It was good to spend an hour in the company of Craig Constance and Tim Griffiths at Llandgedfedd Reservoir recently. Craig had let slip he'd recently seen purple hairstreak around the tree tops on the Island at the Reservoir, so remembering that former Gwent birder Adrian Hickman had recorded them in the same area many years ago it was worth another look. Sure enough a single butterfly came within range resting on a nearby ash trees absorbing the warmth of the early morning sun light. This individual was soon joined by a second and a possible third was seen nearby. It's not that this species is unsual, but its notable in so much that looking for butterflies is generally a low herbage activity, looking in the tree canopy isn't often neglected.
Tuesday, 27 June 2017
Gull watching is hardcore; shunned by many as just urban pests or just too difficult to get to grips with. But those who chose to embrace Laridae quickly become enveloped in a world of variable plumage, ring reading, winter roost watching and the befriending of other gull watchers through specialists blogs. However, gulls are not just for the winter birder, shivering in dropping temperatures awaiting a roost to build on a local reservoir, gulls, are all year round value with breeding interest in the spring to early summer movements from June onwards.
As I write there is already a hint that post breeding movement is underway. Black-headed gulls are turning up at some of our best sites after breeding, and yellow-legged gull, especially, non breeding sub adult birds, start to appear from late June onwards. With this in mind I took to a loop around the Riverfront, Newport at low tide hoping for something more attractive than just the local rooftop breeding herring and lesser black-backed gulls.
Although there was a pleasing count of birds along the tide line none were significantly different enough to warrant the scrutiny needed to separate a sub adult yellow-legged from a rank and file herring. But like many who's life is scratching a living from the often unforgiving urban environment some birds display the scars of this life style choice,often manifested by foot deformities. There was an adult lesser black-backed gull with a foot amputation and a rather bleached sub adult herring with a twisted foot at a right angle to its other.
On the roof top in Brynmawr there are currently hundreds of gulls, swollen by the young of another successful breeding season. From my observations it seems the lesser black-backs start to breed earlier than the herring gulls resulting in the youngsters showing more maturirity. Disappointingly the pair of great black-backed gull that have nested for the past two seasons at this location appear not be present this year.
Wednesday, 14 June 2017
Photographed this little beauty at Blaenserchan recently. Its a heath bumblebee (Bombus jonellus), rather attractive bee with three yellow bands and a white tail. Note the heart shaped face that distinguishes it from the garden bumblebee (Bombus hortorum) and the yellow that makes it a male. Bumblebee Conservation class this species as common yet Aderyn the Welsh Local Records Centre database only shows two records for vice county 35.
Monday, 12 June 2017
Yes, I'm baised, but Garn Lakes Local Nature Reserve is a super wetland site, of ponds, lakes, reedbeds and marshy grassland. Credit to all those in Torfaen Council (and partners) for managing the site so well! A whistle stop visit the other evening was sufficent to record a number of odonata, the colourful hoverfly (Leucozona lucorum) and a jumbo queen buff-tailed bumblebee. Well worth a visit.
Saturday, 10 June 2017
The prospect of a variable damselfly and an unsual longhorn beetle was sufficent motivation for the drive to Magor Marsh last Saturday afternoon.Nice to see some young families using the reserve and a digiscoper photographing I know not what from the hide.
Mistletoe often resides in tall trees, out of reach to a naturalist with a sweep net. But there are some more accessible clumps on the reserve that I adjatated with my net. This produced several examples of the mistletoe bug Pinalitus viscicola.
Cetti's warbler, reed warbler and reed bunting could all be heard as I weaved my way over the snaking boardwalks to the meadow beyond. Here there were many blue damselflies but none could be made into a variable. Botanically it was nice to record a few saw wort specimens along with marsh ragwort. One of the many bird boxes was home to a triving nest of tree bumblebee.
Sunday, 28 May 2017
I stood in the same location of the Lasgarn Wood last year hoping to hear the churring of a nightjar but drew a blank, This time it was different but before I picked up that faint yet evocative churring I was tipped off to their presence by a knowledgeable jogger who directed me to a tree about a hundred yards away. And sure enough as I approached the said area I could hear a bird calling. To my surprised I could see the bird resting on the outer branch of a tree. After a few minutes another bird approach and both took off out of sight.
Saturday, 27 May 2017
This is an area of industrial workings in the upland landscape of Garn-yr-erw, Blaenavon comprising remnant buildings and stonewalls surrounded by spoil tips and water management features. It seems that every time I tramp around this interfered with habitat I find new and interesting components. Some of the most notable are ponds that are a clearly of manmade construction given their shape.
It was a rather cool and blustery day as I made my way towards the Hills Pit area. There were a pair of wheatear in alarm call and as I scrambled through the heather covered lower slopes of a spoil tip a meadow pipit was flushed from a nest of six eggs. Beyond, there are a couple of ponds with intermittent willow scrub, here a couple of juvenile stonechat called, along with a reed bunting and a single snipe.
Monday, 22 May 2017
Despite this ongoing change some patches of more open grassy swards can still be found. It was windy but that didn't stop a number of butterflies and moths taking flight. Around eight dingy skipper and three small purple-barred day flying moth were evident. According to the distribution maps prepared by Martin Anthoney (County Recorder), the small purple-barred has lost ground in the east of the county with just a few sites remaining in the west.
Sunday, 14 May 2017
I'd hardly got of my car when two loudly calling curlew flew overhead from east to west. Garnlydan Reservoir was strangely quiet, previous visits were populated by ubiquitous dog walkers and fishermen, not the case today. A circuit of the reservoir produced a bird list that any self respecting birder could predict. The tally included, at least four territory holding wheatear, two male stonechat, two calling reed bunting, five lapwing, and singles of common sandpiper, snipe and great crested grebe.
Monday, 1 May 2017
Most of Gwent's birders, beyond the beginner stage that is, now use Twitter as the primarily source of sharing bird information, by adopting the hashtag #gwentbirds. This is where I picked up news of the ring ouzel found by Craig Constance at The British recently. Next day I was up early for a walk around my lapsed local patch hoping to find my own ring ouzel. A couple of blackbird flying along the upland fringe were double checked for that tell tale white crescent, but as hard as I try I couldn't turn any into the target species. Nonetheless plenty of other species were on offer including singles of wood warbler, greenfinch and whitethroat. There were many singing tree pipit, males of stonechat and reed bunting at lease two pair of wheatear and two cuckoo.
Saturday, 29 April 2017
I've a head of silver hair which is why I can remember those days in the 1970's when Abergavenny Sewage Works littered the pages of the Monmouthshire/Gwent Bird Report with records of yellow and white wagtail and various passage waders, In those days of course visibility of the treatment works was good, today its like Fort Knox. I recollect an anecdote often relayed by the late Percy Playford back when I was an active 'c' ringer, saying that he had previously run a number of mist netting sessions at the site during which time some of the sewage beds were characterised by large plants yielding a healthy crop of tomatoes, which he subsequently picked and took home to eat.
From Waitrose supermarket cross the road to the new housing estate on the old Coopers Filters site. Heading south and before the fly over there is a restricted lane entrance with a bright yellow barrier. Access can be found around the barrier, the lane then continues adjacent to the housing estate and straight to the sewage works. Where the housing stops there is a field with a pond, the margins supported a good population of slender ground hopper - there was also a single coot and one unaccompanied mallard duckling. A whitethroat sang from a nearby thicket. At the sewage work there is a well worn track, not thought to be a public footpath. This led through two fields to the margins of the River Usk. Here a couple of grey wagtail and a common sandpiper moved between stony spits. A few common wildflowers were in full bloom including, common fumitory, common cornsalad and green alkanet. There were also four species of butterfly on the wing, including red admiral, speckled wood, and orange tip.
Sunday, 23 April 2017
The early morning Bank Holiday Monday visit to the margins of Waunafon Bog was thrilling and depressing in equal measure. Thrilling because my hope that a grasshopper warbler would be reeling was confirmed, in fact there may have been two birds. I went into stealth mode in the hope that the loudly reeling bird could be photographed in action, But despite having a grandstand view of the scrub from whence the bird was singing, as hard as I tried it was impossible to pinpoint. Moving on a male stonechat was fencepost hoping and parties of swallow were sweeping silently over the bog purposefully heading north. Other birds noted were linnet, three pair of reed bunting, two snipe and two flyover Canada goose.
And now for the depressing part - look away now those of a nervous disposition. The bog itself is a long time neglected ecological asset of SSSI quality. At the headwaters of the Afon Lwyd water appears to have been diverted away from the bog to prevent it causing a flooding problem on a nearby road. This has contributed to a perception that it is drying out in places illustrated by increased scrub growth. Nonetheless the bog, whose role in carbon storage and ecosystems resilience should not be underestimated, is facing a more immediate threat. Off - road activity has carved a deep scar in the peat and in the process breaking fences to gain access. Those responsible ride and destroy with impunity. Its incredulous that authorities seem unwilling to act to kerb the damage that is becoming a landscape trademark of the upper Afon Lwyd.
Saturday, 15 April 2017
I should have been more alert to the prospect that a sunny early spring Sunday at Llandegfedd Reservoir would have a liberal sprinkling of leisure seekers. And so it was, there were, walkers with dogs, walkers without dogs, cannabis smokers, sunbathing courting couples, fisherman, sailors with associated noisy powerboats and hooters, paddle boarders who sought refuge in the less crowded corners of the reservoir and an individual who coughed loudly and intermittently from the richly vegetated upper reaches of Green Pool.
As a consequence my trusty Opticron scope was not deployed. Preferring to potter about on the margins of the reservoir I settled down on the exposed shoreline of the island. The water level was high by still low enough for a small area of eroded soft bank complete with ample stone turning potential. On closer examination the collection of stones on the waters edge were well populated with a variety of basking beetles. Seemingly attracted by the stones absorbed warmth the following species were identified.
|Mint Leaf Beetle (Chrysolina herbacea)|
|Weevil (Sitinia lineatus)|
|Imperial Rove Beetle (Staphylinus caesareus)|
|Dung Beetle (Aphodius sphaecelatus)|
|Flea Beetle (Longitarsus membranaceus)|
|Sap Beetle (Glischrochilus hortensis)|
|Orange Ladybird (Halyzia sedecimguttata)|
Monday, 10 April 2017
I only seem to have enough spare time for snatched visits to local patches these days and last Saturday was no exception. That said I did manage two snatched visits in one day.
First up was a morning excursion to a part of the Lasgarn Wood, near Abersychan. Parking on Waterworks Lane just below the now decommissioned reservoir I made my way to a small adjacent ancient beech woodland. Many species of bird were in full song, with chiffchaff, willow warbler and blackcap most prominent. A small patch of flowering lesser celendine briefly attracted a bee fly (Bomblyius major) and green woodpecker and nuthatch were vocal, the latter leaving a suitable nest site in a hole of a beech tree. A distant singing redstart could be detected from a hedgerow of a nearly farm.
Later on I wandered around Blaenavon Community Woodland. Several calling redpoll and a great spotted woodpecker covered the extent of the birdlife on offer. However several green tiger beetle and two peacock butterflies were compensation.