Monday, 24 April 2017

Sewage works revisited

An overcast and gloomy day for the best part meant very few insects about and was more of a hirundines day. A stream of hirundines could be seen coming over the mountains and dropping in to feed over the sewage works,  with birds joining and leaving the flock constantly. Maximum flock counts were 30+ House Martin, 25 Barn Swallow and at least 4 Sand Martin although the overall numbers are probably much higher.

First Herb Bennett bloom of the year, insects were few and far between, although I did find a few hoverfly dotted around and in particular feeding on Sycamore blossom out of the wind. Rhingia campestris and Neoascia tenur being the best. An odd looking Bee was photographed but the wing cell matches that of Honey Bee, but it didn't look like any of the Honey Bees feeding on Ramsons, so I've put it on Irecord in case I've misidentified it.

 putative Honey Bee [confirmed on Irecord]
Rhingia campestris

Friday, 21 April 2017

Sewage works Lletty Brongu

Finally some bird sightings of note. 12 Swallow and 1 House Martin feeding over the sewage works. All 3 woodpeckers seen. This is the third site Lesser Spotted Woodpecker has been seen or heard in the valley this spring. Otherwise good numbers of Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Blackcap. Dipper and Grey Wagtail holding territories on the river. Pheasant in the fields and also later at Bryn Cynan as well.

New blooms for the year in Wood Speedwell, Bluebell and Self-heal (very early).

Slender Groundhopper was new for the valley, though I've a feeling I've seen them before but can't find the record. First day moths of the year in Anthophila fabricana and Micropterix calthella on Marsh Marigold. 12 species of hoverfly with Sphegina clunipes new for the year as well as Rhingia campestris.

 Slender Groundhopper
 Micropterix calthella
 Rhingia campestris
Cheilosia pagana

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Mynydd Ty-Talwyn

2 male Wheatear were the highlight, with one male taken an interest in a female Stonechat much to the annoyance of the male Stonechat. Otherwise all the usual suspects present. Cow Parsley is starting to flower along the road edges and is the first umbellifer of the year. Insects were seldom up here as things don't start going till middle of May due to its height above sea level and colder spring winds. Nevertheless I had 2 species of hoverfly both new for the year in Platycheirus ambiguus and Neoascia podagrica [netted and confirmed 1 of 15 present].

 Northern Wheatear
 Neoascia podagrica - there are 3 species of Neoascia with clouded marks on the cross-veins of the wing [as above] - podagrica/obliqua/interrupta. interrupta has a short 3rd antennae segment so this can be ruled out [below]. So it comes down to the band/spots on T2 of the abdomen, podagrica are straight [as here] while obliqua are oblique [pointed towards body, clue in the name]. so podagrica it is.
I suppose a question that has never been brought up is - do hoverflies open their wings before take off, judging by this photo I would say no, for Neoascia podagrica anyhow.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Bryn Cynan lanes, Llangynywdd

These lanes are usually sheltered from the wind and in today's sunshine are a bit of a sun trap. So a number of first blooms for the year were in evidence in Garlic Mustard, Herb Robert, Green Alkanet, Germander Speedwell, Red Campion and Common Vetch. Birds were in full song with 7 Blackcap [always good counts here], 4 Chiffchaff, 3 Willow Warbler and 2 pairs of Swallow back at the various barns in the area as well as a few drifting through. Because of the shelter from the wind and various early blooms had 10 species of hoverfly with firsts of the year of Platycheirus clypeatus agg., Syrphus vitripennis, Cheilosia pagana and Helophilus pendulus. Common Carder Bee and Buff-tailed Bumblebee were joined by 8 Large Bee-fly, but no butterflies about.

 Cheilosia pagana - orange antennae, thorax sheen, leg colouring, bare face point to this species.
 Helophilus pendulus - hind tibia 1/3 black only.
 Melanostoma scalare [female] - notice heavy dusting on the frons tells it apart from female Melanostoma mellinum.
 Platycheirus clypteatus agg. - there are 5 species in this sub-group and females can't be separated from photos.
 Syrphus vitripennis [female] - hind femur [can't see in this angle photo] is black so its not ribesii, caught and checked eyes are bare and you also need to check the 2nd basal cell under magnification for micro-hair coverage, surprisingly this one fits vitripennis for first of year. All the syrphus today that I didn't check were very small as well as this one.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Sewage works, Lletty Brongu

Our only Ramsons in the valley was in bloom albeit a little earlier than last year supported by Ground-Ivy and Cuckoo Flower as first blooms. Birding highlights were 5 Mallard of which 4 were male all vying for attention of the lone female. 6 species of hoverfly with Syrphus ribesii being first of year. Otherwise fairly quiet with the first Common Wasps patrolling the emerging undergrowth and a diptera I don't recognise so I'll put it on Irecord on the off chance it can be ID'd.

 Meliscaeva cinctella
 Platycheirus albimanus - threw me at a distance because of all the pollen, but close up reveals its just an albimanus.
mystery fly species for Irecord ID. = Norellisoma spinimanum [dung-fly family]

Sunday, 9 April 2017

3rd time lucky

Visited Darren Woods again hoping to see my April hoverfly target Criorhina rannunculi and this time I was lucky enough to pick up a female flying low around an Oak tree looking for an egg laying spot in a rot hole. It stayed around the tree the whole time I was there [30mins] but wouldn't let me close enough to it to get really good photos, but the ones I took are good enough for ID.

 A good bumblebee mimic and about the same size, the swollen/expanded hind femora makes it very distinct compared to other mimics
 The four species of Criorhina also has a unique face shape in which the mouth edge is elongated downwards.
 When not in flight it is perfectly camouflaged against the tree trunk. There are 2 forms - red-tailed and white-tailed. This female [eyes separate] is of the red-tailed form.
Arrowed is the area of the Oak tree which was favoured.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Foel-y-Dyffryn/Foel Trawsnant

First venture up the mountains this year in warm sunshine [15c] but no Wheatear in yet. So did a Skylark count and found 19 pairs displaying and holding territory, supported by 35 pairs of Meadow Pipit and 2 pairs of Stonechat. Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Blackcap could be heard down in Tudor Woods. As expected insects were low in numbers up here but a Speckled Wood and male Orange Tip were the first of the year. 3 species of hoverfly and the same with Bees. Green Tiger Beetles were common along the paths.

 Speckled Wood
 My. Bach from the top of Foel-y-Dyffryn complete with new wind turbines on My. Caerau behind.
 Episyrphus balteatus - the early spring brood [above] which is just about over is a lot darker than the summer migrants [example below]. The experts reckon that this is a temperature related phenomena, meaning the colder the weather at the pupa stage the darker/more black the insect

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Cwm Darren Woods

Another bright day but temperatures seem to be dropping only 13c max. 6 Chiffchaff, 2 each of Willow Warbler and Blackcap but none of the big three yet [Redstart, Wood Warbler, Pied Flycatcher] also Great Spotted and Green Woodpecker and a fleeting glimpse of a probable Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. Nuthatch and Treecreeper in good numbers also.

Insects included 3 Bee-fly [B. Major], 8 Buff-tailed Bumblebee and a possible Clarke's-mining Bee [one for irecord]. 8 species of hoverfly with 6 early Meliscaeva cinctella being the highlight. No new blooms today.

 Meliscaeva cinctella - 1st of year
 Melanostoma scalare
 Eristalis pertinax
 Bee-fly [B. major]
possible Clarke's-mining Bee [put on irecord] [only got a plausible determination - which means it probably is but the photo doesn't show all defining features]

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Parc Slip

An afternoon down Parc Slip NR was on the cards when the news came through of a Pink-footed Goose present at mid-day. The weather was cloudy to start but then the sun came out and a few insects started to show.

Duly saw the Pink-footed Goose on the main lagoon island, other highlights included 2 Barn Swallow, 2 Willow Warbler, 8 Chiffchaff, 1 Blackcap, 8 Lapwing, 22 Canada Goose, 9 Teal, 1 male Pochard and 4 [1 male] Tufted Duck. Undoubtedly the best sighting besides the goose was a fly over Curlew which was attacked by the Lapwing so it continued on it's way up and over Mynydd Ty Talwyn.

Insects included Tree and Buff-tailed Bumblebee, Honey Bee, Comma butterfly and Gorse Shieldbug. 6 species of hoverfly were present all common.

Stopped at My. Ty Talwyn on the way back hoping to see the Curlew again but no luck there. But did see female Sparrowhawk, 2 pairs of Linnet, female Wheatear [1st of year] and 2 pairs of Raven displaying of note.

 Pink-footed Goose
 Goldfinch @ the Llangynwyd massif
 Gorse Shieldbug
 Eristalis pertinax
 Melanostoma scalare
Syrphus species - didn't catch this one so will have to go down as Syrphus sp. as I can't see any eye-hair in the photo

Monday, 3 April 2017

Cwm Nant Gwyn woods

Cloudy day but surprisingly warmer than yesterday but still a fairly cold breeze. Insects were hard to come by and only saw Tree Bumblebee and Buff-tailed Bumblebee. No hoverflies. Birds included my first Blackcap of the year in a singing male and lingering winter birds in 2 Fieldfare otherwise quiet.

The sheltered areas of the woods had a number of new blooms for the year in Blackthorn, Yellow Archangel [probably escape - see below], Barren Strawberry, Field Mouse-ear, Turnip [farm crop], Marsh Marigold and Harebell [another garden escape].

Yellow Archangel (Lamistrum galeobdolon) - British ssp. montanum is native and frequent in Wales, but ssp. argentatum has large white blotches on leaves, it is a common garden plant and is spreading rapidly through woodland edges and roadsides. This is probably the latter as it was found on an former council tip on woodland edge near a roadside. The way to tell them apart is that montanum has a pubescent stem while argentatum does not.

Sunday, 2 April 2017


Brilliant sunshine and 14c meant quite a few insects were about. I recorded 6 species of hoverfly mainly on willow catkins and the highlights included 5 Melangyna lasiophthalma [new for me] which Paul Tabor recorded last year but I missed and another Cheilosia albipila. Others included 7 Platycheirus albimanus, 4 Episyrphus balteatus, 2 Syrphus torvus and 1 Eristalis tenax. Two species of Bumblebee were present in Garden [1st of year] and Buff-tailed. Three species of butterfly were on the wing in Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell and Red Admiral. Plus the ever present Green Tiger Beetle.

First Willow Warbler of the year for me was seen and 4 Chiffchaff in an otherwise quiet day for birds. A new first bloom was added with Early-dog Violet.

 Melangyna lasiophthalma - the early species of the Melangyna family has a liking for willow catkins. ID features include rectangular yellow spots on abdomen, black sides to the yellow scutellum, narrow half crescent dusting on frons [forehead area in-front of eyes], antennae base knob black and front tibia half black - all can be seen in this photo.
 Red Admiral - well worn so probably an overwinter hibernator rather than an early migrant.
 Syrphus torvus - hair on eyes can't be seen on this photo so has to be checked in hand under magnification, which this one was.
Early-dog Violet