Saturday, 28 June 2008

Seeing the Changes 112

The wind decreased in Loughor and more insect activity. Including the Flesh fly (Sarcophaga carnaria), Phymatodes testaceus beetle as well as Common rustic (Apamea secalis) , Buff-tip (Phalera bucephala), Common wave (Cabera exanthemata) and Northern spinach (Eulithis populata) moths. In Bynea, a hunting spider was active on nettles. In that location, Slender St John's wort (Hypericum pulchrum), Lady's mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris), Great bindweed (Calystegia silvatica), Marsh hawksbeard (Crepis paludosa), Perennial sow thistle (Sonchus arvensis) and Honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum) were in flower.

Friday, 27 June 2008

Birder's Bonus 27

The Singleton Park Mute swan (Cygnus olor) have been down to 2 cygnets since last wednesday.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Seeing the Changes 111

In spite of the cold, the wind and the rain (where is the summer?) plant life in Bynea carries on with Small-flowered evening primrose (Oenothera cambrica), Great willowherb (Epilobium hirsuitum) and Common sea lavender (Limonium vulgare) coming into flower. Many of the first fruits are also appearing with Sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides), Bramble (Rubus fruticosus), Elder (Sambucus nigra) and Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) much in evidence. An emerging Slow worm (Anguis fragilis) became a road casualty.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

'Talking' With the Animals?

The BBC 'Countryfile programme carried a strange item on the activities of an 'animal communicator' ( The individual concerned claimed that their communications (with horses, cats and dogs etc) were 'telepathic' and could relay details about the animal's unhappiness's that could then be formally checked by a vet. The limited viewing of the process shown, however, seemed to me to have much in common with the approach of 'mind readers' e.g. the owner being asked about whether the teeth of the horse had been checked or what type of saddle was used and the answers being used to further probe the 'diagnosis' of the animal's ailments. There is little doubt that a keen observer of familiar species can tell much about an animal's welfare from its appearance (e.g. coat condition, appearance of the eyes etc), its posture (e.g. favouring a particular limb) and the subtleties of its behaviour (movements and responses). Such 'screening' may provide a useful service in early diagnosis or 'putting the owner's mind at rest' but I very much doubt that 'telepathy' is involved. Ethologists attempt to interpret animal behaviour, using appearance, postures and elements that are not a million miles away from the observational techniques employed by such practitioners (without questioning the 'owner'). They even do it to assess welfare.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Seeing the Changes 110

In spite of the steady rain and cool temperatures, in Bynea, the Hemp agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum) and Rosebay willowherb (Epilobium augustifolium) are about to burst forth. Common calamint (Calamintha sylvatica), Great mullein (Verbascum thapsus) and the alien (but useful) Butterfly bush (Buddleja davidii) are actually blooming. Common froghopper (Philaenus spumarius) adults are leaping out of their larval skins. In Loughor, the Lords and ladies (Arum maculatum) has large green berries.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Seeing the Changes 109

In Bynea, the Great mullein (Verbascum thapsis) is coming into flower (in spite of the Mullein moth [Cucullia verbasci] larva nibbling at it -one of the few insects that can handle its silica defenses). A burying beetle Nicrophorus vespillo was also seen in this location, along with Yellow meadow ants (Lasius flavus) emerging from their 'eggs' (pupae). Lots of Ragged robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi) near the cycle track in Gowerton and the alien Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) at the Swansea end. In Singleton Park, the two Mute swan (Cygnus olor) have 3 cygnets and the Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) many ducklings.

Birder's Bonus 26

I have decided to try to record the eggs on the Herring gull nest approximately every 2 days. This is done without unduly disturbing the sitting bird who returns immediately to the nest when I withdraw. No sign of pipping by 19th June. By June 23rd, things are looking down as one egg appears damaged. Removed by the birds (?) on 24th of June. By 29th June, the nest was abandoned.

Snakes Alive!

There is a report ( about a 16 year old girl holiday maker from Cardiff being rushed to hospital and being given anti-venom after being bitten by an adder at Horton on the Gower. The adder or viper (Vipera berus) is , in deed, the UK's only poisonous snake but the venom is actually no more toxic than a bee sting (there just happens to be a lot more of it). The snake actually normally uses its venom to subdue its prey (animals like mice, frogs and small birds) but it can be used when the reptile feels threatened and cannot escape easily (its normal response). The fact that the girl was bitten on a finger joint suggests that she was investigating the animal or its immediate location. The snakes normally only bite defensively if they are handled or are actually trodden on (the bite is more dangerous for 'targets' of small body size such as a child or a dog but some people have allergies). The adder is actually a remarkable animal with the largest geographical range of any reptile (from the margins of the Northern polar region to Southern Europe) as a consequence of its production of live young rather than eggs. It would be a great pity if this accident (the snake didn't mean any harm and was operating in an area where its species has lived for at least as long as humans) increased the pressures on this animal or its near relatives (I have heard of numerous local cases of Slow-worms and Grass snakes being battered to death in the belief that they were 'dangerous').

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Seven Times Severn?

The debate about the proposed barrage on the estuary between Devon and Wales is hotting up (! Many of the environmental groups whose primary focus is on animals appear to think that the impacts are likely to be too great to contemplate (e.g. displacements or reductions of important wader populations of birds and some serious problems for the fish that move up and down the river for spawning). This is not to mention the loss of the famous Severn bore. They also seem to argue that the costs of the barrage could be directed to other 'more efficient' means of 'green' energy savings such as paying for building insulation and/or increasing the use of wind turbines. Environmental bodies that are more concerned with energy production and climate change ( appear keener on the project (as do local politicians who see the development in terms of 'jobs', in spite of the requirement for specialist builders who are likely to be imported). The chances of the UK fulfilling its quotas of reductions of 'greenhouse gases' without something substantive happening appear quite slight. It is actually quite difficult to judge the impact of a development like this. It is uncertain whether the river would be 'allowed' to be subject to major cycles of level fluctuation (this would influence the degree to which mud flat feeding sites are exposed for birds). Changes in the water movements could even result in more deposition of sediments in some locations. Turbines would be difficult obstacles for fish movements but some fish species (e.g. eels) are easier to accommodate than others. I suspect we are at the beginning of an increasingly acrimonious debate.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Seeing the Changes 108

In Loughor, the Redshank (Polygonia persicaria) is in flower and an almost black moth (possibly a Mottled beauty Alcis repandata repandata) came to the light. The fly Eustalomyia festiva mates. In Gorseinon, the hoverfly Syrphus ribesii and a female cuckoo bee Coelioxys inermis are active. A Phyllobius pomaceus beetle runs up and down nettles. In Bynea, a wasp Ammophilia subulosa searches for non-hairy caterpillars as well as White melilot (Melilotus alba), Square-stalked St John's wort (Hypericum tetrapterum) and Spear thistle (Cirsium vulgare) are coming into flower. The white version of the Slender thistle (Carduus tenuiflorus) is also out along with masses of Common valerian (Valeriana officinalis) and yellow Lucerne (Medicago sativa). Sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa) is also in flower and Bittersweet (Solanum dulcamara) has green berries.

Seeing the Changes 1470

Traveller's joy ( Clematis vitalba ) in flower in Loughor.