Promoting observation, free range exploration, sense of place and citizen science.







Sunday, 31 October 2010

Cut and apply image of favourite berry eating bird


These berries are plentiful on four ornamental rowan trees outside the former Kwik Save store Brynmawr at the moment. This was the venue for a healthy party of waxwing the last time they visited in numbers a few years back. But it seems the current invasion has yet to filter this far south,  but we live in hope.

Another site worthy of a check is Tesco car park Pontypool where a similar range of berry bearing trees exist - some nice whitebeams. Although beware, using a pair of bins in a public place anywhere in the valleys is likely to result in disapproving glances or even possible arrest. You can fell some nice woodland during bird breeding season, put a terrier down a badger sett, discharge a firearm in a public place in full Rambo attire or drive your 4x4 repeatedly through an upland bog but demonstrate any affinity to the natural world and you're in trouble. The only way of avoiding a spell in the slammer is to plead insanity by claiming you're a birder/naturalist/ecologist.

Tour of the Heads of Valley forgotten blue network produced the following:

Bryn Bach Park - c125 mallard, c75 coot, c50 tufted duck, 4 great crested grebe, 17 pochard, 5 moorhen and several redwing.

Beaufort Ponds - 1 little grebe, 7 wigeon, 4 mute swan, 11 coot, 13, tufted duck.

Machine Pond -  1 little grebe, 1 tufted duck, 17 coot, 10 mallard.

Dunlop Semtex Pond - 1 little grebe, c30 tufted duck, c50 mallard, 6 moorhen, c35 coot, 3 great crested grebe.


Saturday, 30 October 2010

Trust me if there were waxwing around.....


........I'd be out trying to get the desired image, but there's not so you'll have to make do with more of the same I'm afraid. Of all the Canada geese that come and go from Cwmbran Boating Lake I've yet to clock one with a ring. Given the numbers ringed at Llangorse Lake every year this has always been somewhat surprising. So yesterday righted a long standing wrong with the above Christmas meal suitably adorned with an ID tag.


Sunday, 24 October 2010

This is becoming obsessive


Penyfan Pond just for an hour this morning and there were plenty of Grampies taking their Grandchildren to feed those nice little ducks. Unfortunately the 20 or so mallard and a similar number of black headed gull were very timid, so almost impossible to check for rings. It wasn't until I was deleting a rather disappointing crop of images did I find the above. Not much to go on as its a tad out of focus, but looks foreign to me. Also cormorant and common darter.

They're all over the ruddy place


Going about my usual business this weekend I called into Bryn Bach Park near Tredegar for a spot of wildfowl counting. It seems the popularity of duck feeding has both increased the number of domesticated mallard variants as well as wildfowl in general. Although the resultant frenzy of a scrap of bread being dropped into the water by a young family on an Autumn outing mainly involves mallard, coot, black headed gull and mute swan other more cautious species such as tufted duck, pochard and great crested grebe are now becoming involved. This makes for good photography.

However, given my new found past time of bird ring spotting I went on the prowl amongst the black headed gulls once again and just as I was running out of patience and as if by magic one appears. This time not a bird from overseas but one closer to home as it was wearing a nice shiny BTO ring.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Gwent on the coleoptera map at last


I ran to meet the postman at the garden gate eagerly awaiting the arrival of the latest edition of The Coleopterist. And sure enough there it was, the tell tale brown manila envelope wedged between the Damart Christmas catalogue and another mailshot from Sun Life Insurance.

Carefully pulling apart the covering not to damage the unfranked stamps (retained as security against anticipated postage increases in the wake of the Governments Post Office privatisation plans) I exposed the 63 page bumper edition to the autumn air. Turning over the attractive monochrome cover I read the contents. There amongst the usual notes of new county records and a very interesting looking item entitled 'Canopy interception trapping for beetles in mature and veteran trees at Hatfield Forest, Essex, in 2008'  I paused at the word Gwent. Now having been a subscriber to this most learned of journals for a number of years and never having the joy of reading a decent item on beetles from Wales let alone vice county 35 I'm sure you can understand my momentary state of disbelief.

Contained therein was a six page report by Mr.Coleoptera, Keith N. A. Alexander on 'Coleoptera records from the Gwent Levels area of southeast Wales (VC35), detailing a survey of ground and saproxylic beetles at seven locations along the Levels. The plethora of nationally scarce and local beetles noted once again concretes (sorry I know I shouldn't use this word when talking about the Gwent Levels) the reputation of this area as a biodiversity hotspot and at the same time one that cries out for further study.

In the run up to the period when we all celebrate the birth of baby Jesus by going on a orgy of spending I recommend considering a subscription to The Coleopterist as a present with a difference. Its only a tenner for three issues. See Naturalist Links for more info.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Bread - throw - bird - photo, mission accomplished


The black headed gull with ring was still present at Cwmbran Boating Lake but required a bite to eat to get close enough for a photo. Seems this individual is the product of the Dutch ringing scheme as Arnhem and Holland are clearly visible on said ring. Shame it was upside down- point taken JL!

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Still around


There's still a few summer birds around. Six swallow in flight over Ponthir this afternoon.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Mystery bird revealed


A visit to the Cwmbran boating lake today and sure enough the mystery bird was still present, this time in slightly more colourful plumage than previously. So I can now reveal that I haven't a clue what it is. Its clearly some mallard hybrid but the challenge is pinning down the other species. Can anyone help?

Also at the lake today, 16 Canada goose, 2 mute swan, 100 + mallard and a black headed gull sporting a BTO type metal ring. Bread-throw-photo, maybe tomorrow.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

A gaffe and I don't mind admitting to it


Its part of my therapy that I recognise my weaknesses and learn to live with them. Back in mid September some of you eagle eyed GOS sightings page watchers will have no doubt clocked an entry from yours truly of 30 fieldfare on the Blorenge. As I write with quaking hand I now feel it necessary to put on record the erroneous nature of this report. Why, you may well ask should a relatively experience naturalist make such a basic identification mistake?

The mistake goes like this:
  • Early start en route for a ringing session at Llangorse.
  • Nice clear morning so stopped to take landscape photo of Usk Valley.
  • Encountered group of about 30 thrushes overhead.
  • Not seen a party of mistle thrushes of this size for ages.
  • Thought I picked up the characteristic 'chucking' call of fieldfare.
  • Returned after ringing and uploaded record.
  • Subsequent days and weeks awaiting a flurry of other fieldfare records in Gwentland, but alas.
I've learned by this error and will ensure I don't jump to conclusions again. So see above photo of a blue tit in celebration of my my new found caution and therapeutic admission.

A 10/10/10 jolly around The British in the hope of a late ring ouzel didn't produce the goods. However did clock a nice group of Richard's pipit or were they meadows? Earlier and in the cloud cover of the morning did note a black throated thrush or was it a redwing?

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Insects abound


With a warmer than average weekend on the cards late insects should be plentiful, as this common darter illustrated today.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Off birders radar


Look at any OS map of Gwent and Ponthir Reservoir sticks out like a sore thumb. Why then has it taken birders so long to find it? Its not even listed in the Birds of Gwent as a birding location. Ok itsn't on the scale of the Newport Wetlands or Llandegfedd Reservoir so its capacity to support a rarity will be limited but having visited the site regularly over the past year it can be very interesting for commoner birds.

A lunchtime drop in session yesterday produced 65 tufted duck, 2 cormorant, and singles of kingfisher and little grebe. Late invertebrates included 8 small copper, 2 small tortoiseshell, 2 peacock and 2 common darter.


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