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

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Frankfurter feeding frenzy

Alright technically speaking its not a Frankfurter its the south east Wales version generally purchased with large chips and sometimes a pot of curry sauce -have you tried the new Irish curry its tasty? An ill fitting skip packed with black bags was attracting the attention of about 30 starling yesterday in Caldicot and it appeared to contain assorted takeaway fayre. Chips were going down well and this jumbo sausage was liberated from the its dark depths to the delight of a jackdaw and numerous starling. Also pinched was a chicken and mushroom pie, a fish cake, several cod bites and a burger. Disappointingly, the battery had run down on my trustly Canon before one bird few in with tomato sauce and a plastic fork.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Cracking views

Had some smashing views of hoopoe on the lawn of our hotel in Fuerteventura a few years ago. Wish I could say the same for the Llandegfedd bird this evening, as it was no where to be seen.

Goldfinch on dam wall was some consolation.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Wasp beetle

You need to get you eye in to find one of these attractive longhorn beetles. The wasp beetle is reasonably widespread but not often recorded (see NBN distribution map). I've personally  found this beetle in several locations and this one was photographed south of Cwmbran.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

'Twas enough to dislodge my hairpiece

Went in search of the grizzled skipper at Blaenserchan but hadn't appreciated the strength of the wind. The only respite was found in the valley bottom and even here things that rely on taking to the air were conspicuous by their absence. The only butterflies noted were a couple of small pearl boarded fritillary taken in a sweep net and a worn day flying moth by the name of Pyrausta aurata.


Sunday, 22 May 2011


On the map as Coity Pond but known to Blaenavonites as the Mile Pond was Saturdays pre shopping nature ramble. Taking the moderately steep path from Coity Tip towards the pond was no great hardship with whitethroat, skylark, reed bunting and several redpoll in good voice.

With reports of dingy skipper on the wing at other post industrial sites it was no great surprise to encounter several on the parched coal spoil that characterises the landscape in this area. Got to the pond just in time to see a grey heron leave to try its luck at one of the other ponds in the area. This linear waterbody isn't known for its birdlife but sightings of cormorant, goosander, green sandpiper etc. are recently documented and today added a new species to the list in the form of two male and one female tufted duck. Also heard calling but not seen was a little grebe.

The many acidic flushes that drain in to the pond are a botanist and entomologists delight. I was pleased to be able to stumble across a couple of individual spikes of fir clubmoss. Also noted green hairstreak here. 

Back to base but not before coming across a patch of several hundred moonwort- looks like another good year for this local distinctive fern.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Any ol' patch will do

Myathropa florea

Out for less than three quarters of an hour and look what I bagged. At this time of year there's an overwhelming amount of wildlife to watch, record and photograph. On this occasion I found patch of ox eye daisy waited and  photographed. Less than 10 metres from my car, so no strenuous walking or the need for army fatigues and jack boots to yomp miles across rugged terrain to access wildlife its there all around us and accessible.

There are well over 250 species of hoverfly in Britain and as usual the vice county hardly features on the distribution maps. There must have been 10 species or more visiting this patch of wildflowers. Its so easy to record so bloody well get out there and put this forgotten corner of Wales on the recording map!

Eristalis horticola

 Eristalis intricarius

Eristalis tenex

Volucella pellucens

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

More gulls different place

Going about my business in Newport this evening noted another colony of breeding gulls on the roof tops of an industrial estate opposite the Transporter Bridge. Pulled in outside the Ship and Pilot pub complete with a crew of drunken seamen singing sea shanties and a number of youths with aggressive looking dogs to take some pics. This colony, just like others I know of in north Gwent, appear to like asbestos corrugated roofed buildings with protruding bolts on which to anchor their nests.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Fallible - help needed!

Further to today's lengthy post about variable damselfly I now need to confess that I think the posting to be erroneous. Having consulted various field guides its appears the only reliable way of separating variable from azure damselfly is the deeply lobed nature of the prothorax on the variable. You will note that the prothorax in the photo is not deeply lobed therefore making it azure. However I believe the abdominal markings are akin to variable. 

Can anyone put this to bed please??

Variable damselfly - on the wing now!

I had a hunch I'd seen variable damselfly (Coenagrion pulchellum) in a meadow close to the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal between Newport and Cwmbran. After a search of about 20 minutes I was rewarded, and thanks to some timely cloud cover the target female damselfly remained still for a good number of record shots.

I knew this species was present in the vice county but I'd never really made the effort to track it down and given that blue damselflies as a group can be tricky to identify it remained a personal enigma. The above distribution map is taken from the National Biodiversity Network Gateway website (thanks to NBN) giving a flavour of its lowland distribution. Its always worth checking with SEWBReC for possibility of more records though.

Field mark tip: Distinctive mercury mark to upper abdomen.

Field mark tip : Increasing amounts of blue on each segment from posterior upwards. Also note visible notch to each blue patch.

Friday, 13 May 2011


This grey heron was again present at Llantarnam Ponds, spending a lot of time in a swan like posture taking fish at frequent intervals.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Rug pulled from under one's feet

I reached for the storage box marked 'entomological stuff' and there under the pith helmet, khaki shorts and pipe complete with half ounce of rough shag was my trusty sweep net. With a grin of reassuring satisfaction I assembled the net to handle and shook out the dried vegetational remains of last year's successful campaign. Placing the net comfortably on the back seat I made my way to Magor Marsh for some serious, sustained sweep netting. And I wasn't disappointed, as if awakened from a deep sleep refreshed for action the net swung into action to the left to the right cutting through the vegetation in the single minded pursuit of bagging an assortment of biological data.

The day therefore was all about inverts and within a mixed bag of thingamajigs was the first broad bodied chaser dragonfly of the year some short winged conehead and this lil' beauty. This is a ground beetle named Demetrias imperialis a Nb species swept from the hay meadow part of the reserve. When confronted with something different I tend to log on to the National Biodiversity Network website to get a feel for its national distribution, and surprise surprise not a single dot to besmirch our principality. Next stop then was the local records centre (SEWBReC) just in case they had records before I started to blow the 'new record for Wales trumpet'. Disappointingly they had records from Magor Marsh (2005) and Calidcot (2007). Drat Julian Branscombe's vision in contracting Dr Peter Kirby to survey the invertebrates of Gwent Wildlife Trust's key reserves in 2005- drat! drat! drat!

Saturday, 7 May 2011

More under-recorded coleoptera

Now is the time to dig out the macro lens, extension tubes etc, and get out and start recording and photographing the invertebrates of Gwent. Any patch of rank vegetation, pond or river margin will harbour hidden treasures. Gwent is so under recorded its embarrassing.

A recent visit to Llantarnam Ponds produced the beetle Oedemera nobilis and the reed beetle Donacia vulgaris. Also a male and female beautiful demoiselle damselfly, and also large red and azure damselfies. Keep looking!

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Damselflies are starting to show

Its been a few months since I last paid Cwmbran Boating Lake a visit. Showing well around the impressive and maturing stands of yellow flag iris and pendulous sedge were the first odonata of the year in the shape of blue tailed and common blue damselfies. A pair of mute swan were relatively new additions to the lake to join dozens of mallard, many with young, and twelve Canada geese. On leaving I struck up a conversation with a gentleman running a model boat across the lake he said that last Summer, for about a couple of weeks, there were two Egyptian geese on the lake and from his description I have no reason to doubt his identification.. Oh, and three swift over Cwmbran earlier.

Monday, 2 May 2011


There's been some cyber blog space devoted to suppressing recently so I thought it high time I came clean about my own suppressing activities. Last week I was surprised to find this roosting on my outside light. Now I debated the merits of going live with the news and the possible little earner derived from charging a fiver to view from the kitchen window, but having a queue of birders stretching down the road just wouldn't cut the mustard with the neighbours. So I'm rather ashamed to say I kept the news to myself and immediate family only, but for a visit from a Springwatch camera team.  Now with the mega tick moved on ( to Chepstow or Neath ) I can safely announce to all and sundry, and apologies to all Gwent/Glamorgan twitchers for keeping mum -watch forthcoming Springwatch for report. Full description will be submitted to rarities panel in due course with follow up article in next years Gwent Bird Report.

Now I know what you're thinking he's been working too hard of late and needs a holiday or even professional help. My neighbour asked how I was keeping after he saw me positioning the cooking ingredient and taking a photograph of it, he quickly retreated into his house locking the door behind him.!   

Sadly no dotterel once again

Another attempt for dotterel on the Blorenge ended in abject failure. Had to be content with some impressive stands of hares tail cotton grass (Eriphorum vaginatum) and a calling red grouse. A rather shabby violet ground beetle (Carabus violaceus) was noted and the usual assemblage of upland birds were evident on return including stonechat and increased numbers of singing whinchat. I live to fight another day!

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Nice record but not the first

This micro moth is Grapholita lunulana photographed at Dunlop Semtex Pond on 24 April this year. Micro moths can be a touch ticky on times some requiring genitalia examination to separate but this one is distinctive enough and with the help of the UK Moths site it was narrowed down. Nonetheless I dropped Sam Bosenquet an email in his capacity as the mirco moth recorder for the Watsonian vice county of Monmouthshire and he has confined it is in fact Grapholita lunulana. This is the second county record the first was from Dixton Embankment, Monmouth in the 1980s.
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