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

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Xanthogramma pedissequum

Another very short stop at Rogiet Countryside Park this male Xanthogramma pedissequum hoverfly was the pick of a lightweight bunch. 

Friday, 30 May 2014


This azure damselfly exuviea was collected from Llandegfedd Reservoir recently. Methinks I should start a voucher collection!

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Living in perfect harmony!

Alright I know we've been here before but the Brynmawr roof top gull colony demands my attention every time I'm there or there abouts - sorry poor sporting cliche. The colony was alive with birds yesterday I counted around 108 and was unable to view the whole site due to some sitting on nests within the valley bottom of the pitched roof and therefore out of sight. My estimate would be closer to 140 with 60% in favour of herring gull. 

I was pleased to see the return of the much travelled Blue CHL standing guard over its sitting mate and was amazed by some of the fortress type defences built mainly by brooding herring gull. 

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Have net will travel

Its The British and its just up the road so convenient for an evening visit of little effort. On this occasion I decided to press into action my sweep net freshly laundered for a new vegetation bashing season.

There is a small watercourse on site that was swollen to a size that required a bit of a leap to clear leaving a fine impression of a walking boot tread in the bank side mud. It was here I met four lads taking advantage of the natural play opportunities provided by this post industrial site that's lettered with Nanny state health and safety disclaimer notices. They engaged in hearty conversation and while one  bashed the heads of a stand of nearby unfurling bracken fronds the others make a reasonable assumption that I was out to catch fish with my net. I would have taken time to explain my real purpose for being there but I couldn't really be bothered after long day in work so I was pleased when an in-flight singing common whitethroat caught my attention so I bid the lads farewell and went in pursuit of a 'whitethroat on top of flowering hawthorn tree' photo.Needless to say the lung busting warbler had no intention of posing for a pic. 

Moving on I deployed the net with increasing gusto stroking through the herbage like an in form KP on a flat wicket. More often than not my efforts were rewarded with little more an a net containing yellow meadow ants. An exception to this was a specimen of a 24 spot ladybird (Subcoccinella 24-punctata). A cuckoo called as I dismantled my gear for ease of transport. 

Saturday, 17 May 2014


It was Rogiet Countryside Park today - not sure why its called a countryside park as the site was fashioned from old railway sidings etc., maybe Rogiet Edgeland Park might have been more apt. To call something other than countryside in Monmouthshire would surely be grounds for gross misconduct. Either way the site is an interesting blend of ponds, herb rich grassland and tree planting with areas that are in urgent need of management. Of interest were a few hairy dragonfly, a single brimstone butterfly and around half a dozen brown argus, at least two reed warbler were also in song. 

Friday, 16 May 2014

Its carnage out there

Having spent last Sunday morning at Llandegfedd Reservoir hoping for a coastal stray but drawing a blank, I happened on this one at lunchtime today near the dam. Unfortunately this gannet was unable to find its way back to his more characteristic marine habitat.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Those of a nervous disposition........

Blackbirds, hedgehogs, rabbits and badgers are frequently encountered splattered on our road network, but its not often a stonechat becomes a victim of the motor car. This male was found on a hillside road in Blaenavon.  

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Otter on the Ebbw

A late posting from earlier this week and its a report of a short visit to the former Marine Colliery and adjacent River Ebbw near Cwm. The colliery site has long since been reclaimed and plateaued in readiness for new sunrise enterprises but with the characteristic obligatory nod and a wink to its past with the incorporation of the collieries pit head wheel as an on site design feature.

The River Ebbw was interesting. A metal bridge spanned the watercourse where features of its industrial past could still be found in a cluster. A gated level with wooden way marker as if part of some newly branded tourist attraction, an attractive weir with evidence of recent shoal removal and structures such as riverside walls and gabion baskets to ensure the watercourse remains straight jacketed along its original route. Some decoration was provided by a long since dumped car in an advanced state of decay with various pieces of river detritus trapped within interior. That said the oak and beech woodland with attractive understorey covered the steep hillside nearby was a delight.

A short walk down the river bank was just enough to whet the appetite for another more time consuming visit one another day. A female mallard with young drifted down stream, a ringed grey wagtail probably part of Dave Cooksey's study put in an intermittent appearance, a fly by dipper. Overhead swifts and house martins had arrived en block while willow warbler, chiffchaff and blackcap sang heartily. A redstart could also be heard but in the distance. However the most noticeable ecological feature was the amount of fresh otter spraint that was clearly visible on a number of the larger in-river stones. 

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Landscape features of heritage value

I've posted about vintage fence posts before (what I hear you say!) but they really are gems in an often featureless landscape. Those that run adjacent to the now disused railway cutting at Waun afon bog are a case in point adding structural diversity to an upland landscape sometimes bereft of focal points. Like sun bleached sentinels their variety in shape and form, age and quality are surely of contemporary cultural value. Like culturally modified trees they are temporary features but with few champions. There's no organised recording project that document these boundary features, so over time will be lost, all to the detriment of future generations. Its a shame that these historic features are made of a natural product; if of stone or metal the full might of CADW and the sliver haired members of local history groups would be crawling all over them.

These ageing fence posts provide excellent nature conservation value. Encrusted with lichen and mosses they offer feeding perches for raptors and smaller upland breeding passerines. At Waun afon recently posts were used by calling stonechat, meadow pipit and even a wren. Butterflies too enjoy alighting on these features.    

Monday, 5 May 2014

Dancing in the sunlight

It was an invert day in the Blaenserchan valley with a first of the year dingy skipper on view along with a number of small copper. Elsewhere amongst the herbage where several small-purple barred, widespread common heath and a dozen or so long horned moths (Adela reamurella) active in the sunshine around a small hawthorn tree. A lumbering bloody nosed beetle was on view along with many slightly more energetic green tiger beetles. Notable birds in song included redstart, wood warbler, tree pipit and garden warbler.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Magor meadowland

Called in to Magor Marsh on my way back from Bristol this afternoon in the hope of finding an odd male garganey or so. No garganey but Cetti's warbler, reed warbler and reed bunting were in song. In the grassland ley just outside of the reserve were 16 mute swan, 3 Canada goose and 3 greylag goose. Invertebrates included a slender ground hopper, a brimstone and the first odonata of the year in the form of several azure damselflies. 

Friday, 2 May 2014

Natural capital - urban street trees

Cut it, bash it, lop it, trim it, hit it, sever it, chip it, fell it and don't re-plant it, pin things to it, nail it, drive in to it, risk assess it, spray around it, strim it, carve it, pee against it, complain about it, neglect it.  Value it - not a chance!
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