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

Monday, 9 April 2018

And we're off and weekly roundup

No wind today and temperatures pushing a balmy 14c, with clear skies. So a visit to Lletty Brongu sewage works woods produced quite a few spring flowers blooming including Lesser Celandine, Wood Anemone, Marsh Marigold, Groundsel, Primrose, Dandelion, Meadow Buttercup and Wood Spurge. Sallow is also now starting to blossom (18 days later than last year). All these flowers meant there was enough food base for hoverflies to start feeding, I recorded five species in 5 Platycheirus albimanus, 12 Eristalis pertinax and singles of Melangyna lasiophthalma (m), Eristalis intricaria (f) and Cheilosia pagana (f) and even managed a few photos.

Round up of birds over the last week included 4 Greylag Goose flying north over My Ty-Talwyn, 4 Sand Martin over Maesteg Rugby Ground, Goshawk and Red Kite almost daily now. 2 male Mallard at the sewage works. 2 Rookery have been built - the usual one at the Ranch, Garth (5 nests) and a new one found by Sid near the Railway Inn, Llangynwyd (6 nests). None of the woodland summer visitors like Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Blackcap have arrived yet, but Mynydd Ty-Talwyn had 8 Linnet and 2 Goldfinch returning. With all the wintering species having moved on.

I went to a family funeral in London the weekend and East Morden Crematorium, near Epsom, Surrey surprisingly held 25+ Rose-ringed Parakeet and on the journey back I had 20+ Red Kite between Windsor (J6) and Hungerford (J14) along the M4 motorway.

 Eristalis pertinax
 Melangyna lasiophthalma
Red Kite

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Hoverfly season

The new hoverfly season is upon us, but due to the cold weather it is having a rather late start. Last year I recorded my first hoverfly on 15th March, but this year I've yet to see one.

I've uploaded a couple of maps below, showing the Hoverfly Recording Scheme 2016 records which have been uploaded to its data base. The larger the red circle, the higher the number of species recorded and verified. These map are quite different from the NBN Gateway as these are verified unlike the NBN Gateway which has all manor of spurious records from inexperienced observers.

You can also see that the two 10km squares for the valley are the highest recorded in Wales for 2016. The records for 2017 will probably be uploaded  midway though this year. So here's to a successful 2018 and hopefully some new species for the valley as there are plenty left for us to get.

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