Thursday, 28 January 2016

Green Elves in Llwydcoed

Early this afternoon, just before the rain turned persistent, I paid a brief microfungi hunting visit to a woods in Llwydcoed. I collected a few specimens to examine under the microscope, but one little beauty I didn't have to collect was Green Elf-cup, growing on a rotten ash trunk. I have seen it on that trunk previously and also posted photos of it, but today, it was in its prime and I couldn't resist taking some shots of it.

Green Elf-cup

I also found more of the distinctive alga, Phycopeltis arundinacea, colonising the surfaces of Ivy leaves.

Hundreds of tiny colonies of Phycopeltis arundinacea, covering the surface of the leaf.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Grey Trigger fish

Did you see on the Gower blog the fish we saw on the strand line at Whitford was a Grey Trigger fish .

Couple more shots from Sunday

We got there nice and early and had the Lesser Scaup in the same place as last year. Was amazed by the number of Tufted Duck present on site also found a good variety of other ducks which were Pochard, 3 Teal, Gadwall.  4 Shoveler, 1 female Wigeon  and also had a few Great Crested Grebes. One pair were starting to display, poor things must think spring is around the corner. Also present was 1 Little Grebe. It was also interesting too see some of the Mute Swan were wearing rings and must have be done by local ringing group. We found one Common Gull in with the Black Headed Gulls. I noticed a small noisy White Duck, it did not shut up all the time when we were near it and I have been told it's a Callling Duck or Decoy Duck and are descended from Mallard and first bred in the Netherlands in the 17th century. A Bantam Breed and a bit smaller than our Blog Member Mr Gaze and just has noisy. We found Cogdon Wood with the help from Wayne Strong and his directions were spot on and no sooner had we got to the bench birds appeared very fast wanting food. We almost  had a Blue Tit on the hand and within minutes the sneezing call of Marsh Tit was heard and two birds give fairly good views. Also Jays were coming in for a look so they must come there for food regular too. It was a new site for me and one I think needs a second vist. Last off was a trip to Lamby Lake too look for Med Gull. On getting there the carpark was full and there was a burnt out car in the car park, not a great start. On getting to the lake we found it was full of anglers and bird wise was very quiet apart from a couple of Mallard and small numbers of Tufted Duck. Other birds seen were 1 Great Crseted Grebe, Coot, Mute Swans, Canada Geese and a handful of Black Headed Gulls. I had taken bread to feed the gulls and has we had saw Gulls on the river on the way in we headed over there to check for Med Gull. On getting there we so about 50  Black Headed Gulls sitting on the mud with a few Redshank. We decided to go up on the Bridge and look down steam and found good numbers of Teal on the river bank, some more Redshank and about dozen Canada Geese. I then decided to throw the bread off the bridge and there was about two hundred Black Headed Gulls coming in to feed on the bread giving brilliant flight views but still no Med Gull and one we will have too save for another day .

Garwnant Shrike

Message from Llwyn onn rangers; great grey shrike seen yesterday pm in clear-fell south of farm. I've dipped every visit so far, best being woodcock on the 20th.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Cosmeston and Lamby

A few record shots from this morning's short trip with Mr Bevan where we bumped into Mr Bell for awhile at Cosmeston. No sign of the Bittern but we picked up the Lesser Scaup and in Cogden Woods two Marsh Tits gave some stunning close views.
Marsh Tit


Common Gull

Barn Owl

Black Headed Gull

Black Headed Gull

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Dog toothed Lichens

I've been trying to get to grips with some of the Lichens that are noticable at the moment. The Dog-toothed Lichens, Peltigera, look to offer a good starting position. So far I've managed to identify 3 species.

The commonest is P. hymenina, which as well as being the most commonly recorded Dog-tooth in the west of the UK, it is characterised by the large number of Sordia it produces  These are the raised red spore bearing protuberances at the edge of the leaf. P.rufescens is also characterised by the large number of sordia, buth in this species they are wider than they are long

 Slightly similar is P. membranacea, but this is easilly identified by the uneven surface, reflecting the pattern of the veins.

Less common, but easilly identifiable is P. neckeri. The dark Sordia being the key point to note.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Some Easy Microfungi for Mr Bell's 1000

I was out this afternoon and came across four microfungi, which as they are easily identified in the field, with no more than a hand lens, I thought would be of use to Martin in his PWC.

The first is Appendiculella calostroma, which causes dark, blotches on the surface of sheltered bramble leaves at this time of year. The blotches often merge together to form blackened, sooty looking areas on the upper surface of the leaves and stems. Look closer and you will see that each blotch is a diffuse, dark web, with black blobs on it, near the middle.

It looks shiny in this pic, because the leaf was wet, When dry it is matt.
Under the microscope it looks like this, but it is distinctive enough in the field to make using a microscope unnecessary.

Don't be fooled bt the purple spots that are common in brambles, Those are caused by the rust Phragmidium violaceum. The easy way to be sure is to look underneath the leaf. The purple spots of P. violaceum are visible on both sides, with a black felty looking spot (the spores) often present in the middle of the spot under the leaf. A calostroma is usually found only on the upper surface and can be scraped off.

If you look closely at Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum) at the moment, you will sometimes find lots of these tiny black dots on the leaves and petioles. It is a microfungus called Coleroa robertiani.

The black dots are the fungus. What the springtails are eating, I don't know.
If you examine ash keys, picked up off the ground, you will see small black dots on the surface. A closer look will reveal that those on the thick part are larger than those on the wing. That is because they are two different fungi. The one on the wing is always Phoma samararum (Stagnospora samarorum) and the ones on the seed end are Diaporthe samaricola (it has has a name change).

Two for the price of one. Diaporthe samaricola on the thicker areas and the much
smaller Phoma samararum (Stagnospora samarorum) on the thin wing area.
I hope this helps in getting to your 1000 species. By the way, I've just found out that the large blotches you see on ivy leaves are Phoma hedericola.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

First Hazel

I had a look around the Merthyr Tunnel area yesterday and amongst other things, found dome Hazel catkins already shedding pollen, so I whipped out a moth pot and shook some of the pollen into it. Pollen is funny old stuff and viewing it with a microscope is a bit of a palaver. There is a coating of oil on the surface of the grains which has to be removed using alchohol and then they have to be hydrated, to their nice plump best.
That done, they look like this.

Hazel Pollen. Unstained. x400

However, the best way to view them is stained with Basic Fuchsin, which makes them look like this and any detail easier to see.

Stained with Basic Fuchsin. x400

Each division of the scale equals 2.50 microns (1 micron is 1/1000th of a millimetre.

Anyone know how to get Fuchsin stains of one's fingers? Must remember to wear gloves next time!

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Abercwmboi Lake

On Monday I went too the Lake to see the Swans and was shocked too see they had gone and before I got them for my year list in the Valley. There was big numbers of Wildfowl though and when I was checking the Mallard for something better I found a Green Sandpiper roosting  near them. Also got 23 Coot, 11 Moorhen, 20 Mallard, 10 Cormorant and a drake Goosander and found my first Lesser Redpoll of the year. I walked right down to the bottom corner of the lake where I was hoping the swans may have been, there was no sign and when I was walking back I found this Drake Pochard which was a nice bonus. I have not seen Pochard on the lake for years. I went back today. still no swans but a lot more ice now, the Pochard is still present but no sign of the Green Sandpiper. I got 8 Little Grebes together and both Canada and Greylag present today has well. The shots are from today just incase you think I am stringing the Pochard.

It's funny how the Guelder Rose never same too get eaten and the Japanesse Knotweed looks great with frost on it .

Monday, 18 January 2016

Long hop to Whiteford

Eider calling, mud on your boots and some bugger has filled up one of my pockets with broken shells and sand, must be Whiteford. Called in at Llangorse this pm but not much on show and no sign of any bittern. On the way home called in at Pontsticill for dusk WeBS but no white wings and a complete lack of deviants just; herring gull[820], lesser black back[15] and a single black headed. At the dentist this morning I was offered root canal work for a mere £2000, just think what you could have done in Thailand for £2000.

Whitford Record Shots

Brent Geese



Snow Bunting

Snow Bunting

Snow Bunting

Snow Bunting

Crazy Couple of Days

I got up early to do my Webs on Saturday morning and found it very icy and dangerous. On arriving at Tir Founder Fields I found that all the ponds were frozen and pretty much free of wildfowl apart from a couple Grey Herons, 2 Water Rail and 4 Common Snipe, it was so quiet I was starting to wish I had stayed in bed. But I always try and to make the most of the visit. I dropped down to the edge of the reedbeds too look for Water Rail and see if I could find anymore Snipe when I heard a noise which always gets me, it was a tack and a noise I  have got used to over the years and it belongs to a Cetti Warbler. I thought it had moved on with the cold snap and was very surprised to hear a second bird calling very close by and the icing on the cake was when one bird jumped up onto a sedge and showed very briefly, it made my day. Could this be the year when we get breeding Cetti's in the valley. As I followed the river up I found my first wildfowl two Teal and two Mallard. Little did I know that was it for ducks and on getting too the Ynys I found a Tit lock and in the flock was one Willow Tit which finished my Webs on a high .

On Sunday got up early again and meet with three other members of the Blog to travel down to the Gower and visit Whitford Point. We all felt like we need the Exercise for our up coming trip to Thailand and it did the trick. We walked down to the marsh and starting to look for Snipe, it was very slow and in places hard work but eventually we got a flock of six common Snipe and could hear a curlew calling in the back ground. On we went and just as I stopped to call too call to Phil I found a Jack Snipe very close to me and within minutes we had two more and great views were had by all. We carried on along the path which was flooded in parts so we took a couple of detours and skirted along the forest edge until we got to the beach and walked along towards the Lighthouse looking for the Snow Buntings that had been reported the day before. We walked a long way up the beach and saw lots of Waders, big flocks of Oystercatcher and Turnstones and a small group of Sandling racing along the beach. It was great to see big numbers of Brent Geese and 5 Great Northern Divers very close to the shore and our only Red Breasted Merganser and a cracking male too. We also got our first Eiders, all female apart from a fly by drake and has we walked the tide line we found lots of cuttlefish and a few dead sea birds like 2 Gannets, 2 Razorbills and a Shag. Martin Bell found some Goose Barnacles which were new to most of us and great too see. We got to a point where we thought there is no sign of the buntings so we had better go back to the hide and meet with the bird club which were down on a club trip. As we got to the hide we got Grey Plover, Dunlin and a nice close flock of Eiders, all drakes and only one female. It was great to meet up with the club and nice too see Alan Rosney and Gareth Jenkins also to hear news that the Snow Buntings had been seen up the beach where we had just come from. We all felt we had to try again. We heard Jeff Slocombe and Peter Morgan were the lucky finders and and they said they were going back for a better look so we joined them for the walk. We felt like we had checked every clump of seaweed for miles and got to a point where we felt we needed a brew and sat on a log and had some of Mike Hogan cracking chocolate. After resting on we went and just as we thought they had gone I spotted the pair of Snow Bunting feeding on the edge of the dunes. They obliged with brilliant views, the male was stunning, best bird of the day and made the walk seem worth it. Has we watched them getting a buzz of seeing them feed the birds took of and I watched them going higher and higher in the sky and flying towards the club coming up the beach and felt sick they had missed them. Later we heard that due to Jeff's fast thinking, he had phoned them and the club managed to get them through the scope, I bet they were happy. On getting back to the car it was decided we would try the local Harrier roost at Llanrhidian marshes. We got there and set up ready for the birds coming in and while we were waitting we got great views of two Great White Egrets, lots of Litttle Egrets, some big flocks of Lapwing and our first Golden Plover of the day. I got onto a Merlin chasing a bird through the sky, it was going up and up before the Merlin caught the the bird which looked like a Snipe. it then dropped like a stone and landed to eat his meal but sadly out of view. The birds came up again and this time it was a Peregrine but it was not lucky and missed its prey and flew off low over the floor and away. The light was starting to go and Martin spotted a Ringtail coming from our right which turned out to be a Hen Harrier and give great views has it passed by. We then decided it was time to head for the hills and call it a day and a great day it was too.