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

Monday, 30 August 2010

Magor mud and marsh

Early start to catch the rising tide at Magor Pill wasn't worth the effort - should have gone to Llangorse Lake for a spot of ringing instead! Of the birds that did grace the Opticron scope were around nine little Egret, fly past oystercatcher, turnstone, redshank and an assortment of ubiquitous gulls. The saltmarsh was far more interesting though with field grasshopper, short winged conehead and lesser marsh grasshopper. A herd of dumb, but half threatening cattle raced up to the field edge as I got back to the motor. Its thanks to a deep reen separating both interested parties that I wasn't trampled to death. I particularly noticed the one with the two black eyes, a legacy of a previous encounter no doubt. Oh I do over dramatise!

Onto GWTs nearby marshland hoping for something to counter the chilly wind and was instantly greeted by a Cettis Warbler. Elsewhere on the reserve were sedge warbler, several sub song chiffchaff, a couple of little grebe and a single little egret. A bird box containing dozens of common earwig filled another blank tetrad in my emerging orthoptera (and allied insect) altas for the vice county. But that was it, so home to cut the grass and visit the waste transfer station, such joy.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

An all too brief visit.

Following an extended period in doors I managed to squeeze in a short visit to Ponthir Reservoir.

 I must say the grassy banks around reservoir are very nice, but it's a shame they're cut too regularly otherwise they would be even better with Welsh Water picking up some biodiversity brownie points. Nonetheless theres always plenty of inverts on offer including this speckled wood. On the water were 19 tufted duck, singles of little grebe, coot and kingfisher. On return to the car a redstart was a bonus find.

Close but no cigar. Mystery bird revealed.

Yes its a Little Grebe so no correct answers. Watch for more in this exciting series.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Mystery photo

Its just for fun but can anyone identify the bird in the picture? It was taken at Magor Marsh yesterday evening. Shouldn't be too difficult for seasoned birders.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Back in the swing of things.

Back to local patching after a couple weeks out of the country with a quick shower dodging visit to Llandegfedd Reservoir.

Now I was brought up on a diet of outdoor play, BBC cricket coverage and nest finding. The latter fashioned through pursuing the first blackbird or song thrush nest of the year in March or spending hours on the hillsides locating whinchats later in the Summer. These skills therefore stood me in good stead yesterday when to my surprise and after a good hour of watching from a distance I found my first clutch of Eurasian golfer (Ryder cupus celtic manori) eggs. Surprisingly, this late brood was fairly exposed on the margins of the reservoir and could easily have been predated by a badger, fox, lesser black backed gull or by an unscrupulous collector looking to profit from these unusually spherical and dimpled eggs. Realistically the finding of this clutch should not come as a surprise given the amount of suitable habitat that's been cropping up the length and breadth of Gwent over recent years. Any habitat with a combination of regularly mown grass, surrounded by some standing water and sandy hollows is capable of supporting the Eurasian golfer. Look out for the expected influx of this species and in particular the subspecies 'americana' in October.

Otherwise a party of five sanderling were pleasing along with an adult common tern and three goosander. Between the showers common blue and meadow brown butterflies were very active and the rice krispie liverwort Riccia cavernosa continues to show well.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Best holiday read ever - with improvised locational bookmark.

'To a person uninstructed in natural history, his country or seaside stroll is a walk through a gallery filled with wonderful works of art, nine-tenths of which have their faces turned to the wall'.
Thomas Huxley.

Between having sand kicked in my face by burly continental naturists - as opposed to naturalists, some people get the two confused - I did manage to get in some relaxing holiday reading. And what a fab book it was. Last Child in the the Woods blows the penny whistle on the de-naturing of today's children and youth. Gone are the days when little nippers made their own unrestricted creative play in the nature environment and in are computers, electronic games, stranger danger, risk aversion and the criminalisation of play. As a result Richard Louv contests that modern society is conspiring to close off children from the outside world with all its health and spiritual benefits and is thereby promoting a Nature-deficit disorder within the young.

On reading this excellent book I had several eureka moments none more so than the chillingly honest section entitled ' The death of natural history'. Louv talks about the existing crisis in the study of natural history whereby the age profile of the membership of natural history societies is commonly in the Saga holiday bracket and for this he points the Pooh stick at the educational system that has ditched the study of this most  worthwhile of subjects. He goes on to point out that children do receive some environmental education often around subjects such as rain forests etc. but that this only fosters a misunderstanding that Nature is only found overseas and in special places rather than on peoples doorsteps. However, the loudest personal 'hear, hear' was reserved for the university system that is producing environmental graduates who have no taxonomic skills whatsoever.

I could go on singing the praises of this book but writing this is keeping me from getting outdoors to sample the splender of the natural world and from my daily roly poly session - its whats keeps me balanced. Suffice to say I wholeheartedly recommend this book and would encourage the raising of Nature - deficit disorder as an issue that needs addressing urgently and by all. Check out

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Not all moths fly at night

Pyrausta purpuralis is an attractive and reasonably common grassland micro moth. Commonly encountered in species rich grassland during day light but also attracted to light this moth was noted from a south facing grassland slope at Ponthir Reservoir today. On the water was a female teal, four coot, 26 tufted duck, and two great crested grebe

When I grow up I want to provide cover for birders on a wind swept winters day.

This was the message shouted at me from margins of Garnlydan Reservoir this morning. This apparent disused structure lends itself well to a hide to help those birders who put in the effort making the long trek across the hillside to count winter gulls. All it needs is a bit of vision, committment and a small amount of funding - any takers?

The most interesting feature of reservoir however is the exposed tree stumps on the northern shoreline. Only visible during low water these stumps sit in peat at the waters edge hinting at their longevity. 

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