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

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Macro mind, micro moth

Micro moths are often tricky things to identify accurately so when presented with an unfamiliar species you can right off a good couple of hours searching websites and pawing over field guides before arriving at a name, and even then you may not be entirely confident of your choice. This happened to me at the weekend when I found this little micro moth whilst beating around the Lasgarn wood. An half hearted internet attempt fitted around domestic chores had me settling on bright strip (Phylloporia bistrigella) but just to be certain an email to Sam Bosanquet (County Micro Moth Recorder) was in order. Sam's amazing encyclopedic knowledge of all things small and difficult put me straight, it is in fact Micropterix aruncella. This error won't stop me continuing to have a stab at micro's and with the soon to be published new field guide to micro moths hopefully they will become a little more accessible to the general naturalist in the future.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Lack lustre performance

Reeling grasshopper warbler was this mornings aspiration. The fine habitat surrounding Waun afon bog is usually a banker for several of these secret little gems, not this morning though. A cuckoo, male reed bunting and two pair of stonechat filled the void.

A yellow/green flowering plant caught my eye in a lay by in Blaenavon as I passed, so a quick handbrake turn got me parked up in no time. Turns out to be Cypress spurge a native plant on mainland Europe and some say southern England but around these parts will be a naturalised garden escapee. Not that its been recorded too often, The Flowering Plants of Monmouthshire has only three records.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Moths to an Olympic flame

Couldn't let the passing of the Olympic flame less than a hop skip and a jump away from my home go without joining the crowds to celebrate. Yes I know its not wildlife but it was exciting and mildly emotional to watch the torch carriers pass. Thanks to a well known soft drinks company and a Japanese electrical giant for a free paper flag and refreshing beverage.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Treading the boards once again

Another evening attempt at a grizzled skipper once again draw a blank. There was however a noticeable increase in butterfly activity, with small copper, small heath, common blue and many dingy skipper on the wing. Was a good day for bloody nosed beetles as well. Until the next time.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

The ashy mining bee

I'm determined not to miss out on the grizzled skipper this year. So with the weather on the change yesterday evenings venue was the edgeland post industrial habitat of the Blaenserchan valley the scene of last years range busting record.

Butterflies were disappointingly thin on the ground with only singles of dingy skipper and common blue to chase across the spoil tips. An ashy mining bee (Andrena cineraria) provided a subject slightly easier to photograph. This ground nesting bee with its black and grey appearance was noted searching for nesting opportunities within the sparsely vegetated spoil.

Elsewhere a dead common shrew exposed its red-tipped teeth and a number of moonwort were noted pathside. Bird activity was expected high, with tree pipit, yellowhammer, garden warbler, cuckoo and redpoll were all vocal. Grizzled skipper? maybe tomorrow.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Valley of the dinosaurs

Tirpentwys cut on the hillside between Pontypool and Crumlin is a former sandstone quarry shrouded in a mature conifer woodland, but with standing water and mist aplenty. An eerie somewhat bleak and desolate site echoed to my indifferent sure-footedness as fragments of stone disappeared into the muddy depths of the ponds as I picked my way through the valley. A couple of calling raven were amplified and a distant redstart could be heard as a pterodactyl took flight from its rock face nest.

Dodging the attention of a couple of club wielding, bear skin wearing locals, several early instar orthoptera could be found. Siskin, coal tit and goldcrest provided the occasional mood music, before a male pterodactyl returned to drop the limp figure of an uninsured off-roader into the nest of two snapping young, and the feeding frenzy began.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Heading our way?

The two black necked grebe found at Cosmeston Lakes, Penarth within the last week have relocated to Rhaslas Pond on Gelligar Common  between Merthyr and Tredegar. The two birds were very confiding and at one point entered into some characteristic grebe type display. Given this pond is just outside of the Gwent recording area fingers crossed their next move will be into county, maybe Bryn Bach Park or Garnlydan Reservoir.

On my return I called into Bryn Bach Park where Canada goose out numbered fisherman by at least three to one. Two birds were also carrying rings.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Mynydd y garn fawr - BBS square

This mornings visit to my Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) square on Mynydd y garn fawr which forms part of the Blorenge SSSI, produced nothing but skylark and meadow pipit. So like all good naturalists my attention drifted onto other items of interest. This oak eggar capterpillar was covered head to toe in water droplets. A severed skylark leg suggested the precence of an avian predator and an owl pellet, probably short eared owl, was teased apart to reveal the expected collection of bone fragments including a common shrew skull. Red grouse weren't recorded during the visit but a number of clusters of pellets were noted.

After completing my square I dropped down to the scene of the Mamora's warbler twitch, bird life here was a little more rewarding. Whinchat were in song and a male stonechat put in a brief appearance; a lesser whitethroat was located close to the road and a male merlin paused before continuing to harass meadow pipit.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

News of the colour ringed mute swan

Tony Cross of the Mid Wales Ringers has been in contact to confirm the above colour ringed mute swan nesting on Dunlop Semtex Pond was ringed on 3rd September 2009 as cygnet on the Montgomery Canal at Aberbechan near Newtown. Nice one!

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Mystery object

Not the best of pics but this mystery item was found yesterday evening amongst some mixed heathland near Blaenavon. I'm reasonably confident I know what it is, but do you?

Elsewhere meadow pipits are nesting and stonechats are everywhere (thought the BTO had concerns). A female reed bunting and fly by peregrine where the other note worthies during a short walk. Oh, almost forgot a distant calling cuckoo as well.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Dawn chorus day

It was only this morning it dawned on my that today is the day birders the world over get to demonstrate their undoubted field craft and celebrate the glory of birdsong. Not be to left out I made my way to the flanks of Mynydd Farteg Fach for a ffridd dawn chorus walk. Access to the hillside is via a well known fly tipping hot spot and amongst the conifer cuttings, broken glass and black bags a flowering plant caught my eye. Its common to find a range of garden 'throw outs' associated with these fly tipping sites and the plant that attracted my attention was variegated archangel. It's an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act to introduce it to the wild but this patch was flourishing within a stand of molina. On one of the leaves I noticed a curled up caterpillar that turned out to be a woolly bear or garden tiger (Arctia caja) moth

Despite the cold wind there was no shortage of bird song. At least three pair of stonechat, a singing reed bunting, good numbers of linnet and skylark, willow warbler, meadow pipit, raven, kestrel, whinchat.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

White rumped martin

Unable to go chasing the wed wumped swallow (WWS) only time to squeeze in a couple of hours at Llandegfedd Reservoir. Although its pushing the second week of May even a t-shirt, shirt, fleece, camo jacket and ski gloves wasn't enough to take the edge of the cold wind. Nothing too major to report other than good numbers of hirundines the majority being sand martin. Common sandpiper, and at least four singing sedge warbler were the other ornithological highlights.

On the botanical front many thousands of adders tongue fern still adorn the meadows of the Island and are now being joined by emerging common spotted and southern marsh orchid.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Local ornithological ephemera

Now I'm a bit of a collector, not that it's out of control you'll understand, but progressive rock/metal albums and local ornithological/natural history ephemera are my subjects of particular interest. Having almost the complete run of Monmouthshire/Gwent Bird Reports, with the exception of numbers one and three, I've been keeping an eye out for the small number of reports produced by the Gwent Ornithological Society (GOS) founding group, the Pontypool Ornithological Society (POS). So my excitement was palpable when I nervously entered a 99p bid into Ebay for a copy of POSs  1964 report. Thankfully no one bid against me ( not much competition for old bird reports from this corner of Wales) and I duly won said item. 

Flicking through the typewritten report I found an entry for an Icterine warbler. Seems back in the days before Nobby Stiles did his little jig of happiness at Wembley  rare bird identification didn't need any optical support just a call was enough. Nowadays such a claim would be laughed out of a Gwent Rarities Committee meeting. By the time the Birds in Gwent was published in the 1970's this record was noted as a 'doubtful occurence'.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Classic edgeland habitat

You may remember I recently introduced the new modern day geographical concept of 'edgelands' to all you loyal blog readers influenced by a recent book of the same name. Having finished reading the tome (well 250 odd page paperback) whilst taking it easy in the sand dunes of Fueterventura, yesterday was the first opportunity to get out and view my local landscape through the eyes of this new left field thinking of trendy geographers.

The British near Abersychan is a classic edgeland habitat not urban not rural but something in between, an edgeland where land was abused for its mineral riches only to be left bedraggled without friends, alone to fend for itself. Not unexpectedly then nature has been quick to put an arm around this landscape  reclaiming and softening the hard lines of this former industrial site lifting it from the doldrums. Gorse, bare ground, acid grassland, ramshackled buildings and watercourses of unknown origin conspire to make this edgeland an exciting ramble for Old Style New Wave Naturalists (OSNWN). And I'm not alone in my appreciation, rather than the local newspaper's periodic editorial about 'this derelict site', dog walkers, den builders and youths on uninsured motorbikes take advantage of open accessible space without the boundaries that characterise urban living.

After that back to the wildlife and birds stood out head an shoulders above other taxa. A pair of prospecting redstart, a distant 'a little bit of bread and cheeeeese' yellowhammer, blackcap, chiffchaff, willow warbler and active redpoll were the pick of the crop.
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