity of fungi here.

Matt Knight (Tricholoma imbricatum)

Bloody Brittlegill (Russula sanguinaria)

Clustered Toughshank (Gymnopus confluens)

25 September 2017

Welsh Mānuka

An internet search last weekend finally enabled me to identify a mystery shrub that first saw at Duffryn Rhondda (SS838957) in 2011, but which we happened to pass again over the weekend. Known also as Broom Tea-tree Leptospermum scoparium, Mānuka utilised by bees in New Zealand produce honey famed for its medicinal properties. I'm sure the local bees enjoy the sweetness of this single shrub, though I doubt Welsh Mānuka honey is a viable business proposition! The presence of a row of Eucalyptus trees nearby indicates an Antipodean influence in the local planting scheme, but the location of the scrub amongst natural scrub indicates the possibility that the plant could have resulted from self-seeding - although no search for a parent plant was made in local gardens. I'd be interested to hear if anyone else has encountered this distinctive species elsewhere locally?

22 September 2017

Bonnets in Local Sitka Spruce Plantations

Mycena species are commonly known as Bonnets. Most of them are small mushrooms that are found in woodland, although a few occur in grassland habitats, including sand dunes. They are particularly common in our local conifer forests where you might find about 15 species in a good year. They are saprotrophic species which grow on woodland litter and play a crucial role in the woodland floor recycling process. Sitka Spruce plantations in the Neath and Afan Valleys are good places to look for Bonnets, where Mycena filopes (Iodine Bonnet), Mycena metata,  Mycena sanguinolenta (Bleeding Bonnet), Mycena leptocephala (Nitrous Bonnet) and Mycena galopus (Milking Bonnet) are probably the most evident species.

Mycena filopes (left) and Mycena metata (right) - Bryn Forest

Mycena metata - Glyncorrwg Forest

Mycena filopes and Mycena metata are very similar and both smell of iodoform (the typical medicine cabinet smell). However, Mycena metata has distinctive pinkish hues (often subtle) and microscopic characteristics which help to identify it. Also, in my experience, the iodoform smell is much stronger with Mycena filopes, which also has silvery streaking on its cap that is more easily observed in drying specimens. Mycena sanguinolenta is an attractive species which bleeds a reddish fluid when cut and its gills have a red-brown edge.

Mycena sanguinolenta -  Glyncastle Forest, Resolven

Mycena galopus and Mycena leptocephala are very common species in all types of woodland and often occur in large groups in Sitka Spruce forests. Mycena galopus can often be identified instantly because the broken stem exudes a milky fluid, hence its common name - no other British Bonnet does this. Also, unlike Mycena leptocephala, which has an acrid nitrous smell (often faint and fleeting), Mycena galopus doesn't have a characteristic smell. When young, Mycena leptocephala is quite dark in colour but it becomes more grey with age as the cap expands.

Mycena galopus - Afan Forest Park

Mycena leptocephala - Glyncastle Forest, Resolven

Mycena pura (Lilac Bonnet) and Mycena pelianthina (Blackedge Bonnet) are larger, very attractive Bonnets which are occasionally found in Sitka Spruce plantations. Both have fairly strong raphanoid (radish-like) smells and lilac or pinkish-brown hues. Mycena pearsoniana is a similar but less common species which I have seen in two local Sitka plantations this autumn.

Mycena pura - Pentrclwydau Forest

Mycena pelianthina - Bryn Forest

Less conspicuous, but often abundant, there are a number of tiny Bonnets that grow on spruce needles and twigs. The most common is Mycena rorida (Dripping Bonnet), which is only about a centimetre high and has a stem which is covered in a viscous, slimy fluid. I've recorded it in all the main Sitka plantations in Neath Port Talbot in the last two months.

Mycena rorida - Briton Ferry Woods

Other small Bonnets that grow on spruce needles are Mycena stylobates (Bulbous Bonnet), which has a distinctive basal disc and Mycena aciculata which has a conspicuously hairy cap and stem. 

Mycena stylobates - Afan Forest Park

Mycena aciculata - Rhigos

One of the smallest species is Mycena tenerrima. It looks like a tiny white pin with icing sugar sprinkled on its head.

Mycena tenerrima - Abergarwed Forest

13 September 2017

Grey Phalaropes at Loughor Bridge

A stroke of luck this evening as I went to have a look for the 2 Grey Phalaropes found by Barry earlier. The 2 had met up with another 3. Didn't think I'd ever see a flock of Grey Phalaropes,,,,bit surreal!
not sure if the 2 on the right are more advanced with moult or adult??

05 September 2017

more orthoptera

Out and about with my latest chum, the bat detector, trying to learn the calls of Orthoptera. Lots more Long Winged Coneheads all the way up the Swansea Valley as far as the old tip in Tawe Vale in any suitable grassland as described in the last post by me. Also found a lot singing to the west of Ashley Road playing fields in rough grassland behind the houses on the Mumbles Road. 3 were singing on grass besides the stream on the northern edge of the playing fields including this macropterous individual (supposed to be associated with spreading populations).
A visit to Pennard Golf Club allowed me to hear other species. Lots of Dark Bush Crickets (Pholidoptera griseoaptera) singing from bramble clumps. Field Grasshopper (Chorthippus brunneus), Meadow Grasshopper (Chorthippus parallelus) and Mottled Grasshopper (Myrmeleotettix maculatus) singing from low vegetation or bare ground on the golf course, the latter hard to hear on the bat detector. On the front slope of the cliffs at Shire Combe there was a large population of Grey Bush Crickets (Platycleis denticulata).

Another day I paid a visit to Welsh Moor to look for Bog Bush Cricket (Metrioptera brachyptera) and found a very large population of this and Short Winged Conehead (Conocephalus dorsalis) and realised that the bat detector was a good way to assess the population (of males) present as I only saw a few of the former (photo below) and none of the latter.
Further searches that day around Broadpool and on the north western margin of Fairwood Common only turned up Short Winged Coneheads in the more rushy areas.

A visit to Oxwich turned up Great Green Bush Cricket (Tettigonia viridissima, surprisingly from what I remember of the racket they make, I can't hear those either) and yet more Short Winged Coneheads. I also saw a pair of Lesser Marsh Grasshoppers (Chorthippus albomarginatus) but did not pick up any calling.

I suspect at Pennard I was also hearing lots of Speckled Bush Crickets (Leptophyes punctatissima) but am not yet confident enough to be sure without seeing them as well. I am now thus a born again bat detectorist, looks a very useful tool and you don't need a posh one, in fact they say a rudimentary one is better. Only problem is that the background hiss does my head in and it makes a terrible noise if you're moving, can't imagine what the orthoptera hear as you "sneak" up on them in the grass!

30 August 2017

Woodchat Shrike : Frog Moor, Reynoldston, Gower

A few pics from a visit late afternoon Sunday 27.August 2017..........

Fasciated Orache at Blackpill

Found this fascinating fasciated orache!

23 August 2017

new method, new record

Having just read Ted Benton's Grasshoppers and Crickets and wanting a change from Bees and Wasps I decided to try out a bat detector (thanks for the loan Steve) as I'm deaf to all those songs I learned long ago.

Yesterday afternoon at Crymlyn Burrows I detected a lot of things I would expect there but one continuous buzz was puzzling me. Eventually I saw and photographed them and realised they were Long Winged Coneheads (Conocephalus discolor to me but maybe now C.fuscus!).

You can see the long straightish ovipositor which is the easiest way to tell from rare (I have never seen) long winged forms of the Short Winged Conehead, Conocephalus dorsalis, a species also at Crymlyn Burrows in the saltmarsh edge.

 The male is not so easy to tell but details of the cerci (arrow) help.

New to me here, I'd seen them in Dorset 30 or so years ago, I'd expected them as they'd arrived in Cardiff as long ago as 1999. I find Mike Howe recorded them at Nicholaston in 2013, loving the new NBN gateway.

There were a lot (probably 100s) singing between the University entrance and the roundabout in 1-2 foot high grass and bramble/Polypodium sp. This is the habitat structure I remember them liking and there were even a few opposite the uni entrance in taller grass by the Bay Studios so I wouldn't be surprised to find them widespread now if you have access to a bat detector, I will certainly be buying one pronto. I photographed one short winged form of a male conehead in the Dutch Rush (Equisetum hyemale) beds by the uni entrance but I am not sure if this was a dorsalis in a new habitat or a nymphal fuscus. One of the other things that can happen as well as spread to new areas is spread to new habitats as the climate gets more favourable to a species.

Habitats with Long Winged Coneheads.

Time to try and find Roesel's bush cricket which has also spread but doesn't seem to have made it so close (so far!).

16 August 2017

Autumn Lady's tresses South Gower

Autumn Lady’s tresses – Spiranthes Spiralis are now flowering on the South Gower coast. They are growing everywhere where the grass has been grazed by sheep and we saw a great number of them between Fall Bay and Thurba bay on Sunday 13th August.

Also seen were Boletus Luridus which on the gower coast is associated with rockroses. All the  specimens seen had dried up unfortunately.

05 August 2017

Fungi benefit from autumnal weather

As I write this a monsoon-like shower of rain is hammering on our living room window, a frequent occurrence over the last few weeks. You'd be forgiven for thinking that we are somewhere in the middle of October. But at least it's perfect weather for fungi, some of which are now fruiting conspicuously in our forests. During the SEWBReC meeting at the large and biodiverse Maerdy coal tip last Saturday, several recorders noted impressive populations of  Suillus viscidus and Gomphidius maculatus associated with Larch. I hope the Maerdy Larch plantation will escape felling so that these populations can survive.

Suillus viscidus (Resolven)

Gomphidius maculatus (Maerdy)

Closer to home, Suillus viscidus was also fruiting in similar Larch plantations on old coal tips at Resolven and Dyffryn Cellwen. Lots of common species such as Clavulina rugosa, Laccaria laccata, Gymnopus dryophilus (= Collybia dryophila), Mycena rorida, Mycena sanguinolenta, Mycena stylobatesMycena leptocephala,  Suillus grevillei and Suillus luteus were abundant, but less recorded species such as Gymnopus aquosus and Otidea onotica were also there.

Gymnopus dryophilus and Mycena sanguinolenta (Resolven)

Suillus luteus (Dyffryn Cellwen)

Gymnopus aquosus (Ton Mawr) - note bulbous base to stipe

Otidea onotica (Dyffryn Cellwen)

There were some nice patches of Rhodocollybia prolixa under the Larch in Dyffryn Cellwen. This is an uncommon species in Britain, new to me, but I see from the NBN database that it has been recorded previously in South Wales. Illustrations (and photos) of this species are a bit misleading in some of the guides, but there are some nice images on the web. However, the taxonomy of this species is also confusing. Firstly, lots of guides use the outdated name of Collybia, now largely replaced by Gymnopus and Rhodocollybia. Secondly, several guides describe two species, Collybia distorta and Collybia prolixa, which have been very difficult to separate, the main difference between them being the size of the basidiospores. The spores of distorta are very small (3-4 microns) while those of prolixa are larger (4-6 microns). The Dyffryn Cellwen population has very small spores (mean 3.5 microns), so I am recording this as Rhodocollybia prolixa var. distorta (= Collybia distorta).

Rhodocollybia prolixa var. distorta (Dyffryn Cellwen)