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

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Meadow magic

You can't visit Llandegfedd Reservoir at this time of year just to look at birds because there's so much more to see. The MG5 grassland that makes up most of the habitat on The Island is currently awash with hay rattle, serveral species of orchid and gems such as adders tongue fern, and where there's flowering plants there's insects. A little sweeping netting and no end of creepy crawlies present themselves, most notably early instar phases of meadow grasshopper and short winged conehead.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Say hello to the cuckoo

May is still with us but I'm already starting to crystallize opinion about what species are doing well this year. From my visit to the Blaenserchan valley recently its clear that this year will go down as one for the common blue, but a bird that seems more widespread than recent times is the cuckoo. Despite successive claims putting it on the edge of extinction in Britain with TV programmes and even book predicting its demise its characteristic call seems more ubiquitous than ever his Spring. For the first time I even recorded singing cuckoo from the comfort of my back garden in downtown valley bottom!

This evenings walk on the lower slopes of Mynydd Varteg Fawr produced at least two cuckoo, the odd reed bunting and a pair of vocal stonechat - dispelling my previous assertion that numbers were significantly lower this season. Look out for stands of hares tail and common cotton grass that are at their best at the moment as well.

Knock me down with a feather.....

A quick visit to the sand martin colony on the Afon Lwyd near Cwmbran Boating Lake saw some birds in nesting mode, hence this one with a feather up its backside.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Cast of many thousands

 If you want to see butterflies you could do a lot worse than visiting the Blaenserchan Valley at the moment. This evenings stroll witnessed many thousands of common blue, probably the biggest hatch in living memory! Also on offer were a few tatty dingy skipper, a green veined white, small heath, common heath moth and a sliver y. On the coleoptera front several bloody nosed beetles were noted with purpose in their stride, making hast along the disused pit road.

Birdwise, a successful first brood of stonechat showed well, cuckoo, redstart, tree pipit, garden warbler, redpoll and linnet were also in fine voice.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

National no moth night

Saturday 15th May was National Moth Night so I dusted off the 125w mv trap and pressed it into action, running it for about four hours flat. I was filled with a sense of childish excitement when examining the trap early Sunday morning but that soon dissipated to incredulity and much wringing of hands when it became evident not a single lepidoptera had been caught. Not sure if this was a result of cold overnight conditions, too early in the year for big catches - although you would expect at least one or two - or that a back garden of a terraced house in the valleys just isn't ideal for moth trapping. Whatever the reason in true Eurovision style 'nil point' was the score.  

Did catch one thing though, the first cockchafer of the year.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Brighter times for the dingy skipper

Amongst all the doom and gloom about the plight of biodiversity these days there are success stories to be found. One positive story is that of the dingy skipper in Gwent. Its liking for the sprasely vegetated habitat of quarries and colliery spoil has benefited this species significantly. This afternoon two individuals were present in the dry and disused Nant y mailor reservoir near Abersychan. Other inverts showing well were slender ground hopper, orange tip, green veined white and peacock.

Jumping on the band wagon

A before six start enabled a dual visit to Garn Lakes Local Nature Reserve and the Mile Pond. Cuckoo was in fine voice at both localities along with whitethroat, skylark, meadow pipit and reed bunting.  Although I did manage to detect the distinctive call of a stonechat  from the lower slopes of the Coity my feeling is they are generally less plentiful than previous years - possibly a symptom of the prevoius hard winter. Other notables include a pair of tufted duck and a tatty peacock butterfly.

On my return from Mile Pond however I noted recognition at long last of our natural heritage via the naming of the above coal wagon after one of the valley's premier nature reserves. I'm dreaming again!

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Brownfield birding II

Resisted a visit to Wentwood for the Iberian chiffchaff  in favour of my local patch and the desire to photograph a yellowhammer - thats real conservation birding! 

Monday, 10 May 2010

House call

Not a goldfish pond in sight but that didn't stop this heron dropping on to a neighbours roof.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Brownfield birding

Wildlife hotspot or derelict wasteland depends on your point of view, mine is firmly footed in the former, it sends a shiver down my spine when people refer to places such as The British as derelict - wake up! Todays foray around this gorse covered wonderland offered good views of singing yellowhammer, numerous whitethroat, several linnet and song thrush. However, the most widespread, active and vocal bird was redpoll. Noteworthy butterflies, include orange tip, small copper and several speckled wood.

The Richard Dawkins orchid

I'm not known for my religous leanings but heaven knows I have to admit were it not for churchyards and the efforts of some parishioners our wildlife would be in a worse state than it already is - if thats possible! Churchyards often provide that sanctuary in a desert of ryegrass and concrete whereby wildlife can flourish if nurtured and sung to every Sunday morning. If you want to see whats best in churchyard management an annual pilgrimage to St Micheals Church in the village of Glascoed is must for all you orchid twitchers out there in cyberland. Now is the best time to visit so saddle up your donkey are get out there for hundreds of cowslip and over 150 early purple orchid. God knows biodiversity needs it!

Friday, 7 May 2010

I think I'm losing my touch

Having not connected with the great northern diver earlier this year at Llandegfedd Reservoir I was confident a bird reported from the same venue yesterday would make amends. No such luck! As the bird was reported from mid reservoir I decided to take the Pettingale route to the waters edge, but no amount to scoping produced the target species. Am I just unlucky or am I losing my touch?

An earlier walk around Tirpentwys Local Nature Reserve produced singing redstart and wood warbler and impressive numbers of tree pipit.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Against all odds

Once a widespread breeding bird in the Blaenavon area now just three pair remain. But you have to give those hardy few their credit, set in a landscape of increased visitor pressure, motorsports, corvid, raptor and mammalian predators and a bitingly cold wind they still seem to manage to raise a brood - whether its enough to sustain the population into the long term, I doubt. Nonetheless, hip hip hooray for the Northern lapwing.


Sunday, 2 May 2010

Parky at Ponthir

A report of a white wagtail at Ponthir Reservoir got me on the road. No wagtail on show unfortunately, but two common sandpiper and three great crested grebe were joined by good numbers of swallow and sand martin.  Mighty cold though!

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Here be a corpse!

Received a tip off that large stands of corpse flower or to use its more common name toothwort were showing well in Pontypool Park. A quick visit located two stands of more than 100 spikes under trees adjacent to the Afon Lwyd to the north and south of the Active Living Centre. Checking the Flora of Monmouthshire its distribution is predominately Wye Valley and towards the Black Mountains with only one or two records from the Eastern Valley. This got me thinking and a quick back of fag packet inventory of sites I had come across over the years total at least seven between Cwmavon and Abersychan. By the way its sometimes referred to as corpse flower as it was thought to indicate a buried body - creepy!
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