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

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Where's the water gone?

The pond at Magor Marsh was rather low on water today nonetheless there were still a few teal present, a fly by kingfisher, a Cetti's warbler and a reed bunting.

I took the liberty of having a look in one or two of the accessible nestboxes on the reserve. In one was this overwintering queen German wasp (Vespula germanica) note the diagnostic three dots on face.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Thanks to GWT staff and members in Ebbw Vale


A belated thanks to staff of Gwent Wildlife Trust's Environmental Resource Centre in Ebbw Vale for hosting a talk from yours truly recently about my activities as a naturalist. A good, very receptive and enthusiastic crowd turned up to share their love of nature in Gwent's coalfield - interestingly some people from Chepstow as well. By the way the resource centre is well worth a visit!

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Return of the ringed CANGO

In the absence of a pied wheatear, yellow browed warbler or long billed dowitcher I revert to my default bird, the Canada goose. Should anybody out there be vaguely interested the two Llangorse Lake ringed birds reported at Cwmbran Boating Lake during the winter period 2011-12 are back on site. See page 117 of new, fresh off the press, Gwent Bird Report 2010 for recovery details.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

What coughed this thing up?

Came across this pellet on a low wooden fence post in Cwmbran earlier this week. It was safely retrieved and stored in the ever present naturalist's pot. The make up of the pellet is almost entirely of invertebrate remains. I'm pretty certain I know the bird that produced it, but do you?

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Bread of heaven

Left the Rugby to the sound of an overhead redwing, destination the forgotten blue network of Brynmawr/Ebbw Vale/Tredegar. Bryn Bach Park was the most diverse waterboby with the odd cormorant, and great crested grebe, many mallard, 36 tufted duck, 8 pochard and 2 mute swan, one of which was ringed.

At Beaufort Ponds were another pair of ringed mute swan along with 10 Canada goose and other assorted commoner wildfowl. However the most interesting feature was what appeared to be a willow weave bird hide being constructed on the opposite shore. With the new hides at the Newport Wetlands seems there's likely to be more competition for this blogs annual Observational Structure of the Year Award 2011- watch this space!

Monday, 10 October 2011

Ah! the memories

Back in the 1980's and 90s I was part of a small ringing group of three based at a site just off the dam at Llandegfedd Reservoir. Here we spent many an enjoyable Saturday ringing in the comfort of a hut donated by Welsh Water (in the days when they supported birding) and modified to include a wood burning stove etc. Annual ringing totals often approached 1000 birds sometimes boosted by August and September sessions at the North End. Alas the hut fell in disrepair when my 'A' ringer Percy Playford became ill.

Shortly after Percy died the hut was rescued by Richard Poole and transferred to a site on the Island but unfortunately its use in this new position was short lived and here too it was abandoned. The hut today is a fragment of its former glory now all but derelict, rotting and crest fallen but a few reminders of its glory days can still be found amongst the remains. A stencilled ringing notice from the days before computers, a tin of nails, chairs, a table and a modified window for easy of release of processed birds. A piece of the social history of bird ringing in Gwent disappearing without a whimper.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Beetle mania

Another copy of The Coleopterist journal (yes that's a journal for beetle nerds!) and therein another item on beetles in Gwent. This time its a three page article on the rediscovery in Wales after 150 years of Amara fusca. Seems it was found in Newport Docks in August 2008.

Elsewhere today at Cwmbran Boating Lake were 64 Canada goose, and a single mute swan. Will check the geese for rings in due course.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Go back, go back, go back.....

..... were the words that tugged at my paisley pj's as I made my way down that old wooden hill at some unearthly hour. No time to wipe the sleep from my eyes, I was off, this even before the first mongrel had clocked on for that unique canine dawn chorus that is the wake up call for modern day valley life.

A fence post wheatear caught my eye as I turned the road to the Foxhunter Car Park, Blaenavon. The target this morning was 'Sunrisre Over Monmouthshire' photography, followed up with some red grouse spotting thrown in for good measure. It was no surprise to find other earth worshippers in the car park. Kneeling beside tripod mounted camera they whaled in appreciation as the mother of all life emerged on the horizon.

Past the Fred Hando memorial bench and the Foxhunter memorial plaque I left the bearded, kaftan wearing photographers destination Blorenge mountain taking the new BBNP memorial footpath improvements  before veering sharp right into more interesting terrain. Here the first grouse were flushed, taking off in a panic to a land of pixies and fairies out of sight but still just audible with their characteristic 'go back, go back' vocal. Taking no notice of the advice of a sub species of the willow grouse I pressed on regardless only to record a pleasing fourteen birds before reaching the Blorenge memorial trig point. Here I posed in conquering Everest style before dropping down the east face and onwards. 

The path here was through peat, still holding water enough to threaten an over walking boot reminder of the approaching rainy season. Quickening my pace after slowing to remove an irritating hardened sun baked sheep's dropping from my boot I flushed a snipe that took off vignetted against the brightening sky. Here too skylark and  meadow pipit were plentiful. On to the gently rounded and sheep grazed limestone spoil hills I emerged to view, hands on hips, the vista that is the green and pleasant land of rural Monmouthshire spread out before me - a mountain biker sped past wobbling in surprise of my early morning presence. Here too were a good number of swallow, an active fox moth caterpillar and a less than active eggar moth cocoon was retrieved from beneath a dislodged stone. A snowy ink cap was also emerging from a pile of horse dropping.

PS. For a blog that gets only c1200 hits a month, the value of having 'sexy' in the title of two consecutive postings has paid dividends. Just over a day into October this site has already registered close to 400 hits. Just goes to illustrate the preferred subject matter of many website searchers!
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