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

Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Chiffchaff all around

Only an hour or so available to me last Sunday so I decided to take in another local woodland. Craig Ddu is an ancient woodland on the lower slopes of Mynydd Varteg Fawr and is skirted by a mosaic of unimproved grassland, a stream and plenty of coal spoil most of which is located on or adjacent to the stream. 

The walk to Graig Ddu was via a footpath from Talywain Rugby Club. Snaking past the clubs main pitch the path emerged into an open landscape of land re-profiling and patchy tree planting schemes. A disused Rugby pitch, still with its rusting posts and clearly unused, is reverting back to rush pasture. A number of chiffchaff were in song accompanied by several greenfinch. Reaching Craig Ddu with its stands of sessile oak and beech I followed the tell tale signs of off road bikers down to an extensive area of coal spoil with its fast running stream. A couple of grey wagtail moved along the stream as I climbed a steep but eroding  tip  to view Mynydd Farteg Fawr. Here the remnants of a lost farmstead could be traced by its ramshackled dry stone wall and several mature trees. A skylark could be heard in the background. Turning for home serveral more chiffchaff were singing and the warmth of a the early spring sunshine brought out a peacock butterfly.

Sunday, 24 March 2019

More Chromatomyia scolopendri

I pass it everyday but never really spent any quality time exploring its contents. Pen - y -lan woodland between Aberyschan and Cwmavon is a steep sided beech and sessile oak ancient woodland that has a former railway line now cycleway and Local Nature Reserve cut through its middle. Due to its steepness I was surprised to find a number of well used desire lines that thankfully aided my journey through this woodland. 

It became evident there were only a few mature trees amongst the many younger specimens. Of those that remained they were principally of beech scattered around extensive earth works that must be a legacy of the nearly railway construction. Bird activity was extensive with a number of pairs of nuthatch, calling great spotted woodpecker and coal tit. In the darker and more humid parts of the wood grew many harts-tongue fern and few carried the distinctive leaf mines of the fly Chromatomyia scolopendri. But beware, although easy to find the fact this fly has a limited distribution in Britain any attempt to have your record accepted by the national recorder will be rejected without a supporting photo.

Saturday, 16 March 2019

Three days in February

Seems a long time ago now but the three days of unseasonal weather in February enabled me to get out of the office at lunchtime to do some stress busting biological recording.

Not far from my base in New Inn, Pontypool is a pleasant riverside walk alongside the Afon Llwyd. A small number of black headed gull and lesser black backed gull pottered around a closely mown Rugby pitch that sits adjacent to the river probing for worms, only to be disturbed by a dog walker, they never returned. The river was still reasonably high but sufficiently low to reveal the characteristic debris of an urban watercourse, including a push bike. A couple of grey wagtail flew southwards and two tree creeper moved from tree to tree. A bank of harts-tongue fern was examined for leaf mines. The underside of one specimen appeared to show the frass of the micro moth harts-tongue smut (Psychoides verhuella) Also in the dappled sun light of the river were a number of early mining bee.

Next days lunch was spent in Pontypool Park and here too I followed the flow of the Afon Llwyd southwards. The warm weather had generated some early spring butterfly activity, with singles of comma, red admiral and small tortoiseshell noted. Another bank of harts-tongue fern was examined, revealing an individual non-native girdled snail and the tell tale sign of the leaf mine of the under fly Chromatomyia scolopendri.

The following day around the Blaenavon minewater treatment reedbed was a singing chiffchaff, the first time I've recorded a singing bird in February.

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