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

Friday, 27 June 2014

You've avoided the boiling oil and then........

Usk Castle has adopted a modern day defence system by allowing a stand of giant hogweed to mature within its grounds. Not sure why they've not chosen to deal with this species but it was an interesting sight nonetheless.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Heading east

Dropped down into the Usk Valley for some true country walking in rye grass dominated fields beside the River Usk at Llanwenarth. It was not long before my way was barred by a horse and several immovable tail swishing cows.This had me scrambling down a bank onto the pebble dominated river margin. It was not long before I pick up the call of a common sandpiper actively feeding on the extensive shoal deposited along this part of the river. The soft sandy banks provided nesting opportunities for sand martin with two separate colonies noted. A couple of heron dropped in and a kingfisher and grey wagtail flew past.

Insects were is little thin on the ground and in the air. A stand of nettle edged with thistle supported a number of small tortoiseshell and a fly past red admiral. On the return journey I chased a male clouded yellow through a field until it alighted long enough for a photo. Twelve or more male banded demoiselle danced among riparian herbage.  

Friday, 20 June 2014


A couple of evenings ago I took a bus mans trip to Garn Lakes Local Nature Reserve where I was in search of dragonflies around the recently established reedbed.  Success came in the form of hundreds of scarce blue-tailed damselfly and two black-tailed skimmer. A healthy supporting cast included the reed beetle (Donacia vulgaris), several reed bunting, many hundreds of southern marsh orchid and a single bee orchid.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Welsh Chafer

Another lunchtime One Hour Challenge had me chomping on my sandwiches whilst wandering around a meadow in Llanyrafon - this is multi-tasking in action. An in flight coleoptera alighted on a patch of Rubus and turned out to be the Welsh Chafer (Hoplia philanthus). A not often recorded beetle but under recorded rather than rare I suspect. Same bramble patch supported the large attractive hoverfly (Volucella Bombylans) and in the meadow were a couple of Narrow-bordered Five Spot Burnet moths.

Friday, 13 June 2014

One hour challenge

I like Springwatch especially Unsprung so in true Nick Baker fashion I took the One Hour Lunchtime Challenge hitting the Mon and Brecon Canal for some odonata watching. I was pleased to be able to track down a dozen or so red eyed damselfly among the azure and blue tailed. A tree bee also performed.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Leapt on

A marathon three hour session in the Blaenserchan valley looking for tickable lepidoptera ended in a right royal soaking. This unsuspecting small heath got pounced on by a lying in wait crab spider. The number of active small pearl bordered fritillary peaked six and green hairstreak at just a single. Other notables included an early cinnabar moth. Interesting plants didn't get much beyond a couple of moonwort. 

Saturday, 7 June 2014


Made my way this morning to that large area of bracken and gorse dominated heathland otherwise known as Cwm Lickey. With the skies still dark and the continued threat of another bout of thunder, lighting and heavy rain I didn't venture too far in case of getting caught out by a trouser wetting downpour. Linnet, skylark, tree pipit, meadow pipit, raven, redpoll and willow warbler weren't too difficult to track down. A horse grazed meadow that had clearly been agriculturally improved in recent years was supporting a population of around 150+ common spotted orchid.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Heritage trees

There's a disused forgotten farmstead on the hillside above Blaenavon by the name of Tir Abraham Harry. For readers of the human landscape its not too difficult to trace the remnants of a farm building, some collapsed drystone walls - now covered in bilberry - and a fragmented field boundary of gnarled and stunted hawthorn with two similarly weathered crab apple trees.   

Crab apples are not something often found in the uplands as text says the altitudinal range of this species is about 400 metres. Tracing the contour line on my Landranger puts these two trees at just over this limit. For a landscape elevated to global status for its historical unsustainable use of natural resources its reassuring to find at least some escapees from those scorched earth times.  

Kicking about in this landscape I flushed a sitting meadow pipit and encountered a pair of stonechat defending their nest site, skylark were widespread, a reed bunting sang and linnet and redpoll were frequent. Although is was early morning several large red damselfly were on the wing and the attractive upland click beetle was in flight.

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