Promoting observation, free range exploration, sense of place and citizen science, through the field notes of a naturalist.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Community Support Officer

Driving through Blaenavon this weekend I noticed a Communty Support Officer on the beat - nothing like a touch of fine weather to bring out the agents of law enforcement! Imagine my surprise therefore to record another in the form of the first small copper of the year at Tirpentwys Local Nature Reserve this evening. Also showing well was redstart and tree pipit and maybe a distant curlew.

On the edge of a National Park

Its been a long time since I visited Garnlydan Reservoir. Sitting right on the border of Gwent and Breconshire this medium sized oligotrophic reservoir has never witnessed large numbers of waterbirds but its one of those sites that has a habitat of turning up something nice - I remember photographing a ruff on an August day many years ago.

Todays notables were thin on the ground. Wheatears were well represented on the dam wall and in amongst the sheep grazed grassland around the reservoir. On the water were a small number of lesser black backed and herring gulls - on a freshening up break from their breeding site on buildings around the nearby Dunlop Semtex Pond. Otherwise just a male mallard and a single cormorant were on show. Did find an interestingly marked 10 spot ladybird and this folded wing cranefly (Limonia nubeculosa) tucked under a stone. One thing that this reservoir is known for however, is it large population of shoreweed much of which is now coming through.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Monster raven loony

The aim of this mornings visit to Waun afon bog was to listen out for those reeling grasshopper warbler. Although these migrants have been in the country for a couple of weeks now it doesn't seem as if they've found their way to the source of the Afon Lwyd river yet. What was evident though was that our friends the off road enthusiasts have found an alternative access across the bog and were doing what comes naturally to them i.e. making a mess. Bog, valley fen, or grassland whatever you choose to call it, this large expanse of upland habitat needs protecting and both water and grazing management, otherwise I fear for its future.

Nonetheless, todays offering was in the form of a couple of snipe, a singing reed bunting, pair of wheatear, a few linnet and a south flying swallow. The route back to the car took in a couple of large trees one of which supported a raven nest containing a single rather mature young bird - note bird is still displaying its gape.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

You wood ant want to do that

A snatched visit this afternoon to check out the wood ants in the Lasgarn Wood saw plenty of good activity throughout the wood. The ant in the photograph was seen to predate spider eggs. On the bird front there seemed to be coal tit everywhere, also redpoll. First orange tip butterfly noted.

Rocky mountain way

Did the limestone quarries around Pwll du and Gilwern Hill this morning and fair play they are impressive geological features and full of biodiversity prospect. Bird wise not a lot on offer apart from skylark, the odd stonechat and wheatear - a ring ouzel would have been most fitting, but alas.  From the valley below and overlooking Abergavenny could make out willow warbler and redstart.

I tried!

A 7am start yesterday (17 April) saw the Fishermans Car Park gates locked at Llandegfedd Reservoir so made my way around to the dam to survey the watery landscape there. With hardly a breeze disturbing the water's surface the many pairs of great crested grebe were easy to pick out, and the odd pair of noisy fly over Canada geese punucated a tail end of a dawn chorus dominated by blackbird and chaffinch.

With a continued smattering of white wagtail records from Gwent and neighbouring counties I did my best to turn a female alba into an yarrellii.. Note the dark grey nape and back and greyer flanks all characteristic of pied rather than white. I tried!

Did eventually get back to the business end of the reservoir where a sedge warbler was exercising its lungs from the reedbeds of Green Pool. Elsewhere a female goldeneye and a shelduck were welcome additions.

Friday, 16 April 2010

First of the year

Ok, I'm a bit late with this post given it relates to last Sunday afternoon 11 April -I do have other things to do you know! However, a walk around Lasgarn Wood looking for pied flycatcher and redstart drew a blank but it was just warm enough for some nice invert activity. On offer were a number peacock and small tortoiseshell butterfly, a Streamer moth, a good show of bee fly (Bombylius major) and the nice little ground beetle Asaphidion flavipes. Pick of the bunch however, was the first orthoptera of the year in the form a large population of slender ground hopper (Tetrix subulata).

Sunday, 11 April 2010

The bee's knees with a 50p bargain to boot

As town centres go Monmouth was at its best today bathed in quality sunshine. I seem to remember a thriving colony of sand martin nesting in the drainage pipes of a river side wall at the bottom of town - now the wall is no more! However, did see one bird so obviously still around.

But forget the plight of Monmouth's sand martin one of the high points of the day was the hairy footed flower bee (Anthophora plumipes). A number of this very distinctive looking black bee were seen to be flying in and out of the masonary of a south facing wall of the Robin Hood pub. Not having seen this species before a bit of research was in order and once again like so much in the way of biological recording for this fair county I was presented with blank distribution maps for south east Wales, devoid of those familar black dots that once joined up spell out 'in severe decline'! No records for Monmouthshire on either the National Biodiversity Network (NBN) site or Bees, Wasps, Ants Recording Society (BWARS). So, why are there no records for this bee in the vice county? Pick any one from the following personal opinionated statements that matches you view the best: 
  • This is a genuine first county record due to its south easterly bias in the UK with only a few coastal records for Wales;
  • It has been noted in vice county 35 before but the record(s) have not been submitted to the relevant recording scheme - too lazy!;
  • We just don't seem to have enough home grown biological recorders despite the fact this is the home of Alfred Russel Wallace.
Nonetheless, all in all a very pleasing afternoon topped off by the purchase of Paul Sterry's British Wild Flower field guide for just 50p! Leaving a whole £1.50 of the pocket money to spend on bubblegum.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Soul mates

End of another weeks hard labour defending the earth and I just had to get outdoors or turn to drink! Blaenavon was close enough for an hour or two's winding down. Nice to see lapwing are back on their breeding grounds with about 6 or 7 birds present. Garn lakes Local Nature Reserve was home to a good number of signing willow warbler whilst the conservation lake was brimming with toad activity.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Under bark on drift wood

Under bark on driftwood along the coastline between Magor Pill and Collister Pill was where I found the ground beetle Lebia chlorocephala Nb. Searching various publications and websites this record appears to be the first county record for Monmouthshire (guarded statement due to the fragmented nature of coleoptera recording in Britain).

Magor Marsh was at its early Spring best today. A couple of Cetti's warbler were very vocal and mobile, chiffchaff were numerous with other migrants on offer including singing willow warbler, blackcap and several swallow. On the pond were a dozen teal and three tufted duck. A little egret alternated between water's edge and meadow and some good examples of scarlet elf cups were showing. On the people front -not forgeting humans are part of biodiversity as well - good views of GWT stalwart Rodney Morris were on offer before he took off towards the pond.

Usual bag of birds on coastal walk between Magor Pill to Collister Pill with 170 shelduck, 9 oystercatcher, an odd swallow and a skylark in song. Returning home past Magor Marsh I noted a healthy group of feeding GWT work party volunteers had decended on the car park area.

Friday, 2 April 2010

You find the strangest things

Todays shower dodging excursion to Llandegfedd Reservoir turned up a fresh herring gull wing found amongst grassland on The Island. How did it get there? I suppose it was carried there by some mammalian predator. On the bird front dozens of paired great crested grebe, 40 Canada goose, 25 medaow pipit and a male reed bunting. Otherwise wild daffodils were showing well and six palmate newt under a rotting log were a bonus.
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