Saturday, 19 August 2017

Skua's in the bag

With a rare Saturday free from coaching duties and a favourable forecast I made a late decision to head over to Strumble Head for my first seawatch of the year, picking up 11 British year ticks. Arriving bright and early, about 4:50am, I was first into the shelter, but it didn't take long before others arrived, including two who had traveled down from Liverpool for the day. As dawn broke the birding began. A couple of minutes into it and I picked up 3 Storm Petrels heading past, unfortuately no one else was able to get onto these, or the next two I picked up about half an hour later. Others were picked through the day though, as usual, I failed to connect with any of these. A bit galling partic' as one was thought for a short while to be minus any white underwing bar.

It was the the turn of the Skua's to put in apearences with strong showings from Bonxies and Arctic's but the single Pom and Long-tailed were enjoyed by all (a second, Adult, Pom was picked up after I left.)

A couple of Balearic Shears looked to be the sum total of the rarer fare until a Sooty was picked up. A Summer plumage Sab's Gull was well watched as it drifted slowly past. Several Sandwich Terns and 2 Little Terns were also nice fillers for the days list.

Away from the birds, up to 4 Sunfish, and up to a dozen Short-beaked Common Dolphins joined the regular Harbour Porpoise and Grey Seals.

Friday, 18 August 2017


Found deceased juvenile brown-long-eared yesterday, you can see how they can be confused with grey long-eared. Bird wise just small numbers of the usual passage birds going through and occasional aged common darters in out of the wind sun traps.

Sunday, 13 August 2017



Mr Bevan of somewhere north of Cardiff, said "I'm disgusted that there are no police available to look into it, so I'm having to do it myself. Is this what I pay my taxes for?" A spokesman for South Wales Constabulary commented that he was unable to comment.

Monday, 7 August 2017


Those of you who are on Facebook will realise that this is a copy and paste from my post there, but I thought I'd post it here too, for those not on FB and I wasn't bloody well going to write it all again!

Up at three on Sunday morning, to do August's raven count. It was dry, mild and calm, so I was hopeful of a comfortable and easy count ... WRONG!As I drove up the valley, I began to encounter patches of valley fog and crossing the high point on my way over to Merthyr, there was hill fog too: Bugger!I was in the car and half way there, so I decided to give it a go anyway. As the ravens usually begin flying out when the pre dawn twilight is still just a glimmer, anything that reduces contrast can make the already difficult to see ravens completely invisible, so as I carried on to the roost, I hoped that they wouldn't start leaving until it was reasonably light.

My counting spot, with a fog shrouded valley behind.

View up the slop towards the roost; somewhere in the fog.
At the roost, the hill fog was patchy and although the temperatures were hovering around 7.50C, there was no breeze and it actually felt quite pleasant as I sat there, marvelling at the complete lack of bird sounds. The only sound, in fact, was the drone of petrol leaf blowers and a road sweeper coming from the centre of Aberdare town, over 1.5 miles away, as the council clear the debris from the Saturday night revels.The fog came and went, thickened and thinned, but was always there, at least in part, so it was with great relief that the ravens did indeed start leaving later, but even so, although I could see some to count, I knew I was missing others. Luckily, ravens have distinctively individual voices, so if all the members of a group are calling as they fly, it is possible to work out how many there are. Obviously, that only works for the ones that call; the the ones that don't, pass invisibly, unheeded and uncounted. I always make the count in the first half of the month, so that no two successive counts are too close together. This weekend was my first chance, but next weekend I will be unavailable, so this was my only chance this month and whatever total I got would have to stand, but qualified by the knowledge that inevitably, some birds would have been missed. As it turned out, I don't think I missed that many (probably no more than a dozen) and the total of 157, although the second lowest August count, actually continues a general downward trend.
It was interesting, while waiting for the ravens to start, to hear the single call of an oystercatcher overhead. Other birds noted were, in order of appearance: Buzzard, Robin, Mallard, Wren, Dunnock, Lesser Redpoll, Carrion Crow, Linnet, Tree Pipit, Whitethroat, Chiff Chaff, Reed Bunting, Green Woodpecker, Meadow Pipit, Wood Pigeon, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Stonechat.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Cwm Cadlan

I have been planning for a couple weeks to go up the Dragonfly ponds near the limestone pavement, I almost got there a couple off weeks ago with Phil but the heavens opened up. Today was hit and miss so I sat in the car and I thought I am here now so go for it. The temperature was not very warm and it was cloudy but has I got halfway up the sun came out for a bit and I thought maybe I will be lucky. When I got to the pond I found a couple of  Emerald Damselflies and a freshly emerged Common Hawker Dragonfly, it was hugging the south bank and down low in the rush but unless I had a small boat or I could walk on water I had no chance of getting any photos. So I sat down for a bit and I found this very wet Drinker Moth Caterpillar and after that things got better and I found another three Common Hawkers, The one I picked up was in area where he was being blown about so I picked it up and put it in a sheltered part to dry out and it does not matter how many times you see this it still gives me a buzz.

I found this larvae in a small flooded on  the side of the pond and I was trying to get close and slow take the grass down in front of it and it just dropped in the water and it was floating on the surface and little did I know there was nobody home and it was empty and the dragonfly had already emerged.

On the limestone Pavement there were Meadow Pipits everywhere and a couple of Skylarks and a single Wheatear and when I got back to the car I had a bird flying low over the floor and fast and I thought cuckoo but on looking closer it was this Sparrowhawk. She must have thought she was in Mountain Mars Bar central with so many Pipits, I also had a fly over Tree Pipit. Down by the cattle grid there was birds everywhere, I saw loads of Stonechat and a couple of young Wheatears and more Pipits .

Friday, 4 August 2017


Quiet couple of days with an oystercatcher flying in at 10:30 this morning, still there when I left at 11:30 trying to impress a traffic cone.

Abercwmboi Lake

I was working in Abercwmboi yesterday and in between showers I nipped over the lake to check how the swans were doing. I could see they were in the far corner with all seven youngster still present and they are looking healthy. As I stood there I could hear a Kingfisher and within seconds I had a blue flash over me. It looked at one point it was about to land but it saw me and went off like a rocket around the corner and out off sight. Has I walked around I found a load of these big fungus and as they are growing under birch I thought its a good chance that they are Brown Birch Boletes. I was also checking the Alder for  Alder Tongue Fungus and I found two trees with it on. I also saw a couple of butterflies which were Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, 1 Small Heath, 1 Red Admiral and about a dozen Common Blues but apart from one male they all seemed to be female type. Also present on site I got  two Dragonflies which were Common Darter and a male Southern Hawker.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Still Waiting

Every year I go over to Robertstown north to check on the Collard Earth Star Fungus and I always seem to get there too late and they have already been damaged by the weather or people walking over them and has they grow along the path its easlier done. So this year I have been checking for the last couple of weeks and it was great today to find this one. I know its a bad photo and looks more like a bread roll but it made my day and watch this space .

Tuesday, 1 August 2017


Quiet morning, just about to leave, when a single bar-tailed godwit flew in from the north at 08:30, did 3 laps before finally landing on west point. I left when the next shower arrived but by this time the bird had disappeared, also TC had a little ringed plover earlier but I failed to connect.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Pentwyn Reservoir VC42

Dropped in at 09:15 and osprey perched in Scots Pine on northeast bank, went back to car for camera and it had gone. Eventually got a high distant flight shot as it returned to fishing at the north end, still present at 09:30.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

when is a tick not a tick?

A short walk out this morning, didn't produce and large mammal sightings but a number of smaller critters took my attention.  The first was an Orange Ladybird - I've only see one of these prior to this year, but I've seen several so far this year - followed by a Red-legged Shieldbug/Forest Bug.

My first new species was the small Soldier Fly, Black-horned Gem Microchrysa polita sitting on a Sycamore leaf. This was followed by finding the egg sack, and attendant female spider, Paidiscura pallens, a species Mark put me onto a couple of years ago, under another Sycamore leaf. 

  Black-horned Gem

  The "sputnik" shaped egg sack and attendant mum of Paidiscura pallens

The same leaf also sheltered several Common Sycamore Aphids, Drepanosiphum platanoidis including two that appeared to be sat over some form of spangle gall. A bit of investigating has discovered that the "gall" is, in fact, the cocoon of the parasitoid wasp Dyscritulus planiceps. A check on NBN Atlas shows only 6 records for this species across the UK, and none in Wales! Is it that rare, or just overlooked? It might be worth looking under the leaves of Sycamores to see if you can find any aphids apparently sitting over a 2-3mm wide disk.

                                 Mummified Sycamore Aphid and Dyscritulus planiceps cocoon

As I didn't see the wasp itself, so whilst the species is recorded, can I tick it?

Friday, 28 July 2017

Cwm Cadlan Tonight

Driving back on the A470 south from Brecon tonight I decided to turn off and drive over Cwm Cadlan. Weather conditions were not ideal with mist and rain.

However things improved when a young fox cub kept crossing the road in front of me, shameful to say I think that is my first fox sighting of the year. One hundred yards up the road things got a lot better when a badger run across in front of the car, not a common occurrence by any stretch of the imagination so I was well pleased.

Holy Moly

 When I was walking the dog over Robertstown north last week I found this dead Mole and I was amazed how big the front feet were, they were like to bullnose shovels. The only downside was there were no Sexton Beetles on its body. Also over the field was my first Leucozona Glaucia Hoverfly and always great to see these colourful Hoverflies. Also of note I see Mark had Alder Tongue fungus in Cwmdare yesterday and when I checked an Alder I had walked passed hundreds of times this morning I found it staight away. Maybe because it's just coming out it's lighter and easier too find.

Thursday, 27 July 2017


Picked up a juvenile marsh harrier to the southeast of the pool at c08:30, watched it make a kill then take c40 minutes to eat, process and excrete before continuing hunting. Within minutes it had made another kill, this time to the east of mid pool. Cracking, the flying equivalent of Aldi's Rum Raisin & Nut.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017


Phone call from Phil this a.m. alerted me that 9 Common Scoter had been reported from Rhaslas. I was on the hospital run so couldn't get there until 11:30 when 7 birds still remained. Birds still present at 17:10 when Geri noted them when walking the dogs. Well done to the early morning birder, second record for the site, Geri had 3 in April 1997.
No mud at Rhaslas, (no summer water extraction, no dust suppression at Ffos yr Fran, no one cares) so waders thin on the ground at the moment with just occasional singles of redshank (image from the 18th), dunlin, little ringed plover and common sandpiper.
I think this my first black-tailed skimmer from Rhaslas (image from the 6th) has anyone else had them there.

Monday, 24 July 2017


An early start on Sunday saw myself, Martin Bevan and Phil head over to Nottinghamshire to catch up with the breeding Bee-eaters, and hopefully getting better views than our previous visit to the breeding bird on the Isle of Wight. It was quite overcast on arrival but it wasn't long before we heard our first Bee-eater call, alarming as a Sparrowhawk flew over. Not long after the first bird was seen hawking over one of the gravel pits before perching on a distant tree. It wasn't long before it was joined by a second bird. The light remained poor and the birds distant to allow for any decent photographs. After over a hour, with up to 4 Bee-eaters showing we headed back to the car, but not before we had great looks of two perched quite close to the main road on the overhead wires, allowing great photo opportunities.

Such a great looking bird, but surely wrongly named It's an A*-eater!

We then followed that with a trip to Fermyn Woods to try for Purple Emperor. No luck with the Emperor but we recorded 40+ Purple Hairsteaks, a single White Admiral, many Silver-washed Fritilary(to his shame, these were Mr Bevans first fritilaries of the year)

Monday, 17 July 2017

Right Place, Right Time

Driving over to Merthyr Common this morning, I saw to my right a young Cuckoo sitting on a wall. I managed to take one very bad photo with my phone before it flew onto another wall a little further away. I noticed a layby just along the road so pulled in, grabbed my camera and started to walk back then realised my battery had gone. Run back to the car, changed the battery, looked around and was pleasantly surprised to see a Meadow Pipit right next to the Cuckoo with food in its mouth. I only managed to rattle off a few record shots.

Sunday, 16 July 2017


Mark recently posted on Facebook a picture of what he believed was the harvestman Dicranopalpus ramosus, a species that has colonised from the mediteranean area over the past few decades. The species is, or was, easily identified by it's habit of siting with all 8 legs stretched out to the side. I say "was", as a response to Marks post indicated a second species of Dicranopalpus was now recognised and had been found in the UK, D. caudatus. 

A bit of a Google search found a paper on the two species, that included some useful photographs. D. caudatus is a slightly smaller beast that D. ramosus, but the shape of the "body" appears sufficiently different to allow either species to be identified. This sent my looking back through my photo's.

It looks like I've managed to photograph both spp this year.

This, I think, is a female D. ramosus as the body clearly broadens behind the rear legs.

whilst this is, I think, a female D. caudatus, lacking the noticable broadening of the body behind the legs, what broadening there is, is slight. 

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Slim pickings

Not much free time the last month or so and when I did get out, usually in the wrong place and/or the wrong time. Called in at Rhaslas this morning and hopefully passage is kicking off with 2 dunlin and a single common sandpiper present. At the Neuadd on the 5th a very vocal juvenile common sandpiper and several keeled skimmers using the rush shrouded streams where once a reservoir stood. At Talybont reservoir on the 1st 3 common sandpipers and 3 little egret. Moth wise a shark in the garden trap on the 28th June was a tick.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Perciverence pays off

After been shown my first Broad-leaved Helleborine by Mr Bevan a few years back I've been searching my local woods for the species, to no avail..... until this afternoon when I stumbled upon two plants. Both had been damaged but were still full of life. One had just opened it's first flower.
A couple of critters from this afternoons walk.
                              The "Mediteranean" Harvestman Dicranopalpus ramosus.
                                           Orange Ladybird
                                         Orange-legged Furrow Bee Halictus rubicundus