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

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

More from the untamed wilderness

A camera to laptop malfunction has caused much 'pulling of the forelock' in downtown valley bottom. But thanks to a suitable download from the Canon website normal service is resumed.

Blaenavon was once again yesterday evenings venue. Small parties of linnet were prominent and the pair of mallard on Coity Pond are on at least brood number two with ducklings scattering to the four winds when spooked by a middle aged man with a butterfly net - yes me! Carline thistle is now showing well on spoil that is less acidic but the number of moonwort is probably the best I've every known it, with a group of 30 plants behind Coity Tip and another three very large individuals near Big Pit car park.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Adder nice evening

Had a nice relaxing hour around the rugged landscape of Blaen Pig over looking Pwll du yesterday. Not too much to report other an a couple of adders tongue fern at the base of a re-vegetating coal tip. A good find given the recent Flora of Monmouthshire regards this fern as a lowland species.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

The conker tree moth

Driving past a large mature blotchy looking conker tree this weekend in Cwmbran reminded me of a national survey for the non native horse chestnut moth (Cameraria ohridella). It seems these trees are under attack from a micro moth, first recorded in the UK in 2002, where its mines sometimes causes extensive discolouring of the leaf and early defoliation. This got me thinking of all the conker trees I knew as a kid, and as a grown up kid, so give Abersychan Park a quick visit just to check if the tree that produced the mega 'hundred and oner' in 1971 was, a) still there, and b) was it supporting the dreaded moth.

Sure enough I was able to confirm both positively. However it appears the moth has only recently found this tree as mines were infrequent and present in low numbers. If you know of any horse chestnuts where you live why check them out for the very distinctive leaf mines. For some excellent photos see the British Leaf Miners website.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Snap, crackle and pop

I love a summer drought, warm sunny days, a hose pipe ban to irritate those boring get a life middle aged men who spend Sunday mornings lovingly stroking and washing their cars but above all the big draw down zone at Llandegfedd Reservoir (LR). At this time of year that extensive muddy margin is ideal for passage waders, stone tuning and the occurrence of rice krispies. Yes, the liverwort and rice krispie lookalike Riccia cavernosa is now starting to show well on bare mud at LR. When mature this species forms an attractive rosette up to 3 cm in diameter. For more information on this and other mosses and liverworts  I recommend getting your hands on the recently published Mosses and Liverworts of Britain and Ireland a Field Guide co-edited by local lad Sam Bosanquet. The guide gets a five star rating from me!

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Tufties at last

I've been watching and counting wildfowl at Dunlop Semtex Pond - these days known as Lakeside - for about 20 years and given the steady increase in summering tufted duck it was only a matter of time before a pair would settle to raise a family. This evenings visit confirmed that at long last they have bred successfully. At this point I feel I need to eat humble pie as when the regeneration of land adjacent to the pond got the go ahead a few years back I felt increased levels of disturbance from housing, a supermarket and car parking would affect numbers of birds using the site. In fact the pond has ever looked better, with increased marginal vegetation and the addition of a floating island waterbirds (and gulls) are doing well thank you. Today along with 25 tutfed duck there were two nesting great crested grebe and dozens of mallard and coot.

The nearby Beaufort Pond also supported a similar assemblage of birds but with the addition of a single little grebe.

A:D the gull

Further to my recent blog entry about A:D the colour ringed lesser black backed gull, I now know the origin of the bird. Peter Rock, who has been studying breeding gulls on Bristol rooftops for many years has been in contact with deatils. The bird was ringed by him as a young bird in Bristol on 20th June 2003. With both lesser black backed and herring gulls increasing as breeding birds in Gwent its worth keeping a an eye out for more colour ringed birds.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

A gentlemans guide to attracting birds: 1. Pishing

Field craft is very important, and one of the handy tools in the kit bag of every experienced birder is 'pishing'. Pishing is the art of making silly mimicking bird like noises to encourage little brown jobs to reveal themselves on the edge of thickets etc. I was first introduced to this technique when mist netting with the late Percy Playford at Llandegfedd Reservoir ages ago. At about the same time I remember an influential article on the very same subject by J.T.R Sharrock of British Birds fame. More recently a book entitled 'The Art of Pishing' has been published (see Amazon) by an American pisher with an accompanying audio CD - such a body of academic work, I'm on cloud nine! So today, and first checking I was out of ear shot of the massed ranks of fishermen, I had another crack at this most genteel of country pastimes and guess what it worked. The photograph below was taken after encouraging a female reed bunting out into the open, but note quizzical look of said bird. However, in the wake of a resurgence in this absorbing hobby, killjoys are driving it underground. 'No Pishing' signage is now widespread, strickly regulated by permit only from the ruling authority. Pishers everywhere organise and fight this injustice!

All joking aside it was nice to see a couple more birders at Llandegfedd Reservoir this morning. The recent dry spell has provided just the right amount of margin for passage waders with birds now starting to move through. Today, redshank, little ringed plover and common sandpiper provided the long legged entertainment, along with 120 Canada goose and upwards of 80 great crested grebe. On the butterfly front were, small tortoiseshell, peacock, large white, marbled white, small copper, small skipper, meadow brown, common blue and a second generation comma.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Burnet bounty

Thousands of six-spot burnet were emerging from the grassland around Coity Tip this afternoon. Thistle heads were frequently home for a dozen or more moths. Coity Pond was quiet but for a distant reed bunting, grey heron and a single cormorant. Don't forget to look out for the related forester moth. My last personal record was from Blaenserchan about 10 years ago - they must still be around!

Source of the Afon Lwyd

Where Blaenau Gwent bleeds into Torfaen is the source of the Afon Lwyd. Amongst concrete, spoil, twisted metal and rich wildlife habitat is the trickle that runs southward to touch base with the River Usk. Today's early morning foray was more botanical than birding. Blue fleabane, several moonwort, and the usual plethora of orchids were notable, but the creeping willow (Salix repens) from railway clinker was the star attraction.

There were some butterflies as well, how about a dark green fritillary for starters? Then the first grayling of the summer struggling with the variable cloud cover. Also small skipper and small heath.
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