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

Monday, 27 August 2012

Not a water vole in sight

The real purpose for a trip to Magor Marsh was for a red veined darter rather than a sight of the reintroducted water vole. As it happened neither were found which was something of a disappointment given the Severnside Birds site is reporting hundreds of the red veined darter from Severn Beach at the moment. However there were a good number of ruddy darter on show and a late longhorn beetle Leptura quadrifasciata.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Its raining rings......

In the rain at Tredegar House Lake Newport yesterday, were a moderate number of gulls mainly black headed. To my surprise I picked up one with a colour ring feeding on the manicured lawns, but before I could organise my camera it was disturbed by a rampaging dog. A quick about turn to Asda for a loaf of budget bread had me back on site in 15 minutes and whilst most visitors fed the family of mute swan, I chose the gulls, much to the bewilderment of those present. But from the above you can see it paid dividends with a colour ringed first year lesser black backed probably from Bristol or Cardiff, a coloured ringed black headed gull and another with just a metal ring, gawd dam it!!! I'll bring you news of their origin in due course.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Water meadow magic

Garn Lakes Local Nature Reserve near Blaenavon has seen some changes over its short gestation period. From open cast development to bland bog standard 1990's style landscape restoration and on to a more enlightened approach to habitat creation and management. The most recent enhancement has transformed an area of marshy grassland to water meadow with ditches and ponds aplenty. This is now a naturalists delight and a credit to those who have worked hard to achieve it.

With the recording year curtailed by indifferent weather conditions and a sense that the evenings are closing in, a mild panic has set in which has motivated me to get out of an evening before the summer disappears over the horizon. Armed with a feeling that the landscape of Garn Lakes LNR is concealing some interesting wetland species I ventured through verdant vegetation in search of a late summer thrill.

First up was odonata. Squelching through the meadow with it's developing phagmites beds hundreds of black and common darter dragonflies took to the air. The open water areas with its floating vegetation and algae mats were busy with emerald and blue tailed damselflies and an odd golden ringed dragonfly oviposited oblivious to my presence.

Botanically things are looking interesting as well. The discovery of arrowhead was something of a surprise and various floating pondweeds supported the aforementioned odonata. The most interesting find however was common stonewort (Chara vulgaris). Although not a vascular plant this family of algae is very much under recorded due to its totally submerged existence. To retrieve a sample to photograph resulted in a wet boot and trouser leg up to the knee!

Finally the recently formed ditch system in an area of muddy margin a green sandpiper was flushed.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Function room available

The Bert Hamar Memorial Hide at Llandegfedd Reservoir has been the venue for some wining and dining. I've yet to know any birder who is decadent enough to take a bottle of red wine with them on a foray, but I stand to be corrected. More likely to be a fly fisherman, a secret romantic couple or a new Welsh Water initiative to raise a couple of bob by hiring out the hide for functions.

On the wildlife front there was an odd male pochard, some hint that warblers are beginning to pass through as several were noted feeding in the maturing willow carr that now fringes the island. Up to half a dozen male banded demoiselle performed well along with the ubiquitous common darter.

Finally, I was pleased to receive a visit from my old friend Michael Kilner yesterday afternoon. After a period out of circulation Mike is now back recording and to my delight brought along with him some live specimens of both Roesels bush cricket and long winged conehead from a Woodland Trust site near Usk.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

The giant's causeway

I tend not to see great black backed gull that often in Gwent although they seem to be reasonably regular at Llandgedfedd Reservoir. This morning one obliged for a some piccies on the causeway of the draw off tower near the dam.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Good for covering exposed genitalia, allegedly.

The natural habitat of the fig tree (Ficus carica) is the dry rocky hillsides of the Mediterranean. In Britain its now successfully naturalised on a number of mainly urban rivers in the industrialised heartlands, although an exception to this is Devon and Cornwall where it is now also widespread.

The origin of fig trees, at least on urban rivers, is attributed to seeds derived from sewage. During rainy periods combined storm and foul sewers become overloaded and raw sewage enters the river. According to an item in the Botanical Society of the British Isles (BSBI) journal Watsonia there's a suggestion its occurrence on the River Don in Sheffield is linked to heavy industry whereby elevated water temperatures due to its use in the cooling processes has provided the right conditions for germination. The Flora of Monmouthshire shows a scattering of records for the vice county including this one on the upper reaches of the Afon Lwyd near Forge Side.This mature tree appears to have successfully developed in the gabion baskets of a previous river engineering scheme. Another site on the same river at Pontnewynydd is also close to former industry activity.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Dropping in

I've read about this but never witnessed it. Butterflies have often been recorded alighting and feeding on fresh animal droppings. Dog mess is apparently attractive to the white admiral and I seem to recall  reading that the late and eccentric lepidopterist Baron de Worms carrying dog excrement with him on a field trip to catch woodland butterflies - no need to bother these days as every green space has plenty kicking around for nothing much of which can easily be picked up in the tread of your boot!

With my Olympic obsession waning at the thought of watching dressage I made a quick evening visit to the area around Beaufort Ponds in preparation for a forthcoming talk for Gwent Wildlife Trust. As can be seen from the photos up to eight green veined white were observed feeding on a fresh pile of horse dropping, taking advantage of its mineral content. Elsewhere there were 17 Canada goose on Beaufort Pond and a 100+ swift high above the Heads of the Valleys road that soon disappeared eastwards. Now back to rhythmic gymnastics.

Saturday, 4 August 2012


Ivy leaved duckweed Lemma trisula

Common duckweed  Lemma minor and Water fern Azolla filliculoides

Common duckweed and Fat duckeed Lemma gibba

Least duckweed  Lemma minuta

Frogbit  Hydrocharis morsus-ranae

There's an interesting article in the most recent British Wildlife magazine (June 2012) about duckweed. Often overlooked or targeted by wetland managers for its invasive tendencies duckweed species are some of the most successful  water plants in the British Isles. Having resurrected my interest in the ecological value of the Mon and Brecon Canal last Saturdays stroll between Cwmbran and Newport turned in a good variety of floating vegetation. The above photos are just a sample of what was on offer.

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