Monday, 2 September 2019

3000 up and a sea watch spectacular

I had been unsure of here to go on Saturday, initially thinking of trying a bit of vis-mig'ing at Lavernock, then payed with the idea of Ogmore for the Wryneck but, following the report of an Aquatic Warb at Llangorse on Friday, I decided to head into Powys.
Not expecting the Aquatic to show but the forecast looked decent to drop a few terns onto the lake. Alas, no terns drooped in during the showers. The best birds were two Hobbies hawking for dragonflies, and a Spotted Flycatcher around the car park/church at Llangasty.
I did pick up a few new ticks for my pan species list, picking up my 3000th species in the UK. Initially I thought this was the Rhubarb growing in the car park at Llangasty, but checking through yesterday it was actually the less conspicuous, but slightly more interesting, fungus Ustilago succisae - an anther smut of Devil's-bit Scabious. I was more pleased to pick up Water Ladybird - a species that has eluded me despite being classed as common in suitable habitat - reed beds.
It was good to meet Mark Waldron and Chris Dyson during the day.

 Ustilago succisae, Small, but actually easy to see as it turns the anthers of Devil's-bit Scabious white.
 Water Ladybird - smaller than I was expecting, and paler.

Sunday was set aside for the annual trip to Strumble Head. The forecast looked good with not-too strong North-westerlies, swinging round to Westerly winds, dry with good visibility. Anticipation grew after seeing the log from Saturday.

It was a late departure for myself, Phil and Martin Bevan (04:00am) getting us to Strumble just as it was getting light enough to watch. In fact the Master of Strumble, Richard Stonier, was on a Balearic Shearwater as we set up, though only Bevan got onto that one.

Those first two hours must have been some of the best sea-watching I've experienced at Strumble with multiple Bonxies, and Arctic Skua's, a single Long-tailed Skua, several Leach's Petrel and a Sooty Shearwater. Risso's Dolphins and Harbour Porpoises providing mammal interest.

If the first two hours were great, the rest of the morning didn't dissappoint - check the Strumble Head Seawatch Facebook page for a full list for the morning - we only missed the Little Gull and Black Tern as we left just after Midday. We didn't get onto every Skua of Leach's Petrel, but we enjoyed great views of many of those we did see.

From Strumble, we dropped into Fishguard Harbour to see if the Black Guillemots were still around. Unfortunately, they had taken their leave, but a few Sandwich Terns were fishing and loafing around the harbour, with a Wheatear on the breakwater.

With the weather being good, we then traveled down to West Williamson, for our annual try for Brown Hairstreak. Although a bit breezy, Phil did manage to pick out a single Brown Hairstreak - a lifer for him.

Sunday, 18 August 2019

Pretty in Pink

An unexpected free day yesterday saw me wander round Parc Penallta and Nelson Bog. Bird life was rather quiet, though a Greylag on the fishing ponds was a surprise. No sign of any Willow Tits at Nelson, to be honest, wasn't a surprise. I hope they are still hanging in there.

Last year I found a couple of spikes of Broad-leaved Helleborine near the fishing lakes. This year I counted 19 spikes, unfortuatelly all now in seed.

There were plenty of Painted Ladies on the wing, with quite a few Peacocks. A female Brimstone showed their second generation was on the wing. I picked up what I think is only my second or third Silver Y of the year - is anyone else seeing these in number or are they scarce this year?

A second moth, flying close the ground over an open area of spoil, I initially expected to be another Silver Y, until I noted the red/orange sides to the body. A Hummingbird Hawkmoth, my first of the year. Unfortunately couldn't get a photo.

Walking round another area of sparsely vegetated spoil and a noticed a small bright pink flower, clearly not Common Centaury. A couple of photo's and I'm thinking a Pink, Dianthus. The flowers showed a variable amount of small white spots on the deep pink petals. A check of the guide, brought me to Deptford Pink, D. armeria, a nationally rare species.

A check on Aderyn when I got home showed over a 100 Welsh records, including a record from 2016 from the same area. In a small area I counted 18 plants, but the total number could be much greater as I only worked a small part of the total area.

When I went to count the number of plants, a flash of gold brought a Clouded Yellow to my attention. As with most insects, the wind made photography almost impossible, so again no photograph.

Thursday, 8 August 2019

WeBS (a bit late)

I only realised on Tuesday that the WeBS weekend was the weekend just past, as it was very early this month. So I undertook the count round Parc Taf Bargoed on Wednesday evening, the first chance I had. Unfortunately when I arrived at the lakes, it didn't look promising as the local canoe club were just finishing packing up, having spent much of the day out on the water.

Nothing unusual on the count, though it did return good numbers of some species. The 124 Mallard (plus the 4 domestics) is my highest ever August count. Given the poor breeding season this year - I can't think of more than 6 broods of ducklings this year compared to the 10+ of previous years - I wasn't expecting  that sort of number. The new BTO website shows this is 10% of all Mallards recorded [so far] on WeBS surveys in East Glamorgan.

Coots produced an all time high of 8. 2 pairs bred, but never got beyond the chicks first couple of days after hatching, the resident Lesser Black-back looking like the most likely cause of the mortality. One pair hatched at least 3 clutches, whilst the second probably matched that number.

Little Grebes returned an August record count of 8. There is, however, no sign of breeding this year. Most years the grebes vacate the lakes in April with a pair returning in June. The growing iris and bulrush clumps usually provide a site for them to build their nest and at least one brood is raised. This year, at least 4 birds were back on the lake by late June, and whilst there was a lot of display and territorial disputes, there was no indication of nest building. The 8 that were present yesterday were all adult birds suggesting that they were all failed breeders this year. Surprisingly, the 8 birds represent over 40% of Little Grebes recorded in this months WeBS in East Glam.

Sunday, 4 August 2019


Interesting gull this morning, looks like 2nd summer/3rd winter Caspian, what do you reckon, answers on a bottle left by the front door, See you.

August Raven Count

The first weekend of the month, so time for the Raven count.
Up at 02:45 and the first thing I heard, on entering the bathroom was a Barn Owl, flight call from the field behind us. This was the first I've heard here for over a year, so nice to know we still have at least one in the locality.
Driving through the dark past Llwydcoed, I saw a large bird about four metres above the lane and around ten metres in front. I quickly stopped and in the light of the headlights, watched it fly away from me for a few seconds and then turn to the right, giving me a nice side view, as it headed off into the field alongside the lane and confirming what I already knew: that it was a Barn Owl and my first view of one, this year.
After that I was on a high, as I travelled to the Raven roost; a high slightly dampened by the sight of all the fresh fly tipping where I park the car.
As I walked to the place I count them from, I heard a Tawny Owl calling from further down the slope and from some disused pit feeder ponds, the unmistakable trilling call of a Little Grebe. This was the first time I had ever heard LG up there, so quite pleased with that.
Once I had set up and sat down, I immediately heard the flight calls of a hunting Nightjar, these being then heard several times over the next half hour.
As usual, I spend the time, waiting in the fading darkness before dawn, listening for and noting any early bird song and calls. This time, the Tawny Owl, Little Grebe and Nightjar were joined by Blackbird (call) Robin (song) and Wren (call).
Later, they were joined by, in no particular order, Dunnock, Lesser Redpoll, Reed Bunting, Herring Gull, Whitethroat, Chiff Chaff, Willow Warbler, Meadow Pipit and Linnet, which to my relief, are still there in good numbers.
In the week after the July Raven count, the part of the hillside adjacent to my counting spot, was burnt. Unfortunately, this was mainly an area of gorse and heather and it was in the gorse that the Linnets nest. As they don't tend to arrive back at the breeding site until quite late on in the spring and nesting still seemed to be underway, when the fire occurred, I feared the worst, but the presence of a flock of 50+ flying about, suggests that at least a proportion of the nests had fledged before the fire.
As for the Ravens: well it has been a funny old summer for them, with low counts in June and July, but at least this month, they were back to something like their usual numbers, with the total of 295 being slightly above the monthly average. It was a treat to see them leave in large groups, rather than in the trickle of pairs and threes that marked the May, June and July counts.

Friday, 2 August 2019

Rhaslas trickle ... .

Slow passage during the last week or so with just small numbers of wader passing through including; dunlin, common sandpiper and redshank, the best being oystercatcher[2] and green sandpiper (southeast pond) on the 29th July. Opencast are extracting water so plenty of mud, we live in hope.

Also plenty of mud on show at Llwyn-onn, with bridge emerged but only juv common sandpiper being noted.

Saturday, 20 July 2019

Sandrunner - First for Wales!

A bit quiet on the birding front over the past few weeks, apart from two major dips - the Slimbridge Little Bustard and Llanelli's Collared Pratincole.

I did have a bit more excitement with other taxa, however. On 7 July, I toursed round a number of sites in Gwent. One of those was Slade Wood, looking for White Admiral and Sliver-washed Fritillary. A single, fly over, White Ad was the best I managed for those species, but in a cleared area I stopped to photograph some plants, including Lesser Centaury, when I noticed a couple of small bugs running around. They looked like Tortoise Shieldbugs, Eurygaster testudinaria, a species I had seen previously at Crymlyn Burrows. I took a couple of photo's, and looking at these I wasn't sure that they were Tortoise S'bugs.

On getting home, and downloading the Photo's, I went onto the excellent British Bugs website to try to confirm the id. A quick check, confirmed they were not Tortoise or even the rarer Scarce Tortoise (E. maura) Shieldbugs, as the head and pronotum shapes were all wrong. A bit more searching and I came to the Sandrunner Shieldbug, Sciocoris cursitans, which looked a perfect match. The only problem, the distribution was given as south-east England. A check on the NBN and Aderyn showed no Welsh records for this species, but NBN did show a cluster of records from the Bristol area.

I posted the photo's onto Facebook, various sites, and all were supportive of the identity. The record was submitted via iRecord and has just been accepted as the first for Wales.