Friday, 9 March 2018


I took a walk to the top of Garnwen and onto Foel Trawsnant, mainly to see if anything had survived after our coldest spell for many a year (La Nina effect [see earlier post]???). It was pretty bleak and the wind still had a cold chill in the air. Up on the top green fields there were 2 pairs of hardy Mistle Thrush, 2 Blackbirds and 4 Skylark and not much else. Foel Trawsnant was even bleaker with a Jack Snipe flushed from underfoot being the only bird. In three weeks time these moors will be full of migrating Golden Plover, Snipe and about 20 pairs of breeding Skylark and 100+  Meadow Pipits and a little later Wheatear, Stonechat, Whinchat, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail and Reed Bunting. I'll now when to go up next when I see birds of prey circling/ hunting the area from my back window. Surprisingly I had my first flowering plant of the year in "Coltsfoot", blooming between 2 small snow drifts. With little else about my mind wandered to other things, see below.

The triangulation pillar at the green fields on Garnwen, with wind turbines in the background (I counted 86 turbines on the surrounding mountains)

Triangulation (pillars) is a mathematical process that makes accurate map making possible and is accurate to within 20mts. They are no longer in use and have been replaced by GNSS receivers [Global Navigation Satellite System] and this is accurate to within a few centimetres.

On the pillar is a Flush Bracket with an identification code [zoom in]. The code for this pillar is "S2047" I found out that the official name is Foel Trawsnant Triangulation Pillar and is one of 6,500 across Britain. The first being built in 1936 at Cold Ashby, Northamptonshire. Like an Iceberg there is more of the pillar below the surface than above it and are built from local stone encased in an outer concrete shell.

I checked the history of the pillar and it proved to be mildly interesting. It was built in 1939, but was then destroyed (no date or reason) and subsequently rebuilt in 1956 and the last maintenance was done on it in 1984.

There are many Trig Pillars on our mountains, so when I'm out walking I'll take a photo of a flush bracket to see what the trig points history is. I also found out that originally there were trig points at Nantyfyllon Primary School Vane and at Coegnant colliery bath rooms but these were destroyed when the colliery closed and was knocked down and the school was upgraded through building maintenance.

2 "Tornados GR4" flying overhead, one of three type of fighter aircraft deployed by the RAF. The other two being the Typhoon (Eurofighter) and the F35 (modern fighter aircraft made in USA)

Monday, 19 February 2018

weekly round out

With the weather alternating between dry cold spells with a little snow and wet warm spells, I felt I was becoming a bit of a couch potato, So I managed to get out this week a few times.

The sewage works held all the usual species with nothing notable. The Pied Wagtail roost held 110 birds and the Corvid gathering numbered 50+ Carrion Crow and 70+ Jackdaw. The only noticeable interest was the large number of Long-tailed Tits in flocks of 15-20 and numbering 100+ birds overall, supported by good numbers of 25 Goldcrest.
My. Ty-Talwyn held 130 Fieldfare, 10 Redwing, while the Lapwing flock at the bike track fields on My. Baeden numbered 46.Other birds seen in the area included a single Red Kite, 8 Buzzard, 6 Raven, 15 Chaffinch, 8 Reed Bunting and little else.
Finally at the Waun-y-Gilfach feeding station there were 2 jay and unusually 3 House Sparrow [not seen them here before].

Mystery solved

Last year at the sewage works I photographed this rusty cog. I was intrigued what it could be. It was buried deep in a pebble bank in the river. I tried to move it but it was well and truly buried and attached to perhaps something bigger and bulkier. So all I could do was to muse about what it might be. Was it part of and old mine workings tram, washing machine drive or something else.

One year on and after many floods and storms had eroded the pebble bank more of the mystery item was showing, and it is clearly a wheel. It was quite easy to pull it out and I give it a quick clean to reveal the image below.

To my disappointment it turned out to be a rusty wheel and cog from a modern off-road "Trail" motor bike. It was quite heavy but very distinct with its over-lapping spokes. I checked the web for images to see if I could get a match and it wasn't to long before I found the image below.

Not an exact match, but the over-lapping spokes are exact and with a bit of imagination the heavy cog is a close match too [after rusting]. So it is just a recently discarded motorbike wheel and not something of note from the heritage of the valley like a coal/iron mine tram. Just goes to show that all that rusts is not historical gold 🚲

Monday, 8 January 2018


With a biting cold wind and frost laden cars making me reluctant to leave the house, I've been catching up on my paper records and installing a new computer after my old one died on New Years Day. So the only sightings I have are from my garden feeders. Bird numbers are low with maximum numbers of 2 Blackbird, 1 Song Thrush, 3 Blue Tit, 2 Great Tit, 1 Coal Tit, 2 Hedge Sparrow, 1 Robin and only 1 Chaffinch and no House Sparrows?. Jackdaw and Herring Gull drop in when I put out stale bread on the shed roof. On the bright side I just had a party of Long-tailed Tit (10) visit the feeders to brighten up the day. Overhead there are the odd Kite, Buzzard and Heron. The nearby mountain of Foel-y-Dyffryn has Rook, Magpie and Jay feeding in the fields and trees otherwise quiet.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

La Nina effect

La Nina has the effect opposite to El Nino and are both of the same current oscillation in the Pacific ocean. Whereas El Nino gives the UK warm wet winters, La Nina usually gives us cold dry winters. This years La Nina has been stated to be 3 times stronger than anything previously recorded. The cold weather usually hits around Christmas to New Years Eve and lasts till March, but with some short warm spells in between. The last La Nina was in 2010 and the UK had a very cold winter but with little snow (in Wales anyway). During the 2010 cold spell is when I recorded a Stonechat dying in mid-air up top Llangynwyd from the cold and a Gyr Falcon was seen in Glamorgan that winter on the 17th Dec 2009 in temperatures of -10c. So what will this "monster" La Nina bring ?. In 2010 in the valley My. Ty-Talwyn and its fields were a haven for birds feeding on the ground for worms etc and I recorded some of the highest totals for Gulls, Thrushes, Starlings and Waders seen in the valley, the forestry's were also very important holding large numbers of Crossbill, Redpoll, Siskin and Bullfinch (which feeds on the heather). Most other species then vacate the valley to warmer coastal climes.

Bearing this in mind I took a trip up My. Ty-Talwyn to see if anything showing could give some credence to the La Nina effect that is to come. Everything looked to be normal as I past the Waun-y-Gilfach houses and along the road adjacent to the forestry. All that changed when I hit the fields and drove into a wall of birds, Fieldfares and Redwings were everywhere, Starlings were present in huge numbers. 100's of Gulls and Lapwings were in the fields. So I park up in the middle and started to scan and count the birds present.

91 Black-headed Gulls were present and this beats the previous record for the valley of 70 at the Paper Mills in 1990. There were also 12 Common Gull in the flock, first time to be seen since 2012. 135 Herring Gull and 2 Lesser Black-backed Gull made up the rest.

A very large flock of 108 Lapwing were in the fields, previous record count is 147 here in the winter of 2010 [the last La Nina year]. Also present were 400 Starling, 160 Fieldfare and 220 Redwing. The reasons the bird gather here is that the fields although high up [225mts ASL] are the first in the area to become unfrozen after a cold spell and in mild years can stay unfrozen all winter.

So if La Nina lives up to its reputation My-Ty Talwyn could be a good place to find those valley winter rarities this year. I'll be making regular visits after Cold spells to do more counts.

Most of the birds were hard to get close to but I did take some record shots as seen below.

**** Update 14th Dec. 2017 - as conditions have become milder over the last few days, bird numbers have dropped :- 19 Black-headed Gull (-72), 14 Common Gull (+2, may have missed a few on first count) and 34 Lapwing (-72), all other species numbers about the same. ***** 

**** Update 27th Dec. 2017 - Black-headed Gull, Common Gull all gone, Lapwing (8), now only a small flock. Other species numbers are constant and look to be spending the winter here. ****

 Black-headed Gulls
 Common Gull (centre)
 Loose flocks of Lapwing

Friday, 24 November 2017

My Ty Talwyn

Had to scrape the frost off the car this morning, but My Ty-Talwyn was baked in sunshine. 2 Red Kite, 4 Buzzard and a Peregrine were in the air. While winter thrushes were much in evidence, with a flock of Fieldfare numbering 18 and 2 flocks of Redwing numbering 26,28 for a total of 54. Starling numbers were about average for the time of year on 160 in 3 flocks of 120,30,10. A count of 46 Herring Gull were in a single field as were 320 Jackdaw, which is a sizable flock for here. Other birds present included Mistle Thrush (1), Song Thrush (1), Blackbird (2), Meadow Pipit(3), Skylark (2) and Raven (4). As I was leaving I looked back at My Ty-Talwyn from Waun-y-Gilfach (about 1 1/2 miles) and I could see a flock of 8 Geese passing over My Baeden and flying south-east, but they were too far to identify other than they weren't Canada's. It will be interesting to see if a flock is reported nearby later on the Glamorgan sightings page.

Stopped at the Ivy Bank at the Halfway House., Llangynwyd and there was still a small patch of Ivy still in bloom, amongst the last few remaining flies I managed to find an "Eristalis pertinax", so this now becomes my latest date for hoverflies in the valley. I think Paul Tabor has had one in December a few years back.

 confiding Meadow Pipits

Monday, 13 November 2017

Margam Abbey

Over the past month there has been a large eruption of Hawfinch from their eastern European breeding grounds for reasons not yet clear and they have been moving westwards in hundreds of thousands. This is a phenomena that has not happened before. They are being spotted all over Britain, current estimates is that there are 20,000 birds in Britain but experts believe that could increase dramatically over the winter as there are some 400,000 birds on the move.

Paul Parsons had found a small flock of six birds at the back of Margam Abbey last week, which is an ideal place for them to hang around and feed. Many people have been to see them and they have been reported up until at least this morning, so I decided to go and have a look.

When I arrived I immediately found a single bird in a Yew tree next to the Stone Museum, but couldn't get close enough for a photo and it promptly flew off when 3 Mistle Thrush landed in the tree. I hung around for about and hour but there were no more sightings and no sign of the flock, perhaps early morning is best when the sun is on the other Yew trees at the back of the Abbey. Poor weather forecast for the next few days means I'll have to wait a while to have another crack.

I also visited the small pond nearby as I haven't seen Mandarin in a while. A male bird was loosely mixing with the domestic ducks and was not ringed or pinioned, so I take it as a wild/feral bird rather than a collection individual.. Other birds there included Little Grebe and Tufted Duck. I also saw a Nuthatch hiding nuts in the chimney bricks of one of the houses nearby.

 Margam Abbey - The abbey was founded in 1147.
 Yew Tree in the Abbey graveyard that held the Hawfinch, next to Margam Stone Museum building that holds the original Bodvoc Stone from Llangynwyd.
  Mandarin - playing hard to get at the woods pond.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Llangynwyd massif

Ha!, just as I confidently predicted the hoverfly season was over and put up graphs and statistics for the year, we get a warm (16c) fine, calm and sunny day, so I stopped off at the Half-way House ivy bank for a look. To my surprise I recorded 6 species of hoverfly and they were Rhingia rostrata (f), Rhingia campestris (m), Melanostoma scalare (m, 2f), Platycheirus scutatus (m), Episyrphus balteatus (2m) and Eristalis pertinax (f). These constitute my first November hoverflies for the valley.

There was a surprising numbers of flowers still in bloom, very unusual for the time of year and included Hogweed, Angelica, Upright Hedge Parsley, Red Campion, Common Ragwort, Creeping Thistle, Gorse, Dandelion and Meadow Buttercup. This has allowed a few other insects to survive this long and included Common Carder Bee, White-tailed Bumblebee, Honey Bee, Ivy Bee, Red Admiral and a Ruby Tiger caterpillar crossing the path.

With the sun still shining I then went up top Llangynwyd, where last week it was virtually birdless, but this week My Ty-Talwyn was back to its former self with many good birds for the area noted. The first fields held 13 Meadow Pipit, Stonechat and 4 Snipe in the wetter channels. While overhead a flock of 27 Redwing passed by going east with a young male Peregrine in pursuit but being unsuccessful in catching any of the flock. A little time later a Great Black-backed Gull also passed by going east. The fields above Cwm Nant Gwyn had a flock of 580 Starling, while the heavily berried trees along the bridleway held the top prize of a fine male Ring Ouzel. Also amongst the berry [Hawthorn] trees were 4 each of Blackbird, Song Thrush an Mistle Thrush as well as 6 Redwing. Finally at the large field at My. Baeden there was a small finch flock that included 16 Linnet, 12 Chaffinch and 3 Reed Bunting. Also present were 4 Raven and Buzzard including the pale individual.

 Melanostoma scalare
 Rhingia rostrata - high up in the ivy, hence the crap photo
 Rhingia campestris - much lower down
 Common Carder Bee
Ruby Tiger - caterpillar [I think]

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Hoverfly round-up 2017

The hoverfly season is now over, you might get the odd records on fine autumn/winter days but the season is essentially over until March 2018, when I start recording all over again 😊. Below are a couple of graphs showing how the 2017 season fared against previous seasons. 2017 started off with a bang recording numbers and species well above previous years and this continued up until the end of August. This is when numbers plummeted due to two factors 1) The Welsh weather returned to its norm of long periods of mist and rain interspersed with big storms and strong winds 2) I was out of the country for 3 weeks in September. I recorded  13 new species during the year taking the valley total to 128.

Friday, 27 October 2017

Photos taken of some of the Hoverfly specimens determined by HRS

Before taking specimens of hoverflies I managed to photograph a few before potting, the ones below are a mixture of what can be done by photos and what can't. Of the 283 species in Britain only 125 can be identified from photographs with any confidence and the Hoverfly Recording Scheme [rightly so] will only accept records of the other 158 species if a specimen has been provided or you have proved yourself as a proven observer. Of the 126 specimens taken I still managed to get 4 wrong under magnification at home before sending them to Roger Morris including the Pipiza and Xylota below. Which just goes to show three years of intense study is still not enough to identify all hoverfly species. 

 Pipiza noctiluca - not conclusive from photo
 Cheilosia albitarsis - dark-legged variation, not conclusive from photo

 Chrysogaster solstitialis - can be ID'd from this photo
 Melangyna lasiophthalma -  can be ID'd from this photo
 Platycheirus Scutatus - can be ID'd to scutatus agg. [3 species] but no further from photo
Xylota jakutorum - the second tergite [body segment] looks longer than wider in the photo [squared in jakutorum] suggesting "florum" but the micro-hair colouring on the legs under magnification say otherwise. So these two species can't really be separated from photos.