Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Return to Shapwick

The two Martin's and myself went over to Shapwick again on Sunday primarily to try and see the Little Bittern and hopefully catch up with some Dragonfly species.

The Little Bittern was soon in the bag but unfortunately we could not find the female Red Footed Falcon which had been found just before we arrived. Lots of views of Bittern including two on the ground, Hobbies, Marsh Harriers etc. A nice bonus was four views of a Barn Owl hunting in the day, twice seen carrying quite a large prey back towards its nest box.

Some nice dragonflies were found including our main target Scarce Chaser.

To split the journey up on the way home we called into Goldcliff for the Curlew Sandpiper which had been reported there and before long Mr Bell found the gorgeous nearly full red summer plumaged bird.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Nant Hir

I visited the Tir Mawr y Dderi Hir SSSI today and was chuffed to see my first Spotted Flycatcher of the year, right by the Nant Hir.
The damp grassland at the north of the SSSI had loads of the large and striking froghopper Cercopis vulnerata.

Earlier in the visit, while trying to photograph this spectacular Cardinal Beetle, I discovered that my macro lens has developed a serious fault and will only focus between 30 and 70cm. Happy days!

The Black-headed Cardinal Beetle (Pyrochroa coccinea)

Friday, 26 May 2017

Ruby tailed Wasp

I was working in Brynifor today near Mountain Ash. It was a very hot day and I was working on a house where I saw a Ruby Tail last year and if by magic one appeared, it showed briefly and it's a sight I am never  tired of seeing with the Blue and  Red metallic colours.  It is amazing and a must see for anyone with a  bucket list. Also the Cuckoo up on Darrenlas was very vocal and called a fair bit today.

This photo is from last year and down in Martin's Haven in Pembrokeshire.


Martin Bevan and myself went up to Llanwonno last night to look for Nightjars. We arrived in lots of time and took a walk around the forest paths. Plenty of activity with Stonechats feeding chicks out of the nest, Willow Warblers carrying food and best of all Martin had a Grasshopper Warbler.

As we were looking for the Grasshopper Warbler the unmistakable churring sound of a Nightjar sounded to our left. We walked slowly that way and we were soon treated to a male Nightjar flying around and then perching on top of a tree. Another bird started calling and we then had a aerial display with the two males chasing each other. One landed in a closer tree and the noise intensity increased with the closer male getting louder and louder in what appeared to be an effort to force the other male off its terrority. Walking back to the car we had lots more aerial displays with wing clapping and we also heard at least two if not three more. Martin also heard another Grasshopper Warbler calling.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Nice surprise from Penywaun

Photo not from Penywaun,  on Monday I had a teneral Broad Bodied Chaser flying over the gardens. A first for the year and also the first one I have seen here. Yesterday I looked up to see a Cuckoo flying over the estate, it's been years since I saw one up here, later it was calling a fair bit away on the hill side.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Taf Bargoed north

Managed a record shot of pied flycatcher this a.m. singing, foraging and preening in oak alongside feeder stream of a very silted upper reaches of the Taf Bargoed. Also noted on the way in; a pair of linnet, the female collecting nesting material while the male looked on together with a pair of stonechat all holding territory on / near the same small patch of gorse. Oh, lots and lots and lots of fly-tipping, its traditional apparently.

Abercwmboi Lake

A quick visit before work yesterday to see if the local Mute Swans had had their new family yet. It's all quiet and she is sitting tight, he came over for some food but sadly I had no food. I got two more Damselflies for the valley. I had a couple Blue Tails and the same numbers of  Azure Damselflies. I also had half dozen Dingy Skippers, it's always nice to see the first for the year. I also got a single Burnet Companion moth but he was too fast for me so no photos.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Skomer 2017

Phil and myself had planned a day trip down to West Wales on Sunday morning and were hoping the Red Footed Falcon at Strumble Head would still be around unfortunately it did not play ball and on disappeared Saturday morning. So with little notice we decided to still go west and go over to Skomer for the day, after having a great trip last year it seemed a good choice. We were up at stupid o'clock again, the weather forecast was looking really good and we made good time. When we arrived we were the second car in the car park and it was always looking good to get on the first boat over. Martin's Haven was buzzing with life and has we stood waiting for office to open we saw and heard Sedge Warbler, Whitethroat, Stonechat and Linnet. On the sea it was busy with loads of gulls, a couple of Gannets and Kittiwakes, this was a taste of things to come. On the boat trip over we had a group of feeding Gannets, when we looked close there was two Harbour Porpoises feeding on the same fish and we also got all three Auks before we had  landed. Once on dry land the fun started and we got great views of Razorbills and Guillemot on the rocks by the landing point. Once we had our safety talk with the Assistant Warden about staying on the path we were gone like a flash to the Wick too look for Puffins. When we got to the first stream there were lots of warblers feeding, we got a Chiffchaff and both Sedge warbler and Whitethroat. As soon as we reached the Wick the Puffin fest started. There were not as many Puffins around as last year (we went later and there were Puffins feeding chicks then). It felt like the Puffins were trying to cross the path but seemed reluctant when people were about. We stepped lower down the path where a Puffin come within two feet of me and crossed over and it was like watching the Great Escape. The noise and smell of the seabird colony was brilliant, we got close views of Fulmars over the cliff and the Kittiwakes were flying from inland with mud and grass and were busy building nest on the cliff face. We than decided to leave the Puffins in peace and carry on walking where we could see a Chough feeding down the path.  We saw good numbers of Chough this year, probably in double figures.

We finally found a bench and a much need coffee was had. A Herring gull was in attendance waiting for food and he seemed to rule the roost and chased off two Lesser Black Backed Gulls. The colour of the flowers was outstanding and was like someone had gone crazy with a paint brush.

Over the sea I picked up a large brown bird and at first glance I thought Bonxie but on looking closer it was a Common Buzzard, it flew low over the water and started to go out to sea and then turned and started coming back and did this for some time. I think he was looking for injured Auks and shows you can still see new things every time you go out. Next up were two Peregrine Falcons which looked like two young males from last year and were have a bit of a disagreement having at one point locked talons. A little later we saw a Female Peregrine so they were maybe fighting over her.
Phil was on the ball and found the only Short Eared Owl of the day. It was funny to see apart from two other people who were watching the owl the rest were just walking and not looking up at all.
It's staggering to think there is an estimated three hundred and twenty thousands pairs of Manx Shearwaters on Skomer and forty five thousand pairs on the neighbouring island of Skokholm, more here than anywhere else in the world and just to think they end up as gull food. We saw a good dozen corpses over the island and it makes you think how many are killed in a season.
We only saw one Butterfly species and it was Small Copper and we had about dozen in total.
We saw lots of Wrens and for a small bird what a cracking song.
We found two spotted Flycatchers near the vistors centre, a nice bird for the year list .
As we walked along I spotted this bird poo, I thought staight away looks like goose but we were not near any water I started thinking maybe not but maybe something better but just has we went around the corner we found the culprit and it was a Canada Goose .
When it was time to leave we saw four Barrel Jellyfish, they were a fair size and enough to feed a fulmar for a year. It was nice to see live ones as they were on the news last week saying there had been high numbers washed up on welsh beaches. For the day we mangered 43 species but there were lots of birds we had last year but not this year ,

Friday, 12 May 2017

Dry spell

I have noticed that things are behaving different in this dry spell, in Robertstown I have had a family party of Long Tailed Tits and they were fly catching. They were waiting on the woodland edge and as a small moth or cadis fly were coming out of the bramble has it warmed up the were flying over and hovering and picking them off. I have seen lots of bird fly catching but this was a first for me. Next I was walk on the path below were I live and I heard a Mistle Thrush and when I looked up I saw an adult feeding a juv Mistle Thrush ivy berries. I was wondering if the ground is so hard that they cannot get at the earth worms. Last thing I noticed that on the same lines there is are no Mole hills over the field so they must be feeling it too and the earth worms must be deeper in the ground. I bet they are glad to see the rain were are having now. Sorry for the dodgy photo but it's the only photo I took .

Monday, 8 May 2017

Somerset Yesterday

The two Martins and myself got up at stupid o'clock yesterday in my case 2.45am to go to Shapwick, Greylake and Westhay reserves to a nice bright day with just a little chill in the air. We arrived at Shapwick around the 5.45am mark and by 6.55 we had seen Glossy Ibis, Bittern, Garganey, Hobby, Great White Egrets, Cattle Egrets, Reed Warbler, and all the other usual suspects which are around the reedbeds. Later five species of Dragonflies were very much appreciated, 4 Spot Chaser, Hairy Dragonfly, Variable Damsefly, Azure Damselfly and Red-Eyed Damselfly.

We then went over to Greylake to look for Yellow Wagtails which took awhile but eventually two took pity on us and showing although quite distant. We also finally saw a Cuckoo after hearing a few earlier and Mr Bell done his good deed for the day by showing the cuckoo in his scope to an excited young boy and his nan. Martin Bevan also had a very quick glimpse of a Water Vole which we could all hear munching something behind some vegetation. It had warmed up by now and a few butterflies started to appear. I ended up with two new for the year in Small Copper and Green Veined White.

Third stop of the day was Westhay to look for some Bearded Tits. Not unsurprisingly these did not show but we had a very nice surprise when Mr Bell saw an Osprey circling around the back of the reserve. A year tick for all of us. Reed Warblers were very showy here with loads singing and perching more or less right out in the open.

Last stop of the day was Goldcliff on the way home to look for the Temminck's Stints that have been there for a few days. Although there were quite a few people looking for them they were not located again that evening.

A few good day out with lots of year ticks for us all, birds as well as insects.

Grey Heron

4 Spot Chaser

Reed Warbler

Reed Warbler

Cetti's Warbler

Cetti's Warbler

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Tir Founder Field today and Robertstown last night

After going over to Tir Founder fields the last couple of weeks and missing the Little Egret, today was pay back time. At first  I thought it's a white carrier bag has you do in the valleys but it was great to see him out in the open with the best views I have had of him. Bird wise there were two Mute Swans still present, I got my first Moorhen chicks of the year and at first thought I had Water Rail chicks but then the Moorhen popped out. There were also good numbers of Sedge Warblers in and I had at least 6 birds and I saw five of them, it was great to watch them singing and displaying and the best numbers I have seen in some time. I had 3 Garden Warblers, one was singing by the bridge and was showing down to about six feet. It was sad to see the Long Tailed Tits nest I found last week all ripped open and chicks all gone, this has happened to this pair for the last three years and it's maddening.

Phil found the Owls on Thursday night when I could not find them so on Friday after work I went back up to where Phil had them the night before and I found the Adult staight away, when I turned around the two Owlets were on a branch and looking down at me and looked really well but the only problem was they were up about forty or fifty feet and you would need a cherry picker to get any good photos. Sadly this afternoon no sign and she has moved them again.

Great to see this Nuthatch back for another year and been using this hole for about three or four years now.
Last thing I saw this car in the river, I almost jumped in to see if Mike was driving as I thought he had crashed his car again.

Itsy bitsy spider

Back in Swansea for a bit of coaching for the first time in over a month, so took the opportunity to get a couple of hours sea watch from Tutt Head before work. Despite the stiff NE breeze Gannets and Kittiwakes were passing quite close, both making their first appearance on my GB year list. A single, 2cy Med Gull also joined them onto the year list. After that it was thin pickings but I eventually managed to pull 4 Manxies, and 4 Razorbills to add to the years list. A pair of GC Grebes were just of the rocks - somewhat unusual for the time of year , though the same can't be said of the 5 Common Scoters heading down channel, as I seem to record this species every time I bird from Tutt Head.

The only passage of note were 3 Common Swifts making their way up channel, two keeping a few inches above the waves.

After coaching I called into Pant - y Sais Fen, for yet another search for the mythical Fen Raft Spider Dolemedes planarius. The Fen was rather quiet, though a Cuckoo was calling for a while. I did manage to add Large White, Small Copper and Garden Tiger Moth to the years lep' list. However, and after numerous visits over the past 4-5 years I managed to spy my quarry. A female Fen Raft Spider siting quietly with her legs stretched out over the canal water. As I crept closer to take a photo, off she shot. No worries. I just sat down close to where she had been sitting and waited for her to reappear. It took about 20 minutes, but suddenly there were two legs sticking out of the water. gradually she emerged from under the surface and resumed her fishing pose, allowing me to get some half decent pictures. Tidy.