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

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Gwylan y Gweunydd

A couple of common gull were in amongst an increasing  flock of gulls at Cwmbran Boating Lake. The gathering is now well over 100 black headed gull with the odd lesser black backed and herring gull. Five goosander augmented the usual wildfowl and dipper on the nearby Afon Llwyd made a nice change.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Heath snail ?

According to National Biodiversity Network the heath snail (Helicella itala) isn't  present in the vice county of Monmouthshire. A specialist of limestone grassland I felt this mollusc was a good bet for the  quarries that pock mark the eastern margin of the south Wales coalfield from the Clydath to Pontypool.

The shallow quarry at Cwm Lasgarn near Abersychan with its limestone spoil was the venue for today's naturalist excursion. The snail wasn't difficult find, turn a few stones and there is was numerous and widespread. All specimens collected were dead and somewhat bleached with others coated in brown soil.

Bird wise, siskin and lesser redpoll were plentiful in the larch plantation that encircle the quarry. Three flypast fieldfare was the only other noteworthy record.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Today at the lake

After yesterdays stunning Iceland gull pic from the Llandegfedd Reservoir gull roost I decided to have another go at Cwmbran Boating Lake. Now as you know I'm a big advocate of local patching its the glue that holds together targeted conservation action. Just three quarters of an hour around the lake was enough to blow the office cobwebs away and record some interesting common or garden water birds.

Gulls were performing well. First up was a ringed black headed gull from within a group of around 80 birds. Secondly a single lesser black backed gull was the first site record for a number of months and was joined by a herring gull that soon took off after an altercation with the aforementioned. Finally the now long staying Mediterranean gull was still loafing about on the floating island.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Iceland Gull

Got to Pettingale Point in good time to watch the gull roost build up. It was only at around 4.30 did I pick out the ghostly figure of a single adult Iceland gull from within the roost.  Spot the birdy in the following photo.

Gong for a naturalist

Having spoken to Trevor Evans within the last fortnight his modesty didn't allow him to let on he'd recently received an MBE - thanks to Chris Hatch for the information. As County Botanical Recorder for as long as I can remember Trevor's lifelong quest for recording all things flowery in vc35 culminated in the weighty tome that is the Flora of Monmouthshire. Everyone interested in the wildlife of Gwent should have a copy!

I remember my first correspondence with Trevor it was a type written letter with a list of plants recorded locally. I had, of course, made a school boy error in assuming the common English name for plants would be sufficient. Trevor's response was courteous but at the same time ticked me off for not using latin and to this day all conversations with him are punctuated with latin species names that send me scrabbling for a field guide to translate.I also had the pleasure of spending some time with him and Colin Titcombe in the field. One such excursion took us to a large field above Forgeside near Blaenavon. An interesting wet flush was visible towards the middle of the field but with no public access there was no way of reaching it, I thought. This didn't stop Trevor, up and over the fence he went without a care in the world spending a good twenty minutes on his hands and knees recording and compiling a list. Oh, and one other thing, although he lives in Chepstow he's never shyed away from botanising in western Gwent! You couldn't meet a nicer , more knowledgeable or determined field botanist. An award so richly deserved.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Gwent Goosander Survey: Visit 3

Visit 3 of the Gwent Goosander Survey at Dunlop Semtex Pond produced little to shout home about. There were no goosander present but four ringed mute swan showed well, at least two of which were ringed by Luke Phillips at Bryn Bach Park a couple of years ago. Full count:

18 Tufted Duck
1 Pochard
42 Mallard
8 Moorhen
1 Wigeon
22 Coot
4 Mute Swan

Earlier at Bryn Bach Park a very pale grey lag goose entertained the hordes of visiting Sunday afternoon strollers.

Friday, 13 January 2012

'Twas in a woodland clearing

With over three weeks leave at my disposal I took the opportunity to chalk off a few this week. A hair appointment for the household Team Leader in the bustling mid Gwent town of Usk allowed me to grab a couple of hours in nearby Wentwood.

First stop was Little Oaks where the ravages of post war tree planting was being corrected and stacked in neat orderly piles. The now regular Great Grey Shrike was quickly and easily found, here too was a constant traffic of overhead Redpoll and Crossbill all to the background of calling Coal Tit.

Onto Stalag 17 known locally as Wentwood Reservoir. Walking from picnic area toward reservoir with a hope of finding a vantage point to scan for wildfowl proved fruitless. More warning signage, trip wires and mine fields. The road above the reservoir provided the best opportunity to count birds although for safety reasons I felt the need to slip on my old NCB florescent jacket.

I'm mildly impressed by the number of wildfowl using this reservoir at the moment. Smashing counts of diving duck and Canada goose were augmented by Coot, Wigeon, at least three Gadwall, a Little Grebe, Cormorant and Great Crested Grebe and so on, I just wish I could get bloody closer! 

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

At risk of being tedious

I know its a bit tedious to have yet more images of the now infamous Cwmbran Boating Lake Mediterranean gull but I just can't help it. But this is nothing compared to the real tedium of the number of short eared owl images on the South Wales Birding blog, that's overkill! 

The bird today was spending most of its time picking at a dead fish on one of the floating islands - note the fish scales on its bill.  A passer by was taken a back by my gull attention complaining that they spoilt the lake but soon walked off when I expressed my affection for 'seagulls'.

Also on the lake was a single male goosander, two moorhen, a single coot, a pair of mute swan, 16 Canada goose  and many mallard and black headed gull.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Short eared owls

At least four short eared owl showed well at Waun afon bog late this afternoon. Also came across an unseasonal fox moth caterpillar -a measure of just how mild the weather is at the moment..

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Odd one out

The first winter Mediterranean Gull was still present at Cwmbran Boating Lake this lunchtime along with a single Great Black Backed Gull, 4 Canada Goose, 19 Goosander and a Cormorant.

Also came across several dead Bream ( I think) most of which had their heads removed. Is this the predatory work of an Otter?

Monday, 2 January 2012

A delightful find to end the year

In the words of John Muir 'going out is going in' so I had high hopes for the end of year break, lots of getting out with some nice birds to be found, none of which really happened. However as you will probably already know there's a tradition amongst naturalists-birders for having at their disposable a variety  of books to pore over on a rainy day or after a successful field trip. I'm no different, as a bibliophile I have a collection of books with an axis on field guides. So imagine my glee when during a visit to the Festival Park shopping centre in Ebbw Vale on New Years eve I found a brand new copy of the Collins Field Guide Birds of the Palearctic:Non-Passerines, for the princely sum of 99p. Safely bagged and with a hour or so before last vestige of light faded for the last time in 2011 I drove home elated at my bargain purchase. But a 2011 swansong was still to had. Driving from Brynmawr towards Blaenavon good views of a Short-eared Owl were obtained as it flew adjacent to the road and the SEO hotspot of Waunafon Bog. What a day, a field guide and a nice bird, I'm easily pleased!

New Years Day signalled the start of a new field note book. Every biological recorder needs one and has one, leaving home without one engenders anxiety. A bright crispy new note book awaiting its defacement with illegible handwriting, frequent crossings out and grubby fingerprints. But a new note book deserved to be populated as soon as possible so a tour de force of Gwent valley wetlands was planned and executed. Starting at Peny fan Pond and ending in Garn Lakes Local Nature Reserve I took in eight sites in the hope of a Great Northern Diver or colour ringed Herring Gull. It turned out that a game of noughts and crosses would have been a more fitting entry in the note book as little was on offer to trouble page one. Apart from just small numbers of the usual commoner wildfowl two Wigeon at Beaufort Ponds was the only other bird worthy of a mention. What let down!
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