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

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Severnside solidarity

Yes it sounds righteous but I have a social conscience and strong sense of fairness and equality that's why I had no hesitation in withdrawing my labour in support of millions of other low paid public sector workers who today stood up for their pension rights. It's not just about defending my pension its about the pension prospects of future generations and every ones right to have a quality of life into retirement and old age.    

That said I took the opportunity provided by this industrial action to visit the coast at Black Rock near Chepstow. This part of the Severn Estuary coast line is home to a soft cliff habitat that is one of the rarest in Gwent. The ecological value of this cliff is in its special invertebrate assemblage, but at the end of November its true glory could not be fully appreciated. Nonetheless, some stone turning did produce an assortment of unidentified ground beetles along with harlequin and 16 spot ladybirds.

Bird wise the foreshore was very disappointing. Single redshank and curlew along with around 10 wigeon were complemented by some15 skylark.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

One from the archive

It was such a dismal day up north today I didn't even bother taking the trusty Canon out of the bag. So I've raided the archive for this whimbrel shot taken on a day and in a location where poor light and rain are rarely an issue.

Today's site visit took in, Dunlop Semtex Pond, Machine Pond, Beaufort Ponds, Bryn Bach Park and Garn Lakes. By far the most species rich was Beaufort Ponds with 2 mute swan, 12 Canada goose, 10 wigeon, 3 little grebe, 3 tufted duck, 10 coot, 1 moorhen and 20 mallard. Otherwise there was smattering of pochard and great crested grebe across most sites and a count of 11 Canada goose at Garn Lakes was the highest on record.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011


In my efforts to track down ring carrying gulls frequenting certain urban watering holes I've developed a keen eye for leg abnormalities. This lunchtime at Cwmbran Boating Lake were around 100 blacked headed gull, none however were tagged with that nice foreign ring or a chunky easy to read colour ring, but several were obviously walking wounded. 

First up was a limping bird restricted by some tightly woven fishing line. Second was an amputee who managed very well with just on leg. With similar birds recorded last year at this site and Bryn Bach Park it does seem that the black headed gull suffers more than most for daring to adapt to man habitat.

Elsewhere at the boating lake were 28 goosander, 16 Canada goose, 2 moorhen and 50+ mallard. Also a harlequin ladybird.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Gwent Goosander Survey: Visit 1

Past Garn Lakes Local Nature Reserve in thick fog with visibility down to 20 metres only to emerge into bright sunshine as I dropped into Brynmawr. This however was the only positive aspect of my goosander survey visit to Dunlop Semtex Pond. No goosander but here's the list:

1 Pochard,
4 Tufted duck
10 Moorhen
1 Little grebe
18 Coot
38 Mallard
7 Goldfinch
3 Grey wagtail
2 Coal tit

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Waunafon fog

Quick visit to Waunafon bog in the hope of an inland short eared owl produced nothing but four raven and a flyover thrush thing - oh and fog masses of the stuff.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Just in time for Sunday

Joining the lunchtime dog walkers at Cwmbran Boating Lake were 14 Canada goose, 2 moorhen, 50+ mallard and 6 Goosander including a scruffy first winter male. The latter arriving right on time for Sunday's Gwent Goosander fest!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

I'm just not cut out for twitching

Racing down to the Newport Wetlands yesterday for the Slavonian grebe was just impossible. No worries however as my experience of this species in Gwent previously was that they stay around for a couple of days at least, so I was reasonably confident of it being present this morning. Despite a couple of hours searching through gadwall, tufted duck, pochard, coot, little grebe etc I drew a blank. There were however some inverts on offer including an active silver y moth, a red admiral and a good number of common dater.

Prompted by this scaup faced Tufted duck at the wetlands I decided to call in to Ynys yr fro Reservoir just in case something of interest was lurking in the shallows. Nothing much to write home about but was able to park in the fishermans car park as the gates were unlocked.

Sunday, 6 November 2011


I never seem to find any accessible mistletoe to examine, it all seems to be out reach high in the tops of trees. Inspired by Jonathan Briggs excellent item in the recent edition of British Wildlife magazine entitled Mistletoe- a review of its distribution, conservation and insect associates I was determined to track some down. This I was able to do at Llandegfedd Reservoir this morning where a patch was located low down on a hawthorn.

Its too late in the year now to look for any of the distinctive insect associates, but leaf mines and exit holes should still be detectable. None could be found today but mistletoe is certainly worthy of closer examination.

Bird wise there were about 75 wigeon, 50 teal, 70 Canada goose, 9 tufted duck, 8 pochard, 1 little grebe, 5 mute swan and 2 snipe. There were also good numbers of fieldfare and redwing, and a few skylark and meadow pipit. A late red admiral spent some time alighting on the warmer surfaces provided by wooden fence posts and the fisherman's portacabin.

Good as well  to see some new feeders at the bird feeding station all they need  now is some contents!

Talking of food I managed a fleeting visit to Beaufort Ponds on my way to get the weekly supplies in this afternoon. The pond was supporting a couple of mute swan, 3 wigeon, 11 coot (including one with a gammy leg) 10 Canada goose and 2 little grebe.
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