Promoting observation, free range exploration, sense of place and citizen science.







Thursday, 30 June 2016

Pteridomania



My first thoughts were limestone fern a species that's something of an enigma to me. Apparently recorded in their thousands on exposed east facing slopes around Blaenavon I've yet to find them myself. That's why when examining a disused agricultural building complete with post-medieval enclosures north of the Keeper's Pond known as Pen-Rhiw-Ifor, it was a fair assumption that the extensive population of ferns growing from the mortar of the brickwork were in fact the infamous limestone fern. Alas after closer examination they weren't, but there were a interesting diversity of ferns on view nonetheless.


Brittle Bladder Fern


Hard Fern

Maidenhair Spleenwort & Harts Tongue Fern

Maidenhair Spleenwort

Lemon Scented Fern

Wall Rue








Wednesday, 22 June 2016

The vista



There's some truth in the saying 'you're a grumpy old man'. As I'm getting older my intolerance and propensity to irritation have increased markedly and it doesn't take much for me to step on to my metaphorical soap box. For example my walk up to Coity Pond behind Big Pit, Blaenavon is a case in point. This is a nice linear feeder pond that was once used to support the activities of the pit and is now a significant biological resource. My visit to conduct the annual moonwort count, of which there are only 31 this year, was marred by a plethora of crisp white private land signage. Whilst access is still available its limited to just the eastern side. And here I go! I detest the creeping privatisation of green space - something that's increased stealthily during these times of austerity. I'm sure someone will correct me if not factual but it's my understanding this pond is (was) part of the Big Pit complex and therefore government owned. If this is the case, limited access flies in the face of public bodies well-being obligations. A bit bullish I know, but I won't be prevented from accessing land that I've used all my life!


With that off my chest the pond supported four male tufted duck and a single cormorant. Calling from its immediate environs were reed bunting, tree pipit, stonechat and linnet. A distant peregrine also called. On the invertebrate front a green tiger beetle showed well and a flowering cotoneaster shrub provide a source of nectar for a number of tree wasps and early bumblebees. Bashing a broom bush produced a record of broom bush beetle.













Saturday, 18 June 2016

One wet evening



The American Gardens above Pontypool Park is something of a local novelty. A collection of redwood trees,other conifers and various rhododendrons grow in an entanglement around a roadside pond. For years devoid of management the dark overgrown domination of rhododendron has now given way to a new feeling of openness and light. Selective felling and a pond makeover has now put the site on the naturalists itinerary. 


Between rain showers and a visit to the local supermarket I risked a foot drenching for a short walk around these gardens. The pond supported a couple of male mallard and several black domesticated fowl.. A coal tit called as I examined a discarded tree trunk complete with chicken in the woods fungi. The only invertebrate of note was the long horn moth  Nematopogon schwarziellus



Saturday, 11 June 2016

Shrouded in mystery



Its not the semi-buried miners helmet or the recently discovered stash of unused NCB branded pit props that gets me to Forgeside, its the myriad of hidden wildlife that's grown to forgive the worst excesses of human exploitation. In nature time is a great healer, and for me this is a much more interesting narrative than the overpowering retrospectivness that's enveloped this community. That said much of the wildlife I cherish as a local born and bred naturalist is only there because the landscape has been wrung out and left to dry by former economic activity.



On the Gilchrist Thomas Industrial Estate there's an area of limestone slag - a by product of the Blaenavon Ironworks - that seems to have eluded those keen on industrial artifacts. Whilst there's much tub thumping about the damage caused to spoil tips by bikers this unique habitat is being nibbled away by the operational requirements of a nearby business, all of which appears to be beyond the gaze of landscape historians.

The recent warm weather has been ideal for invertebrate watching. Sweep netting through the verdant vegetation that's now a welcome feature of Blaenavon will reveal much for a biological recorder. A few examples are illustrated below.

Mottled Grasshopper
Nemophora degeerella
Micropterix aruncella



Thursday, 2 June 2016

Wash day blues



 Monday evening I fell down. Plodding through the indiscriminate upland environment that is Garn yr erw the Molina grassland hid some substantial sodden caverns and over I went! This gymnastic event produced two wet feet, one of which extended a good way up my trouser leg covering it with a peaty, red oxide cocktail. Those in my household who know about such things, claim, with some assertiveness that my Tesco discount jeans are now ruined.




Before I went face down in a bilberry bush it was pleasing to produce a count of 31 moonwort from a walkway spoil tip. There were at least two pair of calling stonechat and an a male wheatear in alarm mode. A heron went north, two mallard went east, a couple of swift went west and a lesser black backed gull was all over the place. The hidden gem that is the former industrial reservoir at Garn yr erw was complete with discarded camping/fishing kit but supported a four egg carrion crow nest in a single waterside willow tree. The nest was constructed of brittle heather stems of a type that is a remnant of heather burning.




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