Promoting observation, sense of place and citizen science.



Monday, 21 April 2014

Shouting from the rooftops, lamp posts, car parks........



Richard Clarke's fine study of the breeding gulls in Gwent published in the 2007 Gwent Bird Report traces the extent these birds have colonised the urban heartlands of Newport and the valleys. A quiet late Sunday afternoon around the industrial estates and retail parks of the grey infrastructure was enough to convince any doubter of their adaptability and dominance of asbestos and asphalt.

Uskside buildings is a well known site for rooftop breeding Larus of both fuscus and argentatus. Birds called, preened, launched themselves into short wheeling flights and collected rooftop vegetation, while others sat on an early brood. One bird with a colour ring (Blue JE3?) drifted in and out of vision behind a building - its origin of marking likely to be a Gloucester landfill site. Elsewhere an opportunist argentatus pillaged a retail park bin of its KFC packaging finding sustenance in a few discarded barbecue sauce covered chips.  




Sunday, 20 April 2014

Fifty shades of Farteg grey



Love them or hate them coal spoil tips polarise opinion. Icons of working class toil and natural resource exploitation, those tips that escaped the influences of gravel voiced civil engineers are now sites of ecological value and a resource for students of the discipline. Nonetheless coal recovery is still big business and the grubby hands of specialist companies continue to submit planning applications for open cast mining clothed in a cloak of patronising respectability as if a favour is being done for valley communities by removing 'eyesores'. The truth is left alone the actions of vegetational succession will soften the perception of harshness creating an open mosaic habitat that contributes to nature conservation and is faithful to its social history. Why should it be any other way?


One of the areas under threat of the public service 'big hole land reclamation' technique is the Varteg - or should it be Farteg? Here the tips remain a blend of various shades of grey, where the angle of repose is hostile to germination and water cuts the surface like the furrowed brow of a concerned local resident. These tips are a delight to scramble around. Bare solar heat absorbing shale sits cheek by jowl with dwarf shrub heath and marshy grassland, where the common lizard basks in the sunshine like a holiday maker on the beach in Benedorm before scurrying for cover at the first sight of a lumbering inquisitive naturalist.


I write this post after a morning pottering around this peri-urban environment. Here a cuckoo called and a couple of wheatear were in chase me mode. From the nearby ffridd skylark provided the background mood music, linnet skipped from gorse bush to gorse bush and a snipe was heard from the seclusion of some reed dominated marshy grassland. A green tiger beetle struggled to generate any speed across the spoil due to a keen chilly wind.

Friday, 18 April 2014

A call of nature


No sign of the Llandegfedd Reservoir osprey (s) so no need to worry about flushing - although if I disguise myself as a farmer collecting sheep I should get away with it. A harlequin ladybird was active on the frosted window of the anglers welfare facility. Following the recent EU assessment of invasive non-native species we should all be equipped with toffee hammers to deal with these little monsters on sight! Five species of butterfly were on the wing including comma, brimstone and orange tip. Good numbers of common ground beetles on the muddy bare ground and the first orthoptera of the year in the form of a couple of slender ground hopper.     

Sunday, 13 April 2014

A Phylloscopus morning



An early morning visit to The British was greeted by a keen wind and some fresh fly tipping of plaster, broken bathroom tiles and plastic water pipes. Despite the leaden sky both willow warbler and chiffchaff were in fine voice. A couple of stock dove took flight from the now decaying stonework of the dewatered Big Pond dam wall. Another two tree pipit sang from the bracken covered slopes and to my surprise a pair of calling Canada geese appeared in flight from over the hillside heading eastwards. 

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Good catch ol' boy


I've gone big on reminiscing lately. I suppose its something to do with my advancing years. Now I played a little compedivive cricket in my younger years, opening bat and a mean first slip to boot. Thankfully these sporting skills came in handy when on my lunchtime break visit to the dam at Llandegfedd Reservoir. When squinting to make out the latest pole dancing osprey something closer came in view. This in flight dung beetle Aphodius foetidus appeared and without a second thought I successfully pouched the labouring invert placing it on the dam wall for a root and branch examination.

Other stuff from the dam included the aforementioned osprey, a swallow, in song blackcap, willow warbler and chiffchaff.   

Thursday, 3 April 2014

From Rumney to Riverfront




18 months after first reporting this colour ringed redshank to the BTO I've finally got a response, but it took another attempt via the Dublin Bay blog to get an answer. My thanks to Niall Burton for the information. Seems its not moved far as the bird was ringed at Rumney Great Wharf, Cardiff  as a first winter bird on 22 November 2010. At last this one is resolved.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Through the generations



Its walk number 23 in the Birdwatching Walks in Gwent (GOS 2013) book, but for me the Lasgarn Wood is more than just an ancient woodland with a characteristic community of woodland birds. Its part of my local patch, its where I cut my naturalist teeth and therefore part of my heritage. I remember with fond memories those outdoor activities that used to occupy the time of a youngster growing up within a bow and arrows distance of such a fine habitat. Losing yourself for half a day or more was easily done. Camp building, tree climbing, bird nesting and latterly girl kissing and cider drinking was boys own stuff but sadly is lost on today's Twitter generation. Stranger danger and the fear of accident from an unmanaged tree branch and other miscellaneous trip hazards conspire to rob the youth of natural play opportunities and the wonderment of exploration and discovery. Richard Louv's text Last Child in the Woods articulates this loss; a must read for those who understand the modern day disconnection from the wild.

        

To many the western valleys of Gwent are just about coal and the impact that industry had on both the natural and social landscape of the area. Yet its oft' forgotten that the south Wales coalfield is edged by a margin of carboniferous limestone akin to that in the Wye Valley and its this geological variety that provided the natural resources for the manufacturing of iron and steel. Now long gone its legacy adds to the rich current day ecology of this part of Gwent. 

Sitting on top of the limestone the Lasgarn Wood is pock marked with disused shallow workings, winnable stone that was transported during the Victorian era via tramroad across the valley to the ironworks at The British. Now reclaimed by secondary woodland the dingles of quarry workings take some tracking down. Once found however their tangled mass of dead wood, bryophytes, pteridophytes and ancient woodland indicator plants hide a world that few currently appreciate. 

   
Away from the features of economic exploitation, there are more subtle signs of the woodlands recreational value. I've talked before about tree carvings or culturally modernised trees. These etchings are widespread features of beech woodland in the valleys hinting at there accessibility and wider usage by past yet recent generations. Granted they're not as elaborate as those carved by prisoners of war on Salisbury Plain but nonetheless still culturally significant to valley communities, yet largerly ignored by local historians. They are ephemeral, lasting only as long as the tree stands with many becoming indecipherable by the actions of epidermic growth way before tree succomes.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Brambly hedge


Some local people are baying for its demise but the thick bramble scrub that dominates the view from my bay window is a nature magnet and I want it kept!!! Its worth to urban wildlife was once again demonstrated yesterday when having just visited the recycling box, I caught a glimpse of a female sparrowhawk alighting within the thicket. The predator remained long enough for me to return indoors grab a camera and take a number of shots through the infamous bay window hide. The worth of this green space goes unnoticed by those so detached from the nature that their only thrill is to see the patch trashed by a team of 'landscapers' armed with brush cutters.   



Later I thought a visit to check out the Brynmawr urban gull metropolis and maybe the tufted x pochard hybrid that was recorded on Dunlop Semtex Pond on Saturday was in order. Disappointingly the weak count of three tufted and a single pochard didn't include any sign of the cross. Otherwise nesting coot, mute swan and great crested grebe provided entertainment.

Regarding gulls the lichen clad asbestos pitched roof of the nearby industrial unit seems to have been vacated by its business tenant. This doesn't appear to be to the detriment of the gulls as 100+ noisy birds were gathered rooftop. Amongst the herring and lesser black backs were a pair of great black backs but only one with a colour ring this unfortunately too distant to read the number - i'll try again.      

Elsewhere, Machine pond supported 15 Canada goose, a single cormorant, three tufted duck, a pair of mute swan, and small numbers of coot, moorhen and mallard. A number of reed bunting were also calling.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

View from the bay (window)



Although a beautiful spring morning I was obliged to engage in a modicum of domesticity. A bit of window cleaning, a brake light bulb change and a shop visit meant I was in and out a fair bit. Nonetheless this didn't stop me from touching base with the natural world. See I'm not one of those people who think nature is only for special places, where a convenient car park, a cafeteria, some swings for the little uns and a 'wildlife this way' finger post are pre-requisites. No sirree, when going about the mundane I'm always on the look out for an opportunity to weave living world well-being into my life.

Now most of you will have a good understanding of the remarkable population expansion of the Canada goose over the last few decades. However, whilst this bird is a banker for any small to medium sized waterbody, its regular local movements that can be witnessed at the top and tail of the county on a winters afternoon has to date escaped my humble abode here in the socialist heartlands of Gwent. That is until last weekend when changing a fiddly bulb on the motor I detected the distant 'honking' of two geese from the south east quarter, only to eventually witness a couple of loudly calling birds past directly over head destination north west. As soon as the reverberating calls had  faded away were they replaced by the less forceful tinkling song of my first chiffchaff of the year coming from within the liberal comfort of the mature landscaped gardens attached to the detached properties on the hill. With more house stuff filling the morning frequent glances out the bay window were rewarded with playful house sparrows, a male bullfinch and a high flying small tortoiseshell butterfly. All in all a very rewarding session of citizen science at home.  

Thursday, 13 March 2014

A whoosh and a bubble



With the jet stream wobbling north to be replaced with a ridge of warmer high pressure over the southern part of the British Isles there was a slim chance of an early wheatear as I arrived in the (natural) heritage landscape. But it was those early Spring atmospheric sounds that took centre stage.

Overlooking the green baize that is rural Abergavenny and set against the mist shrouded flanks of the Sugar Loaf a rush of wind caused me to look skyward just in time to catch a couple of tumbling peregrine in pursuit of a frantic wood pigeon - yes, please note wood pigeon not racing pigeon! Alas and in a frenzy of aerodynamics all birds disappeared quickly out of sight over the county border into the grand duchy of Monmouthshire. There's a possibility that woody found refuse in a copse of trees just in the nick of time, but I fear not, he's almost certainly collected his last nest building stick. I pause for thought.


With heavy heart I plodded off to seek gainful employment as an amateur naturalist deep within the tightly clenched bowels of the now familiar post industrial peri-urban edgeland. In doing so I immersed  myself in stone turning and debris sifting in the hope it would erase the lingering mental images of peregrine-plucking-pigeon action. I searched for a biological gem. This was successful when a partly embedded hardboard kitchen drawer bottom, possibly of MFI vintage, was prised from its carboniferous substrate to expose at least four motionless common lizard to a shower of morning sunlight.


The rest of the excursion took the form of a geological photo essay all to the accompaniment of singing skylark. The hill and hollow features of colliery spoil deposition has produced a landscape of dry and wet habitats. In the many hollows were many frogs and during a momentary pause in background traffic noise the massed ranks of amphibians croaked in random unison. One frog was seen to repeatedly blow bubbles on the surface of the pond. 
          

Sunday, 2 March 2014

News from the pit head



A brief visit to one of the best kept landscape secrets of Gwent. The Blaenserchan valley  near Pontypool was left to nature when the National Coal Board pulled out in the 1980's. A patchwork of grassland, mature trees and colliery spoil promotes a rich diversity of wildlife. That said its still a touch too early in the year to see this area at its best. A couple of calling nuthatch, a great spotted woodpecker and around half a dozen meadow pipit summed up the ornithological interest. Otherwise frog spawn has started to put in an appearance and this bloody nosed beetle (Timarcha tenebricosa) demonstrates the invertebrate world is starting to wake. Nonetheless the  most colourful thing in the valley was a collection of ladies knickers. These were not randomly scattered in an impromptu fashion but purposefully wired to trees throughout the valley. I counted eight in total and for those with an interest in the detail, they appeared to be mainly thongs ranging from black lace, to animal print and red with sequins!    

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Naturalist - Dr. Mary Gillham



Last weekend saw the South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre (SEWBReC) celebrate 10 years of collating the records of an army of dedicated volunteer recorders, at a jamboree in Tonypandy. Amongst an inspiring programme of speakers that included talks about the Silurian moth and colliery spoil (yippee!) was a tribute to the celebrated Cardiff naturalist Dr. Mary Gillham.

On arrival I was thrilled to find that some of Mary's extensive library was on sale to attendees for just an appropriate donation. I was therefore pleased to be able to pick up a little slice of the social history of the study of nature in south Wales including the book Swansea Bay's Green Mantle: Wildlife on an Industrial Coast (1982) which was a signed copy.

I was only able to meet Mary on one occasion, when at short notice Juilan Branscombe (former GWT Chief Executive) asked if I could take a party from Cardiff Naturalists' Society around Magor Marsh. My overriding memory of the walk was Mary's ability to identify a couple of stoneworts not just by their English names but Latin as well. The talk on Saturday was a fitting tribute to the life one of Wales' great modern day naturalists. 

Footnote:- whilst browsing the Healthy Planet bookshop in Pontypool during my lunchtime earlier this week it was something of a coincidence to find a copy of one of Mary's early books Sub-Antarctic Sanctuary (1967), thereby adding to my mini collection of Gillham books.

Should you want to know more about the life and times of Dr Mary Gillham visit the Cardiff Naturalists' Society website via the link on this blog.  

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Normal service resumed


For me photographing gulls is a bit like taking candy from a baby. These black headed gulls, with a selection of developing summer head plumage's, were happy to line up in single file. There were plenty of gulls along Newport riverfront but none with rings. Earlier at Tredegar House Lake an adult winter Mediterranean gull was picked out amongst the black headed gulls. This site is becoming something of a banker for Meds.


Monday, 17 February 2014

Iceland Gull?



Having succumbed to the odd embarrassing error recently I've now taken to going out on the world wide web to seek confirmation of my latest conundrum and to purge my new found identification insecurities. This bird was photographed yesterday amongst a gathering of over 100 gull on the roof top of an industrial building opposite Asda Brynmawr.

The photographs are not the best quality as they were taken looking into the sunlight and I only managed six shots before all birds took flight scattering to four winds never to return. Unless this is some leucistic jobbie I'm ticking the Iceland box. But you may think otherwise! 

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Displacement



Cwmbran Boating Lake was a watery world of rushing river and murky ponds. The lake itself was pepper -potted with bird life, up to 75 black headed gull, 3 herring gull, 17 Canada goose, 6 coot, 8 moorhen and a water rail that was at home on the weather beaten wreckage of a floating island. This kingfisher, displaced from the nearby Afon Llwyd took advantage of the minnows trapped in the kiddies paddling pool, tree hopping to secure the best vantage point from which to exercise its pinpoint attack.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

People are engaging


One tends to get some strange looks walking about in public places with binoculars and camera. This weekend a number of people stopped to share their recent experiences of flooding and high spring tides as if my only purpose for peering over the Riverfront railings was to survey the impacts of a rising tide. When I have chance to break from this dialogue of nods and yeahs I explain that my interest is in wildlife and in the case of Newport Riverfront this means gulls - better known as seagulls to most people. This often has the affect of cutting the conversation stone dead or at least introducing an extended pause before they change tack to tell me about the local heron. Nonetheless I enjoy engaging with passers by as it gives me an opportunity return the boredom by enthusing about the wonders of the natural world, but you do meet some genuinely interesting people. Take for example a couple of weeks ago on a wet and windy afternoon off the beaten track in woodland near Talywain. The only person I saw was a local photographer who after exchanging pleasantries revealed he was related to Newport birder Carl Downing. Its a small watery world.


As you may have noticed I've got my eye in with Mediterranean gulls these days. No need to bother with the hit or miss access arrangements to scan the gull roost at Llandegfedd Reservoir as these birds are more frequent in accessible urban locations. Nonetheless the adult winter bird present on the River Usk outside the Riverfront Theater was the first for me at this location. Also kicking around the muddy margins was that multi-ringed redshank - still no BTO response to this bird!




Monday, 27 January 2014

Seven wonders of the valleys: No.1. Acid grassland



Sheep grazed semi-improved acid grassland is the basis of subsistence farming in the south Wales valleys. The upland marginal landscape is littered with agricultural enclosures some with remnant drystone walls topped and gaped with makeshift fencing of wire, gnarled wooden posts, bailing twine and rusty corrugated sheets. Others are slightly more organised with publically funded modern fencing interspersed with lichen and berry clad hawthorn trees. In autumn and winter this is where the fieldfare and redwing ply their trade and where ring ouzel tag along for the sheer hell of it. Meadow pipit are at home in the herbage of the late summer upland meadow and the wheatear flies from fence post to wall and then to fence post again.   

A decent acid grassland often comes complete with the occasional yellow meadow ant mound, and some, such as the one pictured in the above photos at Talywain, are literally crammed with large mounds. For a naturalist these fields are rich pickings, topped with flowering bedstraw in summer the characteristic walking stick dropping of the green woodpecker is a common sight and if lucky the odd adders tongue fern can be found. With grasslands of all denominations under increasing pressure from development and agricultural improvement/neglect I fear that the sight of these quality acid grasslands complete with their 'ant cities' are vanishing as quickly as colony of breeding lapwing. 

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Pochard decline musings



It was not too long ago that pochard would be one of the first wildfowl on the team wetland player list. Once a banker for any dedicated Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) counter this diving duck is now becoming as scarce as a Monty Panesar boundary. The Birds of Gwent traces its demise, from a bird that once turned in regular century counts (including one of 400) back in the 1970s to one of indifferent presence or absence and  often in single figures when found. This 'dropping down to the bench'  is borne out by my own time series of wildfowl counts from Dunlop Semtex Pond (DSP) and other 'up north' ponds. Nationally its a similar picture. The recent Waterbirds in the UK 2010/11 publication is more candid about  pochard trends. It states:

'The trends for Pochard in both Britain and Northern Ireland indicate alarming declines have occured since the 1990's. In 2010/11 the annual index for Britain reached an all time low with numbers approximately half of what they were twenty years ago.'

This weekend during a count fest that included such auspicious venues as Bryn Bach Park, Beaufort Ponds, Machine Pond and DSP the contrast between that other wetland mainstay the tufted duck, and pochard couldn't be starker. The aforementioned bird was present at all four sites visited with a collective count of 104 compared to just five (5) pochard from only two sites.  

Saturday, 11 January 2014

The Perturbators


Whether we admit to them or not we all have prejudices. These will have been fashioned and influenced overtime by friends, family, workmates, politicians, the media and social order. But there comes a time when a free thinking, enquiring mind challenges those mainstream prejudices. Take for example off road driving. I have always viewed this activity as highly damaging to the ecology of our open countryside. From racing up spoil tips, cutting through upland peat bog to the muddying of a footpath through an ancient woodland, a close encounter with those enjoying themselves with machines, has, until recently filled me with tub thumping rage. 'Don't you know access to the open landscape is only for  Berghaus wearing, GPS carrying tourists and not for local people to use for fun'? So does this view stand up to scrutiny and should it be exposed as nothing more than a prejudice designed by middle class professionals to control working class lads from have a bit of relaxation on whats left of our accessible green space? And are their activities really damaging wildlife interests?

There's no pristine wilderness habitat left. All that we cherish and protect for its rich biodiversity has been created and shaped by the actions of man. Take for example those 'highly valued and protected SSSIs' jewels in the crown of the post war nature conservation ethic of which the vast majority are the product of human interventions in the landscape. Llandegfedd Reservoir once a rural idle with wooded streams, wild daffodils and five bar gates whereby wellie wearing, thumb stick carrying farmers could rest for a fag and survey the chocolate box landscape. Now pumped with water to quench the dry throats of Cardiff but celebrated as one of the principal inland water bodies for wildfowl and awarded the lofty accolade of SSSI. Also the Gwent Levels reclaimed from the Severn Estuary used for agriculture,compensation for a barrage and protected by a concrete sea wall. Any threat to this man made SSSI is met by the wrath of conservationists many of whom would happily sacrifice their dignity to lay in front of a road builders JCB. So could it be that contrary to the popular belief that off roading is damaging to ecology, and in the absence of teams of work party conservationists actively diversifying the landscape, that this form of recreation could be providing a valuable ecosystem service by default, and if so what's the supporting evidence?


The impact off roading in Gwent is sharply focused in its coalfield valleys where urbanisation and ribbon development follows the more accessible valley bottoms but thins quickly as the contours narrow. This ensures that valley communities are never too far away from open countryside. On summer weekends and  evenings the throaty sound of motorbikes mix with singing skylark, willow warbler and shouting Welsh mams to provide an ambiance that's uniquely valleys.

Evidence of off roading especially in the uplands is not hard to see. Deeply incised tracks through wet heath and peat, circular patterns on plateaus of part vegetated spoil and hill climbs through scattered ffridd beech woodland the scars are all around. From an aesthetic perspective this is often not a pretty sight but nonetheless is, I would argue, disturbance ecology in action.  Tracks through homogeneous bracken covered slopes increase patchiness and edge habitat for nesting whinchat.  Bare ground maintained and alternated by the variable linear actions of tyre treads are ideal for basking adders and common lizard, for predatory invertebrates such as the green tiger beetle in pursuit of that mottled grasshopper. And in the drier areas the surface breaking actions of a group of tearaways in Wolf Speed jackets offer feeding opportunities for wheatear or if you're lucky a trip of dotterel. Some of the best places for water beetles, palmate newts and odonata such as scarce blue tailed damselfly and keeled skimmer are from water holding wheel ruts thereby compensating for an institutional fear of maintaining standing water habitat.



Now you may think I've lost the plot but it seems I'm not the only one to hold these subversive alternative views. The campaigning geographer and peri-urban champion Marion Shoard in her contribution to the book Urban Wildcapes (Jorgensen and Keenan 2011) cites an example of incidental habitat enhancement. She says:

'  ........attract low-key uses which actually enhance wildlife and wilderness value. Scramble biking produces small-scale disturbance which generates loose friable substrates on the West Thurrock Marshes. This makes nesting easier for rare burrowing bees and wasps , such as the brown-banded carder bee and the five-banded weevil wasp..........'

There are of course undeniable issues with motorbiking in peri-urban environments which shouldn't be ignored. My personal aspiration of enjoying a peaceful walk is often shattered by bikers who tend not to have much regard for other users. They can also play havoc with livestock thereby incurring the wrath of Commoners and in doing so act illegally. And in the brave new world of industrial archaeology free spirited bikers may cause damage to the values society has now placed on these landscape features. However in societies scramble to persecute those enjoying themselves with machines we can easily lack objectivity and overlook some of the beneficial aspects of which one, I would argue, could be nature conservation.     

Friday, 10 January 2014

Of dubious origin

 


This imm White fronted goose was in amongst the Canada geese at Cwmbran Boating Lake yesterday. Its clearly of dubious origin but not something that I've come across in vc 35 before. If it is a feral bird where do they all come from?

Note - thanks to Chris Jones for correcting my initial identification faux pas.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Belgium chocolate


Taking the road from Chepstow to Monmouth yesterday the River Wye was revealed in all its full chocolate brown flooded glory. The adjacent floodplain had done its job by taking excess water leaving a pretty watery landscape of flooded fields. Pulling into a car park in Tintern beside the swirling debris laden river I was soon able to attract a few gulls. One black headed gull was carrying a Belgium ring marked 7T97132.
  

Friday, 3 January 2014

Blue 784 returns



A Turkey sandwich break to a playing field in Cwmbran produced a couple of paddling Herring Gull. One bird turned out to be colour ringed blue 784. This bird was first recorded around the same time last year and from the same locality. Bird was first ringed at a landfill site in Gloucester 2006.  

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Video footage reveals evidence of Gwent colour ringed Med Gull



I've been using the video facility on my Panasonic Lumix of late with interesting results. This still taken from a short video of two Mediterranean Gull at Tredegar House Lake back in October clearly shows a white colour ring on one of the birds. It was a brief glimpse revealed only by going through the footage frame by frame. It seems this is the first documented record of a colour ringed Med Gull but unfortunately the clarity of the still is not of a quality that allows the number to be read.  

Monday, 30 December 2013

ST291.20 MUSEUM ZOOLOG. HELSINKI - FINLAND



This Finnish ringed Black Headed Gull took some enticing to bring it within photographing range at Riverfront Newport yesterday. Elsewhere there were 60 Tufted Duck and 13 Little Grebe at Tredegar House Lake.   

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Sustainable Peri-urban Drainage System (SPuDS)


Those familiar with the land use planning process will no doubt understand the rationale behind Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS). Water management in the urban environment is crucial in helping to alleviate episodic flooding. Hard surfacing that's efficient in rushing water off to the existing drainage system often ends up being someone elses problem further down the river catchment. To moderate this SUDS are often designed and incorporated into new developments as a way of ensuring water is regulated.


A key feature of SUDS is a balancing pond. In modern systems such a feature is often simply a depression in the ground that takes excess water and releases it in a measured and controlled manner. But its seems that balancing ponds are not just a part of a modern water management system The peri-urban industrial landscape around the south Wales coalfield has many 'balance ponds'. The pond pictured above is situated above Pwll Ddu quarry and in recent times at least, has been devoid of water. But this changed within the last week when heavy rain temporarily filled the pond.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Parkland wildlife


This late posting relates to a visit to Tredegar Park last Sunday. Like all parkland environments theres no shortage of grey squirrels to entertain the middle class National Trust patrons. This one played peek-a- boo around a mature Wellingtonia tree but had obviously met with some sought of accident as the majority of its characteristic curly tail was missing. 


The lake itself seemed brimming with birdlife. The common wildfowl were supplemented by a healthy count of 58 tufted duck and 12 little grebe. Many of the female tufted duck displayed varying degrees of white facial markings providing a potential scaup banana skin for those inexperienced birders. 
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