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

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Last dragonfly day of the year?

Could this be the last warm invertebrate friendly day of the year? Not about to take any changes I dropped in to Severn Tunnel Junction for a leisurely stroll around the interesting and newish Country Park.

A rash of flowering buddleja at this time of year is a banker for late butterflies so red admiral and small tortoiseshell showed well but never plentiful. Dragonflies were more numerous with common darter and southern hawker well represented. Hoverflies were common and widespread taking advantage of those ruderal flowering plants still in flower. Amongst the notable plants was vipers bugloss and common cranesbill all of which swayed gently in the wake of a passing Intercity Express. A few chiffchaff, a fly over meadow pipit and several hirundines covers the birds.

On to Magor Marsh where 100's of common darter where taking advantage of the thermal properties of recycled plastic boardwalks and wooden fencing. Several ruddy darter were also present and to my surprise a late common blue damselfly. A past its best emerald damselfly tricked me in thinking it was Wales first willow emerald damselfly much the same as the confusion between Wilson's phalarope with spotted redshank! It was still warm enough for the odd field grasshopper and calling dark bush cricket. Bird life on the pond was less than inspiring with five little grebe and a single nearby singing chiffchaff the only noteworthy avians. The afternoon finished with a petrified grass snake skin and a single German wasp on an exit gate post.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Upon reflection

The valleys are awash with heritage features some good some more questionable but with it comes a whole cottage industry of community writers quick to remind us of the likes of Mrs Evans at No 93 who had seventeen children all of whom lived in a two up two down miners cottage. So having heard about The Guardian at Abertillery, I had, partly dismissed it a just another piece of valleys 'also ran' commemorative industrial artwork.

The setting for this creative project is an 'off the peg' progressive 1970's style land restoration scheme with regulation  fenced tree planting, tarmac path and bench, but thrown in as a concession to modern day values is a very attractive and biologically diverse pond. What I hadn't been prepared for however was the impact this work would have on me. Towering over the valley its shear scale and open armed steeliness was biblical in its impression - I was taken aback and moved. So, just like a media studies student on visiting mini bus trip from the Ross on Wye Art College I set my camera to creative mode and shot a few abstract frames.

At Dunlop Semtex Pond I found a healthy colony of the alien mollusc, girdled snail (Hygromia cinctella). Originating from the Mediterranean region and first found in Great Britain in 1950 this snail is expanding it's range through the trade in potted plants.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Riverfront urban gulls

Some much needed time off from the old bump and grind and had cause to visit Gwent's premier city. Whilst going about my business I happened on a noisy group of gulls taking advantage of some food provided by a generous local gentleman near to the Riverfront Theatre. Within the attractants was this ringed immature herring gull with BTO metal ring number GR34094.

I was pleased to have struck up a conversation with the gentleman as after explaining that my bag was gulls and not the hundreds of feral pigeon that were also milling around our feet, he mentioned that Riverfront bird feeding was a daily past time for him and that often he would see gulls with rings. Seems Newport's Riverfront walk will be worth a trip or two during this coming winter!

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Rumble in the jungle

Visiting birders are muttering about the deterioration of comfort facilities at Llandegfedd Reservoir these days. The Island hide is a case in point, open viewing hatch with opportunistic bramble egress. Not that this hide provides any views of open water as the density of willow scrub that skirts the island margins prevents all views. Its this lack of scrub management that has contributed to the decline in wigeon numbers over recent years as access to suitable grazing areas is now almost impossible. 

Several hundred hirundines were taking advantage of a hatch of midges over the trees including a number of sand martin. Otherwise three singing chiffchaff was the long and short of it.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Apple doesn't fall far from the tree

Information now received confirms the above lesser black-backed gull  photographed at Tredegar House Lake earlier this month was indeed ringed locally. To be precise on Flat Holm Island Cardiff on 08/07/12.

Elsewhere remember the long staying Dutch ringed black headed gull from Cwmbran Boating Lake in 2010? News on this, is, there's still no news! The Dutch ringing scheme needs to pull its finger out (of the dyke) or I'm going to black list it! 

Sunday, 16 September 2012

The out of townies

With the remnants of its dark satanic mills now swept to the undevelopable valley margins, Ebbw Vale has given way to the fresh clean cut image of ergonomically designed glass fronted business premises, high density 'off the peg' housing and more functional community health care buildings - Nye Bevan would have approved. Brown 'this way to the nature reserve' signage and interpretation boards informing the ill informed that this road verge is being managed for wildflowers, jostle with makeshift handwritten car boot sale today signs and more formal statutory planning application notices tied to lamposts that herald the latest proposal in Ebbw Vale's regeneration masterplan. So, with my wife in new shoes and handbag mode, we had cause to visit that universally acclaimed designer outlet otherwise known as the Ebbw Vale Garden Festival site.

Now its impossible for me to switch off from wildlife recording, I'm always on the look out for a flyover lapwing or mammal roadkill so the journey to this biologically dismissed area of Gwent was no different. In transit a crop of road side fennel just outside Cwm was ticked as probably a refugee from a valley side allotment that's diversified from spuds and beans to a more contemporary herb garden festooned in union flags. For fun I kept a tally of grey squirrel road kill but lost count somewhere in the mid twenties so reverted to counting squirrel near misses instead and a flock of 'its cold so I'm off' house martin was noteworthy.

The Festival Site was bustling with mainly white haired middle aged ladies looking for a new winter cardigan or a multipack of big knickers all to the accompaniment of piped Daniel O'Donnell ballards. Spring visits to this mall often start with efforts to pick out singing redstart or pied flycatcher from the beech scattered upland slopes that characterise the landscape in this area, no such pleasure today. Browsing complete a somewhat past its best yet robust botanical feature caught my beady eye. From kerbside of the overflow car park was growing vipers bugloss (Echium vulgare). Widespread in England its distribution in Wales is mainly lowland/coastal with the Flora of Monmouthshire showing a small but scattered occurrence.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Same species different bird?

Another quick visit to Tredegar House Lake produced another adult winter Mediterranean gull. I had considered this bird to be the same individual as the one recorded on Sunday 2nd September, but on closer inspection I have my doubts.

2nd September adult winter Mediterranean gull

8th September adult winter Mediterranean gull

The most notable difference between the two birds is the absence of a discernable primary projection in the 8th September bird. Further differences, albeit vague, can be seen in the extent black around the eyes and ear coverts. The bill markings are also appear more defined.  

Sunday, 2 September 2012


Another ringed lesser black backed gull was attracted to my 5p loaf of Hovis at Tredegar House Lake this evening, but rather irritatingly the ring didn't sit kindly to read. Black headed gull, white 29A1 was still about and compensation for the unreadable LBBG was provided in the form of an adult Mediterranean gull.

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