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

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Naturalist - Dr. Mary Gillham

Last weekend saw the South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre (SEWBReC) celebrate 10 years of collating the records of an army of dedicated volunteer recorders, at a jamboree in Tonypandy. Amongst an inspiring programme of speakers that included talks about the Silurian moth and colliery spoil (yippee!) was a tribute to the celebrated Cardiff naturalist Dr. Mary Gillham.

On arrival I was thrilled to find that some of Mary's extensive library was on sale to attendees for just an appropriate donation. I was therefore pleased to be able to pick up a little slice of the social history of the study of nature in south Wales including the book Swansea Bay's Green Mantle: Wildlife on an Industrial Coast (1982) which was a signed copy.

I was only able to meet Mary on one occasion, when at short notice Juilan Branscombe (former GWT Chief Executive) asked if I could take a party from Cardiff Naturalists' Society around Magor Marsh. My overriding memory of the walk was Mary's ability to identify a couple of stoneworts not just by their English names but Latin as well. The talk on Saturday was a fitting tribute to the life one of Wales' great modern day naturalists. 

Footnote:- whilst browsing the Healthy Planet bookshop in Pontypool during my lunchtime earlier this week it was something of a coincidence to find a copy of one of Mary's early books Sub-Antarctic Sanctuary (1967), thereby adding to my mini collection of Gillham books.

Should you want to know more about the life and times of Dr Mary Gillham visit the Cardiff Naturalists' Society website via the link on this blog.  

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Normal service resumed

For me photographing gulls is a bit like taking candy from a baby. These black headed gulls, with a selection of developing summer head plumage's, were happy to line up in single file. There were plenty of gulls along Newport riverfront but none with rings. Earlier at Tredegar House Lake an adult winter Mediterranean gull was picked out amongst the black headed gulls. This site is becoming something of a banker for Meds.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Iceland Gull?

Having succumbed to the odd embarrassing error recently I've now taken to going out on the world wide web to seek confirmation of my latest conundrum and to purge my new found identification insecurities. This bird was photographed yesterday amongst a gathering of over 100 gull on the roof top of an industrial building opposite Asda Brynmawr.

The photographs are not the best quality as they were taken looking into the sunlight and I only managed six shots before all birds took flight scattering to four winds never to return. Unless this is some leucistic jobbie I'm ticking the Iceland box. But you may think otherwise! 

Saturday, 8 February 2014


Cwmbran Boating Lake was a watery world of rushing river and murky ponds. The lake itself was pepper -potted with bird life, up to 75 black headed gull, 3 herring gull, 17 Canada goose, 6 coot, 8 moorhen and a water rail that was at home on the weather beaten wreckage of a floating island. This kingfisher, displaced from the nearby Afon Llwyd took advantage of the minnows trapped in the kiddies paddling pool, tree hopping to secure the best vantage point from which to exercise its pinpoint attack.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

People are engaging

One tends to get some strange looks walking about in public places with binoculars and camera. This weekend a number of people stopped to share their recent experiences of flooding and high spring tides as if my only purpose for peering over the Riverfront railings was to survey the impacts of a rising tide. When I have chance to break from this dialogue of nods and yeahs I explain that my interest is in wildlife and in the case of Newport Riverfront this means gulls - better known as seagulls to most people. This often has the affect of cutting the conversation stone dead or at least introducing an extended pause before they change tack to tell me about the local heron. Nonetheless I enjoy engaging with passers by as it gives me an opportunity return the boredom by enthusing about the wonders of the natural world, but you do meet some genuinely interesting people. Take for example a couple of weeks ago on a wet and windy afternoon off the beaten track in woodland near Talywain. The only person I saw was a local photographer who after exchanging pleasantries revealed he was related to Newport birder Carl Downing. Its a small watery world.

As you may have noticed I've got my eye in with Mediterranean gulls these days. No need to bother with the hit or miss access arrangements to scan the gull roost at Llandegfedd Reservoir as these birds are more frequent in accessible urban locations. Nonetheless the adult winter bird present on the River Usk outside the Riverfront Theater was the first for me at this location. Also kicking around the muddy margins was that multi-ringed redshank - still no BTO response to this bird!

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