Friday, 18 May 2018

Shapwick Heath/Ham Walls RSPB day out

Colin Gittins and I decided to have a day out here, it's always a good day even though there were no rarities present. The fine weather (22c) had all the speciality birds performing well. Highlights included :-

Bittern                              2 seen & 15 booming
Great Egret                       25 including a number of pairs at nest sites
Little Egret                       4
Marsh Harrier                   4 male, 6 female
Red Kite                           1
Black-tailed Godwit         23
Cuckoo                             3
Hobby                              31 including 20 in the air together
Garden Warbler               1

A total of 65 species were seen, we also had a quick stop at nearby West Hay Moor Nature Reserve, but it was very run down and little of note was seen.

Hoverflies were well represented with 22 species with the usual large amounts of Tropida scita, Anasymia lineata and Parhelophilus species, but the highlight was my first Eristalinus Sepulchralis, but I couldn't get a shot before it flew off.

 Anasymia lineata
 Azure Damselfly
 Coot Egg - There were a number of these on the paths around the reserve. It was noticed that Carrion Crows were quartering the reed beds like harriers and robbing the eggs from the nests and then dropping them on the paths to break and eat what's inside.
 Tropida Scita
Yellow-tailed Moth caterpillar - quite a few of these seen and large numbers can be a serious pest.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Weekly roundup

Managed to get out a couple of times this week between the showers. Hoverflies are finally starting to emerge in numbers, with new species for the year in Dasysyrphus venustus, Parasyrphus punctulatus (11 in one Sycamore Tree feeding on its flowers), Syrphus ribesii, Sphegina Clunipes,  Neoascia podagrica, Sericomyia lappona, Criorhina berberina, Cheilosia Bergenstammi, Rhingia rostrata and Xylota segnis.

Wood Warbler and Garden Warbler have been seen at a number of locations and the first swift appeared on the 9th. A male Peregrine at the usual site but no sign of a female on one visit. Cuckoos seem to be all around the valley with at least 4 heard away from the main areas like My. Bach and Top Llangynwyd.

Insects have been rather scarce but I had the first of the year Speckled Wood and Green-veined White are now abundant. Micropterix calthella and Gorse Tortrix moths are emerging in the lower end of the Valley.

First of the year blooms were topped off by Yellow Pimpernel, but Hawthorn is about three weeks away from blossoming.

 Helophilus pendulus
 Rhingia rostrata
 Sericomyia lappona
Sericomyia silentis

Monday, 7 May 2018


With temperatures still at 26c it was a waste of time walking anywhere looking for insects. So I tried something different, I waited till 1600hrs which is when the hottest part of the day is over, and to stand by a Blackthorn Tree on the edge of the forestry up Garnwen, to see what would come into feed. This turned out to be the right thing to do. In 1 hour I had 22 species of hoverfly coming and going to the blossom. Highlight was undoubtedly the valley's first Cheilosia chrysocoma, but it was too quick and flighty for me to photograph 😥. Other species that were new for the year included Melanostoma mellinum, Chrysotoxum arcuatum, Episyrphus balteatus, Meliscaeva cinctella, Parasyrphus mallinelus, Parasyrphus punctulatus, Cheilosia variabilis, Sphegina sibirica, Sphegina elegans and Sericomyia silentis. I also took a few specimens to check later in the year and one looks promising for a species of parasyrphus we haven't had yet (annulatus).

Other sightings included 1 male Cuckoo, 3 pairs of Whitethroat 1 pair each of Stonechat and  Reed Bunting and 6 Willow Warbler, one of which had the same idea as me and kept returning to the tree to feed on flies, even getting in my way while trying to photograph some hoverflies. It took the Chrysotoxum arcuatum before I could photograph it. 30 Green-veined White and 3 Orange Tip butterflies made up the rest and I flushed what I thought was a fritillary probably Small-pearl Bordered Fritillary.

 Lone Blackthorn on edge of Garnwen forestry overlooking the moorland.
 Meliscaeva cinctella
 Parasyrphus punctulatus
Sericomyia silentis

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Back to reality

Took a trip down the sewage works and river in the 26c heat, and as expected things were quiet. With the insects laying low, at least the birds were singing. A surprising Wood Warbler was singing from the old trees on the opposite bank of the sewage works, otherwise all much of a muchness. Hoverfly numbers were low but did have Eristalis arbustorum and Leucozona lucorum new for the year. Other insects were headed by 2m,5f Orange Tip butterfly and that's about it. New blooms for the year included Copper Beech, Lilac, Sycamore, Wood Speedwell and Germander Speedwell. Hopefully it'll be a bit cooler tomorrow for me to walk the Blaencaerau Area.

 Eristalis arbustorum
 Leucozona lucorum

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Green Heron @ Pembrokeshire

Actually managed a trip out of the valley/county today. A rare American Green Heron had been found at Llan-Mill, Pembroke a few days earlier by their MP Simon Hart in his farm garden pond. It showed well from the time we arrived to the time we left and fed mainly on newts and small Rudd. It's only the 7th record for Great Britain and is regarded as a "mega" rarity.

On the journey back we had a few Red Kites between Carmarthen and Kidwelly. We stopped off at Kidwelly, the estuary only had a dozen Whimbrel of note. So we decided to walk the reens and scrub area to see if any migrants were about. This turned out to be a good idea as the sun came out and it was now warming up. All the birds were singing in the sun, so were easy to locate and we recorded 2 Cetti's Warbler, 2 Lesser Whitethroat, double figures of both Sedge Warbler and Whitethroat, we also had singles of Cuckoo, Willow Warbler, Blackcap and Chiffchaff. Other birds seen included 2 Greylag Goose, Little Egret, female Peregrine and 10+ Linnet.

A couple of common hoverfly species were feeding on Dandelion & Meadow Buttercup, with Cheilosia albitarsis of note as first for the year.

 Sedge Warbler
 Cuckoo - distant
Cheilosia albitarsis - with the diagnostic dark 1st and 5th tarsi and pale 2nd, 3rd, 4th tarsi on the front legs

Monday, 30 April 2018

8c to 18c in 2 hours

The Weird weather continues, when I arrived at Lletty Brongu woods it was 8c [1000hrs] with a cold north-westerly wind, but within 2 hours the wind dropped and temperatures rose to 18c in the sunny weather. This meant that the woods sun-traps and glades were full of hoverflies. I recorded a high count of 19 species for the time of year. Epistrophe eligans was the pick as I haven't photographed one before. Other goodies included Platycheirus ambiguus, Dasysyrphus albostriatus, a very early Cheilosia illustrata (feeding on Garlic Mustard), 18 Rhingia campestris, male Neoascia meticulosa, Helophilus pendulus and Chalcosyrphus nemorum.

The sewage beds held a mixed flock of hirundines including 45 Barn Swallow, 40 House Martin and 2 Sand Martin. Other summer visitors were 8 Blackcap and 2 each of Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff. 5 species of bee were seen with Clarke's Mining Bee being the best. The first Orange Tip butterflies of the year were out (1m,3f) as well as Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock butterflies. New blooms for the year included Garlic Mustard, Field Mouse-ear, Bluebell, Cuckoo Flower, Green Field Speedwell and surprisingly Cow Parsley (normally mid May).

Elsewhere 4 Red Kites were seen at different places and there was a male Redstart near Llangynwyd Farm. Also 25 Violet Oil-beetle were making their way cross the fields towards Cwm Nant Gwyn Woods. The only downside for today was that there were no Pied Flycatcher at any of their usual haunts.

 Epistrophe eligans
 Chalcosyrphus nemorum
 Cheilosia illustrata -later seen feeding on Garlic Mustard
 Helophilus pendulus
 Eristalis nemorum
 Violet Oil-beetle
This photo shows the flat groove at the back of the thorax, a feature which Black Oil-beetle lacks.

Saturday, 28 April 2018

Caerau Park moorland

A quick walk here after the Rugby and before dark was somewhat rewarding with 1pr Whinchat, 2pr Stonechat, male Willow Warbler, 6pr Meadow Pipit, 1pr Tree Pipit and 2pr Linnet. There was also a mix of silent pipits that prove difficult to ID (see below). No hoverflies and just one Buff-tailed Bumblebee as there was a chill in the air.

Whinchat and Stonechat males together.
With Tree and Meadow Pipit displaying alongside each other, there was also a small flock of mixed pipits feeding, I think the flock contained both species. The one above has a strong supercillium (continuing behind the eye) with a dark eye-stripe and the sub-moustachial stripe that is quite wide and the flank streaking is fine and the bill is also thicker and stubbier. Whereas the one below which is a Meadow Pipit is more heavily streaked on the breast and flanks, the bill is thinner and longer, it also has a weak supercillium (stops above the eye) with  no dark stripe through the eye and a thin sub-moustachial stripe.

This catchment bog area stays wet all year as the area is shaped like a bowl, and is the beginning of the stream that runs past the Park Estate  down to the River Llynfi. I have recorded Jack Snipe, Common Snipe and Dunlin here in the past, but now it looks like ideal habitat for the rare hoverfly Anasimyia lunulata so I'll be visiting it regularly in May and June.
Looking from Foel Fawr over the moorland Bog, with Foel-y-Dyffryn in the background. My house is less than 500mts from this area.

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Hoverfly round up [2016-2018]

The Hoverfly Recording scheme has uploaded the records for 2017 to its mapping program. It can only narrow down the search to a two year period for some reason I can't work out yet. But the good news is that between 2016-2017 the northern Llynfi Valley 10km square [SS89] has had the highest number of recorded species in that time period - 113 for the UK. Then follows two Peterborough squares at 112 & 105 and then the southern Llynfi Valley square [SS88] at 98. Overall life species of 115 sees SS89 moving up to 6th from 12th overall in Wales and 2nd in Glamorgan, the top square being 130 in Angelsey and the top Glamorgan square being 123 in the Gower [Portenyon/Oxwich area].

So if I'm going to match that this year I'm going to have to pull my finger out as I've only recorded 12 species so far this year and no sign yet of the two spring species missing from our list - Melangyna quadrimaculata and Cheilosia nebulosa, but not for the want of trying.

Friday, 20 April 2018

Spring at last and summer visitors start arrivng

With clear skies and no wind I had a full t-shirt day in the 22c temperatures. I visited Darren Woods, Lletty Woods and Top Llangynwyd clear-fell.

Darren Woods held a male Wood Warbler, 2 Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Blackcap. Lletty Woods had 3 Willow Warbler and Blackcap, while the Clear-fell had a mini-fall of 15 Willow Warblers. Also present was a singing male Lesser Redpoll.

The first butterflies of the year were also recorded with totals being 5 Brimstone, 2 Comma, Peacock and 2 Green-veined White. Also recorded another Adela Cuprella moth.

7 species of hoverfly were seen including first for the year of Melanostoma scalare, Meliscaeva auricollis, Eristalis tenax and Helophilus pendulus. Other sightings included Gwynne's-mining Bee, Honey Bee, Buff-tailed Bumblebee, Common Carder Bee, Large Bee-fly (7), Grey Squirrel and 14-spot Ladybird.

New blooms for the year include Wood-sorrel, Blackthorn, Barren Strawberry, Ground Ivy and Ramsons.

 Melanostoma scalare
 14-spot Ladybird
 Willow Warbler
Lesser Redpoll

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Sewage works

Still no summer visitors (birds) singing or hirundines over the sewage works. But new flower blossoms in Early Dog Violet and Ivy-leaved Speedwell. Hoverfly numbers remain low in 25 Platycheirus albimanus, 15 Eristalis pertinax and a male Cheilosia pagana. First bees of the year in 5 each of Honey Bee and Clarke's Mining Bee plus a Buff-tailed Bumblebee. Only other insect family present was a single moth in what looks like an early Cauchus rufimitrella but I'm open to suggestions as" Adela's "are the only longhorn moths in April generally.

 Early Dog Violet
 Wood Anemone
 Cauchas rufimitrella ??? [female "Adela cuprella" per Glamorgan moth recorder]
Eristalis pertinax